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Cuba Chronicle of Events
Issue No. 9 • February 10-20, 2006


Cuba Chronicle of Events is produced by the Prima News Agency in Russia in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe. News items are  based on reports from PRIMA News Agency, Bitacora Cubana, CubaNet, Lux Press Info, IRNA, and AP.

OPPOSITION

09/02/2006
Government Paramilitary Units Break Up Dissident Meeting

When representatives of three dissident groups met at 8:30 am in the town of Manguito, they were soon confronted by government paramilitary members. The dissident groups consisted of members of the Carlos Quintela Center for Agricultural Research and Study, the Democracy Cooperative, and the Pro Human Rights Party. Participants in the meeting reported that to avoid a physical confrontation with the paramilitaries who were shouting insults at them, they opted to abandon their plans for a meeting and disperse.

10/02/2006
Solidarity with Guillermo Fariñas

The independent libraries project of Cuba issued a statement saying that it is “united with the international community in expressing solidarity with Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, who has chosen confrontation with the Havana regime with the only goal in mind to ensure freedom of information for independent journalists and peaceful oppositionists.”

“This outstanding journalist, who is now in critical condition in a Cuban hospital after eight days of hunger strike without food or water, is also a coordinator of our project in the central region of the country. His work was vital for the project’s expansion in this area. That’s why we want to declare our support to his remarkable activities to ensure freedom of expression and respect of human rights in Cuba.

“We also express our solidarity with Noelia Pedraza Jiménez, another outstanding oppositionist and independent librarian, who is holding hunger strike to demand to put an end to repression against Cuban opposition,” the statement reads.

14/02/2006
Fariñas’ Condition Remains Critical

Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, an independent journalist and certified psychologist, has been hospitalized after more than a week of hunger strike. He is in the intensive care unit of the Arnaldo Milian Castro hospital in the town of Santa Clara, 300 km off Havana.

PRIMA-News Agency learned some details of Fariñas Hernández’ health. According to his relatives, his condition remains serious. He has high blood pressure, pain, spasms, numb joints. He also suffers from strong vitamin deficiency. To keep him in stable condition, Fariñas is administered medication through a catheter.

Guillermo Fariñas started the hunger strike on January 31 to demand that Cuban authorities guarantee unrestricted access to the Internet to all Cubans and to protest against harassment of dissidents by the political police. On the eighth day of the hunger strike, Fariñas lost consciousness at home.

Fariñas joined the dissident movement in 1995 to become its active member. In October 2002, he was sentenced to 7 years and 10 months in prison. Having served 14 months, Fariñas was granted an early release because of poor health undermined by frequent hunger strikes. Fariñas suffers from mitral insufficiency and chronic polyneuritis.

14/02/2006
Oppositionists in Matanzas on Hunger Strike in Solidarity with Guillermo Fariñas

Members of the Peace, Love, and Freedom Party (Partido Paz, Amor y Libertad) in the municipality of Colon, Matanzas province, fasted and prayed from 8 am till 5 pm in support of Guillermo Fariñas, an independent journalist who has been abstaining from food and water since January 31. Twelve oppositionists took part in this event and they were joined by another three people who found themselves quite by chance near Juan Carlos Bueno Artola’s house where the function took place. Artola is an acting chairman of the party.

14/02/2006
News On Fariñas’ Ending Hunger Strike Refuted

Roberto Carlos Pérez García, national coordinator of the Democratic Christian Movement of Cuba denied reports published by the Spanish newspaper ABC on February 10 that Guillermo Fariñas has ended a dry hunger strike. “This information is absolutely false. Since Guillermo Fariñas has not discontinued his strike these allegations could be nothing but manipulation by the Castro regime,” Pérez García stressed.

According to the latest medical news received from Fariñas’s relatives on Sunday, February 12, he was in the intensive care unit of the Arnaldo Milián Castro hospital in the town of Santa Clara and his condition was stable. He is receiving hydration solution with various medication through a central venous catheter. His arterial blood pressure reading is 100/60, his pulse beat is normal, and his body temperature is 36 degrees C. He is suffering from pain and numbness in his joints. His family is seriously concerned that Fariñas has decided to continue the dry hunger strike which he started on January 31 to demand that Cuban authorities guarantee unrestricted access to the internet to all Cubans and to protest against increased harassment of the peaceful opposition.

