Cuba Chronicle of Events
Issue No. 5, December 10-20, 2005
The Cuba Chronicle of Events is produced by the Prima NewsAgency in Russia in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe.
LPC Issues Statement On World Human Rights Day
The Liberal Party of Cuba has issued a statement on the occasion of World Human Rights Day, which is observed on December 10. Roberto Santana Rodríguez, a correspondent for Bitacora Cubana, obtained the document from Julia Cecilia Delgado, acting chairman of the Party.
“Today, December 10, is 57 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted,” the statement reads. “It’s a historic day because it witnessed for the first time ever the emergence of a clear-cut and unambiguous document containing the rules which are supposed to secure for all the people freedom and dignity guaranteed by the 30 articles of the Declaration. “The Liberal Party of Cuba sees its duty in openly and persistently demanding that the Cuban government put an end to human rights violations, violations which have plunged the noble people of Cuba into mourning, suffering and despair, violations which have resulted in hundreds of innocent Cubans being jailed for their honorable decision to fight for their rights and liberty.”
The statement was made public on December 10 at a meeting held by the opposition group to commemorate Human Rights Day. Delgado said the participants in the meeting had been attacked by rapid response brigades armed with sticks and pipe ends. They demanded that the oppositionists withdraw a Cuban flag from their premises located in Flat B14, House 531, 20 May Street in the Havana municipality of Cerro.
Authorities Fail To Disrupt Dissidents’ Meeting
On December 10, rapid response brigades carried out an “acto de repudio” (act of repudiation), a government-inspired demonstration of public condemnation, in front of the house of Modesto Leopoldo Valdivia Varela. Varela is acting general secretary of the Party for Human Rights in Cuba and a member of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation. The “repudio” took place when a dozen of [human rights] activists gathered at my house to celebrate Human Rights Day, Modesto Leopoldo said by phone. “Suddenly trucks appeared. They brought people, not locals. They besieged the house and began to shout all imaginable obscenities. They used loudspeakers. They were insulting all those present in my house, my family, and even interrupted the speaker. Fortunately, we managed to carry on. We prayed for peace in the world and for prisoners of conscience in our country,” Modesto said. “The ‘repudio’ lasted for six hours. Then the pro-government mob slowly retreated. We considered the meeting over and it was safe for our brothers to leave,” he recounted.
The following oppositionists took part in the meeting: Vivian Santana Barreto, José Júnior Baeza Díaz, Ledian Campos Frómeta, Miguel Ángel Méndez Boris, Vladimir Alejo Miranda, Leyan Alejo Montes de Oca, Israel Boris Reñes, Liuba Marquetti Martínez, Enrique Domínguez Iglesia, Raúl Cristin Rodríguez, and Xiomara Piedra Cruz.
Human Rights Day Marked In Spite Of “Repudio” Acts
“Repudio” acts staged by rapid response brigades in the province of Pedro Betancourt did not deter twenty activists of the Alternative Option Independent Movement (MIOA) from marking International Human Rights Day on December 10 at the organization’s residence. As a pro-Castro mob shouted insults outside, the peaceful oppositionists were chanting their own slogan “God is with us, nothing will break us.” When the pro-government activists left, the oppositionists sang the national anthem and listened to an address by Oscar Sánchez Madan, a representative of the MIOA in Unión de Reyes. Juan Francisco Sigler Amaya, a MIOA national board member said “Cuba has been violating human rights. There is no need to cite examples. . . . The government considers our meeting unlawful. We may be jailed for three months for participating or for one year as the initiators.” The activists ended their demonstration with a prayer for freedom of political prisoners.
The Pedro Luis Boitel Association of Political Prisoners Marks Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Bitacora Cubana, Havana — Sergio Pastor Martínez Carrazana, secretary for public and international relations at the Pedro Luis Boitel Association, reported that his opposition organization held a meeting of its Executive Committee together with a delegation of the Elena Mederos Club to mark the 57th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10. The latter group is part of the Latin American Federation of Rural Women (FLAMUR), which helps mainly single mothers in farming small land allotments. The crops they get allow them to expand the meager “food basket” and help other families in dire need. The meeting took place in Guanabacoa, Havana. “The situation is deteriorating. We are seeing more repression every day and poverty is expanding. This especially concerns those who refuse to side with the tyrannical government against which we raise our voice and which we urge to strictly observe each of the 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” read a statement of the Political Committee of the Pedro Luis Boitel Association of Political Prisoners.
