A dissident family was sentenced last November to the Municipal Court of Holguín on charges of “defaming the martyrs of the country” and public disorder right after the death of the Cuban dictator. The mother, Maydolis Leyva Portelles, was sentenced to one year imprisonment while her daughters and son, the 27-year-old twin girls Adairis and Anairis Miranda Leyva and Fidel Batista Leyva, were sentenced to one year of correctional work with detention.
The four are members of the “Olegario Charlot Espileta” Command, affiliated with the Cuban Reflection Movement and have collaborated with the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), activist and dissident organizations. The dissidents took to the streets on November 27 while a curfew was imposed after the death of Fidel.
All were arrested, taken to a police unit in Holguin, then subjected to an act of repudiation where their home was vandalized. To make matters worse, the prosecutor threatened to take Anairis children away to “re educate” them to revolution ideals.
Since March 7, the twin sisters and their brother Fidel Batista declared themselves under a hunger strike to demand their freedom, the freedom of political prisoner Eduardo Cardet, and the ceasing of State repression. Both sisters are in delicate state in ER while their brother is remains in solitary confinement in prison. This is a statement from their mother Maydolis Leyva ( under house arrest) : ” They are very delicate. My daughters are under the risk of cardiac arrest. The doctors confirmed this and I thought it was an exaggeration but when I saw them I had no doubt of their health deterioration. My son Fidel is in solitary confinement and he is urinating blood. They wont take him to a hospital.”
Legal Process Opens Against ‘14ymedio’ Reporter in Camagüey
This Wednesday the gates have begun to close around independent journalist Sol Garcia Basulto, who has been charged with the crime of “usurpation of legal capacity.” (In other words, “practicing journalism without a license.”) The correspondent for this newspaper in Camaguey is facing a sentence of between three months and a year of deprivation of liberty.
The accusation against Garcia Basulto coincides with that made against the regional vice-president of the Inter-American Press Association in Cuba, Henry Constantin. Both reporters are a part of the editorial team of the independent magazine La Hora de Cuba (Cuba’s Hour), which is distributed in a digital format.
The young reporter was warned by the police about her work interviewing and gathering information in public spaces. A task that she engages in, according to the officials, to “misrepresent information and write against the government.”
If the process takes its course, the journalist could be tried under Article 149 of the Penal Code which punishes those who “perform independent acts of a profession for which they are not properly qualified.”
The police did not mention the names of the possible complainants, but warned Garcia Basulto that she was not “empowered” to undertake work as a reporter. The young woman is being investigated and cannot leave the country. Any travel outside her home province must be communicated ahead of time to the police.
Last November, State Security prevented the 14ymedio correspondent from leaving her house in the days after the death for former president Fidel Castro, while the funeral procession carried his ashes to Santiago de Cuba.
At that time, the young woman denounced the escalating repression against her, which started on 4 December 2015 when she tried to take some photos and collect opinions in front of Camaguey Provincial Court where the trial was being held for the murder of the musician Pedro Armando Junco, known as Mandy.
The Inter American Press Association warned this week about García Basulto possibly being charged with the same crime for which its vice president is being prosecuted. The entity considers that such accusations are contrary to international provisions that support “the right to seek, receive, disseminate information and express opinions.”
Travel agencies advertise apartheid Cuba as a vacation in paradise. What they don’t tell you is that under the tyrannical regime of the Castros, Cuba is a fourth-world country with collapsing buildings and a crumbling infrastructure that cannot provide humane conditions for its own enslaved people, let alone foreign tourists.
Travel agencies getting sued for misrepresenting conditions in Cuba to tourists
Travel agencies rosy picture of Cuba has a legal downside
Lonely Planet pitches Cuba as “old school cool” and an “escape from the hustle and bustle” but at the bottom of the web page has one line of caution: “The US Center for Disease Control has issued a travel alert suggesting that pregnant women postpone travel to Cuba due to the presence of the zika virus.” The Castro regime has a poor history of timely reporting of epidemics on the island, placing tourists at risk. Canada’s Sunwing travel agency pitches Cuba as “Paradise…with a history.” However it fails to mention that the resort they were sending tourists to in Cuba had “water problems” which meant little or no water for at least 12 days according to a March 22, 2017 Global News article. In a follow up article on March 24th Global news reported on the Starfish Cayo Santa Maria resort in Cuba:
Travelers told Global News they had little or no fresh water for their entire trip to the resort, making it impossible to flush toilets, take showers or wash their hands.
