Cuba Chronicle of Events
Issue No. 18 • June 16-30, 2006
Cuba Chronicle of Events 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, Reporters Sans Frontieres, Martí Noticias, Ytro.Ru, PRIME-TASS, Reuters, Associated Press, NTV, Lenta.Ru, Polit.Ru, ITAR-TASS, MIGnews.com, CNN, BBC.
Intensive Journalism Course for Independent Journalists in Santiago
Santiago de Cuba. A 45-day intensive course in journalism aimed at improving the skills of independent journalists in the region was launched on June 15 in Santiago de Cuba, the country’s second largest city. Seven journalists signed up for the course, organized by the Oriental Free Press Agency (APLO) and taught by Guillermo Espinosa, a graduate of the Florida International University distance learning courses for Cuban journalists.
Castro Urged to Pardon All Political Prisoners
Cuban oppositionists have demanded that the communist regime of Fidel Castro declare a general pardon for political prisoners and introduce a moratorium on the death penalty referring to the fact that Cuba is a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council. In their joint statement, Arco Progresista and Coalición Diálogo Pro Derechos Humanos also called for overall improvement of the situation in prisons.
They urged the regime to put an end to the acts of abuse and repudiation against Cuban activists who struggle for democracy, respect of human rights, and promotion of political debates in Cuban society, thus echoing the demands of civic organizations. The document is signed by dissidents Manuel Cuesta Morúa and Leonardo Calvo.
Unusual Hunger Strike in Solidarity with Doctor Guillermo Farinas Hernandez
Havana. Heriberto Portales, president of the Orthodox Party of the Cuban People (PPCO), said that a coordinator for the above mentioned party by the name of Angel Enrique Fernandez has launched an unusual hunger strike on June 11 in solidarity with Guillermo Farinas Hernandez. In order to demonstrate his resolution, and as part of his hunger strike, Angel Enrique sewed up his lips. Members of the opposition have visited him in a show of support even though his home is under heavy police surveillance. Farinas, a psychologist and independent journalist, started his hunger strike last January 31 to demand unrestricted access to the Internet from his home.
A public statement from the PPCO on Angel Enrique’s hunger strike will follow shortly, added Heriberto Portales, president of the party.
Cuban Dissidents and Intellectuals Seek EU Solidarity
Cuban dissidents and intellectuals asked for EU solidarity during a meeting in the Spanish parliament. A group of Cuban exiles showed a video appeal “Voice of Cuban Democracy,” with the opposition leaders Osvaldo Payá, Vladimir Roca, and Elizardo Sánchez, among others urging Europeans to give support to their cause.
Carlos Alberto Montaner, a writer and journalist in exile said it was vital for Cuba to have the support of European democracies. Eduardo Zaplana, a representative of the Spanish Peoples’ Party present at the meeting emphasized the importance that the Cuban democrats have an opportunity to voice their concerns to parliament in Madrid.
Civic Activists Appeal to Foreign Parliamentarians
Activists of Cuba’s civic movement have called on deputies of the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino) gathered in Havana to intercede for democratic activists trying to promote pluralism and the principles promoted by the parliament.
In a letter addressed to Parlatino speaker Ney Lopes and U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour, the petitioners say they can show a different Cuba that has been plunged into a social, economic, and political crisis. The activists mention the so-called tourist apartheid that discriminates against Cubans in favor of foreign tourists.
The letter describes the Castro regime as a relic of totalitarian communist systems and that it is unacceptable for democratically elected parliamentarians to sit together with deputies who are not elected by the people but appointed by the Communist Party. The document is signed by the Democracy Information Center, Cuban Christian Workers Union, Movement for Racial Integration, and other civic groups.
Miami Kicks Off Campaign to Support Fariñas
A solidarity campaign on behalf of Cuban journalist Guillermo Fariñas Hernández has started in the city of Miami, Florida.
Several organizations in Miami have formed the Committee to Support Fariñas Hernández and pledged to keep the entire world informed about the journalist’s condition. Fariñas Hernández has held several hunger strikes to demand from the Communist regime unrestricted access to the Internet for the Cuban people.
