Insane man's death in police custody leads to riots
Ciego de Ávila, Cuba. December 22. (Tico Morales, APLA/www.cubanet.org) – Madrigal was officially insane and one of the best liked residents of the municipality, so when he ended up dead as police were trying to subdue him during his latest, and last, episode of insanity, people rioted.
It all started when Madrigal took all his clothes off and sauntered down the street. Inexplicably, the social workers did not come to his aid. Instead, police beat him with truncheons, and as they were trying to handcuff him, Madrigal was asphixiated.
A crowd quickly gathered and a near riot ensued. The local party secretary had to make an appearance and managed to calm tempers by announcing the destitution of the police chief.
Later, during Madrigal's funeral, family and others in attendance again started with police, this time pelting them with whatever projectiles they were able to find in the cemetery.
Phone company announces campaign against vandalism
Havana, Cuba. December 22. (José Antonio Fornaris, Cuba-Verdad / www.cubanetg.org) - The state telephone company ETECSA has announced a public campaign aimed at eliminating vandalism. The campaign has been called "From my neighborhood defending what is ours."
"The damage to the phone net and to public services is a manifestation of antisocial attitudes by unscrupulous people. The program to contain and stamp out all attacks against the physical plant and public phones includes accords with the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the Popular Power (local government), the National Association of Small Farmers, the Ministry of Domestic Commerce, the National Police and the prosecutors, to care for our nets and to impede the trade with stolen materials, as well as to take severe measures against undesirable citizens who cause damages" reads the flyer issued by the phone company.
Street cave-ins due to leaks in water mains
Holguín, Cuba. December 23. (José Ramón Pupo, Holguín Press / www.cubanet.org) - Numerous water leaks emanating from the supply mains have caused cave ins to Juan G. Soto Street in Mayarí. The problem is most acute near the municipal hospital.
Water has been leaking since summer and municipal authorities have evidently been powerless to address the problem. Neighbors complain about the gullies which make navigating the street difficult.
Bakery under police custody to prevent pilferage
Ranchuelo, Cuba. December 23 (Félix Reyes Gutiérrez, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – Last week authorities erected a chain link fence around the La Nueva bakery in Ranchuelo and have posted six police officers on 24-hour duty on the premises to prevent the pilferage of flour, oil, and yeast.
La Nueva is the first of the eight bakeries in the municipality to see this increased regimen of vigilance. It has 20 employees and supplies bread and other baked goods for approximately 25,000 local consumers.
Unknowns burn propaganda posters
HAVANA, Cuba, December 19 (Lamasiel Gutiérrez, Isla Press / www.cubanet.org) – Someone torched some dozen government propaganda posters around Alamar in East Havana December 14, 15 and 16.
Police and personnel from the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution have been interviewing a number of suspects, without apparent results up to now.
Authorities also marshalled area residents to meetings to show their patriotism and perhaps find some clues as to the perpetrator of the burnings.
No one has been arrested yet.
No honeymoon for newlyweds
SANTA CLARA, Cuba, December 19 (Indiana Rojas, Centro de Prensa Marta Abreu / www.cubanet.org) – "Couples getting married in Santa Clara from this moment on don't have the right to a hotel room for their honeymoon," said Deinier Mena after marrying Yudania Rodríguez December 17.
The newlyweds said they did not get their one night hotel stay because the official who married them did not give them the paper authorizing it.
"All reservations for newlyweds have been suspended until further notice by order of the national government," the couple reported the official said.
After having waited in line all night for one of the four daily marriage allocations, the couple said they were not able to spend their wedding night at a hotel in the city.
A vote for Radio Martí / Juan Carlos González Leiva
HAVANA, Cuba, December 18 (www.cubanet.org) – State Security has started another campaign against Radio Martí because...
Anti-government poster in school washroom
MORÓN, Cuba, December 16 (Kallan Poe, APLA / www.cubanet.org) – A poster reading "Down with Fidel!" was found last week in a washroom of the Alfredo Álvarez Mola secondary school in Morón.
News of the poster had quickly spread throughout the student body.
Political police erased the words and started an investigation.
New judicial association formed
HAVANA, Cuba, December 15 (José Antonio Fornaris, Cuba-Verdad / www.cubanet.org) – A group of lawyers has announced the creation of an independent organization named Cuban Juridical Association (Asociación Jurídica Cubana.
"One of the inescapable immediate first steps is to contribute to the slow but progressive establishment in the country of an authentic State of Law," the association said in a press release.
The associate said that it will educate the Cuban people about the State of Law and will give free advice to the public.
The association's president, Wilfredo Vallín Almeida, said members will give legal support to parties opposed to the government.
Dissident imprisoned a year without a trial
HAVANA, Cuba, December 11 (Reinaldo Cosano Alén, Sindical Press / www.cubanet.org) – Dissident Vladimir Alejo Miranda, 45, has spent a year in prison without trial after being arrested for carrying a homemade sign demanding the release of political prisoners.
Miranda's wife, Rita María Montes de Oca, said he was arrested December 2, 2007 in the Guanabacoa Park. "He was taken to the municipal police station where he was beaten," she said. "Since there were no grounds for his jailing, he was accused of defaming the authorities and the figure of the Commander in Chief."
Miranda is president of the Miguel Valdés Tamayo Human Rights Movement.
Head of women's federation beaten by police
HABANA, Cuba, December 10 (Belinda Salas Tápanes / www.cubanet.org) - Belinda Salas Tápanes, president of the Cuban branch of the Latin American federation of Rural Women, and three other dissidents were attacked by eight policemen on Tuesday.
The four were on a street in the Vedado section when two police cruisers pulled up and the officers started to beat Salas Tápanes, Marlene Bermúdez, her husband, Roberto Marrero, and Lázaro Joaquín Alonso. The dissidents said the police did not speak to them.
The quartet were placed in the two cruisers, but Salas Tápanes was pushed out of a moving car, breaking a hand. She surmised she was not taken away because she is a resident of the capital while the others live in the interior of Cuba.
Alonso suffered a cut to his mouth while Bermúdez and her husband had bruises. Her blouse was ripped off, as was that of Salas Tápanes.
Police search home of dissident
HOLGUÍN, Cuba, December 9 (José Ramón Pupo Nieves, Holguín Press / www.cubanet.org) – Dissident Maikel Osorio says his home in Santiago de Cuba was searched by National Police officers last week while he was out buying food to take to a jailed political prisoner.
Osorio said there were a "disproportionate" number of officers who showed a search warrant to his wife and mother on December 5. He said they seized 30 packs of cigarettes he planned to take to Luis Mariano Delís when he next visited him in prison.
As they were leaving, one of the officers told Osorio's mother that she had a counter-revolutionary for a son and he was expected at police headquarters.
Store shelves are empty in Holguín
HOLGUÍN, Cuba, December 9 (Juan Carlos Reyes Ocaña, Holguín Press / www.cubanet.org) - Almost all the agricultural markets in Holguín, both state-run and campesino-run, lack foodstuffs.
During a visit this reporter made December 5 to the markets, he found a shortage of meat, fruits and vegetables in the majority of them.
