Cuba Chronicle of Events
Issue No. 25 • November 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 Miami, Martí Noticias, Directorio Democrático Cubano, RBC-Ukraine, BBC, Lenta.Ru, Interfax, RIA Novosti, ANN, Reuters, Computerlenta, GayRussia.Ru, Segodnya.ru, REGNUM, ITAR-TASS, Associated Press, Bankir.ru.
Asamblea Calls Upon Governments and Democratic Institutions to Not Cooperate with Cuba
The Asamblea Para Promover la Sociedad Civil (Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba), a coalition of more than 300 dissident groups, has called upon governments and democratic international institutions to not cooperate with the Cuban dictatorship that has been oppressing its own people for more than forty-seven years. The appeal was sent by Martha Beatriz Roque, chairwoman of the Assembly, in a letter sent to heads of state and governments taking part in the 16th Ibero-American summit that starts in Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, on November 3.
The letter, which was circulated in Havana on November 1, points out that the Cuban communist regime has not been fulfilling obligations taken at previous Ibero-American summits and other international fora, including meetings of the Non-Aligned Movement and the UN Commission on Human Rights. Roque attached a document to the letter testifying that Cubans do not have the right to hold multiparty elections, the right to private property, freedom of expression and movement, and freedom of trade union and religious organizations.
Anti-Castro Poster Put Up in Institute
Havana, Cuba. A poster reading “Down with Fidel” was spotted on a wall of the José Carlos Mariótegui Institute, an educational center on the Isle of Youth, according to Gerlys Pérez la Rosa, a member of the dissident Youth Movement for Democracy. Pérez la Rosa, who lives on the Isle of Youth, said the discovery on October 16 prompted forces from the National Police, State Security and Technical Department of Investigations to descend on the school. Pérez la Rosa said there have been problems at the school, including poor food and teacher shortages.
Primary-School-Age Children Take Part in Mob Attacks on Dissidents
Ciego de Avila, Cuba. Pupils from the Sierra Maestra primary school and the Centro middle school participated, along with their teachers and other school employees, in an “act of repudiation” directed against two dissidents. The mob gathered outside the home of two dissidents, Bienvenido Perdigón, and Ana Margarita Perdigón, of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights, yelling revolutionary slogans, threats and obscenities. The two dissidents have been subjected to several such acts before. “Actos de repudio” are gatherings of mobs outside dissidents’ homes aimed at intimidating and threatening them through yelling, making threats, and throwing things through windows. Government and Communist Party officials claim the mobs consist of “true revolutionaries” (revolutionarios)who assemble spontaneously to show their contempt for those who are not adherents of the government line. Dissidents and others report that the mobs are recruited and directed by government and party operatives and by members of the so-called rapid response brigades who can be seen in every such demonstration.
Government Official Attempts to Run Over Dissidents with His Car
Matanzas, Cuba. Nelson Suárez, an official of a government agricultural agency, attempted to hit three dissidents with his car, according to Juan Francisco Sigler Amaya, leader of the Alternative Option Independence Movement. He said that on October 10 Suárez, driving in his Lada car, attempted to run down three Alternative movement members, Yoheni Junco Sardiñas, Jesús Galván Fernández, and Yovany Junco Sardiñas, who were standing on a sidewalk talking when they were forced to jump out of the way to avoid being hit.
In January 2006, Sigler Amaya was himself the target of an assasination attempt by car and escaped with several injuries. The Amaya family is heavily persecuted. Sigler Amaya was released in 2005 from a prison sentence; his two brothers, Guido and Ariel, are serving 20 and 25 year sentences, respectively, following the March 2003 crackdown. A fourth brother was forced into exile after a 26 month prison term.
Human Rights Activist Attacked by Mob
Havana, Cuba. A human rights activist, attacked by a mob him as he left his home on October 27, claims that the attack was directed by the political police. Miguel Valdés said a group of 10 to 15 people surrounded him as he left home. Two women in the group took the lead, pushing and striking him and tearing his shirt. Armando Oliva, an eyewitness, said several neighbors came out in Valdés’s defense. Valdés was recently released from prison for health reasons after serving two years of a 15-year sentence.
Independent Journalist Warned Against “Counter-Revolutionary Activities”
Havana, Cuba. Independent journalist Shelyn Rojas was questioned by State Security agents for an hour at the end of October and told to stop “counter-revolutionary activities” in her writing and using “European diplomatic missions” for transmission of her articles and those of her colleagues. After responding to an order to appear at a police station in Havana’s Lawton neighborhood on October 27, she was forced to wait for an hour, she left, only to be picked up by State Security agents later in the day at her home. Two agents called Moisés and Elicer told her she was courting danger if she did not stop her activities as an independent journalist, including taking her articles and those of colleagues to “European diplomatic missions” for transmission.