Speaking on Radio Martí, Daniel Pedreira of the Youth for a Free Cuba read out a statement entitled “In Support of Fariñas.” The document describes the serious condition of the journalist, who is being held in the central hospital in the city of Santa Clara and is being fed intravenously.
Cuban Intellectuals Gather in Miami
Miami, FL, U.S.A. The Wolfson Campus of Miami Dade College and the Institute of Cuban Research are hosting a theoretical conference “Latin American Cuba” from June 22 through 24. A group of Cuban émigré intellectuals is taking part in the event.
Participants in the conference seek questions to the following questions: “Do current Latin American trends affect Cuba and in what way?” “Will the continental window remain closed to changes?” and “Are there other alternatives?” Rolando Montoya, president of the Wolfson Campus, says the event is of great educational importance and elucidates key issues of the Cuban drama.
U.N. Special Rapporteur for Cuba Urged to Intercede to Save Fariñas’ Life
The U.N. Special Rapporteur for Cuba, Christine Chanet, has received an appeal from Guillermo Estévez, former director of the New Jersey office of the International Rescue Committee, to intercede for independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas Hernández. The journalist has been on hunger strike since January 31 and is being fed intravenously. His health has seriously deteriorated, but though on the brink of death, he refuses to take food.
Estévez has already sent similar appeals to the U.N. General Secretary and U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights. In his letters, Estévez described Fariñas’ desperate condition and said it would be cruel if the Cuban communist regime let Fariñas die because of its refusal to meet his demand and give all Cubans free access to the Internet.
Miami Discusses Cuba’s Future after Castro
Miami, U.S.A. Businessmen, scholars and lawyers in Miami discussed Cuba’s future after the demise of the communist regime of Fidel Castro. The conference “A Future and Free Cuba – Opportunities and Threats for Florida” analyzed future problems on the island and possible consequences for South Florida of the end of Fidel Castro’s rule. The event was organized by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.
Cuban Writers Participate in International PEN Congress
Berlin, Germany. International PEN held its 72nd annual congress in Berlin from May 22 to 28. Among its delegates were two members of the Cuban Writers in Exile Center, Ángel Cuadra, a poet and former political prisoner, and Armando Álvarez Bravo, a poet and the current president of the Center.
In an article published in the Miami-based newspaper Diario Las Américas, Álvarez Bravo praised PEN’s effective anti-censorship activity and its important role in defense of writers who have fallen victim to a policy of repression pursued by the tyrannical regimes worldwide.
At present, due to Castro’s repression, there is no PEN Club in Cuba and its function has been carried out by the Cuban Writers in Exile Center founded seven years ago. The Center operates from Miami and serves as a liaison for writers in exile. Its primary goal, he says, is to defend freedom of expression in Cuba and to actively and constantly support writers persecuted by the Castro regime.
Cuban Liberal Party’s Conference Thwarted in Havana
Havana. True to their threats, Cuban State Security agents and members of the Communist Party have frustrated plans of the illegal Liberal Party of Cuba (PLC) to hold a conference on June 27 at the house of its national coordinator.
In the face of government warnings not to hold the event, the party’s acting chairman, Julia Cecilia Delgado, was the first to approach the house of the party’s coordinator, Reinaldo Hernández Cardona, at about three o’clock in the afternoon.
Soon after her arrival, the house was cordoned off by members of the rapid response brigade led by three State Security agents. The latter settled themselves on the flat roof of the house to prevent any attempt to approach the house. Six agents entered the house to tell him no meeting was going to take place there. Others stood watch outside the house until 6.30 in the evening, shouting threats and insults against people inside the house.
Communist Party Officials “Interview” Independent Journalist
Havana. Communist Party officials who call themselves “community factors” in Cuba summoned independent journalist Juan González to reprimand him for an article he wrote recently about Cuban President Castro’s reputed wealth.
During an interview on June 7 at the Ministry of Internal Commerce, communist functionaries expressed their dissatisfaction with his article, “Personal Wealth vs. Discretionary Wealth,” that they described as “counterrevolutionary.”
Officials told González that the article had been written “with the worst of intentions” and that it damaged the public image of Fidel Castro. When González attempted to explain his position, officials cut him short, saying “they would not have a discussion with a convinced counterrevolutionary.” It was not clear to González what, if any, measures officials contemplated taking against him.
