Solidarity with #AntonioRodiles. ‘Estado de Sats’ will go on.

Despite the fact that Antonio Rodiles is still behind bars in a Cuban prison, the show he help create- “Estado de Sats”- will go on, thanks to his friends and brothers in struggle- independent journalists, bloggers, activists, etc. In the most recent episode of the program, launched this past 16th of November, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo (photographer and blogger) moderates the show, highlighting the presence of an empty chair which was “symbolically placed in his (Rodiles) memory and also a promise that, sooner or later, he will be with us again to continue this project“.

Rodiles remains detained in the Acosta Police Unit of Havana since this past 8th of November when he set off there to peacefully protest the arrest of various fellow dissidents. The wave of arrests started with the detention of independent blogger and lawyer Yaremis Flores. Afterward, other detainees included Yoani Sanchez, Laritza Diversent, Angel Santiesteban, Claudio Fuentes, Jose Diaz Silva, Veizant Boloy and others. All were released (some with pending accusations), except for Rodiles. His girlfriend, Ailer Gonzalez Mena, has been able to see him briefly and under the constant presence of State Security agents. She has described that he is physically bruised- due to various beatings- but that his spirit remains firm and convinced that he is doing what is right to defend freedom of expression.

Yoani Sanchez managed to publish an article on Huffington Post about Antonio Rodiles’ situation. The article was translated into English by Mary Jo Porter. Read it here.

Use the following hashtags on Twitter to demand the release of Antonio Rodiles: #AntonioRodiles, #Rodiles, #FreeRodiles, #LibertadRodiles.

No Justice for Adolescent Murdered by Ex Political Police Officer

This video was published on and was taken by Alfredo Fernandez Silva, an activist in Cuba who is also president of the November 30 Democratic Frank Pais Party.  Unfortunately, there is not an English-subtitled version available, but in the video one can see and hear the pain of a humble family that has lost their 14 year old son to a ruthless act of violence committed by a former political police official on the island.  As it has been reported during the last few weeks, the young victim’s name was Angel Izquierdo Medina.

Medina had walked into the farm of Amado Interian, a retired political police official, with his 17 year old cousin.  The young boys decided that they wanted to snatch a mamonsillo fruit from one of the trees.  As Izquierdo climbed up, Interia swung his door open and fired his revolver at Angel, who died minutes after.  In the days to follow, there was a wake and burial for the victim.  Various reports told of hundreds of friends, relatives, and neighbors assisting the wake, in addition to the repressive presence of State Security agents which appeared after various mourners began to protest this violent injustice.

In the video above, various dissidents are interviewing relatives of Angel, specifically his mother, Raiza, his aunt, and his young cousin who accompanied him at the moment of the assassination.  Also present are family friends and neighbors.  Clearly and understandably affected by the pain of losing one’s son, Raiza, and others, demand that there be justice for Angel Izquierdo.  Also, some of those present share testimonies about the murderer- Amado Interian- who they assure has always been a violent man.  One account even describes how he chased a man down one day and shot his legs, telling the suffering person “now you won’t be able to run anymore”.

As is common practice for the Cuban dictatorship, they have already released their twisted and false version of the cold blooded murder.  Official reports are stating that the young Izquierdo died of natural causes- specifically of Anemia.  Meanwhile, Amado Interian has not been brought to justice, and has never been for his previous crimes.  Considering the violent nature of the Cuban dictatorship, chances are he will not be accused any time in the future.  But the family demands otherwise.

Laritza Diversent has been one of the journalists/bloggers (and lawyer) reporting about this case, both on her blog and via her Tweets.  She is also present in the video, sitting by Raiza and interviewing the pained relatives and friends.  Recently, Diversent published another  post on her blog detailling the pain of the Izquierdo family and their demands that justice be served.  Here’s her text:

Family Members of Teenager Killed by Ex-Police Official Demand Justice

Raiza Medina claims justice for the death of her son Ángel Izquierdo Medina, a black teenager of 14, who died this last July 15, after having been shot by a retired police official.

According to Ismael Suarez Herc, 17, eyewitness of the events and he victim’s cousin, who was climbing a mamoncillo tree when Amado Interian, alias “el Pinto,” an ex-police official, fired his 45 caliber revolver. He reached for his left buttock. The teenager was still breathing when he fell. Minutes later he died.

The news affected the capital town of Mantilla, Arroyo Naranjo. Hundreds of people gathered outside the clinic in the town where the teenager’s body was first taken, and in chorus shouted “murderer.” Forensic medicine certified the cause of death as acute anemia.

At the wake, in the Mauline funeral home, over 400 people attended. The funeral was held in the afternoon the next day, at the Colon cemetery. State Security troops, in civilian clothes, were in the farewell to Izquierdo Medina. Although protests were reported, no arrests were made.

