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Cuba Chronicle of Events
Issue No. 8 • February 1-10, 2006

The Cuba Chronicle of Events is produced by the Prima NewsAgency in Russia in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe.


Independent Library Opened in Central Cuba

The Independent Library Project in Cuba (Proyecto de Bibliotecas Independientes de Cuba) has opened another independent library in the city of Villa Clara in central Cuba on the evening of February 3. The new library is named “Calixto García” and will be headed by Yuniesky García López. A large group of oppositionists and independent librarians attended the opening ceremony. After reading Lesson 86, they prayed for Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, project coordinator in Villa Clara, who is now on hunger strike.

Guillermo Fariñas Hernández Goes on Hunger Strike

Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, general director of Cuba’s independent news agency Cubanacán Press in central Cuba, started a dry hunger strike at noon on January 31 to demand free access to the Internet. In an open letter to Cuban President Fidel Castro, which he also asks to regard as an appeal to the international community, Hernández writes,

Until January 23, our journalists had been able to send their reports from public Internet centers paying for these services in convertible currency. However, since then we have been prevented from conducting our free information activity which we see as our right guaranteed by Articles 19 and 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. . . . Though I am living under dictatorship, I consider myself a free man. So, I’ve decided to go on a dry hunger strike from noon time today to demand that Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba SA give me direct access to the Internet from my home as it is done to privileged government officials. I voice this demand also since mass media reports on international events, including on the UN summit in Rabat, Morocco on free access to information show your representative saying that “all Cubans have free access to the Internet, and if they cannot have more, they should blame the North American blockade.”
On February 7, the eighth day of his dry hunger strike, Guillermo Fariñas Hernández was taken unconscious to the Arnaldo Milián Castro hospital in Santa Clara. He was admitted to the intensive care unit. He is suffering from acute physical exhaustion. His mother decided to hospitalize him when he became comatose.


Telephone Company Denies Services to Independent Journalist

Independent journalist Antonio Femenías Hechemendia thought he would finally obtain a telephone when the ETECSA, the national telephone company, assigned numbers to those living in the historical center of the city of Ciego de Ávila. But when his wife, Irsy Adelina Rodríguez Pérez, went to the company to sign a contract for the telephone, she was told that service could not be connected and would get an explanation from the government’s Popular Power organization. There she was told that “the benefits of the Revolution” were not available to dissidents. Then, officers of the political police visited Antonio Femenías Hechemendia and accused him of trying to recruit people to become independent journalists. Finally, employees of the telephone came to the Femenías Hechemendia’ home and removed the telephone cable that had been installed. Popular Power claimed that a telephone had mistakenly been assigned to Femenías Hechemendia.

Nearly 400 Books Confiscated From Independent Library

Caridad González López, director of the Frank País independent library, said a state security agent seized some 400 books from the library last week. According to González López, the agent, named Rolando, accompanied by a member of the Communist Party, arrived at the library at 7 am with a search warrant. “The warrant was meant to scare me and force me to stop my work at the library and in the dissidency,” she held, “but I will redouble my efforts.”

Dissident Given A Prison Sentence For Failure To Pay Fine

Rolando Aguirre Patterson, a member of the Cuban Liberal Movement, has been sentenced to a year in jail for failing to pay 10 fines for illegally operating a pedicab. Aguirre Patterson, 26, had been operating a pedicab for four years, mainly in the historic part of the city that attracts tourists. “I didn’t have a lawyer to defend me,” Aguirre Patterson said. “There were two judges and the prosecutor in the court room, and my wife, who was the only person allowed to attend the hearings.” Aguirre Patterson was accused of not possessing a government license and fined 4,580 pesos, the equivalent of two years’ wages for an average worker.

Government Paramilitaries Threaten FLAMUR Leader

Government paramilitary members and other pro-government elements attacked women activists of the Latin American Federation of Rural Women (FLAMUR). The incident took place in the municipality of San Luis in eastern Cuba, where attackers laid siege round the house of FLAMUR chairman Maura Isé González. The FLAMUR leader has issued a statement for ABDALA Press and the international community. She said in her statement that she was afraid for her family and herself.

“They shouted insults, using all possible words meant to abuse and threatened to scrag me should I not discontinue my FLAMUR activity. They hurled various objects at my house and broke many of my things inside,” Maura Isé said.

