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Cuba Chronicle of Events
Issue No. 23 • October 1-15, 2006

Cuba Chronicle of Events is produced by the Prima News Agency (Russia) in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe (U.S.A). This edition is based on reports from PRIMA-News, Bitacora Cubana, CubaNet, Puente Informativo Cuba Maiami, Martí Noticias, Reuters, Ukraine Daily, Lenta.Ru, Associated Press, Gazeta.Ru, Directorio Democrático Cubano, RIA Novosti, ITAR-TASS.


Cuban Workers Oppose Dismissal of Dissident

In a highly unusual action under the communist regime, employees of a construction company have overwhelmingly voted against the politically motivated sacking of one of their co-workers, a Havana-based opposition coalition Arco Progresista reported. A statement signed by the coalition’s spokesman Manuel Cuesta Morúa says the workers’ meeting was held at the headquarters of ECOA-66 construction company on September 27. The meeting was called to terminate the employment of Eugenio Leal García for his participation in the opposition Cuban Socialist Democratic Movement (Corriente Socialista Democratica Cubana).

The attempted dismissal is part of the Communist regime’s crackdown against people who openly cooperate with organizations that promote human rights and peaceful democratic change in Cuba, the document states. It further asserts that this action was intended to further demoralize the dissident and his wife Marta Cortizas, who were abused in their home by so-called rapid response brigades on September 16. Arco Progresista believes the workers’ vote against the sacking of Leal García reflects a serious change in public attitude on the island.

Campaign of Civic Resistance Called for by Exile Groups

Havana, Cuba. On September 30, a group of activists from the Cuban Liberal Movement held a meeting to devise a strategy for involving more Cubans into a “non-participation campaign.” The meeting took place in Punta Brava neighborhood in the municipality of La Lisa in Havana.

Silvio Benitez Márquez, a representative of the Western Regional Coordination Council of the Cuban Liberal Movement, said, “It is the duty of every activist to persuade his or her neighbors not to join Committees for the Defense of the Revolution and the Confederation of Cuban Workers, not to pay for the upkeep of the territorial police. It is sort of moral contribution every Cuban can make at this critical moment in the country.”

The campaign in support of civic resistance to the Castro dictatorship has been launched by Cuban exile groups in Miami on July 26 on the pages of El Nuevo Herald newspaper. The call for “non-cooperation with the dictatorship” seeks to urge the Cuban population to refuse to participate in actos de repudio against political dissidents and generate civic disobedience actions in favor of democratic change in Cuba.

“'We are responding to a call made from the island by political prisoners and representatives of the opposition, in consideration of the growing sections of the population who are rejecting cooperation with the regime,” stated activist Angel de Fana, the executive director of the Plantados organization, in launching the campaign. In addition to Plantados, an organization of long-term political prisoners now in exile, several other organizations such as Mothers and Wives against Repression for Cuba (M.A.R. por Cuba), and the Cuban Democratic Directorate have supported the project. Organizers of the project say it is open to all Cuban exile groups.

The campaign is based on six slogans incorporated in signs and stickers that will circulate inside Cuba: I DO NOT JOIN (the Communist Party, Committees for the Defense of the Revolution and the  Union of Young Communists); I DO NOT REPRESS (I am not part of the repressive government apparatus); I DO NOT ATTEND (mass acts summoned by the regime); I DO NOT SQUEAL (I do not betray my countrymen), I DO NOT COOPERATE (with the economic activities of the regime), I DO NOT REPUDIATE (I do not participate in the acts of repudiation). The seventh slogan expresses concisely the pattern of conduct toward national democratization. It says, I DO WANT CHANGE.

According to Javier de Cesspits, president of the Cuban Democratic Directorate, “'this campaign has already begun from inside of Cuba” and it is spreading to more and more neighborhoods, “because the people are losing their fear.”


Independent Journalist Says Firing Was Reprisal

Havana, Cuba. Independent journalist Julio Aleaga Pesant, who has recently been fired from his job, claims the firing was in reprisal for an article he wrote on September 8 warning about an imminent epidemic of dengue fever in Cuba.
Aleaga, 46, says officers of the Department of State Security met with his supervisor in the public health pavilion of Expo Cuba and told him that he is an independent journalist. The supervisor, Leonardo Hernández, then dismissed him from his job in the publicity and promotions division.


IAPA Urges Cuba’s Communist Regime to Release Jailed Journalists

At its 62nd annual General Assembly, the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) adopted a resolution demanding that the Cuban government unconditionally release all imprisoned journalists, including 26 Cubans sentenced to up to 27 years in jail, and stop its repressive actions against the press. The IAPA, which ended its two-day meeting in Mexico City on October 3, also officially requested the Cuban government to allow Cuban citizens unfettered access to the Internet and to stop its practice of granting visas to foreign reporters selectively.