The farm where the incident occurred is located in Las Lajas, Mantilla, a neighborhood on the edge of the Arroyo Naranjo municipality, in Havana. It has a predominantly black, low income population with a high dangerousness index. Suarez Herce affirms that they crossed through there to take a dip in the Abelardo dam, in Calvario.

Interian, was head of the police sector in various localities of Arroyo Naranjo, the poorest and most violent municipality in Havana. Neighbors and relatives of the victim described him as an angry man with a short fuse.

They say he killed two people and caused several injuries with his weapon. An unofficial source told Raiza, Medina Izquierdo’s mother, that a man, approximately 60, said he acted in self defense.

As of now his whereabouts are unknown. Witnesses said he was detained by police. However, some in the area say he ran away and others that he hung himself. The authorities have given no details.

Relatives and neighbors of the victim suspect the police are looking for excuses not to prosecute him, and they are demanding justice for the death of Angel Izquierdo Medina, that it not go unpunished.

Angel Izquierdo Medina: 14 year old Killed by Former Cuban Police Official

On the night of Friday, July 15th, the independent journalist/blogger Laritza Diversent published a series of Twitter messages in regards to the cruel assassination of a 14 year old, Angel Izquierdo Medina, on behalf of a retired Cuban police official known as Amado Interian.  Interian shot Angel with his revolver after the 14 year old was trying to take a few mamoncillo fruits from his tree.  Laritza reports that, as is expected, the family of the young Izquierdo Medina is devastated, that the wake was also extremely difficult for all of the victim’s friends and family, and also that State Security agents took over the wake because many of those present had said they wanted to protest.  Now, the question is:  Will justice be served for the assassin?  Difficult goal, considering that the Cuban dictatorship uses the same exact tactics…

Here is the post about this situation written by Laritza, who was present and the wake, and published in her blog:

Adolescent is killed in Havana for Wanting to Eat a Mamonsillo Fruit

Since the afternoon of July 15th, the town of Mantilla, located in the outskirts of Havana, has been shocked by the death of Angel Izquierdo Medina, a 14 year old black adolescent who was killed by a bullet through his femoral artery, fired by Amado Interian, a retired Cuban police officer.

According to relatives of the victim, three kids (among them Angel), went in to the farm of the former police in an attempt to get some mamonsillo fruits from his tree.  When the former officer surprised them, he fired his gun twice.  Before retiring, Interian was the police chief of the area and he had a license which allowed him to carry firearms.

Final goodbyes to the body of the minor took place in the Mauline funeral home, at the entrance of the Santa Amalia neighborhood.  More than 500 people attended the wake; the majority of them were classmates, shocked by the news, along with professors and neighbors.

“My God, he was my son’s age, and just for a childish prank, only an extremist can do something like that”, one of the attendees declared amid tears as she walked by the coffin.

State Security agents, dressed as civilians, took over the funeral home because the grieving friends and relatives had threatened to protest.  At around 12 midnight, there were reports of incidents occurring but not arrests.  The burial was held on Saturday July 16th at 2 pm in the Colon Cemetery.

Mantilla is a peripheral neighborhood of Havana, with a population of low-income residents and high rates of dangerousness.  It belongs to the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, the poorest and most violent municipality of the capital.

As of yet, we do not know if the former police officer will be sentenced or taken to trial for the death of the adolescent.  As is habitual in Cuba, when crimes  such as these occur the government-run media prefers to keep quiet and not report the facts.

Laritza Diversent

Ivan Garcia: “As occurs with all dissidents who are black or mulattoes, the State Security agents always shove this sentence in their faces- ‘I can’t believe that you are black and a counter-revolutionary.’

A few days ago, this video came out of the island.  In it, one can see the desperation of a man who has to live under constant vigilance and knowing that his wife is constantly detained and beaten just for being dissident (and even worse: a black dissident).  The video also demonstrates his courage.

The dissident is called Ramon Alejandro Munoz and his wife is Sonia Garro Alfonso.  The blogger and independent journalist Ivan Garcia wrote this excellent chronicle about the repression and violence the couple constantly faces on his blog, “Ivan’s File Cabinet“.  Here it is:

“We are Frustrated by the Stress of the Constant Repression”, declared the dissident Sonia Garro

Photo: Laritza Diversent. Sonia Garro and her husband on January 2010

From a public pay phone and despite the fact that she was being watched by police agents in civilian clothes, the woman for which one man decided to climb up on his roof and yell anti-governmental slogans (as can be seen in this video,), Sonia Garro Alfonso told El Mundo that she and her husband, Ramon Alejandro Munoz Gonzalez, feel overwhelmed by the “stress of the constant repression” which the Cuban regime has maintained over them for quite some time.