This shortage has prompted many residents of Holguín to increase their consumption of rice.
Prisoner beaten over pet cat
HOLGUÍN, Cuba, December 9 (Juan Carlos Reyes Ocaña, Holguín Press / www.cubanet.org) – Political prisoner Armando Alcántara says he was beaten by guards when he refused to give them the pet cat he had raised from infancy.
After the beating, Alcantára said he placed in solitary confinement for 17 days and his wounds went untreated.
Alcántara, a member of the 30 of November Democratic Party, is serving a 12-year sentence for anti-government activities.
Dissident warned he could be imprisoned
HAVANA, Cuba, December 8 (Aini Martín Valero, Agencia Libre Asociada / www.cubanet.org) – Dissident Ismael Sauvanell Alarcón was warned by police he could be charged with a disposition to commit crime and be imprisoned.
A police agent took Sauvanell Alarcón into custody and obliged him to him to sign a statement that he was unemployed and had to find a job within 30 days or run the risk of being charged under a law that permits the state to imprison anyone who hasn't committed a crime but is a potential danger to society.
The law is commonly used to arrest and imprison dissidents.
A dissident is attacked in his home
RANCHUELO, Cuba, December 8 (Félix Reyes Gutiérrez, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – Someone set fire to the home of dissident Wilfredo Álvarez García, who was injured by a hurled rock when he went outside to investigate.
According to neighbor Pedro Larena Ibáñez, an independent librarian, Álvarez García was awakened at 4 a.m. on December 3 when someone set fire to the wooden door of his home in Aguada de Pasajeros, Cienfuegos.
Álvarez García, a member of the Independent Alternative Option Movement, suffered an injury below his right eye and was treated at a local hospital. He made a report to police afterwards.
Independent journalist untreated in prison
SANTA CLARA, Cuba, December 8 (Guillermo Fariñas, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – Oscar Sánchez Madan, imprisoned spokesman for the Independent Alternative Option Movement, is not receiving treatment for his ailments, according to reports from the Combinado del Sur prison.
Sánchez Madan suffers from bleeding hemorrhoids and an inflamed left knee. He last received medical attention December 2 when guards jokingly told him, "We're not doctors. They'll have to send to Miami for one to look after you."
He was sentenced in April of 2007 to three years in prison on charges he was a danger to society.
Hurricane victim threatened
HOLGUÍN, Cuba, December 3 (Juan Carlos Reyes Ocaña, Holguín Press / www.cubanet.org) – Dissident Magalys Pareta Reyes, a victim of the recent hurricanes that hit the island, said she was threatened by police for voicing her opinions.
Pareta said she was told to appear at the headquarters of the Department of State Security in Holguín by officer Edisbel Velázquez. Once there, she said, another agent who said his name is Máximo berated her for her public criticism of the government and government personnel.
Pareta replied she lost her home to hurricane Ike in September and government officials haven't allowed her to buy construction materials to rebuild. She said she has applied for permission to buy the materials at all levels of government.
"Besides," she said, "two pounds of rice and a few ounces of fish do not constitute humanitarian aid, and that's what the government sells to hurricane victims."
Pareta is an activist in the Claridad human rights movement.
Government opponent's mother harassed
HOLGUÍN, Cuba, December 3 (Juan Carlos Reyes Ocaña, Holguín Press / www.cubanet.org) – Former political prisoner Lorenzo García Rodríguez denounced the dirty tricks used by police collaborators to psychologically destabilize his mother.
García said for months now his 67-year-old mother's home has been systematically vandalized by unknowns who strike at night. He said they knock loudly at all hours, stone and throw urine on the building, and place offensive signs on the wall.
On November 23, someone tore off the door a poster that advertised a Catholic congress, he said.
"These methods have a psychological effect on my mother," he said. "I am convinced this is a campaign of psychological terror directed by the Department of State Security on account of my activism in favor of human rights.
Librarian held for three days by State Security
RANCHUELO, Cuba, November 25 (Félix Reyes Gutiérrez, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – Independent librarian Pedro Larena Ibáñez was detained by State Security agents for three days last week.
Larena Ibáñez said that on the morning of November 17 agent Vladimir Castillo came to his house and took him to State Security in Cienfuegos. There, Major Franky Pérez told him the books he stocked in his library were subversive that he was a mercenary because he received aid from abroad.
Larena Ibáñez held in a cell with three armed robbery suspects until the evening of November 19, when he was released.
Police pick up panhandlers
RANCHUELO, Cuba, November 24 (Félix Reyes Gutiérrez, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – Early in the morning of November 18, police picked up panhandlers and other homeless denizens of Havana's La Coubre bus terminal, according to a traveler who was present.
Niurka Reyes said she was getting ready to travel to Villa Clara when about ten police came into the station along with an official from the Public Health department and loaded all the panhandlers into patrol cars.
A little later more police came and woke up about 20 homeless who were sleeping in several corners of the station and loaded them onto a bus.
The destitute from Havana were interned at the La Colina rehabilitation center in Boyeros and those from the provinces were sent back to their place of origin.
Coachmen warned not to transport dissidents
SANTA CLARA, Cuba, November 24 (Yoel Espinosa Medrano, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – The police chief in Santa Clara called coachmen in the city to a meeting and warned them not to transport dissidents or risk losing their licenses.
The chief, lieutenant colonel Francisco Darias, told those holding licenses to operate horse-drawn carriages that dissidents use their conveyances to attend anti-government demonstrations.
"Darias threatened to take away our licenses and to confiscate our carts and horses if we rendered service to the human rights people," said one coachman who was present.
Police raid human rights press office
HAVANA, Cuba, November 17 (Tania Maceda Guerra / www.cubanet.org) - Political police agents closed the information center of the Cuban Human Rights Council office last week, according to the group's executive secretary, Juan Carlos González Leiva.
González said the government was trying to prevent the council from producing its year-end report of human rights violations in Cuba. He said the report would include more than 1,200 arrests of dissidents, the sentencing of 60 opponents of the government and the deaths of more than 70 prisoners.
He said the police destroyed equipment in the office during their raid November 12.
Police prevent meeting of dissidents
HAVANA, Cuba, November 17 (Iván Sañudo, Agencia Libre Asociada / www.cubanet.org) – State Security agents prevented dissidents from attending a meeting in the Havana municipality of Regla last week.
Some 30 agents surrounded the home of pacifist Gladis Escandell on November 13 so that dissidents Deysi Lázara Suárez, Jesús Emilio Figueroa and others could not cross the street to attend a planned meeting.
Police crack down on private vendors
SANTA CLARA, Cuba, November 17 (Guillermo Fariñas, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – Police in cars and on motorcycles descended on Santa Clara's main boulevard on November 12 in an operation aimed at illegal street vendors.
From a vantage point on the roof of the Cubanacán theater police were able to identify suspected vendors and order their arrest.
The first secretary of the Communist party in Santa Clara, Omar Ruiz Martín, said on radio, "We are going to take these drastic measures against unauthorized vendors and other such stronger in order to make Santa Clara's boulevard more dignified."