Some, like Donna Carvalho of Georgetown, Ont., returned to Canada and went almost immediately to hospital with severe diarrhea, vomiting and an excruciating headache. Carvalho was placed in isolation for five hours and released after she said doctors concluded she had likely become ill from unsanitary conditions at the resort.
Carvalho said she witnessed the hotel restaurant using a “dirty rag” to clean dishes, cutlery and glassware in lieu of a dishwasher. Other travellers described similar nauseating experiences.
The Canadian government has said that the ill served tourists, many of whom returned home very sick can sue the travel agency. It is not only Sunwing that needs to worry about a lawsuit but also the British based Thomas Cook travel agency. James and Kathryn Longhurst booked their dream honeymoon to Cuba for a two-week all-inclusive getaway in Paradisus Rio de Oro in Holguin, Guardalavaca that cost the newlywed couple $6,235. Three days in, Mr Longhurst fell so ill his tongue turned black. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was given injections and put on IV drips. Returned home and continued to feel ill. They are now suing Thomas Cook. Mrs. Longhurst also became ill. The newlyweds cited “filthy conditions” as the cause of the illness observing in a March 23rd article in The Sun that “dining restaurants were poorly kept with food not “covered properly”, “insects and birds” flying around the buffet area, staff not wearing gloves while handling food and the same utensils used for different dishes.”
Continue reading HERE.
In an interview with Infobae, dissident, poet, independent journalist, and former political prisoner Jorge Olivera Castillo responds to the question of why the Cuban people do not rise up against the Castro dictatorship (my translation):
“The average person thinks in terms of costs-benefits the people believe there is too high a price to pay for something that is not for certain, such as taking down the one-party regime. Therefore, the people prefer to escape Cuba or insert themselves into the black market and avoid political problems. From there is where the paralysis and apathy of the people originates. It has been very difficult, especially with the decrease in international support. I like to approach politics with both feet on the ground, that is why I don’t see fundamental or profound changes in Cuban society until there is a generational replacement. Above all, the disappearance of the entire political spectrum of emblematic figures such as the commanders of the Revolution and in particular, Raul Castro.”
Socialism, communism, and Islamic extremism, have all come together to attack freedom and democracy and destroy Latin America.
Ecuador, Iran, and Latin America’s Pink Tide
Ecuador will elect a new leader on April 2 to replace its left-wing, populist president Rafael Correa. Washington should pay close attention. Correa’s vice-president Lenin Moreno is a close second in the polls, but should he win, he will likely continue Correa’s economic populism and anti-Americanism, including, crucially, pursuing a strong relationship with Iran.
Correa came to power at the onset of Latin America’s “pink tide” – the rise of charismatic, left-wing leaders like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales. Since then, their growing authoritarianism and failed economic policies have eroded their support, opening the way to more moderate, pro-Western leaders like Mauricio Macri in Argentina and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in Peru.
A Moreno victory, however, could mark the return of the pink tide. Correa has handpicked Moreno to run for the presidency, much as Chavez had tapped Nicolas Maduro to succeed him upon his death. Although Correa has not yet run his country aground as did Venezuela’s leaders, under his stewardship, Ecuador has become a “major drug transit country” with significant “vulnerability for money laundering,” according to the State Department.
Similarly, Ecuador, an OPEC member, has seen its GDP contract amid lower oil prices, albeit not as dramatically as in Venezuela. Additionally, Quito’s membership in the Venezuelan-led regional trade bloc ALBA pushes it further from the U.S. and towards the same Bolivarian socialism that has led to the near demise of Venezuela.