State Security Threatens Independent Journalist
Ciego de Avila. Two officers of the State Security Department visited independent journalist Ahmed Rodríguez and threatened to send him to prison if he continues with his journalistic activities. The officers, who called themselves Fernández and Yobany, just walked into Rodríguez’ home on June 12 and, after banging on a table, started shouting threats. Rodríguez, 21 years old, is a reporter for the news agency Youth Without Censorship and lives in Old Havana.
Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello Under Siege
Havana. Cuban oppositionist Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello has fallen victim to a “photo siege” organized by pro-government activists at public places and outside her home, according to the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba. In a statement of the organization, it writes that Roque, the Assembly’s chairman, has been stalked by men with cameras throughout the past week. Each time she leaves or enters her home, they take pictures of her and her escort, the document reads.
On June 14, when the dissident sat in a café in a downtown Havana tourist center, she was photographed and verbally abused by members of the so-called rapid response brigades. Though this was done with connivance of the center’s management, several employees showed signs of sympathy and support to the harassed dissident, the statement adds. On April 25, the leader of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society was beaten in her home by pro-Castro mob who staged an “act of repudiation.”
Manuel Vázquez Portal Calls for Solidarity with Imprisoned Journalists
Manuel Vázquez Portal, a journalist, poet, and former political prisoner, has launched an appeal for international solidarity with independent journalists held in Cuban prisons. While attending a convention of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, he said the best way to help the prisoners in Cuba was to show a constant solidarity. Without such solidarity, without support of organizations such as Human Rights Watch, the Inter-American Press Association, Reporters Without Borders, and fellow journalists, Vázquez said he would have died in a Cuban prison.
Vázquez was one of the original 75 dissidents and independent journalists imprisoned during the March 2003 crackdown. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison. After serving 15 months, he was granted early conditional release on medical grounds and immigrated to Miami, Florida. At present, over 20 independent journalists are being held in prison in Cuba.
Holguín. A prisoner who had himself tattooed with anti-government slogans all over his body is being singled out for abuse at the Holguín provincial prison, said Alfredo Domínguez, a political prisoner serving time there. Adolfo García, 27, has tattoos on his body that say “Down with Fidel” and “No more Fidel and hunger,” according to Domínguez.
Guards deny García the opportunity of taking the sun in the prison courtyard and of making phone calls to his family, which are afforded to other prisoners. In addition, guards routinely beat García up and restrict the time of his visits, Domínguez noted.
Doctor Insults Prisoner
Morón. A radiologist technician at the Northern outpatient hospital in Morón said that the prisoners should be all killed after learning that one of her patients was a political prisoner brought from a nearby jail. When the prisoner, Pablo Pacheco Ávila, explained that he had been promoting a dialogue among all Cubans and could not be shot for this, the woman said she meant using the noose, and added that to use bullets for those who disagree with the Revolution was an unacceptable waste.
Pacheko, who was brought to hospital for an x-ray examination of his injured knee, observed that his guard disapproved of the woman’s attitude and heard him say that she has no right to insult patients. Pacheko is serving a 20-year prison sentence. He was convicted in March 2003 for practicing independent journalism.
RSF Concerned about Health of Cuban Prisoner of Conscience
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has expressed concern about the state of health of Cuban prisoner of conscience José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández, who was hospitalized in Havana on April 27 with acute abdominal pain.
In its press release, the RSF writes that the journalist has stomach inflammation and gastro-intestinal bleeding, which require a strict diet he cannot get in prison. Last February, surgeons at Havana’s Combinado del Este prison confirmed the diagnosis, which showed that he cannot get proper treatment for his ailments while detained. However, Reporters Without Borders states that 15 days later the chief prison doctor retracted this statement. RSF approves the decision to hospitalize Izquierdo Hernández, but urges the Castro regime to grant him parole on health grounds.
Izquierdo, a correspondent for the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro agency, was arrested in 2003 and sentenced by a Havana court to 16 years in prison.
A Growing Number of Political Prisoners Reported in Cuba
A group of Cuban dissidents announced that there are at least 347 political prisoners on the island and noted the number of jailed oppositionists is growing.