Journalist Investigative Group Founded In Havana
Martha W Turiño, Bitácora Cubana, Havana — A journalist investigative group called the Ultimate Hour has been set up in Havana, said its spokesman Luis E. Borroto. Its aim is to make a comprehensive analysis of the present-day Cuban situation and provide information on burning issues which the Cuban regime is trying to conceal. The group will publish and post on the Internet electronic bulletins. The new organization is scheduled to start on December 19. The group, led by independent journalist Gilberto Ramón Figueredo Álvarez, will make efforts to cover the rest provinces of the country within the shortest possible time.
Son of Female Opposition Activist Arrested
Francisco Perez Delgado, the 26-year-old son of former prisoner of conscience Julia Cecilia Delgado González, has been formally summoned to the Provincial Court in the city of Havana in order to arrest and send him to 1580 prison for serving a previously imposed sentence of five years for robbery. His mother asserts that the court failed to produce sufficient proof of his guilt and can show that her son played no part in the accused acts.
Julia and her family have been persecuted by Cuban authorities since 1998 when Francisco Perez Delgado was beaten by police for asking where his detained mother was being taken to. He was also detained by police and soon afterwards faced the trial for disobedience. Since June 2004, the family has been forbidden to leave the country. A member of the Liberal Party of Cuba, Julia Cecilia Delgado González has called upon international human rights organizations and all people of good will to demand immediate release of her son Francisco Perez Delgado.
Peaceful Oppositionist Stopped and Threatened
Máximo José García González, a peaceful oppositionist and human rights campaigner said that he was stopped on his way from an Internet hall of the Lincoln Center which is part of the EU Interest Section in Havana. Here is a statement signed by Máximo: They allowed me to leave the Center, but they seemed to follow me, and as I reached J y Línea Street, I was intercepted by a police car (#427). There were policemen inside the vehicle, one of them with badge #34546. They stopped me, demanded my ID, and searched me, looking for news items and literature available at the Internet hall. Eventually, they threatened me, saying that the possession of subversive propaganda materials would do me no good.
Former Political Prisoner Faces Threats
Virgilio Marante, a representative of the February 24 Movement in Guines, Havana, reported harassment and threats by the Cuban security service, soldiers, and members of rapid response brigades.
“On December 8, two state security agents came to my house. They gave their names as Lázaro and Alberto and told me not to leave my house. On December 9, four local Communist leaders came, they also threatened me. On December 10, a rapid response brigade arrived on a truck. They were ready to use force to make me stay inside my house, even to beat me should I try to get out,” the peaceful oppositionist said. Marante said that some members of rapid response brigade from farming centers nearby entered a neighboring house, searching for rum. “I think they wanted to cool down,” he commented. “What they have done is a violation of my rights. I hope that authorities would recognize the danger of such actions — recruiting people who are roaming for liquor and ready to attack and beat anyone,” he added.
Virgilio Marante was released on parole and probation on February 28. He was originally arrested in 2002 and subsequently sentenced to 3 years in prison for alleged disobedience, resistance and hooliganism.
Independent Trade Union’s Library Confiscated
Havana, Cuba, December 14 — Víctor Manuel Domínguez, Lux Info Press / CubaNet — About 300 books, a typewriter, and a number of documents belonging to the Independent National Labor Confederation of Cuba (CONIC) have been seized in a political police raid in the town of Bayamo on December 10, according to a phone call from the leaders of the organization from the administrative center of Granma province.
The search began at about 8:30 a.m. It probably intended to prevent trade union activists from commemorating Human Rights Day. The library is housed at Yoandris Montoya Avilés’s home in Bayamo at 137, Raúl Gómez García Street. Police confiscated social-political literature, books on the trade union movement, labor issues, as well as brochures and textbooks published by the International Labor Organization (ILO). Gabriel Díaz Sánchez’ house located on the same street was also searched. A state security officer in charge of the search who introduced himself as “Julius Caesar” confiscated various documents on social, labor and trade union issues. According to a CONIC representative, the search and seizure of books, documents and other private belongings were accompanied by threats of imprisonment and possible “repudio” acts.
“We will replace the confiscated literature with more books, we will get a better typewriter and continue an independent trade union offensive in defiance of the authorities who want us to vanish into the air,” Sánchez concluded.