IAPA’s resolution stated that Cuba continues its crackdown on independent journalists. Threats and temporary detentions by the police as well as gross infringements on the people’s right to information are still common practice on the island. IAPA has devoted an entire section of its final document to the lack of press freedom on the island, emphasizing that, along with Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico, Cuba poses the biggest threat to journalists.

Cuban Political Prisoner Beaten

Holguín, Cuba. Cuban political prisoner Digxán Ramírez Ballester was beaten on September 18 by guards at Playa Manteca prison in the municipality of Mayari in the province of Holguín. The information was reported by independent journalist Ahmed Rodriguez Albacia. “Ramirez Ballester was holding a hunger strike to protest arbitrary abuses against prisoners at the penitentiary when he was handcuffed and brutally beaten by prison guards Wilber and Carlos in the presence of the chief prison officer, José Ramón Matos Leiva, and six other officers,” said Eliécer Consuegra Rivas. The report also states that Carlos Miguel Lopez Santos, Fidel García Roldon, Elio Terrero Gomez and Ramírez Ballester himself are now on hunger strike in protest against this unprovoked beating.

Cuban Political Prisoner Denied Medications

Santiago de Cuba. José Gabriel “Pepín” Ramón Castillo, a political prisoner currently on hunger strike in Boniato prison in Santiago de Cuba, is being denied medications. a political prisoner currently on hunger strike in Boniato prison in Santiago de Cuba, is being denied medications. His wife Blanca Rosa Echavarría told the Cuban Democratic Directorate over the phone that he “continues to refuse solid food and ingests only condensed milk, which I have brought to him, and liquids.” During her last visit, prison wardens set conditions for bringing food for the prisoner. Castillo rejected them. He refused to accept food parcels and began a hunger strike. Ramon Castillo, who was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis last year, has also been denied medications. Drugs his wife brought have been returned to her by prison authorities.


Fidel Castro Has Terminal Stomach Cancer

Time magazine reports that Fidel Castro “has terminal intestinal cancer and is unlikely to return to power,” citing what it believes are credible U.S. intelligence sources. Argentina's La Nacion, repeating the report, writes, “There have been so many conflicting reports about the Cuban leader’s health in recent decades that it is now difficult to tell the lie from the truth. However, we believe [this] information is true now

Addressing supporters in Santa Ines in early October, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Fidel Castro was prepared to die. “Fidel told me when I went to visit him in Havana recently, ‘Chavez, I already lived my epoch, I can die. I’m free to die, not you. You are a slave of life. Don’t let them kill you. You must live because the fate of the Revolution will depend on whether you will be alive or not.’”

Meanwhile, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roqué said at an outdoor rally in Havana last Wednesday that Fidel Castro would soon return to his post. "We will again have him leading the Revolution,” maintained the minister.

The eighty-year-old Fidel Castro underwent emergency surgery for intestinal bleeding on July 31, 2006. After 47 years of continuous rule, he handed over his duties as First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, Chairman of the  Council of State, and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to his younger, 75-year-old brother Raul Castro.

Military Parades to Be Held in Cuba for the First Time in Ten Years

A rare event is being planned by the Cuban government for its people. According to Cuba’s Chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces Raul Castro, two major cities on the island will host military parades, during which a display of the army’s modernized weapons systems would take place. Cuba last displayed its military might ten years ago on December 2, 1996.

Now the Cuban government has again decided to show its military achievements to the people. “We will show the army’s new, modernized weapons systems which have been upgraded by our own specialists,” said Raul Castro.

The parades will take place in Havana and Santiago de Cuba on December 2, to mark an anniversary of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. The events will be timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the landing on the island of the Granma yacht with Fidel Castro and his comrades-in-arms’ on board. The Granma landing marks the beginning of the revolutionary struggle against the dictatorial rule of General Fulgencio Batista, who was overthrown in 1959.


A Poll of Cuban Exiles Shows Support of Embargo against Cuba

An overwhelming majority of South Florida’s Cuban community support the U.S. economic embargo against the communist regime in Cuba, according to a new poll conducted by Academician Darío Moreno. The poll showed that in the congressional district of U.S. Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart shows 88.5 percent of respondents want the embargo to be continued and 89.7 percent favor general travel restrictions on Americans seeking to visit Cuba unless there is a change towards democracy in Cuba. The poll, commissioned by Díaz-Balart for his district, showed that 85.2 percent support Bush’s new regulations that allow Cuban Americans to visit their relatives in Cuba only once every three years, instead of annually as was allowed before. Moreno, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Florida International University, surveyed 400 registered voters between September 25 to September 30.