Aida Valdés Santana, chairwoman of the National Coordinating Group of Prisoners of Conscience and Ex-Political Prisoners, told a press conference in Havana the situation would further worsen in the period leading up to the Non-Aligned Movement summit, which will be held in the Cuban capital in September.
Valdés Santana said her group was making periodic updates on the number of prisoners of conscience, but this was their first report released to the public. The press conference was attended by a representative of the Polish Embassy in Cuba.
Raul Castro: Cuba Will Stay Communist
Havana. Fidel Castro’s brother said the Communist Party would remain in control of Cuba if there was a leadership change. The island’s defense minister and designated successor to the 79-year-old Cuban leader, Raul dismissed claims that Cuba’s political system would change after his brother is no longer president.
“Only the Communist Party as the institution that brings together the revolutionary vanguard and will always guarantee the unity of Cubans can be the worthy heir of the trust deposited by the people in their leader,” said Raul Castro, according to a report of CNN.
Cuban Communist Sentenced to 12 Years for Corruption
Juan Carlos Robinson, a senior member of the Cuban Communist Party, was sentenced in Cuba to 12 years in prison after being found guilty of corruption. Robinson has already been sacked from the Political Bureau of the Communist Party. He was tried behind closed doors.
Cuban Parliament Speaker Demands Return of Guantanamo
Ricardo Alarcon, chairman of Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power (Parliament) demanded that it is not enough to close Guantanamo prison, located at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, but the land itself must be returned to Cuba’s jurisdiction. Fielding journalists’ questions, Alarcon said, “The northern neighbor has been usurping that part of our national territory for more than a century.”
Personnel Changes Reflect Decline of Communist Youth Organization
Matanzas. The plenum of the provincial committee of the Union of Communist Youth in Matanzas deposed the organization’s first secretary, José Anselmo Díaz, for “errors” committed in the management of the organization, according to an official announcement on June 22. Several members of the youth branch of the Party who asked to remain anonymous said the dismissal reflected unhappiness at higher levels with the organization’s performance. One member said the organization’s performance had weakened in recent years, especially in the ideological sphere. The Communist Youth elected Ernesto Li Duarte, 29 years old, as new first secretary.
Cuban Official Irritated by U.S. Remarks
Top Cuban official Ricardo Alarcon, the president of the Cuban Parliament, has lambasted U.S. statements about his country’s future after Fidel Castro’s rule ends. A U.S. government report drafted by the Commission on Assistance to a Free Cuba, set up in 2003 on President Bush’s order, recommends a new U.S. “democracy fund” to boost opposition to the communist regime in Cuba. Alarcon considers this to be a reason for anger and concern and calls the report an “act of war.”
Reporters Without Borders Dismayed at EU Policy toward Cuba
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has denounced the European Union foreign ministers’ decision on June 12 to prolong a suspension of sanctions that had been imposed against the Cuban regime in 2003 after 75 dissidents, including many independent journalists, were imprisoned in Cuba in a crackdown on dissent.
Reporters Without Borders describes this decision as a “timid policy” which has proven ineffective. The press freedom organization believes the EU Council has allowed the state of human rights in Cuba to deteriorate further since first suspending the sanctions in June 2005. As a result, the number of political prisoners has increased on the island.
It would have seemed logical for the European Union to revise its position toward Cuba and to use political sanctions that would remind the Castro government of its human rights obligations to its own people, it says. Reporters Without Borders points out that 20 journalists are still in prison from the 2003 “Black Spring” and that four more were arrested last year.
Bolivian President to Give Coca Cake to Castro
A speech of Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, a third member of the recently forged anti-U.S. alliance in South America, has further highlighted the country’s closer ties between Cuba and Venezuela. Speaking at a ceremony to mark the 78th birth anniversary of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Morales said Bolivians would be ready to take up arms to defend their nation, Cuba, and Venezuela in the face of any attack from “the empire.” President Morales, who before taking office was head of the coca growers’ federation, promised to give a coca cake to Fidel Castro on the latter’s 80th birthday in August.
U.S. House of Representatives Votes Against Ending Economic Boycott of Cuba
Washington, DC, U.S.A. The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly defeated an amendment to lift the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba, which has been in place for more than 40 years. The vote was 406-22.
Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) proposed an amendment to the Treasury funding bill aimed at ending the U.S. embargo against Cuba, which he claimed was a “failed policy” that has not improved the human rights situation in Cuba, while causing “more injury to ordinary Cubans, as well as Americans whose freedom to travel and to pursue business opportunities on the island are restricted.”
The House also rejected, 236-187, an amendment that would have eased restrictions for American students to study in Cuba.
At the same time, Representatives decided to change rules for Cuba to buy U.S. farm products. A bill adopted in 2000 had authorized U.S. companies to sell food to Cuba as long as Havana paid in advance in cash. In February 2005, the Treasury Department adopted a regulation that payment must be made before the ship sailed. As a result, Cuba had sometimes to pay for the time that ships sat idle after loading while U.S. companies were waiting for payment. American businessmen claimed that rule had created additional obstacles in the way of U.S. trade deals. This time, lawmakers voted for payment to be made before the goods change hands.
European People’s Party Condemns Fidel Castro’s Regime
The European People’s Party (EPP) has adopted a resolution to condemn human rights violations in Cuba and to urge Cuba to unconditionally release all political prisoners on the island. The leaders of the EPP released this document on the eve of their summit in Brussels.
The resolution considers it of special importance that the Cuban authorities grant unrestricted access to the Internet to dissidents, and allow oppositionist Osvaldo Payá and the Ladies in White group to come to Brussels to visit European institutions.
The EPP stated that the number of political prisoners on the island has increased since the change of the European Union’s policy toward Cuba from 2005. The EPP considered any future political dialogue with the Cuban authorities has to be linked with the improvement of the human rights situation.
We Still Have Problems, says U.S. Interests Section in Havana
The U.S. Interests Section in Havana continues to experience service problems, according to mission spokesperson Drew Blakeney, although state-supplied electricity was restored after one week. Blakeney mentioned Cuba’s failure to grant visa requests for personnel being assigned to work at the residence. The U.S. official also said they still needed permission to import vehicles and hire Cubans to work in any capacity at the mission. The mission also complained that the water flow was periodically reduced during 9 days recently. It was totally cut off between February 22 and March 26.
Russia to Get Observer Status at Non-Aligned Movement Summit
Russia has been invited as an observer to a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement to be held in Havana next September. The invitation was extended to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovenko by Cuban Ambassador to Russia Jorge Marti Martinez, according to Russia’s Foreign Ministry’s press department.
The ministry’ press service said Yakovenko had highlighted the importance of the NAM in the current system of international relations. “Russia looks for close cooperation with the NAM at the level of bilateral relations, as well as within the United Nations,” the ministry underlined.
Bolivian Students Honored in Cuba
Havana. In recent weeks there have been increasing reports of groups of Bolivian students being feted at several locations around the city of Havana. The students are typically taken to industrial facilities, museums, or tourist sites in first class buses, greeted by their Cuban hosts and offered a buffet at the conclusion. The welcoming tours include artistic performances, lectures on ideology, economics, and history.
Cuba Hails U.S. Exclusion from New U.N. Rights Body
Geneva, Switzerland. Cuba is happy that the United States has been excluded from the new U.N. Human Rights Council, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said.
“Today is a particularly symbolic day. Cuba is a founding member of the Human Rights Council, and the United States is not. The absence of the United States is the defeat of lies; it is the moral punishment for the haughtiness of an empire,” Roque said at the first session of the council in Geneva. “The election entailed a demanding assessment. Each one got what they deserved,” Perez Roque added.
The United States opposed the creation of the council because of weakened standards from original proposals for membership and the consequent effectiveness of the new U.N. rights body. It therefore declined to run for a seat. However, Washington has promised to work for the council’s success.
The first meeting of the council, which replaces the old U.N. Human Rights Commission, discredited for politicizing human rights and applying double standards, runs through June 30.
The Cuban foreign minister accused European Union countries of hindering the investigation of abuses at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and allowing CIA planes to cross their airspace for transporting prisoners. The European Union, he said, had collaborated with the U.S. to turn the old commission into a tool of inquisition against the countries of the South. He hoped that would not happen again.