Opposition Activist Continues Hunger Strike
Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez spent December 8, the seventh day of his hunger strike at 100 y Aldabó police station in Boyeros district, in southern Havana, his wife Iliana Tamayo reported. In tears and distress, Tamayo said that Guerra Pérez looked very bad: he lost 9 kilos, and there are allergic blemishes on his face and body. He sleeps on the floor and had to share the cell with inmates who smoke, which is unbearable for him as he is asthmatic. “Police investigators threatened Roberto because I talked to members of the press and provided them with news. They ordered him to ask me to refrain from talking to journalists, but he refused. Today, on December 8, I told him in the presence of police investigator José Carlos that they and that gentleman who claims that Cuba is free of human rights violations are responsible for what is happening to Roberto,” Tamayo added.
A representative of Corriente Martiana in southern Havana, Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez was detained on July 13 this year. Since then he has been held in prisons, police stations, and Carlos J Finlay de Marianao military hospital, from where he has been transferred to 100 y Aldabó. He assured his wife he would stand firm until he is released or convicted of a crime against public security in which he is incriminated.
Prisoner from the Group of 75 Appeals to Public Opinion
Ariel Sigler Amaya, chairman of the Alternative Option Independent Movement, has sent an appeal to the public from Guamajal prison in Villa Clara province, in central Cuba. “I wish to send a message of peace, love and reconciliation to all Cubans both living on the Island and outside. I wish to thank all religious organizations, common people, prominent figures, governments, associations and especially independent Cuban press (as well as international media) that keeps reporting about events in Cuba, for their continuous struggle for release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, for their efforts to make our unjust imprisonment known to the whole world. . . .They may be sure that we will never give up. Thank you all. God is with us, nothing will break us. Long live Free Cuba! Long Live Human Rights!”
Ariel Sigler Amaya, a native of Pedro Betancourt, Matanzas, was sentenced to 20 years in prison as part of the March 2003 Cuban government’s crackdown against 75 opposition activists, human rights advocates, librarians, and independent journalists. Of these, sixty are still in prison.
Guanajay Prisoners from the Group of 75 Send Out an Appeal
Héctor Raúl Valle, José Miguel Martínez and José Ubaldo Izquierdo have passed the following message from Guanajay prison on the occasion of World Human Rights Day:
The world is marking the 57th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in strong belief that this historic document has fixed the rules in the struggle for enabling mankind to enjoy established principles of the rule of law and freedom. . . . Fifty seven years after this milestone event, we sixty Cubans have been unjustly and cruelly incarcerated as a result of a wave of repression launched by the Cuban dictatorship against the peaceful opposition in March 2003. We have been sentenced to 6 to 28 years for demanding that everything stipulated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights be respected.
Today, from this dark and inhospitable political prison we wholeheartedly solidarize with those in our enslaved Motherland who are fighting every day against repression, terror and dishonor of the totalitarian regime which is desperately trying to destroy the seeds of freedom and democracy which will inevitably take roots in the hearts of the freedom-loving majority of 11 million Cubans. Let our words reach the self-sacrificing Cuban emigration that support and inspire us to continue our struggle and make us confident that the victory is imminent. We shall pray and do our best in our struggle for the freedom of Cuba.”
SIP Joins Petition For The Release Of Cuban Journalist
Martí Noticias — The InterAmerican Press Society (Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa, SIP) has joined an international appeal for the release of independent Cuban journalist Ricardo González Alfonso, who is serving a 20-year term and whose health has been deteriorating. González Alfonso was arrested in March 2003 as a result of a government crackdown against the independent journalism and political opposition.
Alida Viso Bello, the journalist’s wife, has publicly appealed to democratic governments, international organizations and common people to stand against the Cuban government in defense of her husband, who is now in very bad health. Gonzalo Marroquín, chairman of the SIP commission for freedom of the press and information stated that his organization would continue to support the independent press in Cuba, and especially González Alfonso. He has urged the government to immediately release González Alfonso and all other people imprisoned for their journalistic activity. Besides González Alfonso, there are 24 other independent journalists serving time in Cuban prisons for exercising their right for freedom of press, SIP pointed out.
Castro Expels Two Spaniards on a Fact-Finding Human Rights Mission in Cuba
The Spanish Association Cuba en Transición announced yesterday that earlier in the day two of its members had been expelled from the country by the Cuban government. They arrived in Havana a week ago to get first hand information about the human rights situation on the Island. The Cuban authorities have also confiscated a video tape showing the Women in White expressing gratitude to the European Parliament for giving them the Sakharov Prize.