13/02/2006
Two Independent Libraries Opened

A new independent library was opened on February 12 in La Palma neighborhood in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, Havana. It is called «Damas de Blanco» (Ladies in White) and located in Patria Díaz Castillo’s house at  Aranguren No.1, between Calzada 10 de Octubre and Dolores street. The library will provide books and magazines to all, organize public lectures on various subjects and employ special librarians for children.

Last January, independent library “Rafael Díaz Balart” was opened in Víbora neighborhood in Havana. It is located at Josefina No.115, Flat 2, between Gelabert and Revolución streets. Froilán Osmany Rodríguez, director of the library center said that the basic principles of its work were to support the struggle for the return to the 1940 Constitution, to uphold civic campaign for democracy and the observance of human rights on the island.

14/02/2006
Two Dissident Groups Offer Solidarity To Those Under Attack

The Cuban Civil Rights Defense Council and the Father Francisco Santana Union of Independent Libraries have issued a joint statement saying they were concerned about “violent acts” against peaceful opposition members. “Therefore, we express our support for all the country’s pacifist dissidents, especially those who have been attacked and repudiated,” reads the statement issued on February 8. The statement also noted the hunger strike undertaken by dissident Guillermo Fariñas Hernández.

14/02/2006
Dissidents Against Violence

Over a hundred Cubans, including prominent figures of the dissident movement, have decided to support an action for peace and wisdom. The goal of this action is to oppose violence in Cuban society.

The increasing threatening violence against peaceful dissidents who disagree with the government has led them to alert their fellow countrymen and the international community that could use leverage to stop violence. In recent months, dozens of dissidents have been subjected to “actos de repudio” (government-inspired demonstration of public condemnation), raids, and beatings. All these actions were organized by the political police encouraged by government officials and the military, and participated by young communists. The fact that these actions do not contradict existing law proves that impunity and terror reigns supreme in the country.

 “We are acting as citizens trying to protect our children and relatives from violence, as well as to defend our ideas,” reads one of the paragraphs of the appeal. The appeal, titled “Urgent Action against Violence,” aims to increase awareness that conflicts should be solved by civilized means, not by force as is the case here where violence is supported by the state and its institutions,” signatories to the appeal underlined.

16/02/2006
Young Oppositionists Go On Hunger Strike

Members of the Republican People’s Party Víctor Yuniel Fernández Martínez and Joenni Alonso Sainz started a ten-day hunger strike on February 14, according to Reinaldo Gante Hidalgo, president of the opposition organization.

“The goal of this non-violent action is to express solidarity with fellow dissidents all across the island currently on hunger strike, to demand immediate and unconditional release of all Cuban political prisoners and to honor the memory of the four air pilots from Brothers to the Rescue downed by Castro’s fighter jets on February 24, 1996,” read a report from Gante Hidalgo.

The same source said that starting from February 14, other peaceful opposition activists from various protesting organizations have been coming to Fernández Martínez’s house, the venue of the protest action, to express solidarity with the strikers.

17/02/2006
Jorge Olivero Castillo Summoned To Municipal Court

According to Jorge Olivero Castillo’s report, an officer of the municipal people’s court in Old Havana has served him a subpoena ordering to appear before the court’s chairman on Tuesday, February 21, at nine in the morning. “I am not aware of the reasons for this summons,” Jorge Olivero said in his correspondence. “But I’d like to alert the international community and human rights groups that this action is possibly meant to destabilize me psychologically and might be followed by other harsher measures of which I’ll be informed.”

Jorge Olivero is one of the 75 dissidents condemned in the spring of 2003.  On December 6, 2004, he was granted early release for health reasons. Since then he has been waiting for permission from the Cuban government to emigrate together with his family. He is currently working as a journalist for the Russian PRIMA-News Agency.
 

POLITICAL REPRESSION

10/02/2006
Oppositionist’s Sentence Changed

An appellate court has changed anti-government activist Alexander Rico’s sentence replacing correctional labor without confinement to correctional labor in confinement. Rico is a member of the opposition Neo-Catholic Party (Partido Neo-Católico).

Rico, 30, was detained at the end of last year for anti-government remarks while riding on a bus. He was taken to a police station and several days later tried by the San Miguel del Padrón municipal court for “spreading enemy propaganda” and “resisting the authorities.”  The prosecutor requested a one-year house arrest. The first hearing was adjourned because of the presence of Rico’s friends in the courtroom and the absence of counsels for prosecution. At the second hearing political police did not allow the defendant’s friends into the courtroom. “Everyone heard the prosecutor mentioning correctional labor without confinement,” Gerardo Lazcano Naranjo, chairman of the Neo-Catholic Party, claimed. However, on February 7, the court ruled to sentence Rico to a “one-year confinement in correctional facility.”