Officials seize journalist's food shipment
RANCHUELO, Cuba, November 14 (Félix Reyes, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – State Security agents in Cienfuegos confiscated a shipment of food from overseas addressed to independent journalist Alejandro Tur Valladares.
TRASVAL, a state transportation firm, had taken the shipment by truck to Tur's home, but since there was no one there to receive it, a notification was left saying he should pick it up the following day at the company's offices or lose it.
When Tur showed up, he was told that he had to provide his own truck to take the shipment home. But when he left, he was stopped by state agents who told him that his documentation lacked a seal and he should not have been given the shipment.
Trur said that soon trucks driven by state agents arrived and took drove off with his shipment.
Dissidents expelled from city of Fomento
SANTA CLARA, Cuba, November 14 (Daymi Sánchez, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) - Two State Security agents forced Bárbara Viera and her husband, José Ramón Borges, to return to Sancti Spiritus from the city of Fomento, where they planned to attend a family meeting.
According to Viera, a member of the Pro Human Rights Party (Partido Pro Derechos Humanos), she and her husband were en route to her brother's home November 10 when they were stopped.
Before being out on a bus to return home, she told the agents that she had to first pick up her two young children, who were staying with relatives. She said the agents warned her that she could lose her rights to the children if she continued anti-government activities.
Viera said their expulsion from Fomento was probably due to a breakfast she and her husband had attended in Sancti Spíritus in support of striking prisoners.
Students boycott school because of poor food
SANTA CLARA, Cuba, November 14 (Yoel Espinosa, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – A group of students at the Celia Sánchez Manduley school in Santa Clara have refused to attend classes for the past two weeks to protest what they say is bad food being served them.
"I chose to prepare my son's lunch but they stopped that on the grounds that not all the parents could do that," said the mother a fourth grader Alexander Pérez.
Some parents took their complaints to school officials, but they said the menu remains unchanged.
The protesting students were mainly from the lower grades. The student body totals nearly 1,000 students.
Prisoner of conscience released from prison
HAVANA, Cuba, November 13 (Tania Maceda Guerra / www.cubanet.org) - Prisoner of conscience Conrado Rodríguez Suárez completed his prison sentence of three years in the Taco-Taco prison in Pinar del Río and was released October 31.
A human rights activist, Rodríguez, 57, was sentenced November 2, 2005, as a danger to society. He's president of the Máximo Gómez National Civic Movement (Movimiento Cívico Nacional Máximo Gómez).
His niece, Rosa Rodríguez Suárez, says his health deteriorated in prison but that he's happy to be back home.
Bus drivers accused of pocketing fares
HAVNA, Cuba, November (Leafar Pérez / www.cubanet.org) – More than 30 urban bus drivers have been arrested and accused of stealing part of the fares they collected.
The arrests stem from an investigation begun in mid-September. At that time, hidden cameras were placed in buses without the knowledge of drivers and spot checks of fares were made by inspectors.
The drivers were either fired or jailed following trials. There was no indication of the length of their sentences.
More than 100 buses are now out of service because of a shortage of drivers.
Dissident lawyer threatened with prison
HAVANA, Cuba, November 12 (Juan Carlos González Leiva / www.cubanet.org) - José Carlos Alonso, a member of an association of independent lawyers and of the Cuban Human Rights Council, was arrested and released following a warning that he will be jailed if he continues his dissident activities.
Alonso said his home in the province of Ciego de Ávila is under constant surveillance by State Security agents.
He said he has been picked up by police many times over the past three months and was once fined 1,000 pesos. He is forbidden to leave the province.
Six dissidents detained in Guantánamo City
HOLGUÍN, Cuba, November 12 (José Ramón Pupo Nieves, Holguín Press / www.cubanet.org) – Six pacifist dissidents were arrested by political police last week in the city of Guantánamo.
According to Jorge Corrales Ceballos, the arrests took place November 5 when the dissidents were in front of the home of political prisoner Yordi García Fournier.
Agregó Corrales Ceballos que la detención la dirigió un oficial del Ministerio del Interior nombrado "Anael". Los activistas fueron conducidos en un automóvil hasta el cuartel policial conocido como Parque 24, donde permanecieron hasta el siguiente día.
Three of those arrested were later released and deported to their home province. The local dissidents were also released.
State markets have empty shelves
HAVANA, Cuba, November 12 (Leafar Pérez / www.cubanet.org) – Two months after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike hit Cuba, there are long lines at state markets in the capital but few foodstuffs are on sale.
Salespersons in the markets say they regulate the prices and the quantities that each person can buy, but that the meats and vegetables available are insufficient to meet the demand.
High school students riot over living conditions
RANCHUELO, Cuba, November 10 (Félix Reyes Gutiérrez, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – More than 50 live-in grade 10 students broke windows in a dormitory and destroyed mattresses last week in a protest over living conditions.
Four students were expelled and State security agents and national police who were called to the scene at the Miguel A Pedroso pre-university school at Ranchuelo, in Villa Clara province, November 4 questioned 20 students and took their fingerprints.
The students painted the words "whoever enters here will be stabbed" on the main door and the word "Danger" in English.
The student body numbers 400.
Pacifist denied government job
PINAR DEL RÍO, Cuba, November 10 (Rafael Ferro / www.cubanet.org) – Labor ministry officials in the municipality of Consolación del Sur have rejected a job application from pacifist Felipe Gil, a member of the opposition People's Party (Partido del Pueblo).
"I don't know where else to seek work," he said. "I'm prepared to work as a carpenter or bricklayer. I have all of my papers in order and the only reason the authorities allege is the fact I'm opposed to the government."
Officials deny dissidents employment in state businesses dominated as key, such as tourism, construction and military institutions.
Independent journalist arrested
HAVANA, Cuba, November 7 (Víctor Manuel León / www.cubanet.org) – State Security agents arrested independent journalist Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez on Wednesday after he had left the U.S. Interests Section, where he had attended a videoconference workshop.
Guerra Pérez was accompanied at the time by ex-political prisoner Roberto de Miranda Hernández, who reported the incident. The independent journalist had participated in a workshop on libraries given by Georgetown University.
This was the second detention in a week of an independent journalist following a workshop at the Interests Section. Ismaris Salomón was detained after a workshop on journalism given by Florida International University.
Dissidents detained in Santiago de Cuba
SANTIAGO DE CUBA, Cuba, November 7 (Juan Carlos Hernández / www.cubanet.org – State Security agents detained Luis García Pérez (Antúnez) and several other dissidents who had attended a meeting in a private home on Wednesday.
The meeting was held in the home of Denia Rodríguez, national coordinator of the People's party (Partido del Pueblo).
The arrests were made in the street after the attendees left the house.
Windows broken in a private library
RANCHUELO, Cuba, November 7 (Félix Reyes Gutiérrez, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – A group of youths broke the windows of the Alberto Villafaña Library in Ranchuelo, Villa Clara on Monday.
According to Mario González López, who lives near the library, the youths kicked in the Windows alter leaving a night club around 2 a.m.