U.S. Interests Section in Havana Resumes Visa Appointment Scheduling Service
The U.S. Interests Section in Havana announced that the new, toll-free number for all non-immigrant visa applicants in Cuba who have family members in the United States is available again. The service was introduced on May 25. As of June 2, during the first week of its operation, it had already processed some one half million calls for visa interviews.
EU-U.S. Summit Calls on Castro Regime to Respect Human Rights
Heads of state and governments of European Union countries and the United States have urged the communist regime in Cuba to take immediate measures to improve the human rights situation on the island. In a declaration at the end of a bilateral summit in Vienna, the sides expressed their serious concern over the situation of fundamental rights of the Cuban people. Leaders of the United States and the European Union appealed to the communist regime of Fidel Castro to make urgent efforts to remedy the situation in Cuba.
Cuba the Only Undemocratic Country in Latin America, According to the U.S.
Cuba is the only country in Latin America where democracy has not taken root, stated U.S. Congressman Henry Hyde, chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on International Relations. The Republican lawmaker made this statement at a session of the above mentioned committee to review progress towards democracy in Latin America.
During the Committee hearing, Paula Dobriansky, a Deputy U.S. State Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, pledged that the government of George W. Bush would try to strengthen democracy in the region. To achieve this goal, she explained, Washington is working along four lines to strengthen democracy institutions and advance prosperity, social investment, and security.
U.S. Congress Requested to Support U.S. Interests Section in Havana
Republican lawmaker Thaddeus McCotter has drafted a resolution urging Congress to support diplomatic staff working at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. The proposed resolution states that the Communist regime in Havana continues to suppress the people’s efforts to achieve democracy and fundamental liberties, including freedom of expression and assembly and association. The draft points out that the Washington diplomatic mission in Havana plays an important role in assisting the democratic transition in Cuba.
As an example, the document mentions the ticker that streams messages across the façade of the Interests Section to promote freedom and democracy on the island. As a result of this action and other efforts, U.S. diplomats and their families have been harassed. The resolution calls on Congress to support Michael Parmly and his staff in their work. The document denounces the Castro regime’s repressive measures against the Interests Section and reiterates the U.S. Congress support of the right of Cubans to live in a democracy.
Honduras to Send Ambassador to Havana
Honduras is to designate its first ambassador to Cuba in forty-four years, according to official sources in Tegucigalpa. The new Honduran envoy in Havana will be named in January 2007, Honduran Foreign Minister Milton Jiménez told reporters.
Honduras severed full diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 when Cuba was expelled from the Organization of American States. Honduras renewed diplomatic ties in January 2002, both countries already having established “interest sections” in 2000-01.
Chilean Chamber of Deputies Urges to Stop Arrests in Cuba
Chile’s Chamber of Deputies has adopted a draft resolution calling on President Michelle Bachelet to demand that the Cuban regime stop making ideologically motivated arrests and to release imprisoned opponents of Fidel Castro. The initiative was sponsored by deputies of several political parties. The resolution passed by a vote of 52 for, one against and six abstentions. Socialist lawmakers did not take part in the vote.
Deputy Patricio Walker (Christian Democrats) said the resolution would provide moral support to prisoners of conscience in Cuba who are being held in harsh conditions. Walker, a co-author of the resolution, also noted that the critical situation of human rights on the island is a problem of international scale.
Amnesty International Hopes for Cuba’s Cooperation on Human Rights
Yvonne Terlingen, AI representative at the United Nations, expressed hope that Cuba would cooperate with Christine Chanet, personal representative of the High Commissioner for human rights in Cuba. Terlingen said that all member states of the new Human Rights Council were expected to cooperate and engage in a dialogue with the international community on human rights.
Amnesty International endorsed the Council’s resolution that demands considerable support from member states. That resolution particularly concerns countries urged to abide by human rights standards, she added, saying she expects Cuba to cooperate with U.N. representative Christine Chanet.
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque has already said Ms. Chanet would not be allowed to visit the island.
Spanish Government Urged to Seek Cuba’s Official Explanation
A Spanish NGO, Spanish Solidarity with Cuba (Solidaridad Española con Cuba), has urged the government of Madrid to demand official explanation from the Communist regime in Havana regarding the detention, interrogation, and seemingly groundless deportation from the island of Spanish citizen Adam Mascaró Payá.