These parallels should not be lost on U.S. policymakers. Quito has long claimed to be an ideological ally of Caracas, and has been its staunch diplomatic partner regionally and internationally. Thus, as Venezuela continues to crumble under international economic sanctions, Iran might shift its center of gravity in Latin America to Ecuador.
In 2010 and 2011, Correa and Moreno travelled to Tehran to sign bilateral agreements, including building a power plant in Ecuador, providing industrial and technical knowledge, and banking partnerships. As vice president, Moreno also oversaw a $30-million deal to conduct joint mining projects as a basis for future extractive activities.
Continue reading HERE.
“And Then You Hear People Say That Racism Doesn’t Exist In Cuba”
I literally just saw a police officer ask a couple of kids for their identification and I’m pretty sure he did it because they were black. That’s just the life they were dealt. I have almost never seen the same happen to white kids. It’s as if whites are invisible to the police.
And then you hear people say that racism doesn’t exist in Cuba. And the funny thing is that it could’ve been those same whites that just finished robbing a house around here because whites also steal. I walk a lot around the neighborhood of Vedado, so I see many things.
Because of the color of my skin and my mean look, I get stopped all the time by the cops. I don’t want any problems. People look at me and think that I’m a tough guy but really, I don’t like fights or drama.
My thing is, I just like walking around town from time to time, finding small little jobs here and there to make money. Some days I sell fish and on other days I sell cans of paint.
I’m not really committed to anything right now but I have to find my way. I live alone but regardless I have to take care of myself. And on the weekends, I like to drink a little, like anybody would.
Definitely not beer though, because it’s more expensive. Besides, I’m more of a ‘rum’ type of guy, even though I advise people not to drink it. Rum is the reason why so many people are messed up in this country. I have a friend who went blind because he drank whatever he could get his hands on. I think he ended up drinking wood alcohol.
Translated by Oliver Inca, Patricio Pazmino, Marta Reyes
From our ever-busy Shock Desk:
Hang on to your dentures, Mildred, this one’s a real shocker.
The Castro regime is openly discriminating against African migrants.
This is outrageous! &^%$#@! How can a country with a black majority do this?
I swear, Mildred, this is something for social justice warriors to take up. Why, Mildred, this is worse than what Trump did a few weeks ago!
This is unacceptable. Wind up the outrage machine, please, and crank it up to maximum!
It’s time for protests, marches, rallies, boycotts, letter-writing campaigns, poetry contests, bake sales ….
I’m speechless, Mildred, speechless, I tell you….
It must all be due to Trump, whose mere presence on earth turns everyone into a racist, xenophobe, and misogynist!
Oh, Mildred, let’s make some posters! Let’s yell and scream!
This is all Trump’s fault. He is so evil that he has even infected those saintly Cubans with his hatred!
Over 200 Ghanaians transiting from Cuba to USA stranded
More than 200 Ghanaians and other African migrants transiting from Cuba to the USA are stranded at the Costa Rican-Nicaraguan border post of Penas Blancas, a statement from the Information Services Department (ISD) has said.
The statement, signed by the acting director the ISD, Elizabeth Essel, said it follows the adaptation of new immigration reforms by Cuban immigration authorities aimed at affecting the entry of African migrants especially Ghanaians and Nigerians from using Cuba as an entry point into the USA, central America and other Caribbean countries.
The statement said the reforms are intended to curtail the surge of African migrants to maintain international and regional standards in human trafficking and migration flows.
“The Ghanaians, however, become stranded with no means of catering for themselves,” the statement said.
“These strict immigration reforms follow interrogations of mostly Ghanaian nationals and some Nigerians, who informed Cuban authorities that the country is being used as a conduit to the USA in particular.”
The ISD issued the statement on the back of security briefing it received from the Interior Ministry.
It said the Cuban immigration officials have unofficially begun refusing entry to and deporting African migrants immediately on arrival in the country in spite of their valid visas.
The statement also asked the public to be wary of a travel and tour company known as “Travel to the united states through Cuba” which operates in Accra and Kumasi where the syndicate advertise through the media, promising to transport people to America only to be stranded in Cuba with more immigration complications.
Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the despicable and morally bankrupt former Archbishop of Havana, has spilled the beans on the details regarding the secret talks between the Obama administration and the apartheid Castro dictatorship. It turns out the White House was negotiating the normalization of relations with Cuba’s regime with none other than Alejandro Castro Espin, the son of Cuban dictator Raul Castro. I guess this is what Obama meant when he said his new Cuba policy would “empower” the Cuban people. He just left out the tiny detail that it would empower only Cubans whose last name is Castro.
As expected, the more you find out about these “talks” and Obama’s Normalization Circus, the more disgusting the whole affair becomes.
Cuba’s secret negotiator with US was president’s son: cardinal
HAVANA (AFP) – Cuban President Raul Castro’s son, Alejandro, was the communist island’s envoy for secret negotiations with the United States that led to the countries’ historic rapprochement, a cardinal close to the talks said.
Speculation had long swirled that Alejandro Castro Espin, the president’s 51-year-old son, headed up the secret talks.
But the confirmation from Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the former archbishop of Havana, is the most official namedrop to date — and further boosts the profile of Castro Espin, who is touted as a possible future president of Cuba.
Castro Espin was “at the head of the Cuban delegation,” Ortega said in a speech to a conference in the United States that was published in the latest issue of Cuban Catholic magazine Secular Space (Espacio Laical).
Ortega, who recently stepped down as head of the Cuban Church, represented the Vatican at the talks, which Pope Francis played a key part in brokering.
The US delegation was led by Ricardo Zuniga, a top adviser to then US president Barack Obama.
The negotiations led to the announcement of a rapprochement in December 2014 after more than half a century of Cold War hostility.
Castro Espin, an army colonel, is an international relations expert.
The president’s only son, he kept a low profile for years. But he was present when his father and Obama held their first-ever talks in Panama in April 2015.
Many observers now tip him to be a major player in the power transition due next February, when Castro is due to step down.
Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, 56, is seen as Castro’s heir apparent. But Castro Espin is increasingly viewed as a president-in-waiting.
Ortega also unveiled another mystery of the US-Cuba talks, saying the date of the rapprochement announcement — December 17 — was chosen because it is Pope Francis’s birthday.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie has asked the Trumpinator to insist on the return of Joanne Chesimard (a.k.a. Assata Shakur), who was granted asylum in Cuba 38 years ago after she escaped from a U.S. prison.
Shakur was convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper.
Fugitive Shakur could have easily been brought to justice as part of the Normalization Circus, but Mr. Oh-Baama refused to touch the issue due to his love for the Castro regime.
Will the new embattled U.S. president do anything about this? Don’t hold your breath, Governor Christie.
Northern New Jersey was once home to the second largest Cuban exile community in the U.S.
Christie renews call for cop killer’s return from Cuba
Now that a friend and fellow Republican is leading the country, Gov. Chris Christie is urging the White House to demand the return of a convicted cop-killer who fled to Cuba four decades ago.
Joanne Chesimard, a leader of the Black Liberation Army, was convicted on March 25, 1977, of eight counts of murder, robbery and assault in the killing of State Trooper Werner Foerster on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973. Six years later, in 1979, Chesimard escaped and fled to Cuba, where she has lived in political asylum since. She now goes by the name Assata Shakur.
In 2015, when then-President Barack Obama reopened relations between the United States and Cuba, there was hope that Chesimard would be returned to finish her life sentence. But she remains free today, even though the Obama administration said her return would be part of diplomatic negotiations with the communist regime.
Appearing Friday night on Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Christie said “it’s outrageous” that Chesimard lives in freedom, and he pressed the administration of President Donald Trump to fight for her extradition to the U.S.
“I hope that what the Trump Administration is going to do is, before we take any further steps with a relationship with Cuba.”
Continue reading HERE
How bad is it in Venezuela? It’s so bad that even the Cubans are fleeing the socialist misery of hunger and poverty.