Two pacifist brothers detained by police
HOLGUÍN, Cuba, November 6 (José Ramón Pupo Nieves, Holguín Press / www.cubanet.org) - Dissident pacifists Rolando and Néstor Rodríguez Lovaina were arrested by police Tuesday, according to another activist.
Jorge Corrales said the brothers were in the home of another pacifist when political police agents arrived. He said the pair was put in a car and taken to a police station.
Néstor and Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina are directors of two dissident organizations, the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy (Movimiento Cubano Jóvenes por la Democracia) and the eastern Democratic Alliance (Alianza Democrática Oriental).
Prisoner denied transfer for health reasons
RANCHUELO, Cuba, November (Félix Reyes Gutiérrez, Cubanacán Pres / www.cubanet.org) – The mother of a political prisoner says authorities are refusing to transfer her son to another prison nearer home, even though he is ill.
Esperanza Rivero Álvarez says her son, Pedro Pedrosa Rivero, has been trying for three months to be transferred from the Agüica, which is 200 kilometers from his home, making it difficult for her to visit him.
Pedrosa Rivero, 43, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for illegal entry into Cuba. He has four children who live in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Coachmen Go on Strike in Morón
MORÓN, Cuba, November 5 (José Manuel Caraballo Bravo, APLA /
(www.cubanet.org) – Coachmen in Morón have gone on strike to protest an increase on fees charged them by the municipal government.
The coachmen have been on strike since last weekend.
On Sunday, however, the strikers say there were some unlicensed coachmen in horse-drawn carriages picking up passengers in the city.
Teacher Is Fired for Meeting With Dissidents
HAVANA, Cuba, November 5 (Juan Carlos González Leiva / www.cubanet.org) -
A fourth-grade teacher was dismissed from her job after having attended a meeting with dissidents.
Mirelis Guerra Toyo said she was arrested by State Security officers and told she could not continue teaching on accoung of her counterrevolutionary ideas. The next day, she said, the director of the Jesús Suárez Gayol primary school where she worked told her she would not be allowed to continue to teach her forth grade students, and that her separation from the job would be officially listed as "due to unjustified absences."
Guerra said she had attended a meeting of the Cuban Human Rights Foundation.
Partial collapse at government opponent's home
HAVANA, Cuba, November 5 (Aini Martín Valero, Agencia Libre Asociada / www.cubanet.org) – Government opponent Jesús Emilio Hernández said part of the roof and walls at his home collapsed November 1 because the government will not allow him to buy building materials to make necessary repairs.
"One bedroom came down, but luckily nothing happened to either my mother or myself," said Hernández.
Hernández said he has been appealing to the municipal authorities in Regla, where he lives, for the last two years to allow him to buy building materials but he says they will not allocate the materials to him because he is an opponent.
In Cuba, the government has a monopoly on commerce and the only way to legally obtain building materials is through official channels.
Teacher fired for associating with dissidents
HAVANA, Cuba, November (Juan Carlos González Leiva / www.cubanet.org) – Fourth grade teacher Mirelis Guerra Toyo lost her job at the Jesús Suárez Gayol Primary School last week because she attended a meeting of the Cuban Human Rights Foundation.
State Security officers arrested her October 28 on the grounds she had counter-revolutionary ideas and could not longer teach.
The school's director later told her that she was not being fired for dissident views but for "unjustified absences" for the classroom.
Carriage drivers on strike
MORÓN, Cuba, November 5 (José Manuel Caraballo Bravo, APLA /
(www.cubanet.org) – Drivers of horse-drawn carriages went on strike in Morón over the weekend to protest a municipal government move to change the fare structure.
Due to the strike, some drivers who lacked licenses took to the streets picking up passengers without any reprisals from inspectors.
Woman fined for modeling dress for tourists
HAVANA, Cuba, November 4 (Aini Martín Valero, Agencia Libre Asociada / www.cubanet.org) -Ana Carolina Méndez Hernández, 69, was detained and fined for walking through Old Havana dressed as a colonial slave in hopes that tourists would pay her for posing for photos.
The government prohibits anyone from being an ambulatory salesperson, even just for tips. Méndez Hernández was stopped on Sunday and given a 150 pesos fine.
She said she doesn't know how she'll be the fine, the equivalent of an average salary for two weeks work.
She said the arresting officer told her, "We're going easy on you because you're 69 years old. You should be home with your family."
"If I stay at home, I go hungry," she said. "If I walk through a tourist area, some one always helps me."
Human rights group backs hunger strikers
HAVANA, Cuba, November 4 (Tania Maceda Guerra / www.cubanet.org) - The Cuban Human Rights Council (CRDHC) appealed last week to the international community to act on behalf of three political prisoners who are on hunger strikes.
"This is an appeal from the CRDHC for the lives of these brave brothers and all those who suffer the vengeance of the Cuban government," said CRDHC president Margarito Broche Espinosa.
Abel López Pérez, Orlando Zapata Tamayo and Julián Antonio Moné Borrero were described as being in weakened states.
Jailed activist says he has been forgotten
HAVANA, Cuba, November 4 (Juan Carlos González Leiva / www.cubanet.org) - Orestes Yumar Julién Gómez says he has been abandoned in the Nieves Morejón prision in Sancti Spíritus, even though he's in poor health.
"I was jailed for denouncing human rights violations committed by the police," he said in a telephone call October 30. "On the least expected day I will be found dead."
Yumar Julién Gómez, 32, is a member of the Cuban Human Rights Foundation.
Conjunctivitis epidemia affects prision
HAVANA, Cuba, November 4 (Tania Maceda Guerra / www.cubanet.org) – More than 150 prisoners have been affected by an outbreak of conjunctivitis at the Kilo 5 ½ Pirison in Pinar del Río, according to prisoner of conscience Nelson Molinet Espino.
Molinet, a member of the Group of 75 imprisoned in 2003, said last week that the military has moved those affected to a building that had been closed for repairs. He said the area lacks hygienic facilities and is a home to rats.
Diseases more prevalent in the Isle of Youth
HAVANA, November 3 (José Antonio Fornaris, Cuba-Verdad / www.cubanet.org) – Medical personnel are seeing more cases of diseases such as meningococcal encephalitis, leptospirosis, and conjunctivitis after hurricanes Ike and Gustav hit the Isle of Youth at the end of August, said a physician at Nueva Gerona hospital.
The doctor also said there has been an increase in heart attacks and "a significant number of patients with bouts of vomiting, but apparently that was due to canned meat that wasn't in the best condition," she said.
The Isle of Youth and Los Palacios, in Pinar del Rio province, were the hardest hit areas by the two hurricanes.
Workers protest change in proposed retirement age
HAVANA, Cuba, November 3 (Reinaldo Cosano Alén, Sindical Press / www.cubanet.org) – Workers in Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba province, made clear their disapproval of the proposed change in the retirement age from 60 to 65 years for men.
"At bus stops, in the markets, and at the work place, people are voicing their unhappiness with the proposed changes to the social security law that comes up for approval in January. Most cite poor working conditions, low salaries, and the existence of a double currency," said Raudel Ávila, an independent union activist.