The political police in Cuba use paramilitary “rapid response brigades” and public pro-government groups to harass dissidents and opposition activists, whose only defense is to inform the international community about being targeted by such attacks.


Political Prisoners Join Hunger Strike

Political prisoners Randy Cabrera Mayor, Luis Cabrera Ballester, Frank Pérez Carlitos, Julio Inza Góngora, Adolfo García García and Alfredo Domínguez Batista joined a hunger strike in the provincial prison in Holguín last Thursday, January 26. According to Melba Santana, wife of Alfredo Domínguez Batista, the strike was started on Saturday, January 14, by political prisoner Nelson Vázquez Lima to demand transfer to his native province of Villa Clara where his disabled mother lives. Because of her poor health and great distance the woman cannot visit her jailed son. He also complained about ill treatment and receiving threats from prison warders.

Vázquez Lima’s condition is worrisome after all those days of fasting. Political prisoners in this jail have appealed to all human rights organizations and good-willed Cubans to intercede for Vázquez Lima.

Jailed Oppositionist Beaten

Jailed peaceful oppositionist Vicente Col Campanioni was beaten on January 18 in Melena II prison in Havana. At 11 am on January 18 Captain Rey summoned Col, who said he had nothing to talk about with the Captain. Rey then ordered other inmates to tear off his clothes and beat him with a stick. This incident was reported by the victim’s brother, Guido Fernández Campanioni, who together with his wife visited the dissident on January 20.  Col’s sister-in-law said the warden himself knocked out his tooth.

Vicente Col Campanioni, 32, is a member of the Frank País 30th of November Democratic Party. He has been sentenced to three years in prison for a “crime against public safety.”


Would-Be Refugees Threatened With Imprisonment

The political police in Batabanó, a town on the south coast of Havana province, have warned a group of would-be rafters to give up their attempts to leave Cuba if they don't want to go to jail. Osniel Fernández Rodríguez, his wife, Anabel Álvarez , and nephew, Omar Álvarez Rodríguez, were stopped by border police while crossing a town’s bridge. With them was a minor, 10-year-old Chamier Álvarez Rodríguez. Fernández Rodríguez, 23, a small farmer, and his nephew have been summoned several times by the police for supposedly being the authors of anti-government slogans.

Cuban Authorities Wreck Refugees’ Plans

Camagüey, Cuba. February 1 — Police in Sibanicú, Camagüey province, foiled a presumed escape attempt when they intercepted a tractor hauling a barge during a routine patrol through the Basic Unit of Cooperative Production “Battle of México.” The barge, which had been outfitted with a four-cylinder stationary power plant DT-40 and a gearbox from a Soviet truck ZiL-130 as well as with an approximately 40 gallon  diesel fuel tank, was heading in the direction of Santa Lucía beach, in the north coast of Camagüey province. This led to speculation that it was meant to be used in an illegal escape attempt.  Inside were cooking utensils, several sacks of charcoal, canned food, cheeses, soft drinks and sundry items. The barge was approximately 3 meters long by 2.5 meters in width and was built of 5-millimeter-thin sheet metal. Police later said the vessel had been reported stolen by the municipality’s fishery.

Spotting the police’s arrival, the people transporting the barge fled across an adjacent field. Police said they were investigating, but have found no clues so far.


Cuba Fascinated By Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country would achieve the realization of its goals for its nuclear program. He made this statement at a meeting with Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, IRNA News Agency reported. In his talks with the Cuban Minister, the Iranian president emphasized that the emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) once again demonstrated lack of unity in the West regarding its dealings with Iran, since some countries voted against and some others abstained.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad extended his thanks to the Foreign Minister of Cuba for not supporting the resolution that called for the referral of the Iranian nuclear dossier to the UN Security Counsel. Felipe Roque said that Iran was defending its legitimate right to produce nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. “Cuba is fascinated by Iran’s fortitude, as this country is staunchly defending its rights in accordance with international agreements, and supports Iran,” Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Roque said.

Iranian President To Visit Cuba

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accepted an invitation to visit Cuba from President Fidel Castro, the daily Granma reported on Tuesday, February 7. According to reliable sources, Ahmadinejad has accepted the invitation in Tehran from Cuban Ambassador Felipe Perez Roque. The Iranian leader’s visit is scheduled for September 11-16 and will coincide with the anti-West summit in Havana. It was announced that Iranian Parliament President Ghulam Ali Haddad Adel would also visit Cuba at the invitation of Cuba’s National Assembly.

