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"Pieces of the Island"-An English Translation
Category Archives: Roberto de Jesus Guerra
June 27, 2013Posted by on
New music straight from Cuba. A collaboration between Primario y Julito and Los Hijos Que Nadie Quiso (The Unwanted Children), two dissident hip-hop groups in the island. This new video is for the single “Mi Delito” (‘My Crime’), from the new CD by Primario y Julito which has the same name.
The video was filmed a few months ago and was just recently published thanks to independent journalist Roberto de Jesus Guerra, director of ‘Hablemos Press’, who posted it on his YouTube channel.
Primario y Julito (Havana) and The Unwanted Children (Bayamo) join forces in this song to rap against government corruption and persecution of freedom defenders in the country.
“Tell me Fidel, tell me Raul, until when are we gonna have to put up with State Security knocking on our doors, to harass and arrest“, raps Primario in the beginning of the song, while the chorus says, “I didn’t assassinate Boitel, I’m not the culprit of Mariel boat-lift, I don’t repress those who think differently, I didn’t lock up 75 innocent people…this is my crime, speaking about what you have never spoken of“.
In a recent interview with this blog, Julito explains that this song is one of his favorites from the new album and is a protest anthem against the abuses committed by the Cuban dictatorship.
Ángel Yunier Remón Arzuaga “El Critico”, member of The Unwanted Children who participates in “My Crime” is a living example of some of these government abuses on the island. He’s been behind bars for three months for his protest lyrics and because he is a pro-freedom activist. (#PassItOn: Ángel Yunier Remón Arzuaga #FreeElCritico).
The Unwanted Children and Primario y Julito collaborate on a number of tracks in the new album. Here’s the video:
June 20, 2013Posted by on
This blog recently had a chance to catch up with Julito, independent and dissident rapper from the duo El Primario y Julito, who spoke to us about the group’s new record, an opposition rap agency, the difficulties independent artists face in Cuba and more.
The dissident hip-hop group El Primario y Julito, based in Havana, recently launched their new album titled “My Crime” [‘Mi Delito’], a production which contains 14 songs, among them the first single “Lambon”, which has been accompanied by a music video.
Julio Leon Fonseca, better known as Julito, explains that “My Crime” is one of his favorite projects to date. It consists of a number of “protest songs” and others which are more “commercial and reaggaeton-based“.
Among the protest anthems are “Este año si se Cae” [‘This year the dictatorship falls‘], a collaboration with the punk-rockers Porno Para Ricardo, while other invited artists on the disc are Rapper Issac and Los Hijos Que Nadie Quiso [‘The Unwanted Children’]. The latter also form part of a new rap agency, along with Primario y Julito, dedicated to making protest music.
“This agency consists of 5 rappers who are not allied with any government organization and we work completely independent because we are members of the opposition“, says Julito, “The agency is made up by us – Primario y Julito – and also Rapper Issac, from Santiago de Cuba, and The Unwanted Children, from Bayamo“.
The young musician highlighted the situation of Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga “El Critico”, a member of The Unwanted Children, who has been arbitrarily detained for more than 2 months, being held in Las Mangas Prison of Bayamo, for making protest music and carrying out civic activities as a human rights defender.
“Some artists affiliate themselves with certain musical or cultural groups belonging to the government, but we don’t buy that“, expresses Julito, “we make protest music and we have absolutely nothing to do with government agencies. If we are going to protest, we will do so with our means, not with theirs“.
He adds, “in reality, this is not a government… it’s a family dynasty which took over the country and has not wanted to let go. This country, this government, has to change…or better said, this government has to cease existence“.
Some of the other 14 new songs are “Gobierno Tirano” [‘Tyrannical Government’], “Triste” [‘Sad’], “Malo” [‘Bad’], and “My Crime“, which is the title track and recounts how the regime classifies these musicians as being dangerous because they write lyrics critical of the system and publicly manifest their opinions without censorship.
This free attitude has cost independent artists on the island quite some reprisals. Julito says that in the case of his group, “we have been beat, we have been arrested and we’ve been completely censured“. In fact, Primario y Julito also go by the name “Los Censurados”, (‘The Censored Ones’).
“When we started making music as a duo and we launched our first disc, we were summoned various times by the political police. While in the police units, agents told us we would not have access to any stage and that we would not be allowed to perform live“, recounts the Havana-based musician, “In fact, I still haven’t been able to perform live because of this. And it’s something I have always wanted to do as an artist, to see how the crowd reacts to my music. But these things happen under dictatorships“.
Despite the censorship and the prohibition of not being able to present themselves publicly, Primario y Julito still have lots of followers.