“That was a trap. It was meant to trick me into being caught and to throw me into jail,” said Alexander Rico, who had not been able to rely on the services of a lawyer.

15/02/2006
Dissident Sentenced To One Year in Prison

Oppositionist Rolando Aguirre Patteiscu, the representative of the Cuban Liberal Movement in Old Havana, has been sentenced to one year in prison for “disobedience.” Aguirre, an owner of a pedicab, had several times applied for a government license to operate it but each time had been refused because of his dissident activities. Throughout December and January, he was fined 12 times, each 500 pesos. Since he failed to pay the fines, he was sentenced on January 30 to one-year deprivation of liberty in the Inocencio correctional facility in Batabany, Havana province.

14/02/2006
Police Ban Dissident Couple From Celebrating St. Valentine’s Day

Dissident Jesús Francisco Corrales Serrat and his wife Iris Días Pérez were detained by the political police en route to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day.

“An officer named Beune told us that on a day like St. Valentine’s Day we dissidents couldn’t be on the streets because we’re always thinking of how to create problems,” Días Pérez said. “My husband replied that it was our intention to celebrate in a restaurant.” Días Pérez said the officer took their documents and told them they could pick them up the next day at the police station.

16/02/2006
Head Of Varela Project In Pinar Del Río Threatened

Dissident Humberto Vigoe Chirino from San Cristóbal, Pinar del Río province said by phone that he had been threatened by the political police with prosecution for a crime against public security. This intimidation is linked to his active involvement in petitioning for the Varela Project.

Vigoe Chirino, 36, married and the father of two children, said his rights were being regularly abused and he was being persecuted by political police agents. The dissident was accused of not working at a government institution or company saying he was given 30 days to find a job. “I think the main reason for harassment is my being a Varela Project’s manager,” Vigoe Chirino stated.

15/02/2006
Havana’s Independent Trade Union Activists Cautioned

Independent trade union activists Aurelio Bachiller Álvarez and Enrique Pérez González were visited on February 10 by two state security agents and warned against counter-revolutionary activity. The agent, called Fernando, warned Bachiller Álvarez that his efforts to organize the celebration of the 5th anniversary of the Independent Workers Confederation of Cuba (CONIC) would be suppressed.

The same agent accompanied by another man named Frank also visited Pérez González. They demanded that he terminate the work of the Aracelio Iglesias trade union library and stop holding seminars at the National Center for Trade Union and Labor Training (CNCSL). The two trade union activists said the talks with the agents went without threats being made, and they would continue their work in compliance with the plans and charters of CONIC and CNSL. The work of the library will go on as before, they added.

16/02/2006
Independent Journalist Gets His Things Confiscated

Independent journalist Abel Escobar Ramírez from Ciego de Ávila was on February 6 targeted by the political police who searched his house and confiscated his personal things. Two police agents came to his house with a search warrant and seized several journalistic materials and personal belongings.

According to the journalist, the state security officers, Joel and Carlos, arrived at his place at six in the evening in a Niva car. After producing the search warrant, they seized his tape-recorder, two portable radio antennas, computer mouse, PC base unit, several diskettes, 12-Volt transformer, and wrapping paper for his younger daughter’s text-books.

POLITICAL PRISONERS

14/02/2006
Political Prisoners Call Cuba An “Island Prison”

Five political prisoners held at Cerámica Roja prison in Camagüey province have signed an open letter in which they described Cuba as an “island prison.” The document was signed by Egberto Angel Escobedo Morales, Lazaro Gonzales Adan, Rene Montes de Oca Mantija, Jorge Luis Suarez Varona and Elizardo Calvo Hernandez. “Cuba has become an island prison,” the letter says. “All Cubans in the street just have conditional freedom and those of us in prison are in solitary confinement cells.”
 

14/02/2006
Dissident Facing Restrictions On Telephone Calls

Laura Pollán, wife of imprisoned independent journalist Héctor Maseda said that, as a condition for being allowed to make more than 25 minutes of telephone calls a week, he must reveal those he plans to call and their telephone numbers. She added that he has refused to accept the conditions, which will limit the contact he has with friends and relatives.

The law stipulates that prisoners can make 25 minutes of calls per week.  Pollán noted this was the first time a condition has been placed on his calls in the nearly three years he has been imprisoned. A member of the Group of 75 arrested in 2003, he is serving a 20-year sentence.