Journalist and Two Dissidents Detained
Havana, Cuba. Police arrested independent journalist Roberto Santana and civil rights activists Luis Enrique Rodriguez and Edgard Lopez on November 2 after they had visited the office of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana. Santana said they were taken to a police station in the Vedado district and questioned. After being held from noon until midnight, they were released. Police confiscated books, brochures, coloring books, photocopies of articles downloaded from the Internet, a flashlight, and a radio. “This is theft. The items they confiscated had been a gift to us,” Santana said.
Independent Journalist Sentenced to Two Years of House Arrest
Santiago de Cuba. Guillermo Espinosa, who had been held in isolation since his arrest two weeks ago, was sentenced by a tribunal in Santiago to two years of house arrest for “social dangerousness.” Espinosa, who had raised the government’s hackles by repeatedly reporting on the ongoing dengue fever epidemic, was also told to find a job with a government entity or risk serving the rest of his two-year sentence in prison. The tribunal told him his reporting is an activity that affects the interests of the state. Espinosa was fired three months ago by the Public Health service, where he had been working as a nurse, for his political beliefs.
Reporters Without Borders Names Cuba an “Enemy of the Internet”
The international non-profit group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has released an annual list of thirteen “enemies of the Internet.” The blacklist includes Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Myanmar (Burma), China, North Korea, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Uzbekistan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam. According to RSF’s report, dissidents and independent journalists in Cuba are not allowed to use the Internet. Ordinary citizens can get access to the Web only in sponsored Internet cafes, at universities, and at computer clubs. A Cuban could face up to 25 years in prison for writing a “counterrevolutionary” article for a foreign website, and up to five years for going online illegally or accessing unauthorized sites.
Cuban Prisoners on Hunger Strike
Puerto Padre, Cuba. Three prisoners, José Gabriel (Pepín) Ramón Castillo, Eduardo Díaz Castellaños, and Reinaldo Labrada Peña, are currently carrying out a hunger strike protesting mistreatment and injustices committed against them by prison officials in the Boniato prison. Castillo, a political prisoner who had already been refusing prison food at the time and was only taking food given to him by other prisoners, began a hunger strike on October 17 with Castellanos, a common prisoner acting in solidarity because of similar injustices committed in the prison. Reinaldo Labrada Peña joined the hunger strike on October 23. The information was provided from Puerto Padre by Giselda Verdecia García, the wife of Reinaldo Labrada Peña.
She stated, “They are demanding the rights that are denied to prisoners. They seek to be able to store food in their cubicles for later consumption, to have access to phone calls and privacy during the calls, the right to religious ministry, the end to physical and verbal abuse against prisoners, and that medications be given to prisoners when brought by their families. I hold responsible the prison authorities and State Security that administer all these tortures for the physical integrity of my husband.”
José Gabriel Ramón Castillo was arrested in March 2003 when he was director of the Independent Culture and Democracy Institute in Santiago de Cuba. Reinaldo Labrada Peña was also detained and condemned under the same case known as “the 75,” for his human rights activities in Las Tunas. Both are serving long prison sentences
Prisoners Fumigated While They Slept
Havana, Cuba. Sleeping inmates were sprayed with insecticides while they slept when the chief of Internal Order at the El Pater prison ordered spraying against mosquitoes to proceed at six in the morning on October 15.The spraying is part of an ongoing campaign against the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits several diseases, including the most pressing concern, dengue fever. Jailed dissident Víctor Yunier Fernández said prisoners voiced complaints when they learned they had been sprayed with the chemicals. Some hours after the incident, Fernandez was beaten by a guard and locked in a punishment cell, said another political prisoner, Reinaldo Gante. Fernandez, 23, was sentenced last March to three years for “social dangerousness.”
Opposition Cleric Freed After 15 Months of Prison
Havana, Cuba. The vicar general of the Roman Catholic Orthodox Byzantine Church of Cuba, Ricardo Santiago Medina Salabarría, was freed at the end of October after 15 months in prison and told by a state security officer to ask the U.S. Interests Section for a visa to go into exile in the United States. Political security police shortened Medina Salabarría’s indefinite sentence after receiving an appeal from his wife, Katia Sonia Martín Véliz.
A state security agent said that the file on the cleric remained open and that he could be imprisoned again if he continued opposition activity against the government. Medina Salabarría was arrested under Law 88 which considers any contact with foreign governments like that of the United States to be close to a treasonous offense. During his imprisonment, Medina Salabarría refused to wear prison clothing, going instead in shorts and a shirt worn inside out as a protest. After his release, he said he would continue his efforts on behalf of political prisoners.