“There are many people who listen to us, who know who we are out on the street, especially young people“, assures Julito, who also explains that in order to spread their art, they have to do so through their own means, “burning CDs and handing them out to the population“, while “opposition groups also help us spread our work throughout the country“. In addition, they have to do record in “home studios” which other musician friends lend them.
He points out that an efficient way to assist artists like them in Cuba is to facilitate their access to blank CDs and USBs.
“Our discs are not on sale in Cuba“, says Julito, son of well known dissident and Lady in White Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo. However, anyone can buy the new album on their website, www.elprimarioyjulito.com.
Roberto de Jesús Guerra, director of the Havana-based independent news agency ‘Hablemos Press’, recently published a video-clip of one of the new singles of the rap group, “Este año si se Cae” [‘This year the dictatorship falls’].
“Here we are“, expressed Julito, “My message to other young musicians like us in Cuba is that they join us to keep taking the sentiment of freedom to the people. Here I am…and we have to keep fighting without fear and taking this protest music against the dictatorship“.
To contact directly with Julito:
Cell Phone: +53-246-070
June 13, 2013Posted by on
Primario y Julito, dissident rap duo based in Havana, have joined forces with Raper Issac, from Santiago de Cuba, in a new song and video: “Lambon“.
“My thing is not a whim, my thing is not a vice, my thing is desire for freedom”, says the opening of the new single published on the YouTube channel of Roberto de Jesus Guerra, director of the independent news agency ‘Hablemos Press‘. Guerra helps the young rappers record and promote their work.
Both Primario y Julito and Raper Issac, like all other independent musicians on the island, are prohibited and censored from any air time in the country, yet they are still popular amongst the everyday population, especially the youth. Musicians such as these hand out CDs with their music on the streets.
Other rappers- such as Angel Yunier Remon “El Critico”, based in the Eastern town of Bayamo, are subjected to constant government persecution. In Remon’s case, he has been in prison for nearly 3 months and may soon face charges for making music, carrying out peaceful demonstrations, and hanging up anti-government signs on his home.
Check out the new single by Primario y Julito and Raper Issac, “Lambon”:
April 10, 2013Posted by on
After his release from prison on the night of Tuesday, April 9th 2013, independent journalist Calixto Ramon Martinez Arias has returned to the headquarters of Hablemos Press, the news agency of which he is a correspondent.
The news agency has published photos of this emotional return and encounter on their Facebook page. Here they are:
Meanwhile, in this audio published by “Radio Republica”, Calixto Ramon recounted his time in prison and sent out a message of appreciation to all those, in and out of Cuba, who joined in solidarity to demand his release. 8 dissidents went on hunger strike to demand his freedom, while many others took to the streets to carry out public protests.
In another audio, Roberto de Jesús Guerra, director of Hablemos Press, sent out his own message of appreciation and gratitude.
Martínez Arias has assured that he will continue reporting and working towards a Cuba where there is a free press and respect for Human Rights.
March 11, 2013Posted by on
Berta Soler, the national representative of the Ladies in White, boarded a plane to travel outside her country for the first time ever, with destination to Spain, this Sunday March 10th, to participate in a conference organized by the exiled representatives of the mentioned female dissident group.
Her husband, renowned activist and former political prisoner of conscience, Angel Moya Acosta, along with the also former political prisoner Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, used their Twitter accounts to narrate the moment in which Soler arrived to the airport.
“A car with a private license plate is following us”, tweeted Moya in his account (@jangelmoya) while on his way with his wife to the JoseMartiAirport in Havana. However, the activists managed to make it without any complications, accompanied by “35 Ladies in White and 19 male human rights activists”, explained another tweet.
On his part, Ivan Hernandez informed in his account (@ivanlibre) that in the airport there were also “regime agents dressed as immigration workers” as well as “special troops” keeping watch over the group of dissidents. Hernandez added that Roberto de Jesus Guerra, director of the independent news agency ‘Hablemos Press’ had his phone “blocked” in order to keep him from sending out Twitter messages to his many followers.
It was confirmed that Berta Soler boarded the plane and set out to Spain at around 12:45 AM.
Just hours before, Soler participated in the habitual Sunday march of the Ladies in White in Havana, where 65 women walked down 5th Avenue and assisted Mass at the Santa Rita Church.
Hernandez Carrillo added on Twitter that in the province of Santiago de Cuba, 60 Ladies in White marched and assisted Mass, 18 did so in the province of Matanzas, and 10 in Guantanamo, leaving it very clear that these women will continue their activities while their leader is outside of the country.