One worker said: "I can't understand the concern with the new law, since it's all a game. The workers pretend they work, and the government pretends it pays them a salary."
Teacher suspended for strip poker game
SANTA CLARA, Cuba, November 3 (Yoel Espinosa Medrano, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – Teacher Damaris Tápanes was charged with corruption of minors after using a type of strip poker to teach sixth grade students.
The teacher at the Pepito Tey School in the Virginia district was suspended when one of the students told his parents that the losers in the game were forced to strip to their undergarments.
Tápanes, who has 20 years of teaching experience, is scheduled to appear before the Municipal Court of Santa Clara.
CASTRO’S TYRANNY AND THE HURRICANES
By Humberto (Bert) Corzo*
The category 4 Hurricane Gustav with 150 mph winds, which crossed Cuba on August 30, caused the greatest damage in Pinar de Rio. According to official reports, winds from the hurricane had occasional gusts of up to 212 mph.
So far only 19 hurt and injured have been reported, none seriously, that left in its wake the hurricane Gustav, according to official sources. Five fishermen who were missing since August 28 were found and rescued. The Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) had expressed concern that there has been no report by the authorities of the disappearance. Relatives of Jesus Valier reported his disappearance in the river Toa, Guantanamo, Sunday, August 31 after heavy rains provoked by hurricane Gustav in areas of the country's eastern region. In the official reports, no disappearances were reported.
It is unbelievable that there haven’t been fatalities due to accidents as a result of the hurricane, which is in contrasts with the 96 fatalities reported in the other Caribbean countries hit by Gustav.
Hurricane Gustav totally or partially destroyed 140,000 homes on Saturday August 30th in the western province of Pinar del Rio, 370 schools, hundreds of kilometers of electrical and telephone lines and destroyed many crops.
The category 2 Hurricane Ike with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph crossed Cuba from east to west during September 8 to 10. More than 200,000 structures were damaged by the hurricane, of which the official media reported 30,000 as total collapse. Experts affirm that at least 70 percent of the dwellings of Havana are in a precarious state.
So far there have been reported 7 deaths caused by Hurricane Ike. The official newspaper Granma reported that “the loss of seven lives ... not only were the direct result of the effects of Ike, but the lack of strict enforcement of the measures oriented by the system of Civil Defense.” The cynicism of the tyranny knows no bounds in attributing the occurrence of the deaths were due to the irresponsibility of the victims.
The regime has estimated the losses caused by hurricanes Dennis and Gustav at $ 5 billion dollars. Non-governmental sources estimated the losses at $ 10 billion dollars.
The U.S. government reiterated its offer of aid to Cuba on September 10. “The Cuban government rejected on September 6 our initial offer to send a team to assess damage caused by Hurricane 'Gustav', but our proposal still stands after Hurricane 'Ike'”, explained the State Department in a press release.
The regime criticized it, claiming that the assessment team was an unnecessary pretext and requested a temporary lifting of the embargo. The Secretary of Commerce Gutierrez explained that lifting the embargo, even temporarily, requires congressional approval.
On September 15, the U.S. government disclosed that the Cuban government rejected $5 million dollars to assist victims of the hurricanes, despite eliminating the requirement to send an assessment team.
September 17 in the "Reflections of Fidel", the official response of the regime noted that what the country really needed was the approval of credits to purchase building materials.
In this reflection Castro said: “the dignity of a people has no price” and later “Those in our country who are upset about that are totally mistaken”, in obvious reference to the regime's decision of not accepting the aid of the United States. According to him dignity is more important than helping the victims when they need it most. The last thing on his mind is the welfare of the Cuban people.
His real intention is to use the disasters caused by the hurricanes as an opportunity to extract concessions from the U.S. government, such as suspension of the trade embargo and authorizing loans and credit lines that will not be paid and the American taxpayers will be the ones who have to pay the debts, at the same time that the dictatorship does not make any concession.
The Cuban regime has not responded to the latest unconditional free offer from
Washington on September 19 to send $6.3 million in construction materials and shelters to some 48,000 people victims of the hurricanes. “Our most recent offer was a direct response to the request of the Cuban government for building materials”, Gutierrez explained.
“It's hard to understand -- hard -- how they put politics ahead of suffering,”' U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said in a phone interview with The Miami Herald on Monday September 22. The regime has rejected three previous offers, and has not responded to the latest. United States is the first supplier of food and humane aid to Cuba and number two in sending money.
On September 24, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the inclusion of $ 100 million to help victims of hurricanes and reconstruction assistance to Haiti and other Caribbean nations. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has allocated $30 million in emergency aid to Haiti so far. For sure the help that it had been assigned to Cuba would be much more than the $ 30 million earmarked for Haiti, since the United States would speed up, during a period of 90 days, the processing of applications for assistance.
Castro estimated at $ 1,400 million the losses caused by the category 3 hurricane Dennis which crossed Cuba on July 8, 2005, and damaged more than 120,000 dwellings. The swellings of the rivers exceeded those that occurred during hurricane Flora.
A university professor and researcher of the economic sector admitted to the The New Herald that “the disaster estimates seem incomplete in consideration with the images views”
Despite the magnitude of the disaster, Castro said he doesn’t accept any help offered by
United States and the European Union to mitigate the damages caused by the hurricane.
Nevertheless on September 5, 2005 Castro offered to send a brigade of 1586 Cuban doctors to the United States to take care of the victims of Hurricane Katrina. His hypocrisy doesn’t have limits.
The United States thanked but turned down Cuba's offer to send about 1,600 doctors to tend to Hurricane Katrina victims because enough American doctors have volunteered to take care of the victims.
Castro’s government estimated at $1,800 millions the losses caused by hurricane Michelle in 2001; at $1,223 million the losses caused by Charley and at $923 million those caused by Ivan in 2004. The damages caused by these hurricanes have been less catastrophic than those caused by Dennis.
The regime’s statistics have estimated the number of fatalities caused by hurricanes in: George 6, 1988, Irene 4, 1999, Michelle 5, 2001, Isidore 2 and Lili 1, 2002, Charley 5, 2004, Ivan 0, 2004, and Dennis 17, 2005.
Bulletins of the Agency of National Information (AIN) of Cuba during and after the passage of Ivan, announced between 8 and 12 inches of rain and a tide between 8 and 10 feet, with waves up to 20 feet high. The flooding of the rivers are very similar to those that occurred during Hurricane Flora, yet not a single loss of human life was reported.
These figures are of highly questionable veracity. The statistics are never exact reflection of the reality, and even lend themselves to manipulation. The statistics in the Castro tyranny are deliberately distorted for advertising purposes, manipulating or simply hiding the information, like in the statistics of deaths caused by Hurricane Flora, as is shown next:
Hurricane Flora caused havoc in Cuba. According to the Government statement 100 deaths were reported. Periódico Revolución, October of 1963.
Flora caused near 1,000 deaths. Speech by Fidel Castro May 27, 1969.
Hurricane Flora devastates Cuba: 1,159 corpses and numerous damages. Elmundo.com,
July 25, 2001.
