Cuba Chronicle of Events
Issue No. 28 • January 1-15, 2007
Cuba Chronicle of Events is produced by the Prima News Agency, based in Moscow, Russia, in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe, based in Washington, D.C. This edition is based on reports from PRIMA-News, Bitacora Cubana, CubaNet, Puente Informativo Cuba Miami, Martí Noticias, Directorio Democrático Cubano, BBC, Kasparov.Ru, RIA-Novosti, ITAR-TASS, EFE.
Miguel Valdés Tamayo Dies
Havana, Cuba. Manuel Valdes Tamayo, a Cuban human rights activist, died in Havana. He was 49 years old. The peaceful oppositionist lived in Párraga, Havana. As one of the group of 75 government opponents rounded up in April 2003, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The court verdict described him as the “man who opposed the Revolution, refused to participate in community groups and activities, and was poorly spoken of by his neighbors.” The activist was also accused of disseminating false information on the economic and political situation in Cuba.
Together with a group of other dissidents he founded the human rights movement called Fraternal Brothers for Dignity (Hermanos Fraternales por la Dignidad). He had been released on medical parole not long before his death.
Díaz Balart Blames Castro’s Regime for the Death of Valdés Tamayo
U.S. legislator Lincoln Díaz Balart, a Cuban American, has expressed condolences over the death of former Cuban prisoner of conscience Miguel Valdés Tamayo and blamed the Castro regime for the death of the rights activist. The dissident died on Wednesday in a Havana hospital after suffering two heart attacks. He had been convicted to 15 years as part of the so-called Black Spring in 2003 but was released after one year for health reasons.
Tamayo’s relatives and fellow dissidents from the non-violent opposition claimed his health had significantly deteriorated while in prison, saying he had been continuously harassed and beaten by agents of the communist government led by Fidel Castro. U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, said the death of Valdes Tamayo “is another one of the crimes against humanity for which the Castro brothers will have to respond.”
Cuba Is the Only Country in Latin America that Represses All Forms of Dissent
In its annual report, Human Rights Watch has described Cuba the only country in Latin America that represses nearly all forms of political dissent. The New-York based rights watch group writes that ailing Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro, who came to power in 1959, had shown no willingness to consider even minor reforms. While Castro’s decision last year to temporarily hand over power to his brother Raúl due to health problems prompted speculation in the international community about the possibility of reform on the communist-ruled island, the rights group writes that the future remains unclear. HRW underlines that Cubans are systematically denied basic rights such as free expression. Touching upon situation in other parts of Latin America, HRW says that in Venezuela, an ally of the Cuban communist regime, the government of Hugo Chávez has destroyed the independence of the judiciary.
U.S. Pacifists Refuse to Meet Wives of Jailed Dissidents
Havana, Cuba. The pacifist delegation headed by Cindy Sheehan will not meet with the Ladies in White, a group of wives of imprisoned dissidents, nor will they visit Cuban prisons during their current visit to Cuba, which was organized to demand the closing of the U.S. Guantanamo naval base in eastern Cuba. “We are here as American citizens, feeling responsible for what our government does,” said Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange and Ladies for Peace, who is accompanying Sheehan in her visit to the island.
The group, Benjamin said, did not come to see the problems existing inside of Cuba, but to protest the abuses being committed in Guantanamo, although they defended respect for human rights throughout the world. Benjamin told journalists that Sheehan wasn’t aware of the open letter sent by the Ladies in White. In a letter dated January 8, 2007, the Ladies in White, a movement which began in 2003 after the imprisonment of 75 dissidents, asked for a meeting with Cindy Sheehan and urged her to visit a Cuban prison. Sheehan arrived in Cuba on January 6 as the head of a large delegation of pacifists critical of Washington’s politics in order to hold a protest march to demand the closing of the Guantanamo military base and the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. The march took place on January 11, on the 5th anniversary of opening the prison at Guantanamo to prisoners of war from the Middle East.
Campaign “With the Same Coin” Goes On
Holguin, Cuba. The Latin American Federation of Rural Women (FLAMUR) is coordinating a campaign against economic discrimination on the island and demanding that all Cuban establishments sell goods and services to Cubans in a single currency, the peso. The campaign is dubbed “With the Same Coin” (Con la misma moneda). The campaigners are gathering signatures on a petition they intend to send to the Cuba’s National Assembly. Various opposition groups in Cuba support the move, including the Eastern Democratic Alliance, the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights, the Cuban Liberal Movement and the Clarity Human Rights Movement. Marta Díaz Rondón, Flamur’s director, says that many people are afraid to sign because of pressure from the State Security, but there are more seeing the project as a ray of hope.