Rehearsal of a Military Parade in Cuba
Troops marched in the streets and fighter jets streaked across the skies of Havana on Saturday rehearsing a military parade scheduled for December 2. The parade will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the start of the Cuban revolution and the 80th birthday of its leader, Fidel Castro.
Fidel Castro Might Not Attend His 80th Birthday Celebrations Because of Illness
Cuban officials are not sure Fidel Castro would be well enough to attend celebrations of his 80th birthday delayed until December 2. “It’s a subject on which I don’t want to speculate,” Cuba’s foreign minister Felipe Pérez Roque told Western media in an interview.
Fidel is under constant watch of medical doctors, the minister said, and will return to power “when it’s the right moment.” I meet with Castro frequently and the Comandante is steadily recovering from his intestinal surgery, Pérez Roque added. “He looks good. I see that his recovery is advancing.” “We are optimistic, and happy. The only ones who are sad are our enemies who were all prepared to celebrate his death,” said the head of the Cuban foreign ministry. Those are wrong who believed the departure of Castro would demolish the gains of the Cuban revolution,” RCH quoted the minister.
Fidel Castro temporarily relinquished power to his brother Raul on July 31 after intestinal surgery. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted the White House did not have credible information about Fidel Castro’s health. But she was strong in her belief that, sooner or later, the dictatorial regime would collapse.
Raul’s Cuba Might Copy Chinese Economic Model
La Nueva Cuba reports that the Bush administration has been showing a more friendly approach to Cuba since Raul Castro has taken over. Even Cuba’s officials predict, with reasonable caution, a possible relaxation in the economic course pursued on the island. In an interview with the Associated Press, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Pérez Roque admitted the U.S. trade embargo was not entirely to blame for the economic hardships in the country. He said, he also acknowledged Cuban “errors” and “insufficiencies.” “Does our economy require that we make decisions to change some things, to fix what is wrong? Yes,” he said. “And it can be done, in the right moment.” But, he said, “In Cuba, there will always be a Cuban model.” Many observers think that under a more permanent Raul Castro leadership Cuba might adopt an economic model based on China, which is also communist but has increasingly opened markets. Under Fidel’s rule, the analyst pointed out, it was Raul Castro who developed new government policies aimed at liberalizing the country’s economy. He made efforts to normalize relations with the United States and sought to restore small-scale private businesses on the island. Raul established unofficial contacts with the U.S. top officials to jointly solve the problems of migration and drug trafficking. In 2002, Raul promised to cooperate with U.S. troops by returning Guantanamo detainees who might escape through Cuba, reports.
Castro May Not Live to See 2008
The U.S. government is convinced Fidel Castro’s health is in an apparent decline and he is unlikely to make it through 2007. Sources in the Bush administration say Castro’s diagnosis and his treatment remain a mystery. They believe the Cuban leader might have terminal cancer of the stomach, colon or pancreas, which would give him a maximum prognosis of 18 months.
Jamming Radio and TV Broadcasts in Central Cuba Expands
Santa Clara, Cuba. The Cuban government has expanded the radio and TV broadcasting range in central Villa Clara province by adding two transmitters and 10 relay systems. The transmitters are operating in Sagua la Grande and Caibarian on the north coast of the province. A tower will also be erected in the township of Manicaragua. With these facilities the government is planning to block radio and TV broadcasts originating in the United States.
Rafters Released After Five Months of Awaiting Trial
Havana, Cuba. Four men who were caught trying to leave the island by sea were freed after waiting four months in prison for a trial date. However, the officer in charge at the Havana region prison, Nildo López, told them they would not get the official release papers yet. The men said they are free, but cannot work because they were fired from their jobs and banned from practicing their occupations. In addition, they were each fined 5000 pesos, they said. The rafters were apprehended on April 28, 2006 in waters off San Antonio Cape, in western Cuba. Three of them are from Holguín province and one from Havana.
Cuba Is Ready for Iraqi Scenario
Germán Sánchez Otero, Cuban Ambassador to Venezuela, has accused the U.S. government of plotting to topple Fidel Castro. According to him, the United States is drawing on its Iraqi experience as a model to overthrow the legitimate government of Cuba and then install a Washington-appointed one. He said the so-called legal basis for the action was laid down in special reports prepared by the Bush appointed Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba.