“Berta Soler is already inside the airplane”, wrote Ivan Hernandez afterwards in his Twitter, “May God protect her and may she have a safe trip, and that she may be able to raise her voice for the Cuban people in the free world”.
December 9, 2012Posted by on
#LiberenaCalixto (“Free Calixto”) is a hashtag being used with much popularity in the world of Twitter by users of this social media in and out of the island, with the intent of demanding the immediate release of jailed independent journalist Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias who has been on hunger strike for more than 27 days in a dungeon of Havana, simply for reporting without censorship and with a perspective free form the grips of state control.
Now, his colleagues from the independent news agency “Hablemos Press” have published a video on their YouTube channel, narrating Calixto’s situation and demanding his immediate and unconditional release. Watch it below:
Roberto de Jesús Guerra, the director of Hablemos Press, recently sent out a Tweet (@HablemosPress) informing that this past Thursday, 6th of December, penal authorities have refused to give Calixto water, with the intent of forcing him to desist his protest, according to testimonies of some common prisoners who have been able to establish communication with the Havana-based news agency.
If what the prisoners allege is certain, Calixto Ramon Martinez would be traveling down the same path as martyrs like Orlando Zapata Tamayo,who declared themselves on hunger strike but not on thirst strike, and were instead refused the liquid by authorities to give up their protest and/or to speed up their demise.
If you’d like to add your signature to an initiative demanding the release of the journalist, you may do so by visiting this digital petition.
Freedom for Calixto NOW!
July 18, 2012Posted by on
In his Facebook account, Roberto de Jesús Guerra- independent journalist and director of the (illegal) “Hablemos Press” news agency in Havana- has published a series of photos taken by the Lady in White Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo when she was confined (for hours) in a cell of the 4th Police Unit of El Cerro this past 9th of July. The photos demonstrate the horrid conditions in which the dungeons of police units throughout Cuba are kept, where the regime sends peaceful dissidents and activists. It seems the activist managed to sneak in a camera or cell phone.
The home of Fonseca Quevedo is constantly under attack by the Cuban political police, who keep a tight watch over who enters and leaves, as well as impeding dissidents from entering or, in many cases, exiting. The house has also been attacked with objects such as condoms, mud, excrement and more. Fonseca is frequently arrested for simply trying to leave her own neighborhood or for trying to carry out a nonviolent activity, as was the case on July 9th 2012 when the Lady in White had plans to carry out a tribute to the victims of the 13th of March Tugboat Massacre. Her family- especially her husband Julio Leon Fonseca and her older son “Julito” (the rapper from the hip-hop duo ‘Primario and Julito‘) are also active members of the Resistance and suffer beatings, arrests, and threats just like Fonseca Quevedo.
It is the first time that Fonseca manages to capture images from the dungeons where she is commonly kept.
November 29, 2011Posted by on
Thirty-three year old Roberto de Jesus Guerra Perez is not only an example of the bravery it takes to be a public Cuban dissident of the violent totalitarian Castro regime, but is also an example of a person who faced very difficult obstacles in his life and yet managed to turn his frustrations into inspirations, ultimately becoming successful. But success in Cuba is not measured as it is in most other countries. Success in Cuba means standing up for what you believe in and knowing that you are helping shatter, in one way or another, the oppressive prison walls which surround the entire island, while still managing to maintain a family.
Guerra Perez is responsible for the creation of the renowned independent news agency “Hablemos Press” which constantly reports the reality of Cuba, avoiding the pre-fabricated communist propaganda imposed on every state-run news agency in the country. Though the dictatorship has unleashed an aggressive censorship campaign against the news agency, “Hablemos Press” has still managed to become one of the main sources of news in Cuba, highlighting the stories of those Cubans who chose to oppose the illegitimate tyranny on the island and those everyday people who face countless hardships in order to survive- stories of evictions, of job expulsions, arbitrary arrests, deportations, and beatings. But also stories of resistance and resilience. Such is the story of Roberto de Jesus:
You are a young Cuban. Prior to declaring yourself a public dissident of the dictatorship, how was your life? What did you study and what were your aspirations?
I was born in 1978 in Cinco Palma, Media Luna, in the Eastern province of Granma. I am the son of a humble family of peasants who gave up an important part of their lives to help Fidel and Raul Castro in their activities in the Sierra Maestra Mountains after they disembarked from the Granma Yacht on Las Coloradas Beach. Some of my family members- my grandfather and some of my uncles- were executed by orders of Fidel, after being accused of treason. That was their punishment for helping them.