She did not know that they would have recorded the video and uploaded it onto YouTube. The final straw which led Munoz Gonzalez to protest in that way was the desperation he felt when, on May 9th, his wife Sonia, and three other women (Niurka Luque, Niola Camila Araujo, and Leydis Coca- all of which are Ladies of Support to the Ladies in White) were violently suppressed and beaten by fifty agents of the “rapid response brigades” (the name given to paramilitaries used to oppress dissidents in Cuba) at 51st Avenue and 100 Street.

Her crime? Having taken to the streets with a white blanket on which she had written in black letters “No more police repression” and “Sentence the murders of Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia”, the dissident who died in Santa Clara on May 8th as a consequence of a beating.

After they were beaten, the four were arrested and taken to different police units in accordance with where they live. When Munoz found out about what happened, and after he investigated in his corresponding unit, Sonia’s husband headed to Section 21 of the Department of State Security where they did not tell him where she was being held.

It was the final straw. He decided to do what he did, and continues doing: protesting on his own. He says that as long as the violent repression continues against them or the dissidence on the island, then he is even willing to chain himself to a tree in the middle of a central avenue of Marianao. Munoz Gonzalez goes out to the street with the chains he has thrown on himself, and not with his machete, which he only wields when he is on the roof of his house.

Sonia has not only been beaten and detained on various occasions, but she has also had to withstand scornful and humiliating treatment for being black. In this last arrest they told her: “Nigger, we are going to send you straight to Manto Negro (the female prison) because you have us tired out already.” In the case of Sonia, as occurs with all dissidents who are black or mulattoes, the State Security agents always shove this sentence in their faces: “I can’t believe that you are black and a counter-revolutionary.”

Sonia Garro Alfonso has spent years suffering because of her skin color. Because of her very dark skin color, on the day she graduated as a Clinical Laboratory Technician, functionaries from the Public Health Ministry chose a white student to go up and receive her diploma from the hands of the minister. This was a humiliation she has never been able to forget. In 2006, when she refused to give up her activities in favor of afro-descendants or her independent cultural project which she runs with children of poor neighborhoods, she was expelled from her work place.

Nor has life been easy for her husband, Ramon Alejandro Munoz Gonzalez. He is a mulatto professor of folkloric dance who was also expelled from his work due to his social activism. That was the pretext which the police found in order to apply the “social dangerousness” law to him and send him to prison for a year.

The scene of the unusual protest is a blue house located on 47th Avenue, No. 11638, between 116th and 118th in Marianao. It’s just a few steps away from Los Zamora, Los Pocitos, and Palo Cagao, three of the most marginal and conflicting neighborhoods in Havana, filled with prostitutes, pimps, and delinquents. But also filled with professionals and dissidents like Sonia Garro and Ramon Munoz. Even if today they are on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

I also recommend this other well-written post about the harrowing case of Sonia Garro, written by Laritza Diversent and Ivan Garcia: “Sonia Garro, or the cruelty of a Regime“.

Free Voices from Cuba Share their Opinions (Part I)

Following the celebration of the ignominious 6th Communist Party Congress in Cuba this past Saturday April 16th, various international media outlets have baptized the event as a “step towards reform and changes”.  The regime of Havana, content with such a reception, continues trying to promote its image of benevolent “reformist” through their propaganda tactics.  Interesting enough, many of those news reports done by international reporters do not make much mention about the massive military parade which was held just a few hours before the Congress.  Ironically, they rapidly point out the promises and the supposed achievements of the revolution, but ignore to also point out that the Cuban government continues promoting (and using) violence within Cuban society.

The reality within the island continues to be the same, if not worse, as always.  The political police, responding to direct orders from those who reside in power, continue to mistreat, beat, incarcerate, and threaten peaceful dissidents.

Since the Cuban state does not allow dissenting or opposing voices to be heard through the national media, I decided to dedicated this space to some voices which represent that dignified resistance movement within Cuba, as well as civil society.  We have already been able to read the commentaries made by the Cuban press and by the international press, but now I invite you all to hear some reports straight from the island.  Listen to their opinions about the massive military march and the 6th Communist Party Congress.  I had the immense luck to chat with each one of these brave Cubans and closely listen to their reactions.  I refer to these voices as “free voices” because, despite the fact that they are living under a totalitarian state which prohibits democracy and free expression, they are brave individuals who have chosen to live like free human beings, choosing to face any risks or repressions for saying and doing what they think, as opposed to remaining quiet and letting themselves be swallowed by apathy and desperation. 

Laritza Diversent

 “The military march, which was made up of all those military machines which, I must confess, I do not even know what they are called, was simply a message on behalf of the Cuban government which said ‘look at the arsenal of weapons we have’. In other words, it was a way of saying that they are prepared for any kind of attempt against them. Many people inside of Cuba, mainly the men who have gone through military service, know that all those equipments and tanks are Russian technologies that cannot be compared to modern military technology currently in use throughout the world. All the equipments displayed in the march are practically obsolete. What people were really complaining about were extensive expenses attached to the display, meanwhile the country is going through a difficult economic time, when each day the prices of basic goods goes up, mainly the price of food.