Verkhovna Rada Shows Concern over Cubans’ “Well-Being”
Kiev, Ukraine. The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, has expressed solidarity with Fidel Castro and condemned the U.S.-sponsored economic and trade sanctions imposed against Cuba. According to ProUA, out of 450 deputies registered for the sitting, 318 voted in favor of Verkhovna Rada’s declaration of solidarity with the Republic of Cuba. The Verkhovna Rada expressed the hope that parliaments of other UN member-states would follow suit.
The resolution stated that parliament did not support sanctions against Cuba because they affect negatively the well-being of Cuban citizens. It further stated that the 46-year-long blockade of the “island of freedom” has greatly damaged the Cuban economy, but failed as an efficient tool of modern politics. The Verkhovna Rada stressed the importance of strengthening cooperation with Cuba in various fields, including the economy, medicine, sport, culture, and humanitarian aid.
A. Senchenko, a high-ranking deputy, noted to RBC-Ukraine that the bill was being pushed because of the upcoming visit to Cuba of the parliament’s speaker, Alexander Moroz, to “ensure him a very warm reception.” At the same time, Senchenko stressed that some deputies from the Yulia Timoshenko Bloc were supporting the bill out of gratitude for Cuba’s free medical treatment of children of Chernobyl.
Patriarch Alexy II Plans to Visit Cuba in 2007
Moscow, Russia. Construction of a church by the Russian Orthodox Church in Havana may be close to completion next year, said the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II in Moscow on Friday. He made the comments after meeting the head of the National Assembly of People’s Power of Cuba, Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada. “The head of the National Assembly has invited me to visit Cuba in connection with the upcoming consecration and opening of this church in honor of the Kazan Icon of the Holy Mother. With thanks I have accepted his invitation. God willing, we’ll meet again in Russia and in Cuba,” said the Patriarch.
Russian Duma Condemns U.S. Economic Blockade of Cuba
Moscow, Russia. Russian lawmakers have called upon parliaments of the UN member-states to condemn a United States economic embargo against Cuba. The statement was adopted at the Duma session on November 3. The document reads “Russia’s Duma [lower house of parliament] is asking parliaments of the UN member-states to denounce the U.S. economic blockade of the Republic of Cuba and to urge the United States to lift it.” The State Duma called the continuing embargo against Cuba a “massive violation of human rights of not only Cubans and Americans, but also citizens of other countries.”
Disregarding many UN resolutions opposing the economic blockade toward Cuba, the United States has recently tightened its sanctions and adopted a policy aimed at “forcibly changing the constitutional order of the Republic of Cuba,” the statement says. According to Russian lawmakers, the continuing trade embargo violates the rights and legitimate interests of third countries and commercial and non-profit organizations in developing diversified political, trade and economic, cultural and other ties with Cuba. The State Duma has passed similar resolutions against the Cuban embargo in 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1999. The current resolution was sponsored by the Friends of Cuba parliamentary group.
The passage of the resolution was timed to coincide with the visit of the chairman of the Cuban National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon. He expressed his gratitude to Russian lawmakers for adopting the resolution, saying “Thank you. Thank you very much” in Russian several times.
He said that sincere and friendly relations of the Russian Federation and Cuba demonstrate the fraternal bond between the two nations.
UN General Assembly Votes Against U.S. Embargo on Cuba
New York, USA. For the 15th consecutive year since 1992, the UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to urge the United States to lift its economic sanctions against Cuba. The resolution was adopted with 183 votes in favor to 4 against (the United States, Israel, the Marshall Islands, and Palau) and 1 abstention (Micronesia).
Australia proposed to include into the resolution, entitled “Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial and Financial Embargo Imposed by the United States against Cuba.” an additional paragraph stating that the U.S. laws and measures against Cuba “were motivated by valid concerns about the continued lack of democracy and political freedom in Cuba.” According to ITAR-TASS, the Australian amendment failed by a vote of 51 to 127, with five abstentions.
The adopted resolution expressed specific concern about the continued validity and application of the Helms-Burton Act and its provisions asserting extraterritorial reach affecting the sovereignty of states, the legitimate interests of persons under their jurisdiction, and the freedom of trade and navigation. The U.S. legislation forbids foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies to do business with Cuba, and companies of third countries to export to the United States products manufactured in Cuba or made, wholly or partially, with Cuban components. Companies from third countries are forbidden to sell goods or services to Cuba which use U.S. technology or which have more than 10% U.S. content. The embargo also forbids ships that have taken merchandise to or from Cuba from entering U.S. ports.
The U.S. embargo against Cuba was first introduced in 1961 after the failed invasion of the Bay of Pigs intended to topple Fidel Castro. These sanctions were subsequently expanded by introducing, among other things, in 1966 a ban on travel of U.S. citizens to Cuba.