Ciego de Avila, Cuba. Police attacked participants at the end of a children’s festival held annually at the start of the year in the central Cuban town of Caibarién in the province of Villa Clara. María de la Caridad Noa,
A member of the independent Cuban association “Peace, Democracy, and Freedom” told the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights that local children had saved their money for the festival the entire year by collecting waste paper and empty bottles and taking them to recycling points. They used their money for building two ceremonial carriages, fireworks, and other things. On the day of the festival, she said, small children and teenagers gathered with their parents and neighbors in the street to get into carriages and a truck, but before they could they were stopped by police in two patrol vehicles. After a brief exchange, police officers attacked and beat several youngsters. The youth fought back with their fists.
As more and more people gathered in the street in order to safeguard the attacked youth, the police retreated, taking with them three men. The festival crowd followed them in their carriages and truck to the police station, prompting the police to release the three detained individuals without any charges.
Independent Journalist Beaten
Ciego de Avila, Cuba. While detained on January 10, Cuban independent journalist Luis Esteban Espinosa Echemendía was assaulted by an officer of the National Revolutionary police in Ciego de Avila. The police officer, bearing Badge No. 35140, punched the young journalist in the stomach and ribs and threw a chair at him, threatening him with more assaults if Espinosa continued to insist that he be allowed to notify family members about his arrest. After this, the officer threw the journalist in a prison cell for two hours, where a police major named Alemán warned Espinosa that he would come to no good if he did not quit working as a journalist.
Espinosa, 20, is a correspondent with the Youth Without Censorship (Jóvenes sin Censura) news agency. He was detained at ten in the morning on January 10 because he was accompanying human rights activist Rodolfo Sospedra as he collected signatures on a petition calling for a single currency in Cuba. The incident was reported by Juan Carlos González Leiva, president of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights, for which Espinosa works.
Oppositionist Expelled from Shotokai-Cuba Association
Havana, Cuba. A karate instructor, Juan Bermúdez Toranzo, has been expelled from the Shotokai-Cuba (Karate-Do) Association for taking part in a peaceful march on December 10, 2006, International Human Rights Day. Accompanied by State Security agents, the association’s president, Mario Rodríguez, and two members of its executive board visited the oppositionist at his home to tell him he could no longer coach children because of his participation in the march. They said “Bermúdez Toranzo’s presence” was harmful for the association.” According to a source, the kimono-clad State Security agents told him that karate was for the service of the Revolution and threatened physical harassment if he tried to continue to give children karate lessons privately. Bermúdez, who has been with the karate association for ten years, said he would give private lessons no matter what punitive measures the government took against him. Parents of children attending his karate classes expressed indignation at the politically-motivated dismissal of the karate instructor.
Juan Bermúdez Toranzo is a representative of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights in the municipality of San Miguel del Padrón, director of the independent Rosa Parks independent library, and founder of the project “The Smile of the Child.”
Life of Political Prisoner Angel Moya Acosta at Risk
Havana, Cuba. Prisoner of conscience Angel Moya Acosta’s life was threatened by an officer named Stiven, who is in charge of prison searches and headcounts. Moya is presently held at Combinado del Este prison, Building No. 1, third floor. The threat was made after six months of constant threats and harassment of Acosta by the same officer, who killed a common criminal prisoner last month with six other officers --- with no consequences. Officer Stivin then told Acosta there is no “political prisoner category.”
Angel Moya Acosta, arrested as one of the group of the 75 in the Black Spring of 2003, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. He is president of the Democratic Liberation Movement for Cuba and a member of the National Council of the Pacific Civic Resistance.
Deplorable Conditions at White Shark Prison
Havana, Cuba. Luis Cueto Echevarria, a political prisoner and member of the Political Presidium of the Pedro Luis Boitel Movement, spoke out about conditions in the Ariza prison in Cienfuegos province, known as the “White Shark.” He said that food rations are meager and the quality of food is the worst possible. Each prisoner receives three spoonfuls of rice a day and is served a white paste made from wheat flour as the main dish. Instead of soup, prisoners are often served some colorless and tasteless water with rice. There were no proper means in prison for cleaning or bathing. “Due to shortage of beds in overcrowded cells, newcomers sleep rough on the floor.