When I was just four years old my parents divorced and my mother left the house, taking me with her. We became gypsies. We first took refuge in the Sierra Maestra in an area known as Las Delicias, near Las Lagunas. There, I assisted a very small rural school which had only five students. Every day I would walk four kilometers through thickets to get to school. I was able to study my first year there. Later we left to the municipality of La Sierpe, a rice production zone of Sancti Spiritus province. I went through ninth grade there, and we later moved to the city of Camaguey.
With just 9 years of age I had to bring groceries for my neighbors and they would pay me for the help. I also sold home-made desserts and anything else I could get my hands on in order to make some money and provide food for my mother and my smallest brother, and to be able to take a bag of food every month to my other brother in prison. At age 14 I dropped out of school. We lived in extreme poverty.
Something I usually don’t share and yet that is an important part of my life is that in 1992 we lived in a dump site located in Los Ranchos, an area near the neighborhood of Marquesado and La Esperanza of Camaguey. My family and I would eat the food that was thrown away by passing cars. It was during Cuba’s “special period”. And this didn’t happen only to us, but to many other people as well.
When I left school, my mom was fined by the police for 1,500 pesos. We had to cultivate beans in the fields of the Agropecuaria Company of Los Ranchos and it was only through that work that we were eventually able to make enough money to pay off the fine.
When I turned 15, we returned to the home of my father in Cinco Palma, already tired of leading such lives and from having to go from one house to another. Upon returning to Cinco Palma I started to work in a Coffee Cooperative which paid me a salary of 3 pesos in national currency per day’s work. This rate did not, in any way, satisfy our necessities and so I began to work together with other peasant farmers who paid me 6 pesos. Soon thereafter, I began to sell homemade sweets again, which brought me problems and repression from Pedro Perez, the Police Sector Chief better known as “Pedro Justice”. He made sure to make my life miserable. He took me before a tribunal and sentenced me to one year and 6 months of forced labor just for publicly saying that with just 5 pounds of rice a person cannot survive. I wasn’t the only one punished. 192 other youths from the region were accused under the “Lazy Law” which is now known as “Post Criminal Social Dangerousness”.
Within the year and 6 months of my captivity I had to plant and cut sugar cane in a Cooperative of the Vicana Abajo town. Upon extinguishing my sanction, my mother encouraged me to move to Madruga, a town which at the time belonged to the province of Havana. It was where my sister lived. There I began to work in the Cattle Company of Valles de Picadura.
Because I was responsible and serious, I was actually given a farm, where I began to work as administrator. I spent 4 years like that. I studied and took a three-month course in the School of Livestock Farming located in San Jose de las Lajas. Tired of milking cows and disillusioned by my experiences, I left to Varadero, a touristic area. In Varadero I worked as a security guard of certain hotels which were under construction. I was later left without a job due to a reduction in staff and because of political reasons.
I then left to the capital to sell books by the Cathedral on L and 17th, in Vedado, along with a friend of mine by the name of Eliecer. It was there that I was able to meet dissidents and human rights activists. In 2003, I joined the opposition groups and in 2004 I began to get involved with independent journalism.
I have titles in Livestock Farming Administration and various prizes for that work- such as Qualified Worker- and I also received training for journalism and editing through a video course offered by Florida International University (FIU). I’m basically self-taught.
What led you to become publicly involved with the Cuban opposition and with independent journalism?
My main inspiration was my mother, who never hid anything from me and who, ever since I was little, told me just how abusive this regime is. Another decisive factor was the life I was subjected to after my brother was sentenced to 10 years of prison for carrying 136 dollars in his pocket. Also, I realized that it is an opportunity to denounce the abuses committed by the Castro authorities against those who live in my native town of Cinco Palma. I still carry images in my heart of its scenery and its people.
What also led me to become an independent journalist was the negligence and the misery which plagues Cuba. Radio Marti also gave me an opportunity to have my voice heard in and out of Cuba.
You spent time behind bars for participating in dissident activities. According to what I have understood, the Cuban authorities were trying to sentence you for “public disorder”. Tell us a bit about the activities which led to your arrest.
I carried out a hunger strike in the Jose Marti Civic Plaza of Havana on July 13th of 2005. They sentenced me for public disorder. I spent 22 months in a prison which was 600 kilometers away from my family. The authorities transferred me to the Nieves Morejon Prison where I suffered tortures and beatings at the hands of my jailers. My first 6 months were spent in the Torture Area, better known as ‘100 and Aldavos’ of Havana. It was there that I contracted pulmonary emphysema and various skin infections, from which I still suffer.
In total, I participated in 8 hunger strikes. A recent medical checkup informed me that I currently have 5 different stomach conditions.
How was your experience as a political prisoner? How would you describe your days in captivity to a person who is not familiar with the Cuban reality?