“It is a second expulsion within less than a week,” Europa Press Agency reported, citing Matías Jové, executive director of the Association. He held that it’s “premature” to speak about changes in Cuba. “Nothing frightens the Cuban regime more than freedom of thought and expression,” he stressed. In its press release, the Spanish Association remarked on the expulsion last week of two foreign journalists, Anna Bikont from the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza and Nelly Norton, a Swiss national, who were accused of trying to interview members of Cuban opposition.
The two members of Cuba en Transición had gone to Cuba to collect evidence from Cuban democracy activists about the human rights situation in the country in 2005 for a report due to appear at the end of the month. Before being deported from the country, they were detained and questioned by Cuban authorities. Audio and video footage confiscated by Cuban authorities included interviews with opposition leaders, notably with the Women in White who thanked the European Union for the Sakharov Prize and told about obstacles created by the Cuban government to prevent them from going to Strasbourg to receive the award next Wednesday.
The Cuban government still has not granted the Women in White permission to travel abroad and collect the European Parliament annual award for upholding freedom of belief. This year, the movement of Cuban dissidents has shared the award with Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières) and Nigerian lawyer Hauwa Ibrahim.
Dissidents’ Determination Applauded
Speaking on the occasion of Human Rights Day on December 10, the top U.S. diplomat in Havana praised perseverance and dignity of Cuban dissidents. U.S. mission chief Michael Parmly at the same time accused the Cuban government of repressing its citizens in order to cling to power. “Regrettably, Cuba has been left behind in the global march toward democracy and greater respect for human rights,” Parmly said, addressing a crowd of about 100 at his residence. “The Cuban regime does not represent the people, not does it have any interest in bettering their lives. Rather, the regime is obsessed with self-preservation,” he added.
Government opponents at the gathering included former political prisoner Martha Beatriz Roque. The event marked the United Nation’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Parmly stressed that Cuba voted in favor of the Declaration at the time and one day President Fidel Castro’s government would be held accountable for its abuses. As soon as a democratic regime is established, free people start to expose those who have committed crimes against their own people. Cuba will be no exception, assured Parmly.
Women In White Forbidden To Travel To Strasbourg
Bitacora Cubana, Havana — The Cuban government has not allowed wives of imprisoned political prisoners, known as the Women in White (Damas de Blanco), to travel to Strasbourg to receive the Sakharov Prize 2005 annually awarded by the European Parliament. Less than 24 hours before the award ceremony, five women activists designated by the Women in White to receive the prize on behalf of the group learned that the Cuban government has denied them permission to travel abroad. “My passport is with the Cuban immigration authorities. They said I’ll get it back only on December 30,” said Julia Núñez, the wife of dissident Adolfo Fernández.
“The European Union regrets that the Women in White won’t be able to come to receive the Sakharov Prize,” stated Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, EU Commission’s representative in Havana. “But that won’t deter them from peacefully protesting against imprisonment of their kinsfolk,” he added. The Women in White hope that the European Parliament will send a delegation to Cuba to present the award to them. “We will continue to make public the government’s misdeeds,” said Núñez, whose husband was jailed in March 2003 as a result of the most severe government crackdown against dissent in the last 46 years. This year, the winners of the prestigious human rights award are the Women in White, Reporters Without Borders, and Nigerian women’s rights activist Hauwa Ibrahim.
Castro Urged To Release All Imprisoned Journalists
Radio Martí — The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has urged Fidel Castro to immediately and unconditionally release all jailed journalists and demanded that the Cuban regime honor its international commitments to respect freedom of expression and stop persecution of the independent Cuban press.
Ann Cooper, executive director of the New York-based rights group, has sent a letter to Fidel Castro to express serious concern over Cuba’s practice to imprison and otherwise harass journalists for doing their jobs. The imprisoned journalists are being subjected to threats, kept in degrading prison conditions, they are deprived of adequate medical aid and adequate food, the letter says. According to a new CPJ analysis, Cuba, China, Eritrea and Ethiopia are the world’s leading jailers in 2005. With 24 journalists behind bars, Cuba ranks second after China where 32 journalists are being held in prison because of their work.