Two Men Pleaded Guilty in Cuban Smuggling Case

Two men accused of a conspiracy to smuggle Cubans to the United States that resulted in the death of a 24-year-old woman pleaded guilty to all 68 counts in a federal indictment. Rolando González , 20, and Heinrich Castillo, 28, admitted their guilt before a federal court in Key West, South Florida. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Tsai, who prosecuted the case, said the most serious crime the smugglers had committed were their actions that resulted in the loss of a human life. The convictions could lead to life sentences, he added. U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore is expected to deliver a verdict on January 8. A third defendant, Amil González will go on trial in a week’s time. He insists he was not a smuggler, but a migrant just like the rest of the group.


Russia Restructures Cuba’s Debt from Soviet Era to Give Fresh Credit

During a visit by Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov to Cuba on September 29, the countries signed an intergovernmental agreement resolving Cuba’s debt from previous credit lines extended by Russia and extending fresh credit to Cuba that will allow it to finance the acquisition of Russian goods, equipment, and services. According to ITAR-TASS, the intergovernmental agreement was signed in the presence of Fradkov and Raul Castro. Moscow and Havana also signed an agreement on technological and military cooperation. The sides also agreed to restructure $166 million owed to Russia by Cuba and to extend a new $355 million credit line to Havana. Answering reporters’ questions, Fradkov said the military purchases won’t be covered by Russia’s credit. “This means Cuba will directly pay for the purchase of Russia military equipment it needs,” Fradkov explained, adding that “the Cuban army is equipped with vintage Soviet hardware that requires repair and maintenance.”

U.S. Increases Economic Pressure, Says Cuba

The U.S. economic embargo cost Cuba $4.1 billion last year. The Cuban government released that figure on Monday, saying the United States has tightened the embargo although nearly all U.N. member countries have disapproved of that measure. Cuban authorities said 487 Americans were fined some $500 million by U.S. authorities for defying the travel ban to come to Cuba.

Arias to Urge Cuba for a Democracy at Ibero-American Summit

Costa Rican President and Nobel Prize winner Oscar Arias said he would reiterate his call for a democratic transition in Cuba at the Ibero-American Summit to be held in Uruguay in November this year. In an interview to Radio Monumental in Costa Rica, Arias said that the supercilious and arrogant behavior of Castro’s regime would not stop him from criticizing “the only dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere.” That was the Costa Rican president’s response to reports appeared in the official Cuban press that his plans to remilitarize some police functions are aimed to silence foes of his government.

Arias called the accusations ridiculous, saying this would be more typical of a dictatorship that knows only one means of communication. He claimed his foes were out in the streets and saying to him whatever they like. Unlike Costa Rica, he emphasized, Cuban dissidents find refuge in Miami and many other countries where they have been forced to escape. While those who failed to do this, are now in prison or lie buried at the cemetery.

Cuba Would Be Welcomed in OAS when It Is a Free Country, Says Rumsfeld

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said at the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas that if Cuba were to be a democratic country it would be welcomed in the Organization of American States (OAS).  Speaking at the summit in Nicaragua’s capital, Managua, Rumsfeld said that he could not speak for the OAS but, clearly if Cuba were to be a free and democratic country it would be welcomed in the organization, at least by the United States.

When asked about Cuba’s absence at the conference, Rumsfeld said “this forum includes countries that are part of the Inter-American system that are free and democratic.” Cuba was excluded from participation in the OAS in 1962 because its adherence to communist policies was incompatible with the Inter-American system of hemispheric democracies.

Head of Swedish Government Declares His Cabinet Wants Cuba to Be a Democracy

New Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has pledged his government would focus on bringing democracy to Cuba and other countries. Presenting his government’s program to parliament, Reinfeldt said his center-right government would play a key role in promoting democracy in dictatorships such as Cuba and Belarus. The foreign policy of Sweden is based on compromises in international cooperation and on the clear-cut and firm position with regard to democracy and human rights, added the prime minister. The Scandinavian nation will take greater responsibility for freedom, safety, democracy, welfare and a more sustainable development in the world, the prime minister underlined.


Health Workers Threatened if Outbreak Information Leaks

Morón, Cuba. Workers at the Morón General Hospital in Ciego de Ávila province say they have been warned that should any of them leak any information about the current outbreak of dengue fever they will lose their jobs without any right to appeal. One worker, who asked not to be named, said different departments in the facility have been warned that should any information leak out to radio stations or web pages abroad, the informants will be fired because this information, according to hospital administrators, “is used by the enemy to overthrow the Revolution.” The worker said that in general workers are fearful to express any concerns they may have lest they be taken as informants and fired. So, he said, a recent breakdown of the water pumps feeding the hospital went unreported for days.