From my point of view, the Congress was totally insignificant, because they say one thing there but what they do in reality is something else. One of the characteristics of Cuban politics is that it is very fickle. At one moment, they decide one thing and next thing you know they change their decision completely. Taking these processes into account, they celebrate their Congress, they take their measures, and they reach agreements upon themselves. There is no restructuring of the Party and there is no democratic restructuring either. But none of this has any importance for the citizens of Cuba. It has no importance in comparison to the importance it has outside of Cuba. And this is precisely because very few Cubans are interested in politics, or simply they do not understand it. And they feel this way because of the “back and forth” of the government, while one day it says one thing, tomorrow it’ll say another, and so on. Because of this insecurity, we do not pay any attention to this Congress.

All those civilians present in the march do not go voluntarily. At stake are their salaries, compromised primarily of foreign currency, their jobs, etc. Most of the time, the government does not say that it is mandatory to assist such events but those who were born here in Cuba know very well that what they say is ‘those who wish to go, may go’, but they also know that there exist political guarantees which follow you wherever you go (primarily in work or school), and that there are consequences waiting in store. Bonuses are given to “the best”, not to those who do not carry out the chores assigned to them by the revolution”.

Luis Felipe Rojas

“The military march was a pure display of muscles; a demonstration of force in a country where the sale of arms is prohibited and where the possession of any sort of weapon is highly penalized. This country has not received a single attack since 1961, and even then, it was not carried out by foreign forces but instead by a group of non-conformed Cubans. The weapons we saw displayed in the march were obsolete in comparison to the modern weapons displayed elsewhere in the world. The purpose of the march was not to prevent any invasion, but to instead to prevent any sort of uprising against the commandments of the Cuban revolution.

The Communist Party Congress, presided over by General Raul Castro, leaves the Cuban people with more doubts. I also must point out that none of the previous agreements of the 5 other Communist Congresses have ever been fulfilled. More than 40 years have passed since the first Party Conference and they have not fulfilled a single one of the accords. So then, the question is, what are the party members really doing? The low quality and degree of inefficiency of the Communist party is really tiresome.

No concrete measures which could improve the life of the people have been established. And I say this in regards to those who were actually hopeful about this Congress. I was one of those who wasn’t expecting any changes”.

Marta Diaz Rondon

“The military march held in Havana was only done with the purpose of intimidating the people, so that they would not protest. It was a way for the government to show that they have special troops ready to confront any person who would decide to take to the streets at any moment. That’s why the march was strategically held before the Congress. But despite that, the people are still protesting because it has been 52 years of suffering for us Cubans. We have been the ones that have had to live through all of this.

Those who are most corrupt are those who govern the country, starting with the Castro brothers and all the way down to the Central Committee, including all those who govern in the provincial levels.

This past Tuesday, April 12th, I met with a group of rural opposition members in Los Pinos, Banes. There we started conversations and debates regarding the famous 6th Communist Party Conference. The Congress, of course, is a facade because it is only the rulers who are allowed to take part. No other Cuban is allowed. Every person there is chosen by the government.

During Thursday of last week they were organizing a mob act against me in Banes. At that moment I wasn’t in Banes, though, as I had left early that morning to Holguin to meet with the activists. Ever since Wednesday, Banes has been under tight surveillance of the political police. The entrance of Reina Luisa Tamayo’s home is completely surrounded by police and they are not allowing anyone to go in. I believe that the government is fearful that the people will take to the streets, seeing as Cubans are suffering more each passing day.

I think the Communist Party Congress is very unfavorable for us Cubans, the everyday Cubans. And we are already protesting on the streets”.

Caridad Caballero Batista

“First of all, this government has always used things like this military march to its advantage. They’ve always had their people threatened and harassed. Those are the characteristics of the rulers of our country. It’s a way of symbolically saying ‘this is what we have for you’. Raul Castro said he was going to continue in power and also spoke of some other measures, but none of which are good news for Cubans. There is a total state of abandonment towards the people. Any benefits are reserved for those in power, leaving the rest of the country with no options.

During all of this, Ulisses Ramon Llanes, a prisoner, died in the Granma provincial prison because of  scarce, or no, medical attention. The countries’ rulers have never paid attention to any of this. The jails are full of men who are practically innocent and they are left to die because of scarce medical assistance, physical abuses, etc.

The Congress was simply a list of restrictions for the country.

Castro also mentioned that the government could not keep the “people” from defending their streets. But those who carry out mob acts are not spontaneous people; it is their people who oppress the opposition.

Every passing day we continue to be dissatisfied and we are constantly expecting the worse on the government’s behalf, because they will never facilitate anything for us”.