Fidel Castro’s New Year Message Is Broadcast
In his New Year Message, Cuban President Fidel Castro, who turned 80 last August, said he was recovering slowly from the surgery, but that “it is far from being a lost battle. Concerning my recovery I always said it would be a long process.” He said he had not stopped being in the loop on main events and information. He thanked the Cuban people for their courage during his illness. The message was read out by announcers on state-controlled radio and television
Fidel Castro’s message was issued just several days after a leading Spanish surgeon who examined the ailing leader in early December announced he was making a good recovery. He said Castro did not have cancer and did not need further surgery. The Spanish doctor did not, however, give specifics about Castro’s illness.
Fidel Castro handed over control of the country to his brother Raul in July 2006, giving rise to speculations that his 47-year-long rule is coming to an end. The Cuban people were told that Castro’s medical condition had to be kept a state secret to prevent Cuba’s enemies from using this information to their advantage. President Castro traditionally sends a message broadcast by state TV and radio to Cubans on New Year’s Eve to mark the anniversary of the January 1, 1959 revolution that brought him to power.
Embargo Will End When There Is Democracy, Says Gutiérrez
While speaking to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Commerce Secretary, Carlos Gutiérrez, said the Cuban government would have to adopt democracy, respect human rights, and establish economic openness before the United States considers changing its embargo policy. When asked about possible changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba due to uncertainty about Fidel Castro’s condition, Gutiérrez said, “Our policy is very clear and our law is very clear. We would like to see a release of political prisoners, we would like the Cuban people receiving basic human liberties, the ability to open up a business, the ability to work where they want, the ability to have free speech, the liberty to have political parties.” At the conclusion of his speech, Gutierrez, a Cuban-American, said he had no plans to travel to the island, which has been run by Raul Castro since July 31, 2006. United States officials have responded to the younger Castro’s calls for dialogue that the U.S. would not start negotiations until the Cuban regime undertakes dialogue with the Cuban people.
Appeal to Declare Fidel Castro Persona Non Grata in Costa Rica
Costa Rican lawyer Eduardo Vargas has asked the Constitutional Court of his country to declare Fidel Castro persona non grata. The appeal was triggered by comments made by Cuban authorities against Oscar Arias that he was a “vulgar mercenary of the United States.” Vargas argued that this was an insult to the Costa Rican people. The Costa Rican lawyer has lodged a claim with the Constitutional Court. Havana had lashed at the Costa Rican president after the Nobel Prize winner Oscar Arias repeatedly denounced repression in Cuba and voiced the need for democratization on the island.
Havana Accuses Washington of Misappropriating Frozen Cuban Assets
Cuba’s Foreign Ministry has issued a statement accusing the U.S. government of robbing the country of $170.2 million worth of Cuban assets frozen in American banks since the victory of the 1959 Revolution. The statement appeared on the front page of the Communist daily newspaper Granma on Wednesday.
The Foreign Ministry said it’s the fourth time that the U.S. government has arbitrarily awarded payments from Cuban assets held in U.S. banks at the time of the Revolution, referring to recent U.S. court decisions to pay moral and material damages to two American citizens that sued the Cuban government for the death of their relatives in Cuba.
Janet Ray Weininger and Dorothy Anderson McCarthy sued the Cuban government for damages in U.S. federal courts claiming that their close relatives were summarily executed in Cuba during the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. U.S. federal courts ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded compensatory damages to be paid out of Cuba’s frozen assets in the United States. The Foreign Ministry said in its statement that Cuba did not recognize the jurisdiction of U.S. courts, that the judges were biased, and their decision was based on false facts. According to the Cuban version, a military aircraft piloted by CIA pilot Thomas Williard Ray was shot down in Cuban air space during the Bay of Pigs battle. The pilot was killed but after that his body was kept in Havana for 18 years because the U.S. government refused to officially identify him. Howard Anderson was allegedly caught in the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio on February 22, 1961 while trafficking eight tons of weapons and ammunition. He was sentenced by the revolutionary tribunal in Pinar del Rio province on April 18, 1961 to a sentence of death “for the aggregate of crimes against the Cuban people” and executed.