U.S. Businessmen From Virginia Sign A $30 Million Deal With Cuba
CubaNet.org /EFE , Havana — A business delegation from the U.S. State of Virginia led by state secretary for agriculture Robert Bloxom has shown interest in trading with Cuba. They have signed a $30 million contract for selling agricultural products to Cuba. The agreement was signed by Virginia’s state secretary for agriculture and the chairman of the Cuban state enterprise Alimport, Pedro Alvarez. Under the contract, the Americans will deliver within the next 18 months $30 million worth of agricultural products to the Island. Bloxom said that Cuba is interested in buying apples, wood, beans, soy flour, and pork. He added that this deal would be profitable for a state specialized in producing these products. After the state of Washington was allowed to sell U.S. agricultural products to Cuba in 2001 under eased economic and trade sanctions imposed on Cuba 40 years ago, Alimport has bought $1.5 million worth of products from North American companies. According to Pedro Alvarez, Cuba’s food purchases from North American market amounted to $510 million in 2005, while the Cuban overall import of food products reached $1.7 billion.
EU Honors Women in White
On December 14, the European Union honored the Women in White [also called Ladies in White] who were awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Unfortunately, the Cuban regime denied the winners permission to travel to Strasbourg to attend the prize giving ceremony, the EU regretted. This is another example of the Cuban authorities’ disrespect for the people’s right to travel guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an official EU statement read. In its statement, the EU pledged to continue its dialogue with peaceful opposition and civic society in Cuba in accordance with resolutions of the EU foreign ministers.
The Women in White movement came into existence soon after 75 Cuban dissidents and intellectuals were thrown into prison in 2003. The movement is made up of the wives, mothers, sisters, daughters and other close women relatives of the 75 dissidents jailed for up to 28 years for allegedly conspiring with the United States, acting against national sovereignty and undermining the principles of the Cuban revolution. By peaceful means the women demand freedom for prisoners of conscience. Blanca Reyes, wife of Cuban poet Raúl Rivero, and a founder of the Women in White appreciated the proposal of the European People’s Party to send an EU delegation to Cuba to present the prize there. Reyes said that might give European parliamentarians an opportunity to learn first hand about the situation in which political prisoners and their families find themselves. However, EU Parliament chairman Joseph Borrel stated that the European Parliament does not normally visit the native countries of the prize winners. The Women in White followed the prize giving ceremony in Strasbourg, France, on December 14 from Havana by phone. Despite all the efforts by the EU itself and its member states, they could not travel to Strasbourg to accept the award which they shared with Reporters Without Borders and Nigerian rights activist Hauwa Ibrahim. Early in the morning, the Women in White came to their usual meeting place to listen, one after another, over phone to speakers at the prize giving ceremony at the European Parliament building.
Traffic Of Privately-Owned Trucks Paralyzed Between Ciego De Ávila And Camagüey
CubaNet.org —With government inspectors checking private truckers for fuel coupons, the traffic between Ciego de Ávila and Camagüey came to a halt on December 10. Such transportation means account for up to 80 percent of passenger traffic. Although they do not receive fuel coupons and charge passengers only in Cuban peso, they still must pay hard currency for fuelling.
Alarm in Santa Clara over Drinking Water Pollution
Guillermo Fariñas, Cubanacán Press/CubaNet.org, Santa Clara, Cuba — Residents of La Chirusa neighborhood in the town of Santa Clara are worried about a high level of drinking water contamination while water and sanitary engineering authorities have been ignoring the situation for two months. Orelvis García, who lives in the neighborhood locally known as “American Bridge” (El Puente Americano) said that because of the damaged water pipe some 36,000 liters of water was pouring out every hour. “Worst of all, this place is also a dumping ground for sewage waters. So the drinking water gets contaminated which might cause mass infections,” García explained. Locals complained to the hygiene and epidemiology center of the provincial health department and the water and sewage authorities, but got only vague replies.
Passengers Protest At Cuba’s Central Railway Station
Guillermo Fariñas, Cubanacán Press/CubaNet.org, Santa Clara, Cuba — A large group of passengers protested to police and railway authorities at the Cuba’s central railway station in Havana on December 6. They got angered when train No. 13 bound for Bayamo and Manzanillo failed to depart at 18:25 as scheduled because of a locomotive’s failure. About midnight the passengers started to complain out loud. Two hours later, two dozen policemen arrived. But with the tension running high among the crowd, they chose to retreat. At long last, at 2:50 in the morning the train pulled out from the station. “But to our great surprise in fifteen minutes it stopped three kilometers from the capital’s suburb. They have done it to stop our protest at the terminal,” said peaceful opposition activist Jesús Eloy Alberto Gutiérrez, who was on this train on his way to Santa Clara. Passengers, including women, elderly persons and children, were kept without food and water at Cambute terminal until 5:45 in the morning when they finally managed to continue their eastward journey.
• • •
The Review of Cuban 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, Review of Cuban Events, Prima-News at [email protected] or to [email protected].