The group’s chairman Ricardo Carreras Lario said Spain should seek Cuba’s official explanation to make the Castro regime clearly understand that violation of the rights of a Spanish citizen won’t be tolerated. Carreras has sent a letter to Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos to tell him about recent violation of the rights of just another Iberian citizen in Cuba.
The act is likely a retaliation against Osvaldo Payá Sardiñas, since the Spanish citizen expelled from the island is the dissident’s nephew.
Spain and EU Agree on Cuba, Says Moratinos
Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos said his country and the European Union had no differences regarding policy on Cuba, and the resolution to continue dialogue with the island has been passed by the Council of the European Union unanimously. Moratinos made this clarification at a session of the Senate when answering a question of lawmaker Alejandro Muñoz Alonso from the People’s Party who challenged Spain’s decision to maintain a policy of dialogue with the Cuban regime despite its worsening human rights record.
According to Alejandro Muñoz Alonso, the policy pursued by Spain toward Cuba has brought on the European Union more insults from Fidel Castro and his functionaries.
Firmness could nurse dignity, lofty principles and democratic values, while appeasement only oxygenates the Communist dictatorship in Cuba, the senator of the People’s Party stated.
OAS Recommends Cuba Not to Block Internet Access
A special committee for freedom of expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has recommended that the communist regime in Cuba should stop restricting access to the Internet on the island. The IACHR committee says in its press release that Guillermo Fariñas, director of the Cubanacán Press agency who has been on hunger strike since January 32 in protest of restrictions on Internet access in Cuba is in critical condition.
Access to the Internet can strengthen democratic systems, contribute to a country’s economic development in the region, and uphold the full exercise of freedom of expression, noted the committee, an independent body of the Organization of American States (OAS).
Human Rights Watch Urges to Investigate Rights Violations in Cuba
Speaking at the first session of the new U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Human Rights Watch called attention to an agreement to renew mandates for fact-finding missions in countries like Cuba. Although Cuba won one of the 47 seats in the newly created council, it is not a free country and the situation on the island should be investigated by the council, the human rights organization noted.
HRW claimed in its World Report there had been more arrests made and unfair verdicts passed against protesters and dissidents in Cuba during 2005. It said it would continue to disseminate information about human rights violations in countries such as Cuba, China, and Sudan and is preparing reports for the council’s next session in September.
U.S. Plans to Restore Democracy in Cuba within Six Months of Fidel Castro’s Death
The U.S. Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, co-chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, prepared a plan for Cuba’s transition to democracy after the demise of the Communist dictator.
Though the plan is expected to be officially released in early July, CNN news channel has cited some excerpts from the document. According to CNN, the report says the U.S. government would send assistance to Cuba within weeks of Castro’s death no matter what forces would come to power. It is recommended that the United States inject $80 million into Cuba’s economy during two years after Castro’s departure.
In addition, the United States would support and assist Cuba in holding free elections in the country. The U.S. leadership believes Cuba would manage to avoid mistakes during its transition to democracy but is certain the process could be quite painful.
Cuba Loses Legal Fight in the U.S.
The Cuban regime has lost its legal quest for using the famous Cohiba cigar trademark in the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the suit filed by the Cuban cigar company Cubatabaco against the North American General Cigar Co. The famous Cohiba brand was launched on the island in the late 1960s for Fidel Castro’s personal use. In 1981, this cigar brand was launched to the public. In 1981, General Cigar Co. registered the Cohiba name in the United States and started manufacturing its own Cohibas from Dominican leaves.
Dismissing the Cuban claim, the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. trade embargo prevents Cuba from obtaining a U.S. registry for its Cohiba trademark.
Diarrhea Outbreak Overwhelms Health System in Moa
Moa. A diarrhea outbreak, affecting mostly the very young and old, has overwhelmed the available health facilities in Moa. On June 15, Deysi Leiva called the ambulance to take her two-old daughter Dayrin to the emergency room in the Pedro Sota Alba pediatric hospital with the symptoms of diarrhea. Deysi Leiva said the medical facility was full of mothers with children in the same condition.