On Saturday in Vienna, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria voted against a resolution of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to refer Iran to the UN Security Council over a nuclear program. The Iranian president recently publicly thanked Cuba for its “dignified and principled” position during the IAEA’s vote.

EU Urges to Increase Pressure on Cuba to Release Political Prisoners

The European Parliament today urged EU member states to step up their pressure on Cuba to release political prisoners. In a resolution, politicians also called for human rights issues to be raised by every high-level EU visitor to Cuba.  “In 2005 no prisoners of conscience held in Cuba were released and the number of political prisoners significantly increased,” read the resolution, which, however, did not call for renewed sanctions against Cuba.

Czech Foreign Ministry Voices Protest to the Cuban Ambassador

The Czech Foreign Ministry summoned Aymee Hernandez, Chargé d'Affaires of the Cuban diplomatic mission in Prague, to lodge a protest against arresting the two Czech women in Havana last week. The Ministry demanded an explanation for the arrest of Czech model Helena Houdova and psychologist Mariana Kroftova, said Richard Krpac. The two women were detained while taking pictures of Havana. They spent 11 hours in police custody and were not allowed to contact the Czech Embassy, Krpac said. According to the Cuban diplomat, the Czech women were arrested on suspicion of “anti-revolutionary actions. The Cuban official failed to explain why the Cuban authorities had not contacted the Czech Embassy.

Cuban Authorities Isolate the City from the U.S. Mission

Black flags bearing a single white star were raised on February 6 outside the U.S. mission in  Havana to block an electronic messaging display on the building that has infuriated the government. Fidel Castro attended but did not address the hundreds of people gathered at the ceremony who carried huge signs bearing the black-and-white photographs of some of the 3,000 Cubans the Communist government says have been killed in U.S.-sponsored acts of sabotage during the 47 years of Castro’s rule. The flags and posters blocked the recently-mounted electronic sign that runs news and human rights messages across the facade of U.S. diplomatic mission.

The protesters also surrounded the U.S. mission with several billboards, including one with a mock ad for a horror film, “The Murderer,” featuring likenesses of President Bush and the anti-Castro exiled activist Luis Posada Carriles with bloody vampire teeth

U.S. Kicks Cubans Out of a Hotel in Mexico

A group of senior Cuban officials that was meeting with U.S. energy executives was evicted from the Hotel Maria Isabel Sheraton in Mexico City  on February 6, reports The New York Times. This move has generated an angry response by Cuba’s and Mexico’s governments. Representatives of the two countries described the action as an attempted interference of the U.S. into bilateral affairs of the two countries.

The U.S. Treasury Department had earlier contacted Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., which owns Sheraton hotels and its Mexican subsidiary, to ask it to move the Cuban delegation to another hotel not owned by a U.S. company since the Treasury Department claimed that federal laws forbid such companies providing services to Cuban nationals and companies as part of the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba.

According to The New York Times, the energy meeting among Texas oil executives from ExxonMobil, Valero Energy Corportation, and Cuban officials was wrapped up on Saturday two days before the incident. Cuba is actively negotiating development of hydrocarbon resources discovered a year ago on its shelf and have invited companies from China, Spain and Brazil to explore the oil fields.


Energy Saving Swindle

Camagüe, Cuba, February 1 — A spontaneous demonstration by residents of the Lenin district in Camagüey province prompted government authorities to set up an impromptu facility to try to repair the appliances they had just sold the consumers who now claimed they were faulty. The appliances, including fans, electric rice cookers, and other small appliances, had been promoted by Cuban ruler Fidel Castro as an energy-saving measure as well as one that would make the average citizen’s life a little easier. So when it became the Lenin’s residents turn to buy the government-sold appliances, they dutifully lined up and acquired them. But they all soon found out the appliances were duds. Hundreds of weary buyers marched to the government shop loudly voicing their discontent. Authorities set up a makeshift repair facility and promised the appliances would be duly repaired, but many in the crowd demanded their money back, calling the whole affair a swindle. Three days after the selling of the appliances, people were still lined up at the repair facility, waiting for a resolution.

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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. Items in this issue are based on reports gathered from Bitacora Cubana, CubaNet, MIGnews.com, IRNA, Ireland Onlin, PRIMA-News, Los Angeles Times, and other news agencies. Please direct inquiries and comments to Editor, Cuba Chronicle of Events, Prima-News at [email protected] or to [email protected].