Congratulations To Bolivarian Socialism – Venezuela Declares Humanitarian Crisis
The economic horror in Venezuela continues to unfold–the Bolivarian socialists have achieved the entirely remarkable feat of making Cubans flee the country in search of a better life. Seriously, Cubans, from a poverty stricken socialist dictatorship are now leaving an oil rich nation in search of a better life. It takes a serious level of economic mismanagement to achieve that. That serious level being exactly the one thing that Venezuela has lots of, of course. So much so that Nicolas Maduro has just appealed to the United Nations to come and organise the supply of medicines for the country. This being something that normal places can manage on their own and usually rather well too.
The cause of all of this is that Maduro, and his predecessor Chavez, decided that the way to run an economy was to do everything that the textbooks say you shouldn’t do to an economy:
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has asked for help from the United Nations to boost supplies of medicine.
Mr Maduro said the UN had the expertise to normalise the supply and distribution of drugs in the country.
Venezuela’s Medical Federation said recently that hospitals had less than 5% of the medicines they needed.
The president blames the problems on an economic war against his government and the sharp fall in oil prices.
There is indeed an economic war going on here. And it’s one being waged by the Bolivarian socialists against the Venezuelan population. The tactic is simply to destroy the price system and thus the market. Given that non-market economies do not work this ensures the destruction of Venezuela’s economy.
Since Hugo Chavez first took over in 1999, Venezuela has mostly relied on workers from Cuba (which at some point numbered 100,000 in-country, including doctors and nurses) to manage its health-care system. However, that decades-long experiment has largely failed — so much so that the government needs to ask the U.N. for help. More than half of the Cuba-manned CDI first-response centers, located mostly in Venezuela’s worst “barrios” (slums) have been closed and the Cuban doctors fled Venezuela for better lives in other countries.
Yes, even the Cubans have left.
But just acknowledging that Venezuela needs outside help is a telling sign of how far the nation sitting atop the world’s largest petroleum reserves has fallen under Maduro.
To give an example of the economic lunacy under way:
A gasoline shortage in OPEC member Venezuela was exacerbated by an increase in fuel exports to foreign allies such as Cuba and Nicaragua and an exodus of crucial personnel from state-run energy company PDVSA, according to internal PDVSA documents and sources familiar with its operations.
You’ll not be surprised to hear that Cuba and Nicaragua do not pay market prices for that fuel. Even when there’s a domestic shortage and Venezuela is itself desperate for cash.
Continue reading HERE.
One of the largest sources of revenue for Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship is selling the slave labor of Cuban doctors to foreign nations. Not only does it produce hard currency for the corrupt dictatorship, but the media and others help the repressive Castro regime score public relations points with its so-called “doctor diplomacy.”
The truth about these doctors, however, is completely different. The Cuban dictatorship’s “medical missions” are in reality a giant scam where statistics and salaries are manufactured to cover up the enslavement of Cubans.
Cuban Doctors Sent to Venezuela Say They Were Deceived, Forced to Fabricate Statistics
Two Cuban doctors who abandoned their “foreign mission” in Venezuela said they were lied to about the conditions of the country, and forced to continue those lies in order to make it seem better than it is.
“I was in the Cuban medical mission in Venezuela 14 months and we were deceived when we arrived to Venezuela,” Dr. Yanisley Felix said. “It was not what we expected. Working conditions, living conditions, lying about what the mission consisted of and our purpose there.”
“The conditions in Venezuela are precarious,” Roldán Machado, another a doctor who abandoned travel plans, said. “We all know the lies that we are told there. We are forced to lie about hospital admissions in order to lie about those statistics that they (the government) want so much.”
Both doctors crossed the border into Colombia last October, where they were welcomed through the US Embassy to the parole program for Cuban doctors that has since been suspended.
The program was created in 2006 by President George W. Bush’s administration, allowing thousands of medical professionals to escape from Cuban medical missions abroad, but it was suspended last January by the Obama administration.
Over 10 years, more than 8,000 Cuban professionals were able to benefit from the program, especially in countries like Venezuela and Brazil.