A monument to remember the victims of Hurricane Flora, which killed more than
1, 200 Cubans. Juventud Rebelde, October 7, 2003.
The most deadly, however, was Flora in 1963, which left nearly 2,000 killed by the floods that occurred in the east of the island. Havana, September 13, 2004 (EFE).
The statistics of the Castro tyranny speak for themselves.
How many years must pass to really know the material losses and loss of human lives caused by the other hurricanes? The day is not far away when we can verify the veracity of these statistics.
* Humberto (Bert) Corzo was born in Cuba. In 1962 he graduated from University of Havana with a degree in Civil Engineering. Since coming to the United States in 1969, he established his residence in Los Angeles, California, where in 1972 he obtained the registration as a Professional Engineer. He has over forty five years of experience in the field of Structural Engineering. He is a Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Cuban-American Association of Civil Engineers.
Consumers Complain DVD Players Don't Last
SANTA CLARA, Cuba October 31 (Yoel Espinosa Medrano, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – Consumers in Santa Clara who bought DVD players in the dollar stores are complaining the machines break down with alarming frequency.
"This is theft, plain and simple," said one woman standing in front of the Cubalse repair shop at Marta Abreu and Juan Bruno Zayas Streets. "We paid 111CUC (approx. US $130) for these Philips brand DVD players assembled in Mexico, and they break down if you just look at them. The technicians patch them up, but that doesn't solve the problem, and when the guarantee expires after a year, you have to throw them away, because the repairs would cost more than a new one."
The players reportedly distort the image, show lines across the screen, lose color and sometimes don't read the DVDs at all. Often, consumers demand a refund, but they say the managers at the government-run stores refuse to issue them, telling buyers the units are guaranteed.
"The media say there are consumer protection agencies to work for the consumer, but you can't tell by me," said another irate consumer waiting outside the repair shop.
Armor for the Armed Forces
SANTA CLARA, Cuba, October 31 (Guillermo Fariñas, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – The Fabricio Aguiar Noriega factory in Santa Clara has been turning out armored bodies for military personnel carriers since October 20 after an urgent requisition from the Ministry of the Armed Forces.
According to sources inside the factory who requested to remain anonymous, the requisition is for 1,000 bodies for the all-terrain Soviet-built GAZ military vehicles, or their Chinese-made counterparts. These are used by the Special Troops Directorate of the Ministry.
The workers involved in the project have been warned not to talk about their work, and have been promised benefits similar to those received by employees under the Armed Forces management system.
The bodies are made in an isolated area of the factory and the operation is policed by military counter intelligence officers.
Reportedly, the first 25 bodies have already been shipped to be fitted with chassis and engines and armed with two machine guns at the Emilio Bárcenas Pier military facility in Havana.
Anti-Castro signs appear in factory
HAVANA, Cuba, October 30 José Antonio Fornaris, Cuba-Verdad / www.cubanet.org) – Two signs saying "Down with Fidel" showed up last week on walls inside a rubber factory in the municipality of San José de las Lajas in Havana province.
Employees said State Security agents went to the factory last Friday and took handwriting samples from dozens of workers, but no one was detained.
The Chenar Piña factory employs some 300 workers and produces tires and rubber boots, among other rubber products.
Housing for 200 families torn down
HOLGUÍN, Cuba, October 30 (Roberto de Jesús Guerra / www.cubanet.org) – Some 200 families in the poor Viales 8 neighborhood in the municipality of Moa were left homeless last week when authorities demolished their homes.
Wilfredo Legrá Frómeta, municipal delegate of the National Cuban Liberal Party (Partido Liberal Nacional Cubano), said the organizations participating in the operation included the Housing and Public Health Ministries, the Communist Party, the Federation of Cuban Women and the State Security and members of the national police force.
Legrá Frómeta said a party colleague, Darlan Henry Fuentes, refused to leave his home and, along with his wife and two minor daughters, was physically removed by police.
Public spurns government measures to curb peddlers
HAVANA, Cuba, October 28 (Lucas Garve, Fundación por la Libertad de Expresión / www.cubanet.org – Many are the comments overheard in the streets, and the vast majority condemn government measures to curb street peddlers who sell any manner of products, primarily food.
One can hear the comments from passersby, bus riders, all the same:
"They are going to smother people," said a fifty-year-old woman waiting in line to buy cabbage in a market with empty shelves. "It doesn't benefit anyone, because there's nothing to buy. I can't live on papaya and yams exclusively."
"They" being unspecified but widely understood to be the government, the authorities. There has always been a "they" in Cuba.
"Why don't they bring down the price of pork?" said one very old man.
"We are back 20 years; the scarcity of food, the constant threat, the persecution of anyone who is trying to sell something to make ends meet," said one black man.
"They have been carrying on in their corrupt ways for 50 years and they don't want someone to sell whatever he can produce or come up with, even if it may benefit the people," said one fortyish woman, who added that lately it has been harder to provide for her three children. She said she makes sweets at home to hawk on the streets, but now is afraid to continue due to the arrests and summary trials directed against anyone selling or transporting foodstuffs.
Warned against library workshops
HAVANA, Cuba, October (Roberto de Jesús Guerra / www.cubanet.org) - State Security agents warned two directors of the José Oropesa Hernández independent library last week not to hold political workshops in the library.
Lourdes Vidal Espinosa said she and José Ignacio Oropesa were given the warning by two agents from the Departamento de Seguridad del Estado (DSE). "One of the agents told José Ignacio that if he continued holding workshops on political organization in our library he would be brought to court and punished," she said.
The pair had been organizing a workshop to be led by José Antonio Madrazo Luna, director of the Center for Marketing and Political Publicity (Centro de Marketing y Publicidad Política) and Omayda Padrón Azcuy, director of the Reinaldo Bragado Bretaña independent library.
Two opposition groups consider uniting
PINAR DEL RÍO, Cuba, October 28 de (Rafael Ferro Salas / www.cubanet.org) – The Latin American Federation of Rural Women (FLAMUR) and the Melinda Gates Democratic Cuban Foundatiuon (Fundación Democrática Cubana "Melinda Gates") met recently to consider joining forces.
"We've always had the best of relations with the foundation," said FLAMUR coordinator Minerva Corbillón Pérez. "Now more than ever we have to work together to do what we can to help those most in need because of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
"Our province is in a disastrous state," she foundation president Josefa Salas said. "This is the moment to show our people the true face of those of us who have always been opposed to the regime in a pacific way."
State Security raids home of dissident
SANTA CLARA, Cuba, October 27 (Guillermo Fariñas, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – State Security agents recently raided the home of dissident Idania Yanes Contreras, arrested those in the house and tore down anti-government posters.
Those arrested were released after being warned that what they were doing was committing crimes of public disorder, disobedience, resistance and defamation.
Among posters taken down were ones saying "I don't cooperate with the dictatorship" and "Freedom for the enslaved people of Cuba."
Material was also taken from the Eusebio Peñalver Mazorra independent library located in the house.