Cuba’s Foreign Ministry said that it had already sent notes of protest to the U.S. government on similar cases in 1996, 2001 and 2005. “The U.S. government and judicial institutions of this country have no right to voluntarily dispose of Cuban assets frozen in U.S. banks or grant any of the Cuban assets as compensatory damages to anti-Cuban groups in Miami or families of U.S. citizens involved in aggressions against our country,” stressed the statement.
Nicaragua, Cuba to Resume Diplomatic Relations
Managua, Nicaragua. Nicaragua and Cuba decided on Thursday to reestablish full diplomatic relations after 17 years at the limited level of charge d’affaires. The announcement was made by the new Nicaraguan president, Daniel Ortega, who served as president during the Sandinista period, at an official ceremony in Managua with Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, vice president of Cuba’s Council of State, who headed a visiting Cuban delegation. Under the Sandinistas, Cuba was Nicaragua’s main strategic partner in the region. After the rightist Liberal Party voted the Sandinistas out of power in 1990, relations between Havana and Managua had deteriorated.
Kilo 8 Prisoners Ask for Operation Miracle
Holguin, Cuba. While Cuban mass media trumpets the regime’s successful Operation Miracle program, which provides free treatment to foreigners suffering from eye-afflictions, inmates at Kilo 8 prison in the province of Camagüey are protesting to demand the same ophthalmological aid. According to Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, a political prisoner from the group of 75, the prison authorities are deaf to the prisoners’ pleas. Criminal prisoner Juan Carlos Escoda Guevara, 36, is suffering from glaucoma. “He is nearly blind, but receives no medication because the prison does not have them. Escoda Guevara prays to God for Operation Miracle to reach inmates in Cuban prisons. Don’t let them remain to live in dark, blackness and grief.”
Cuban Woman Cannot Buy Hygienic Pads without ID
Havana, Cuba. Bárbara Lorenzo de Armas was told at the pharmacy she could not buy hygienic pads without producing her identity card. Her ID was seized by the State Security in 2001 for political reasons and never returned. Lorenzo de Armaz said she went to the local pharmacy in the Managua district, but the manager refused to sell her the product citing a nationwide government instruction that requires an identity card to buy any goods. Without writing down all particulars of your ID, I cannot sell anything to you, he explained. Hygienic pads are available in Cuba at pharmacies to women aged from 12 to 55, one pack of 10 pieces per person per month. One can get them on the black market only for a much higher price.
Featuring Fidel’s Private Life: Film Based on His Daughter’s Memoir
Work will soon start on a film about the private life of Fidel Castro, said Alina Fernandez Revuelta, the exiled daughter of the Cuban leader, in an interview to the Argentine newspaper INFOBAE. The film will be based on Alina Fernandez’ book “Castro’s Daughter: an Exile’s Memoir of Cuba.” It will be produced by Venezuelan director Stan Yakubovich, who has been living in Miami, Florida, for the last nine years. Yakubovich said that the film would tell the story through the eyes of the small girl who learned that her father was Fidel Castro only at the age of 10. “She saw Castro from an angle nobody could ever have,” he added.
Alina Revuelta is the daughter of Fidel Castro from his second marriage to his revolutionary comrade Nati Revuelta. In 1993, Alina fled from Cuba to Spain using a false Spanish passport. She is currently living in the United States and a critic of Fidel Castro’s regime.
The Venezuelan director denied claims that he is trying to capitalize on the current political situation in Cuba and the illness of Comandante Castro. “The idea to make this film struck me a year ago,” explained Yakubovich. The shooting of the feature-length movie is expected to begin in the middle of this year in the Dominican Republic and will be sponsored by a group of private investors whose names are kept secret. It is said that famous Latin American actors and actresses will be in lead roles.
Cuba to Hold Meeting Against U.S. Military Base at Guantanamo
U.S. anti-war activists will join Cuban protesters calling for the closure of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo where terrorist suspects are being held. A gathering will take place near the Guantanamo prison. It is part of a series of international protests against the prison camp kicked off on Thursday, five years after the camp opened. The Cuban government, which has long denounced actions of the U.S. military at Guantanamo, has authorized the protest. Former detainee Asif Iqbal, a British citizen who spent two years at Guantanamo two years without charges, and the mother of current prisoner and another British resident, Omar Deghayes, will participate.
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The Cuba Chronicle of Events is produced by the Prima News Agency, based in Moscow, Russia, in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe, based in Washington, D.C. Items are reproduced with 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].