Open Letter against censorship of anti-Castro Cuban film in New York
Last week, Cuban filmmaker Carlos Díaz Lechuga announced that his film Santa and Andrés had been excluded from the competition in the 18th Havana Film Festival of New York, which will take place in that city from March 30th to April 7th.
This is not the first time that Lechuga’s film has been censored. Last December, it was banned from the Havana Film Festival, in Havana, Cuba. This exclusion, though unjustified, followed its own logic: Santa and Andrés shows the repression and harassment against a homosexual Cuban intellectual a few decades ago. The censorship from the Cuban cultural institutions against Lechuga’s film was a confirmation of the very repressive nature of the system.
But if it is logical that in Cuba the regime rejects its own reflection, it is inconceivable that a cultural institution in New York would emulate a dictatorship.
We, filmmakers, artists and creators, strongly denounce the censorship of Cuban artists, not only in their country of origin, but also in the United States, a nation in which so many artists from around the world have sought refuge from the violation of their right to express themselves, and to create and disseminate their work.
If we are repulsed that these things occur in Cuba, it is more intolerable for us that such authoritarian practices take place in the United States. Particularly when this is done while invoking the need to create bridges between both countries, which is what Carole Rosenberg, Executive Director of the Havana Film Festival of New York, did to justify her collaboration with Cuban cultural authorities in the double censorship of Santa and Andrés.
Establishing links with institutions from a dictatorial regime, while at the same time closing the door to the freest and most critical voices of a repressive society does not promote bridges, it thwarts freedom of expression and democracy. Collaborating with the repressors is an attack on liberty in any place and time, all the more so in New York, a city in which José Martí, Félix Varela, Reinaldo Arenas and so many other intellectuals and artists lived and created in freedom.
We call on public and private institutions that sponsor the Havana Film Festival of New York to withdraw financial support to projects that go against the free and inclusive spirit of the city of New York and the Constitution of the United States.
Fidel Castro has reappeared, this time in Hong Kong. But don’t worry, he’s still dead.
Fidel Castro Reappears “in his Dead Body” in… Hong Kong
The image that Fidel Castro and his closest watchmen in the Cuban government wanted to avoid at his funeral, is now part of the artistic reality of a famous fair in Hong Kong.
A sculpture of Fidel Castro’s corpse (or sleeping body?), lying on a bed of white sheets in his olive-green uniform, is part of the Summit project by Chinese artist Shen Shaomin, who has recreated the images of other Communist leaders who are now history: Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Kim Il-Sung and Ho Chi Minh.
These leaders of yesteryear now lie in a Summit of Silence at the crowded Art Basel fair in Hong Kong.
An international wake
Or maybe it’s an opportunity to hold a wake “with the body present” which the Cuban people in Cuba didn’t see.
Shaomin, who lives in Australia, has formulated his project with questions looking to the future: “At a time when the entire world is drawn towards the vortex of economic crisis and doubts have arisen about the inherent values of capitalism, this work asks the following questions: are the ideas and ideals of these disappeared Socialist leaders still relevant? Will their ideas, concepts and theories reflect our sensibilities some day?”
The exhibition will remain open to the public on March 23-25th. On Monday and Tuesday, these works could only be visited by those with private invitations or special assignments.
It will be a virtual way of imagining what Fidel Castro’s funeral, which never took place, would have been like.
When the announcement of Fidel Castro’s death had been made on the night of November 25th, his brother and president of Cuba, Raul Castro, announced that he would be immediately cremated as it was his dying wish. The cremation took place immediately.
Cubans paid tribute to the former leader in front of a photo of Castro dressed as a guerrilla soldier with a rifle on his shoulder, while his ashes remained in an urn in a State Council room, which family members and selected people from the government elite had access to, until they traveled in a funeral car across the country.
Fidel Castro’s ashes were finally buried in the Santa Ifigenia cementery in Santiago de Cuba, next to the monument to national hero Jose Marti.
There aren’t any photographs or witness accounts saying they’ve seen Castro’s corpse, who apparently died at his home in Punto Cero, Havana.