17/02/2006
Víctor Rolando Arroyo’s Regime of Detention Toughened

Prison conditions for Víctor Rolando Arroyo, an independent journalist and prisoner of conscience, have become harsher. His wife Elsa González was told that an interval between conjugal visits would be extended from 3 to 4 months.

Arroyo, 56, is serving a 26-year term for executing his right for freedom of expression. He was arrested, tried and jailed in the spring of 2003. He is currently being held in Cuba Si prison, Holguín province. He is being held at a facility the farthest distance away from his relatives, who reside in Pinar del Río province, at the other end of the island.

REFUGEES

18/02/2006
22 Cuban Refugees Rescued Near Mexico’s Coast

Twenty two Cuban refugees were salvaged near Mexico’s coast on February 18 while attempting to reach the United States on a makeshift boat, according to the Associated Press. The crew of the Conquest Cruise Lines ship sailing in the Caribbean spotted a fragile boat west off Cuba’s coast. All the Cubans aboard the boat, including three children, eight women and 11 men, were suffering from dehydration. The ship dropped the refugees off on the Island of Cozumel, where Mexico’s immigration authorities will decide their fate.

The Cubans said they left Havana on a homemade boat several days ago and had hoped to reach the United States, but lost their course. One of the rescued Cubans said he was a member of a group opposing the leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro and that he decided to leave the island after suffering repression.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

16/02/2006
Iran’s Majlis Speaker Arrives In Cuba On Official Visit

An Iranian parliamentary delegation led by Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel arrived today in Cuba on an official visit as part of its Latin American tour. According to an IRNA correspondent, Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel and the Iranian parliament delegation were welcomed at the José Martí international airport in Havana by chairman of the Cuban parliament, Ricardo Alarcon.

During his two-day stay in Cuba, the Iranian Majlis speaker is to meet with his Cuban counterpart, the country’s vice president Carlos Lage and foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque. The Iranian parliamentary delegation is expected to visit Cuba’s Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology and attend an academic conference at the University of Havana.
 

17/02/2006
Cuba and Venezuela Support Iran in “Resisting Western Imperialism”

The leaders of Cuba and Venezuela declared their support for Iran’s nuclear program, and the Iranian delegation is planning to further cement this success in South America when visiting Brazil and Uruguay. However, the U.S. administration is skeptical about Iran’s chances to win support from these countries as well.

Iran’s nuclear program was greeted by the leaders of Latin America. In its confrontation with Washington, Tehran has found allies in the company of the presidents of Cuba and Venezuela, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.

Iran and Venezuela have signed a statement pledging “united actions” in confronting “Western imperialism.” The two countries said they would mutualy help the oppresed people of Palestine.
When addressing Havana’s students, Cuba’s National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon said on Thursday, February 16, that “no one has the right to deny any people the possibility of the peaceful use of nuclear energy. What the world should combat precisely is the monopoly that some have over arms of mass desruction.”

The Iranian delegation is to contnue its tour of South America with visits to Brazil and Uruguay. According to official Tehran, the trip is part of the program to extend business ties with countries of Latin America. The White House said it is not worried about its Latin America’s neighbors to change their policies as a result of the visits by Iranian polititans. “Chavez and Castro have a history of supporting Iran. I don’t think Brazil and Uruguay would take this example,” said Larry Birns of the U.S. Council of Hemispheric Affairs.

ECONOMICS

09/02/2006
Police Raids in Matanzas Province

The national police staged a series of raids in the town of Pedro Betancourt, Matanzas province, making arrests and seizing goods used in private businesses, which the government calls illicit.   Dissident Ulises Sigler González said that on the evening of February 1 a dozen policemen in a cruiser and a motorcycle with a sidecar showed up in the town. They raided homes and seized a sewing machine and shoe-repair equipment, he added.  Sigler González said two people were arrested and fined 200 pesos (the equivalent of about a month’s salary) and later released.

16/02/2006
Independent Trader Tries To Escape From Police on Bike

An opposition group reported that a private trader who tried to escape on his bike from a police raid had been beaten up by police in Colon municipality, Matanzas province.

Juan Carlos Bueno Artola, chairman of the Peace, Love, and Freedom party, said that Wilfredo Castillo, a shoe trader, was on February 11 pushed off his bike by police. Passers-by who witnessed the incident were shouting to police “Abusers!” The incident followed a surprise police raid on Marti street as a result of which traders who had valid licenses were detained and fined up to 1500 pesos (the equivalent of about six month’ salary in Cuba).

•   •   •

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 prima@prima-news.ru or to idee@idee.org.