Pacifist refuses military draft
RANCHUELO, Cuba, October (Félix Reyes Gutiérrez, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org ) – Opposition pacifist Ricardo Álvarez Sardiñas has been threatened with prison for refusing to join the military.
Human rights activist Pedro Larena Ibáñez said Álvarez Sardiñas, a member of the Alternative Option Independent Movement (Movimiento Independiente Opción Alternativa), rejected three draft notices to appear for a military committee.
recibió tres citaciones oficiales para comparecer ante el Comité Militar.
Alter presenting Álvarez Sardiñas with the third notice, a military officer named Hilo told the dissident that he would be imprisoned if he refused to appear before the committee.
"I defend my country against the regime that oppresses it and though I might go to prison, I will never be a member of any Communist army," Álvarez Sardiñas replied.
Arrested en route to Plaza of the Revolution
HAVANA, October 27 (Tania Maceda Guerra , www.cubanet.org)– A dozen members of the Central Opposition Coalition (Coalición Central Opositora) were arrested October 24 when they tried to reach Plaza of the Revolution to protest actions of the political police.
Those arrested were identified as Carlos Michael Morales Rodríguez, Ernesto Medero Arrozarena, Iris Pérez Aguilera, Alcides Rivera Rodríguez, Fidel Mojena Rivera, Raúl Velásquez Valdés, Loreto Hernández García, Jorge Luis Artiles Montiel, Gilberto Núñez Acuña, Jorge Luis García Pérez 'Antunez' and Idania Yanes Contreras.
The press office of the Human Rights Council said those arrested were beaten being returned to their homes in the interior of Cuba.
Ammonia Leak at Bottling Plant
MORÓN, Cuba, October 24 (Tico Morales, APLA / www.cubanet.org).- A cloud of ammonia leaked out of the old pipes of Moron's soft drink bottler October 21, smothering an adjacent Cubataxis stand.
Firemen were called to clear the air. Local residents said authorities declared the incident closed and sent employees back to work.
A similar incident five years ago at the city's ice plant, now closed, sent several people to the hospital.
Official in Prosecutor's Office Misappropriated Building Materials
SANTA CLARA, Cuba. October 21. (Daymi Sánchez Gómez, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) - Marta Miranda, an official in the the General Prosecutor's office misappropriated building materials to use in repairing her home, according to a human rights activist here.
Pedro Yordy Tápanes said Miranda had two dump trucks, one containing five cubic meters of sand and the other the same amount of gravel delivered to her home in Santa Clara.
According to the report, several neighbors asked where the scarce building materials had come from, to which Miranda replied: "I don't have to explain my actions, much less to counterrevolutionaries such as yourselves."
Traffic Accidents Increase in Havana
LA HAVANA, Cuba, October 22 (Lucas Garve, Fundación por la Libertad de Expresión / www.cubanet.org) – Local authorities have called the increase in traffic accidents a "social phenomenon."
Veteran drivers say the accidents are mostly due to a total disregard for good manners.
"Everyone wants to be first, no matter how; they think they own the streets," said one man who identified himself as Gerardo and said he had been driving for 40 years.
"Most young drivers are driving government cars, and since they don't own them, they drive very fast," said Tomás, who has been driving a taxi for 60 years.
Government-owned cars are involved in more accidents than private cars. Most drivers are youths just out of the military which is where they learned to drive.
Even though drivers blame accidents on the poor condition of the roadways, traffic authorities point the finger at the drivers themselves, who they say drive faster than is safe and often under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Between January and August of this year, there were 662 more accidents in Havana than in the same period last year. The municipalities with the highest accident count were Plaza, Playa, and Centro Habana. The most dangerous road was Fifth Avenue, in Miramar.
Pregnant journalism student arrested and threatened in Havana
Havana, Cuba. October 23. (CubaNet) – Police and Department of State Security officers arrested a pregnant woman minutes after she walked out of a journalism class at the United States Interests Office in Havana.
Ismaris Salomón, 39, was coming out of the US Interests Section Tuesday at 3:40 p.m. when the officers detained her.
"Ismaris was arrested by four police officers and one from State Security," said Magalis Nourvis, a fellow student. The officers shoved her into a Lada (a Soviet-made Fiat) patrol car and took her to the Plaza de la Revolución police station, said Nourvis.
Nourvis said a female officer "pushed Salomón into the back seat of the car along with three policemen."
Salomón, who is five months pregnant, said one of the officers told her "that child maybe won't be born, or will be born with some problems, or maybe will have to be placed in an institution, because if you have to give birth in prison and your husband Roberto is not able to care for him, we'll take him away from you; we are going to follow your pregnancy very closely." Salomón and her husband, Roberto de Jesús Guerra, are both independent journalists and are expecting a boy in March.
Salomón said the agents interrogated her about the journalism courses and told her they would not let her attend any more classes. They also probed into her relationship with her husband, she said. They told her they knew she has plans to establish a news agency staffed solely by women and named after Rosa Berre, the founder of pioneering news agency Cubanet. She said they told her they would not allow that either.
Salomón complained the officers threatened that "because she's a counterrevolutionary" the government would not sell her the baby necessities that are usually distributed through the rationing system, but that in any case she would receive good medical care, because the child was not responsible for the kind of people his parents are. Salomón's husband said she "refuses the government-provided medical care for fear they would harm her or the child."
Salomón said they set her free at 6:30 in the evening.Imprisoned for speaking ill of the government
HAVANA, Cuba, October 21 (Tania Maceda Guerra) - Rafael Moultan Vargas was sentenced to 18 months in prison on October 15 for criticizing the government.
Moultan Vargas, 34, told two policemen October 14 that "no man in Cuba has any rights, we're all humiliated and we can't speak because we'll be jailed." They arrested him and he was tried and sentenced the following day in a closed session of the Municipal Court in Jobabo in Las Tunas.
He is a member of the Masons but does not belong to any opposition movement.
Political prisoner housed with murderers
HABANA, Cuba, October 21 (Leafar Pérez / www.cubanet.org) – Dissident Orestes Paíno Viera was arrested in front of his home October 2 and is currently held in the section of a prison housing prisoners sentenced to death.
Since Paíno Viera is coordinator of Change (Cambio) and of the New Alliance Nation (Alianza Nueva Nación) in Pinar del Río province, his colleagues say he was placed among convicted murderers on purpose. He is being held in Section IV of the Kilometer 5 prison.
Lately Paíno Viera has been outspoken in his criticism of the government's hurricane relief for those who have lost their homes.
Counterfeit pesos circulating in Cuba
MORÓN, Cuba, October 20 (Valentín Balart, APLA / www.cubanet.org) – Cuba's El Banco de Crédito y Comercio has alerted its employees, postal workers and business workers about the circulation of counterfeit 20, 50 and 100 peso notes.
"I went to the Post Office to send a 300 pesos money order and they checked the bills," said a woman who identified herself as Mrs. Lázara. "When I asked why, they told me that false bills were being circulated."
Restaurants in the city have told their cashiers to check the bank notes because they'll have to cover any loss occasioned by the acceptance of any counterfeit ones.
There has been no mention in the official press of counterfeit notes.