Pedro Arguelles Moran

The military march was an awful waste which consisted of far too much wasteful economic spending, which instead could have been invested in Cuban society- in the production of food, goods, and services. But it was definitely not worth it to spend that extraordinary amount on something that is not important, something that is violent and against humanity instead of investing on medicine or education. I consider it to have been unnecessary, absurd, and ironic, especially in a time where we are demanding peace, solidarity, and national reconciliation. To me, it’s simply absurd. This has all taken place in a country where the economy does not exist and that is in a total crisis.

The march is just a form of intimidating the population because the government is aware of the fact that the people are paying attention to what is happening in Northern Africa- in Egypt, Libya, etc. They are sending out a warning to the citizens that they have military powers.

As for the Congress, it was just another form of demagoguery. It’s another act of populism, and none of the problems which Cuba faces will be solved through that Congress. It’s simply the continuation of the same. And in addition, they also justified the despicable mob attacks against dissidents.

The people know that it is all a lie. They do not believe in the Congress, because they have lived through more than 50 years of lies. The Communist Party Congress was a psychological tactic to give off the illusion of openings and changes.

More to come…

Laritza Diversent Warns about the Risks Associated with Being an Independent Blogger in Cuba

Blogger, independent journalist, and lawyer Larittza Diversent warns in her blog, “Laritza’s Laws” about the risks which Cuban bloggers run after the regime of Havana classified them as “Cyber-mercenaries” and “Cyber-terrorists”. Laritza references the International Convention against the Recruitment, Utilization, Financing, and Training of Mercenaries which was ratified by the Cuban government in 2007. The mentioned Convention defines a mercenary as a “person recruited to engage in combat in an armed conflict or act of concentrated violence in exchange for personal benefit or material payment”, but as is expected, the Castro government has manipulated this definition and has applied it to Cuban dissidents, including the bloggers, who all act in a peaceful manner.

In Laritza’s own words:

Cuba: Alternative Bloggers in Danger

The personal freedoms of members of the alternative blogosphere are at risk after the official media publicly accused them of being mercenaries.

On March 22nd, the Granma newspaper (official paper of the Communist Party) published an article titled “Cyberwar: Mercenaries on the Internet”. A day prior to this publication, the televised documentary series “Cuba’s Reasons” used terms such as “cyber-mercenaries” and “cyber-terrorists” to describe the independent bloggers on the island.

Such terms imply very serious accusations. The penal legislation states that mercenaries and terrorists are perpetrators of serious crimes which attempt to attack State Security. Sentences for such crimes range from 5 to 30 years in jail. Meanwhile, Cuba ratified international instruments which oblige punishment for such activities.

Granma affirmed that “through bloggers and social networks like Twitter and Facebook, massive protests and uprisings have been inspired throughout the world”. According to the TV, bloggers use internet tools to destabilize internal Cuban social order.

Granma also asserted that thousands of “international media specialists have orders to keep a watch on the Twitter messages and blog updates of the mercenary”, referring to Yoani Sanchez, the author of the blog “Generation Y”, which up to this day has been a target of attacks on behalf of state-run media.

The International Convention Against the Recruitment, Utilization, Financing, and Training of Mercenaries defines “mercenary” as a person recruited to engage in combat in an armed conflict or act of concentrated violence in exchange for personal benefit or material payment. Neither nationals of a specific country or any of its residents can be considered mercenaries under this law.

In 2007, the Cuban government ratified the mentioned Convention, but with its share of reserves. It declared that it is enough with simple material payment, for whatever length, to consider an activity as “mercenary” and that it will continue applying the definition given by the Penal Code.

According to Cuban law, “mercenary” is someone who, “with the intent of obtaining a payment” joins a “military formation” whose membership is “individuals who are not citizens of the State, and it is there where they intend to act”, and who “collaborate or execute any other act” to achieve the same objective.

“Against Cuba and other countries considered enemies of the United States there is a form of Cyber-War: the fostering of a blogosphere which, although it claims to be ‘independent’ is totally subordinate to the interests of Washington”, Granma stated.

“The Cyber-War is a model of conflict which has appeared on the social scene of new information and communication technologies (NTIC), providing a military context”, the newspaper continued.

There is a political dispute between US and Cuba which has lasted more than 50 years. “Undoubtedly, the conservative Yankee wing has begun to formulate new pretexts and scenes of confrontation to finish the Cuban revolution and start an eventual military conflict,” affirmed Granma.

And, it continued: “These bloggers are people who have called for popular uprisings in Cuba during interviews. They have encouraged violence. These new faces of the counter-revolution lend themselves to the strategy game of subversion through the internet while deliberately using omission, distortion, and lies”.

Law No. 93 Against Terrorism also sanctions “employed acts executed through the media” with the specific purpose of provoking a state of alarm, fear, or terror among the population, by imminently endangering or affecting Cuban State Security. Among those listed are “acts carried out through the media and through information technologies”.

The norm condemns any person who uses, creates, distributes, or possesses equipment, means, programs, networks, and information applications to use, alter, etc. security information or national entities capable of producing the same effects.