For me, it was a source of pride to be a political prisoner. But, regardless, imprisonment is horrible. It is something terrible and something that is never desirable. Things happen to you while in jail that are very difficult. And there are things you see which are worse than what you can see in one of those “Saw” horror films.
You are the director of the well known independent press agency, “Hablemos Press”. How was the idea for this agency born? What is its purpose?
When I was released from prison, the Corriente Martiana- a dissident group I had once belonged to- was practically no longer in existence. At first, I tried to establish a center with the name of Corriente Martiana Information Center. However, I had disagreements with the founder and suffered some censorship issues and so I decided to form my own on February 3rd of 2009. That was when the Hablemos Press Information Center was born.
Our main objective is to obtain and distribute information from Cuba and send it out to the entire world via telephone, telegraph, radiotelegraph, radio, oral communication, and graphic arts. We aim to tackle all aspects of politics, culture, commerce, finance, art, literature, sports, and so on. We have not been able to fully achieve this due to lack of sufficient resources.
We also aspire to maintain correspondents or collaborators in all provinces and municipalities, especially in the Isle of Youth. Our goal is to provide information services to pro-democratic news agencies, newspapers, radio programs, television programs and other civil and human rights organizations. And, of course, to develop activities in consolidation of community advancement.
“The doors of our headquarters are always open to all Cubans who wish to express what they feel”. That is the motto on Hablemos Press’ website. Are there many Cuban people who turn to your agency to denounce violations?
Dozens of, both, dissidents and everyday people. Our phone does not stop ringing and we receive more than 20 visits a day.
Many of us all around the world have seen the videos of protests and news coming out of Cuba recently (many times recorded by Hablemos Press). In the video in which women protested on the steps of Havana’s Capitol building, for example, we can infer that Cubans are losing fear. Would you say that this is the case?
With the protest on the steps of Havana’s Capitol and in the Cuatro Caminos Market Center it was proven that the Cuban people are losing fear. In the Capitol protest, the women were applauded by the people when they screamed “long live human rights”. In the Market protest, more than 2,000 people chanted “freedom”.
Another important factor of Hablemos Press is its publication of the “Monthly Report of Human Rights Violations” on the island. Through this report, we have seen how the repression against activists has increased. Why would you say this has happened?
The answer is because the authorities are very fearful of a social uprising. The events which took place in the Market and in the Capitol Building have increased their fear. They know that just one small spark can grow into something they cannot handle. Repression just continues to rise because every day there are more and more groups which try to carry out activities on the streets and the regime does not allow this.
We can imagine that it must be very difficult to report, publish, and altogether manage a press agency without stable internet access. What are the obstacles which you, and all your other colleagues, must face in order to access the internet?
The difficult situation of not having the adequate resources in order to try and get to a hotel where one can buy one hour of internet for 6 to 10 dollars is one problem. There is also the constant pressure of receiving news and knowing that you may not be able to publish it immediately, and the consequences this represents. There is also a tremendous fear of losing all the information if you are not able to upload it in time and the agents catch you, many times even before going into diplomatic embassies. You run the risk of getting arrested and spending several hours behind bars.
Hablemos Press also has helped the independent hip-hop artists “Julito & El Primario” record their music and music-videos. Is this another aspect of the agency- helping independent anti-government artists to carry out their work?
Yes, that is a project of ours. We don’t only help them, but we also have two other groups which, for the time being, have not been brought out to public light. Right now we can only say that they are students between the ages of 14 and 21. If we say who it is now they will run the risk of being persecuted. We will make them public when their parents give us permission to do so.
What role will independent news agencies such as Hablemos Press play in the future of Cuba?
We aspire to become the most important independent news agency on the island.
In the future, we hope to debut a newspaper, but after the fall of the Castro brothers. That is, of course, if we survive to see the day because we are constantly under death threats and they even tried to poison us a few months back. Six of our members were in critical condition after we consumed a fish.
What message would you like to transmit to Cubans in and out of the island?
I’d like to let Cubans inside the island know that they can count on us, because no one will be able to silence us. The doors of our headquarters are always open for all those Cubans who wish to express what they feel, without fear of censorship. And, like our apostle Jose Marti once said: “Words are for telling the truth, not to cover it”.
Another message is that I am grateful for Julio Machado, my professor of journalism, to whom I owe who I am. He helped me to become better each day. I have not known from him much since he fell sick, but I always keep him in my prayers so that he may recuperate from that difficult disease he suffers from.
Also, lots of thanks to my godfather Jose Ramon Avalo Perez, whom already passed away, but who provided me with his home and supported me while he was alive.