The problems in Moa are aggravated by the arrival of the rainy season and the lack of a reliable drinking water supply for the population. Residents say boiling the water doesn’t work very well in Moa, where the water’s mineral content is high and is concentrated even further by boiling. Moa is one of the most highly polluted areas on the island, due mostly to the presence of nickel processing plants.
Mother Blames Authorities for Negligence in Prisoner’s Death
Havana. The mother of a 41-year-old prisoner who died recently charged authorities with negligence in rendering timely medical care to her son. Teresa Landrian Figuera said she was told by hospital doctors that if her son had received timely attention, his life would have been saved.
Her son, Eriberto Hernandez Landrian died at the Miguel Enrique hospital, where he had been taken from the Combinado del Este prison in a Havana suburb. His mother said he had been requesting medical attention since he started feeling unwell five months ago, but prison authorities ignored his complaints.
When he was finally taken to the hospital, Hernandez was found to have liver and digestive problems and pneumonia. Hernandez’ mother blames prison authorities for refusing medical attention until her son started vomiting blood.
Evicted to Make Way for Dairy Plant
Havana. On June 16, local housing inspectors, aided by the police, evicted illegal squatters from 14 houses in Boyeros municipality in Havana. Critics of this action claim that was done for the sake of expansion of a dairy plant, and that the evicted families have no place to live.
The officials engaged in this operation were escorted by six police vehicles and included the first secretary of the party’s municipal branch, a local police chief and a head of the People’s Council. Local human rights activists say the forcedly evicted families have lived there for nearly 8 years and simply have nowhere else to settle.
Bus Fare Hike
Havana. A sudden increase in bus fares left many passengers stranded without the money to get home. The increase to 132 pesos for the Havana-Santiago de Cuba run across the island was simply announced by the loudspeaker on June 13.
“This is just robbery,” said a woman traveling to the province of Camagüey. She came to Havana to see a doctor with 65 pesos in her pocket, just enough to return. She expressed doubt that she could come for her next appointment in a month’s time. Other passengers spoke in the same vein. Two elderly men from Las Tunas said a ticket to their native municipality of Amancio Rodríguez now costs 23 pesos instead of two pesos and change. The Cuban government has recently increased wages, but people are complaining the pay rises do not measure up to steep prices.
American Woman Accused of Spying for Castro Let Out on Bail
A U.S. citizen who was arrested in January 2005 on charges of espionage for Cuba has been released from prison on bail. The alleged Cuban agent, Elsa Alvarez, 55, got the chance to leave the prison in Miami on June 19 after her family raised the bond of $400,000 by mortgaging their houses.
Elsa Alvarez and her husband Carlos Alvarez, professor at Florida International University, are being accused of using their academic activity as a cover for spying in favor of the Cuban communist regime during several decades. The couple has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Carlos Alvarez remains in custody.
Cubans Go Crazy for Films about Gays
A soap opera about sexual minorities and AIDS has become a real hit in Cuba. The life on the island is literally coming to a standstill each time the series, titled the “Dark Side of the Moon,” is shown on state television. The craze for the story of two gays has caused a stir in Cuban society because not long ago this sensitive issue has been banned from open discussions.
Truck with 50 Cubans Plunges into Gorge
Five Cubans were killed and 45 sustained injuries of various severity when an overcrowded truck plunged into a gorge, according to Reuters. The tragic accident occurred on a mountain road in the province of Santiago de Cuba in the eastern part of the island. A field hospital was set up at the scene of the accident. People with serious injuries were taken to hospitals by helicopter.
According to preliminary investigation, the truck crashed after the driver lost control at the turn of the road as a result of the blown tire. Trucks are used all over Cuba for transportation because of the shortage of passenger buses and other public transport, the news agency notes.
Writer Mario Vargas Llosa Hates Dictatorships of Castro and Chávez
At a conference in Lima, organized by the Cervantes Institute and the Spanish Embassy, the reputed Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa said “the worst democracy is preferable to the best dictatorship,” and expressed his repulsion toward the dictatorships of Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, and the like.
Vargas Llosa thinks the worldwide emergence of Latin American literature had more political reasons than cultural, with the Cuban revolution acting as a catalyst for Latin American literature because of the world’s focus on the Castro revolution in its legendary days. He lamented the fact that because of nationalistic feelings Latin America has not managed to forge a united political and economic bloc.
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