Perhaps the official media is only aiming to discredit the members of the independent blogosphere. However, if that is their objective, the usage of such terms is completely unjustified. Cuban Penal Law is all-encompassing, for it allows the authorities to interpret it in multiple ways.

The case of Alan Gross provides the most recent example. The US citizen was judged and sanctioned in Havana to 15 years of imprisonment for bringing satellite connection equipment into the country. For the Cuban courts, this act represents a move against the territorial independence and integrity of the State.

The activities carried out by the new faces of the internal dissidence are completely peaceful. They have no relation whatsoever to armed conflicts or acts of violence. With that said, it is completely groundless to qualify them as “mercenaries” or “terrorists”. It is very possible that, by using the State-controlled media, they are preparing an operation to silence the alternative voices of Cuban society.

And for those who wish to read an interview with Laritza, done by the authors of this blog, can do so here.

Laritza Diversent: The Star of “The Cuban Five” has shattered

An excelent post by Laritza Diversent, in her blog “Laritza’s Laws & Cuban Legal Advisor“, in which she writes about the case of the 5 Cuban spies who continue arrested in the United States under charges of terrorism and espionage. In the words of Laritza, the actions taken by the Cuban government against the aircrafts of The Brothers to the Rescue cannot be described in any other way that is not “state-sponsored terrorism”.

Her post:

“The news of the declarations made by Gerardo Hernandez, one of the 5 heroes of the Cuban Revolution, has had a real impact. The spy who is imprisoned in the United States proved that his own government is lying. He acknowledged the fact that the shoot-down of two “Brothers to the Rescue” aircraft, carried out by Cuban Air Force pilots in 1996, occurred over international waters.

Since then, he has anxiously waited to hear the Cuban government’s version with respect to his declaration. On December 31, in the press note section, the Granma newspaper made reference to a letter sent on the 28th by Belgian representatives and senators to U.S. members of congress. This letter expressed concern for the “fate of the 5 Cuban anti-terrorists.” This occurred one day after one of the spies made a declaration proving that his government had, without any justification, shot down two aircraft over international waters.

On January 1, Granma published four “messages from the 5 heroes.” Three of these were signed by Antonio, Rene, and Fernando. The fourth, which was dated December 15, includes the signature of all with a special recognition for Gerardo, assuring that in his case, “evil has the upper hand.” This is a sign that they are preparing the grounds to justify his conduct.

I must admit that I received such news with much joy. Once again, life has demonstrated that human nature is above any ideological conceptions. It is time to question to whom Gerardo was being loyal: the magnanimous Revolution or the assassins who gave the orders to end the lives of four of his fellow countrymen.

I ask myself: how is it that the cause of the 5 is so boasted about throughout Cuba and among all its committees of solidarity spread out through the world? Nothing can justify the events which occurred on February 24, 1996. It can only be called one thing: State-Sponsored Terrorism. The Cuban government lied, and will continue lying, in order to achieve impunity. I do not believe that the declarations made by Gerardo will make them change their position in any way.

Nevertheless, the assassination of the four Cubans is heavily weighing on the government’s shoulders, especially on the shoulders of the Castro brothers: the ailing Commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, and the President of the State Council, who are the same person. Perhaps this is why he did not publicly attend the inauguration of the new Brazilian president.

Up to not so very long ago, there was only one man who was willing to pay for him. Twelve years ago, the historic leaders had promised him that he would return, despite the fact that he was being sentenced by the American courts to a life sentence for planning an assassination.

We must acknowledge that they did try absolutely everything. For each one of these spies, they jailed 15 dissidents, to simply use them as trading currency later. Desperate or not, Gerardo grew tired of waiting and decided to fight for the most prized possession of any human being — freedom.

One week later, the people of Cuba do not know the disturbing confessions made by the chief spy of the Wasp Network in Miami. It’s as if nothing has occurred, despite how transcendental his declaration was. It seems that the star which represents the 5 will remain intact for some time, despite the fact that one of its tips has shattered.”

– Laritza Diversent

“The last thing that should be lost is hope”

Born in Havana in 1980, Laritza Diversent, like all the other alternative Cuban bloggers, writes in her blog with much passion and dedication, but her specific work occupies a very special spot in the world of Cuban independent journalism.  As a Law graduate from the University of Havana, Laritza incorporates her ample knowledge of the Cuban legal system to educate her fellow compatriots, the everyday Cubans, about their rights as citizens.  In this manner, Laritza has become a real obstacle for the totalitarian government of the Castros, simply because of her intelligence.  That is exactly how she singles out just which laws are being violated and/or ignored.  She divides her time between writing for her blog, “Laritza’s Laws”, as well as for “Cubanet” and “From Havana”.  She also offers legal assistance and consolations to her friends, neighbors, or anyone who needs help.