United States to Ignore the UN Call to Lift Cuba Blockade
The United States will not honor the UN resolution urging Washington to end the economic blockade against Cuba, said the acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Ronald Godard. “The U.S. trade embargo is a bilateral issue between the United States and Cuba and not a matter for the General Assembly. We introduced the embargo to demonstrate our continuing call for economic and political freedom for all Cubans,” said the U.S. envoy in his statement.
Just a day before, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly called on the United States to repeal its economic sanctions against Cuba with a vote of 184 countries in favor to 4 countries against the resolution, and one abstention.
“If the Cuban government wants the United States to end this embargo, it knows what is needed: reforms such as free and fair elections, an open economy, independent trade unions, and a free press, to name a few,” the ambassador said. In fact, he said, the U.S. embargo does not prevent the rest of the world from trading with Cuba. He also reminded U.N. members that despite the sanctions, the United States has licensed more than $10 billion in the sale and donation of medicine and medical equipment and food products for the Cuban people in the past five years.
Government Crackdown Against Street Vendors
Matanzas, Cuba. Military units have been raiding homes and searching people in public in a crackdown on street merchants in Bolondrón, according to Julio Sierra Silva, representative of the Alternative Option Independence Movement.“The government is trying to prevent private businesses from flourishing, no matter how small, and for this reason, it is targeting humble street vendors,” he said. Sierra said that those who live in the Bolondrón district find the military operation “abusive.” He identified agent Rafael Acosta as the man in charge of this crackdown.
UBS and Credit Suisse End Dealings with Cuba
Two major Swiss banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, have confirmed they are not conducting any business dealings with Cuba. Spokesmen for the two banks said they have severed relations with the country. According to them, this policy concerns a number of “sensitive” countries, including Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Cuba.
A spokesman for UBS said the bank had not had any dealings with Cuba’s financial sector since 2005, while Credit Suisse confirmed it had cut all ties with the country at the start of 2006. At present, UBS refuses to do business with both individuals and companies from the Caribbean island and does not execute any payments to Cuba. According to a spokesman for Credit Suisse, the bank does not do payments to Cuba in U.S. dollars, but payments in other currencies are possible through a correspondent bank.
Cuba Holds 24th Annual International Fair of Havana
Cuba is holding the 24th annual International Fair of Havana. Over 1000 companies from 49 countries from South and North America, Europe, Asia and Africa have exhibits at the trade fair. One of the major participants this year is Russia. Russia’s booths occupy over one thousand square meters of the fair’s space. More than 40 Russian companies participate in the event, and there is an exhibition of Russian vehicles. The fair of Havana is our response to the U.S. blockade, points out Pedro Alvarez, head of the Cuban food import company Alimport. Representatives of American companies attend the trade event despite the U.S. embargo against Cuba.
Cuba Airs Gay Soap Opera
According to the Miami Herald report last Monday, Cuba is airing the communist island’s first TV program featuring openly gay characters. It is the first appearance ever of any gay characters on the communist-controlled TV in Cuba.
Some of the island’s gays say the overwhelming popularity of “The Hidden Side of the Moon” is proof Cuba’s hardline communist government has eased and become more tolerant of homosexuals. In the past, gays in Cuba were routinely harassed, persecuted and beaten by police.
Other gays, however, are concerned with the fact that the gay characters on the show are HIV-positive. “The simple fact that they put a gay issue on TV shows a lot,” said Oilime, a gay Cuban who agreed to tell only his first name. “But it promotes the idea that if you sleep with a gay man, you will get a fatal illness.”
Chilean Writer Jorge Edwards Says Castro Will Not Be Forgiven by History
Renowned Chilean author Jorge Edwards said history would not forgive Fidel Castro for causing upheaval in Cuba that has spread to Latin America. The greatest mistake of Castroism was to nourish the idea of absolute confrontation and to renounce the idea of cooperation, Edwards told EFE news agency.
The author, who had been envoy of the leftist Salvador Allende government in Havana until his deportation from the island in 1971, is in Miami to promote his novel “El inútil de la famili” (Unwanted by the Family) at the Miami Book Fair. The novelist is the winner of the 1999 Cervantes Prize, considered to be the Nobel Prize for Spanish-language writers. He came to Miami also to celebrate the republishing of his novel “Persona Non Grata” in which he describes his life as ambassador in Cuba.
Edwards recalled that when he arrived in Havana in 1970 he saw how the secrecy that was embedded in all echelons of power had stirred fear among the people. Nevertheless he said changes were imminent in Cuba.
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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].