28/09/2006 – Scarce Resources in Hospital

Camagüey, Cuba. Cuban hospitals have become decrepit places with leaks and peeling paint and so few resources that patients bring their own things from home. Typically, patients bring sheets, towels, eating utensils, and a bucket for water. Now, in the latest wrinkle, visitors are finding there are few if any chairs for them to sit on. A woman visiting her niece in the maternity hospital in Camagüey said she got into an argument with a nurse who asked her not to sit in the patient’s bed. The nurse, she said, told her in other hospitals people take in their own chairs to sit. In another instance, two women were seen fighting for a chair. “Don’t worry,” said one bystander. “There are no chairs. I don’t know what they did with them, but there are no chairs. Never mind chairs. Now we are going to have to provide the bed for the patient.”

Mother Arrested For Complaining at Pharmacy

Morón, Cuba. María Rosales was arrested, held for 24 hours, and fined 400 pesos after protesting at a pharmacy because it could not supply the insulin her 6-year-old daughter needs to treat her diabetes. Rosales went to the pharmacy assigned to her in the town of Peonía, near Morón, with a doctor’s prescription. Pharmacy personnel told her they didn’t have any insulin, and referred her to another pharmacy. Rosales went to the second pharmacy and waited her turn in line. When pharmacy employees informed her that they had run out of insulin, Rosales broke into tears, protesting the lack of medicines and blaming the government for the problem.

Pharmacy administrators called police, who took Rosales to a Morón police station, fined her 400 pesos for disorderly conduct, and held her until the next day. Meanwhile, her husband Evaristo had to take the girl to the hospital, where doctors had to attend to her.


Miami Herald Publisher Resigns because of His Staff Breach of Ethics

Jesus Díaz, the publisher of The Miami Herald and the Spanish-language El Nuevo Herald, has been forced to step down after it became known that journalists of both newspapers had worked for U.S.-government broadcasts for foreign countries, reports The New York Times. The fact that some journalists, two staff reporters and a freelance contributor, received payments for participating in U.S.-government broadcasts on Radio Martí and TV Martí, leaked a month ago. The three were immediately fired. That decision triggered outrage among many in the Cuban-American community who signed a petition in support of the dismissed reporters.

In a letter of resignation, Díaz admits that the company’s policy regarding this situation was ambiguous and inconsistent and requested the sacked journalists to return. Díaz says that the management has learned that six other employees of The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald were also involved. Díaz indicates the events of the past weeks “have created an environment that no longer allows me to lead our newspapers.” The former publisher says he still believes that a journalist of an independent media cannot participate in government broadcasts. Díaz served as publisher of The Miami Herald since 2005.

Marta Fernández de Batista Dies

Marta Fernández de Batista, the widow of former Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, died at her West Palm Beach home, FL, where she had lived for 20 years, on October 2. She was 82. She will be buried in Madrid, Spain. She left Cuba after her husband was deposed on January 1, 1959 by the Fidel Castro-led Communist Revolution. Fernández’s health had worsened gradually since hip surgery in 1995 and she suffered a heart attack in early September. She was known for her love of arts and support of charities, both in her native country and the United States. She was the second wife of General Batista, who died of heart failure in 1973.

U.S. Justice Department Opposes Release of Cuban Terrorist

The U.S. Justice Department filed objections on Thursday to a U.S. magistrate’s decision to release Luis Posada Carriles, whom the United States has accused of illegal crossing the border, and whom Venezuela and Cuba accuse of involvement in the bombing of the Cuban airliner. Earlier, Magistrate Norbert Garney has recommended that Posada Carriles, 79, be freed because he had not been designated a terrorist and because no third country was found to accept him as an immigrant. The time to appeal this decision has expired on Thursday.

Posada, whom the United States considers an active opponent of the Castro regime and whom Cuba believes is a CIA agent, is accused by Havana of plotting the plane bombing in 1976 in which 73 people were killed. Posada was born in Cuba and later gained Venezuelan citizenship.

Huge Fire at Cuba’s Biggest Oil Refinery

A huge fire broke out late in the evening on September 27 at Cuba’s biggest oil refinery Nico Lopez in Havana, leaving at least two people injured, authorities said.

”The fire is of huge proportions and its burning is out of control at this time, but we are working on it,” a fire department spokesman told AFP. The oil was on fire but the firefighters managed to stop it from spreading to other tanks, he said. An interior ministry official said the fire had injured at least two people who have been taken to a military hospital. Unofficial sources, however, said several people had been injured in the blaze. The fire at the Nico Lopez refinery broke out at around 11:30 p.m. The refinery was quickly cordoned off by police, allowing access only to firefighters and ambulances.

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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 reproduced with permission and attribution from other news agencies. Please direct inquiries and comments to Editor, Cuba Chronicle of Events, Prima-News at [email protected] or to [email protected].