Laritza belongs to a generation that has been lied to and robbed of its civil liberties, yet she still harbors hope for the future of her island nation.  With lots of sacrifice and work, she assumes the role of mother, wife, lawyer, independent journalist, and blogger.  Straight from Cuba, here is her story:

When did you begin your work as an independent journalist?

I began in May 2007.  I titled my first work “Is there a president in the Cuban Republic?”  I had lots of questions and anxieties that I wanted to express.  They were doubts that were piercing my thoughts.  With my legal education I began to realize that everyday reality did not match my studies.  I reflected on these differences on paper; I remember that I did so first with a portable typewriter (Royal brand). I have no idea what year it is from.  I only know that it is old and that I still have it with me.  My first reader was the independent journalist Odelin Alfonso, whom I was friends with.  He suggested that I send my work to Cubanet and so I did.  From the beginning, my writings were received well, and to this day I still collaborate with that website, due to its level of excellence within the independent Cuban press.

Why did you choose to open a blog as your means of communication?  Do you think the Internet and blogs are effective tools to combat the social and political repression which exists in Cuba?

The blog gave me the opportunity to engage in a closer debate with my readers.  From the beginning, I wished for my work to focus on legal affairs, all the while knowing the limiting factor that legal subjects are of little interest and are virtually unknown in Cuba.  With my blog I could inform myself about which topics draw an interest in Cuba, and in that manner I could expose just how these laws are carried out in our society.  It has proven to be of much use to me both as a lawyer and as a journalist.

I believe that the Internet is an effective tool to exert pressure on the government and to somewhat paralyze its repressive actions.  With the Internet there are no frontiers or silences.  The possibilities that it offers to Cubans are immeasurable, especially because of the fact that it can shape international opinion and create pressure which, as we have come to know, forces the government to give in.  Today, those who run this country could not ignore anything that they have done if it has been published on the Internet.  They may brag or go off on tangents about how they don’t accept pressure or blackmail, but sooner or later they will be obliged to respond.  I think that the Internet has become the Achilles’ heel of the government.  It’s something that they do not have the capacity to control.

Do you keep your identity as a blogger a secret among your friends and acquaintances?  If they know that you are a blogger, what are their reactions?  Do you feel that you are in danger because you are a blogger and an independent journalist?

Sadly, few Cubans know about the term “blogger”.  In fact, every time I tell anyone that I have a blog I have to explain what it is.  I would say that 25% of the people I know have a computer, while only 10% of those have Internet access.  And when they have accessed the net it has been solely to communicate with relatives who live outside the country.  That’s my reality.  I live in a peripheral and marginal neighborhood of the capital, El Calvario (The Calvary), in Arroyo Naranjo, which is the poorest municipality of the province.  The people who know me know that I am a dissident and commonly refer to us as the “human rights people”.  I don’t have a problem with that or with them.  As for now, I have not felt any sense of rejection.  On the contrary, they actually approach me to ask for legal advice.

Anyone who publicly dissents in the country runs risks, though.  You don’t know when they [the government] will randomly beat you or detain you for 6 hours in a dungeon, or when they will commence a penal process against you for whatever reason- an argument with your mother or your neighbor, buying something through the black market, or any reason at all is enough for them to apply the law rigorously and arbitrarily against you.  Every single time you step out of your house, that fear lingers in the back of your mind.  It’s a lie to say that we don’t feel fear, but that fear is what liberates you.  You don’t beg for freedom, you just use it.

Which methods do you use to be able to access the Internet?

I have a fixed shift, 2 hours per week in the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, which is the only place that offers free Internet access for any Cuban resident, without distinctions or ideologies.  I manage to get additional access through hotels, by paying 8 CUC per hour for a Wi-Fi connection.

Would you consider your salary to be sufficient for raising your child/children?

I don’t receive any salary.  I don’t work for the state, precisely because the salary which they offer is insufficient, and I would spend (on transportation and food) more than what they gave me.  I also do not have any work contract with anyone.  I receive some recompense for my intellectual work, just like any author does for their work.  With that money, I help to keep up my house and to maintain my son (the essentials he needs in order to live and grow).  My blog does not give me any sort of economic benefits, but it is my passion and a hobby which I feel I cannot stop.  It’s my means of expression.

Have you always disagreed with the Cuban governmental system?

I was always apathetic towards anything political.  I would take part in some events because I had to, but never to the point of actually becoming motivated by it or for it. I wouldn’t go to the extent of meetings, positions, joining the Union of Young Communists, or taking part in the marches.  Every single time I had the chance to get out of any of these things, I did.  Though I do remember that they would actually collect the names of those who participated in order to accumulate political points for the moment of their graduation.  It wasn’t until I entered the university that I started to question everything.  I wouldn’t do it before; I would just give up and accept my penuries as being products of my destiny or simply bad luck.

What would you say about the Cuban youth?  Would you say that they are desperate or that they truly just do not care about the situation their country is facing?

The Cuban youth are simply the reflection of our national reality.  The new generations grew up under the scarcities of the Special Period.  They are very incredulous (no ideology) and carry the stain of pessimism and feel that nothing can be done.  They are fueled by opportunism, double morals, and egoism.  Like we say here, they relate to the sayings of “my things come first” and “get out of my way to let me through”.  Those are the slogans which they inherited from our predecessors.  They don’t have an education of rigor and are overtaken by social and economic problems.  They are at a disadvantage- although they’d like to think of the common well-being, they can’t.  There is no space or opportunity available for them, and they can’t count on the communication media.  Newer generations around the world have these information technologies at their disposal and manage them effectively, but the Cuban youth do not have access to the means necessary to develop themselves through these outlets.  They are born out of frustration and are the new fruit, the new man.  Years will pass until the Cuban youth become conscious and feel obligated to assume responsibility for their reality.

You have been detained by State Security; what were the reasons for your detention and what were your experiences like?

I’ve had multiple encounters with State Security.  From the moment I decided to become an independent journalist they assigned an agent to me.  That person was young, actually, and would periodically visit me.  Sometimes, they would tell me that they knew everything that I was doing, which was a form of saying we have you controlled and you are being watched. Other times they would claim to be “advising” me that they would not allow me to attend an opposition event, which they supposedly knew I would be attending.  The way they treat me has not been the same that they treat other dissidents.  They have been very cautious with their vocabulary towards me.  The warnings they sent me about their operations were actually gentle because they wanted to avoid forcing me to travel all the way to where they were. They avoided using any threats or aggressive language because they are aware that doing so would have been a violation of the Penal Code.  I am certain that the difference in treatment towards me is because of my legal knowledge.

One of their strategies has been to interfere with my personal life.  I am married, and on one occasion they cited my husband in order to try to evoke feelings of jealousy in him.  I warned them that next time I would denounce them for violating my family intimacy.  After that incident, they officially cited me, and I still have the document in my possession.  The interview was scheduled to take place in a police station but they later transferred me to a guest-house in a solitary neighborhood.  My experience was not pleasant- imagine arguing alone against three agents of State Security, one of them being the Chief of Section 21 (in charge of political affairs) while they were defending the revolution and I was arguing against it.  They were in their domain, and I had a great fear that they were recording all of my answers to later edit them and publish them at their convenience.  My level of stress increased, but I remained calm.

Would you say that you fear for yourself and your family?

Yes, the fear is constant.  One can’t underestimate the repressive machine that is the government.  They very well could create any sort of legal process and take you to jail, since all of the media is run by them and they do not have any qualms.  I recognize my defenselessness in such a case, but not because I am afraid of another human being.  My name and my face on the Internet give me a little bit of protection but that doesn’t reach my family.  They could do anything to them as a way of trying to affect my work.

Why did you choose to study law in a totalitarian country?  Do you feel that there is a future for your career?

When I chose my career, I was not entirely convinced that I lived under a totalitarian system.  I came to grips with that concept after I began my legal studies, and it was then that I applied it. I enjoy learning about laws, but after having studied them for a while, I realized that I had chosen this profession in the wrong country.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a future as a legal professional.  The legal system is designed only to protect the interests of the political class, not to protect the citizens.

Would you say that there have been any changes in the legal system since Raul Castro took power?

None.  On the contrary, they tend to consolidate their interests through the instrumentation of legal dispositions.  One example is the creation of the operative system which is completely subordinate to the State Council.  The anti-corruption control only affects those who are interested.

Is there an actual law in Cuba that prohibits the use of the Internet?

No, what happens is that the material conditions necessary to allow all Cubans to access the Internet are not present.  On another hand, the State fully controls the minor access according to its interests, and the rest is a struggle for the citizens.

What does the official mass media say about the generations of Cubans prior to the revolution?

They consider them anti-Cuban terrorists who are mobsters at the service of the US.  But the perception has changed among the people, although some still use the governmental terms from time to time.  The government appeals to nationalistic sentiment in order to attack them:  “They want to return us to colonialism or annex us to the empire”.  The rhetoric is very worn out and can easily be classified as “politics”, which is not accepted by a large portion of the citizens.

Do you have any messages you’d like to share with the readers of your blog and for the Cubans residing in exile?

I’d like to tell them that here in Cuba, we count on them.  We count on their experiences in a world where democracy has functioned to help reconstruct our country.  The task is not easy, but together we can do it.  One day Cuba will belong to all Cubans.

Do you feel optimistic about Cuba’s future?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  Perhaps it’s because of the desperation which we are so familiar with as young people.  I do not see any advances with guarantees for progress.  I feel that we are in a vicious cycle; sometimes we take a step forward, and other times we take two steps back.  I can’t help but feel pessimistic at times.  But I continue onward with my struggle, because the last thing that should be lost is hope.