Questions about source of used clothing
MORON, Cuba, October (Kallan Poe, APLA / www.cubanet.org).- Residents of Morón suspect that used clothing on sale in government stores comes from foreign shipments destined for hurricane victims.
"I've never before seen so much used clothing available in so many different sizes," said one shopper. "I asked if they came from donations."
Jailed Group of 75 member in critical condition
HAVANA, Cuba, October 20 (Bárbara Jiménez Contreras / www.cubanet.org) - Ariel Sigler Amaya, a prisoner of conscience and member of the Group of 75, is in critical condition in the provincial hospital in Cienfuegos, according to his wife, Noelia Pedraza Jiménez:
"I'm denouncing the critical state of his health," she said. "Ariel has been in the hospital since September 22, confined to a wheel chair."
She said he's suffering from a nerve disorder, gall stones, kidney problems and chronic gastritis.
She said she was appealing to international public opinion to demand his release. He has been imprisoned since 2003.
Government measures to prevent hoarding and speculation affect citizenry
PINAR DEL RÍO, Cuba, October 17, (Rafael Ferro Salas, www.cubanet.org ) - Residents of this westernmost Cuban province are complaining that toughened measures taken by the government to combat hoarding after two hurricanes dealt a hard blow to the province are just making their lives even more difficult.
"Anyone found with more than five pounds of any product can be fined or arrested," said one man who works as a mechanic at a government-operated repair shop.
He added "I usually buy six or seven pounds of rice for my family every month; I'm not a speculator or a businessman."
A retired woman said "Now the food problem is two-fold; first you have to pay dearly for the food, and then you run the risk of losing it to the police."
Anyone found with more than five pounds of any product can be fined up to 500 pesos, about twice the average monthly salary on the island.
Prisoner in hunger strike hospitalized
HAVANA, Cuba, October 17, (Tania Maceda Guerra, www.cubanet.org) – Political prisoner Julián Antonio Moné was taken to hospital by prison authorities two weeks after he went on a hunger strike.
Moné said he is striking for his immediate freedom. He was arrested September 30 and could face up to five years in prison if convicted. The charges against him are not entirely clear.
Moné said his troubles started two days before his arrest, when he was at a recreational center wearing a t-shirt with the word "Change" printed on it. At some point he said he was assaulted by another young man who later turned out to be a cadet at a military school nearby.
The word "Change" is often invoked by government opponents as a slogan.
Prisoners on hunger strike reported weak
HAVANA, Cuba, October 14 (Juan Carlos González Leiva / www.cubanet.org) – Three political prisoners held in Cuba's Guantánamo prison were reported weakening after being on hunger strikes for up to two weeks.
The three – Julián Antonio Moné Borrero, Abel López Pérez and Isael Poveda Silva – started their hunger strikes independently and for different reasons.
Human rights activist Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, president of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy (Movimiento Cubano Jóvenes por la Democracia) said that Moné, who is seeking immediate release, was taken to the prison infirmary in a weakened condition. He started his strike two weeks ago, shortly after his arrest by political police who accused of a violent act for which he could be sentenced to five years imprisonment.
Isael Poveda Silva said the purpose of his strike was to get transferred to another prison because he feared for his life because of the presence of common criminals and those he called paid murderers in the pay of state security.
Independent librarians organize collection to pay musician's fine
Independent librarians in Cuba have asked any who want to help pay a fine imposed on Gorki Águila, the leader of the punk rock group "Porno para Ricardo" to contribute any amount they care to.
Águila was fined 600 pesos ($24.) by a municipal tribunal for "disobedience."
The fine is due before October 30. The average monthly salary in Cuba is 250 pesos.
The organization of independent librarians said they will accept contributions on behalf of Águila starting at five cents (0.05 peso).
Goods seized from private sellers
SANTA CLARA, Cuba, October 14 (Yesmy Elena Mena Zurbano / www.cubanet.org) – Police in the municipality of Caibarién in the province of Villa Clara have been stopping private vendors and seizing their merchandise.
Independent journalist Carlos Michael Morales Rodríguez said authorities had seized milk, fish, rice, cheese, lobster and cigars from the vendors.
He said those stopped have been fined and run the risk of trials.
Repression of dissidents increases
HAVANA, Cuba, October 14 (Juan Carlos González Leiva / www.cubanet.org/Roberto de Jesús Guerra / www.cubanet.org) – The political police have stepped up their repression of three human rights activists in Pinar del Río: Pedro González Acosta, Michael Alexander Hernández and Esteban Ajete, against whom files have been opened.
The trio is not allowed to leave the municipality and must present themselves weekly at the police station.
González Acosta, an ex-prisoner of conscience and coordinator of the dissident Municipal Democratic Circles (Círculos Democráticos Municipales) in the western region of Cuba, said he has been arrested four times in recent weeks.
Hernández, who has been arrested five times, said he will not obey the police order because he has not committed any crime.
Sergio Monteagudo Albuquerque, coordinator of the Liberal National Cuban Party (Partido Liberal Nacional Cubano) in the western provinces and party delegate Norlan Pérez Díaz were arrested and detained for more than 24 hours on October 8 by state security agents.
"The party's national executive is forced once again to denounce what is happening to party activists," said party president Hugo León Padrón Azcuy. "Norlan was cited by the police who threatened and questioned him because he and Sergio were going to take part in the monthly meeting of the executive."
Both men were fined 30 pesos.
Anti-government signs posted in Havana
HAVANA, Cuba, October 14 (Aimee Cabrera / www.cubanet.org) – Someone wrote slogans reading "Down with Fidel" and "Down with Socialism" on the Santa Fé movie house in the western part of the capital over the weekend.
Police agents painted over slogans, but not before many residents saw them.
The movie house is located near the residence of Fidel Castro.
Independent journalist threatened
HAVANA, Cuba, October 14 (Tania Maceda Guerra / www.cubanet.org) Leticia Ramos Herrería, a reporter for the independent Centro de Información del Consejo de Relatores de Derechos Humanos de Cuba, says she's under constant threat from state security agents.
Leticia said she has been arrested, held in jail and threatened with a 30-year prison sentence because the police are unhappy with reports she has been filing to Radio Martí and other foreign media outlets. She said her movements have been limited by the police, the electric power cut and neighbors told that she's crazy.
Post-hurricane campaign against black market
SANTA CLARA, Cuba, October 10 (Yoel Espinosa Medrano, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – Ever since Hurricanes Gustav and Ike hit Santa Clara, there's been a campaign against the black market in the city.
"Now you can't go on the street carrying a big package because on any corner the police can stop and search you," said Carlos García Pérez, who was stopped by two policemen outside a store. He said he was carrying two empty boxes to fill with garbage from his place of work.
Because of a shortage of foodstuffs in state markets, the police have redoubled their efforts against people privately selling rice, beans, meat, cooking oil, bread and other items.
Unofficial sources said that some one hundred people have been fined and their goods seized. Searches for goods are common in the street and in private homes.
Prisoner hangs himself in Cienfuegos
SANTA CLARA, Cuba, October 10 (Yoel Espinosa Medrano, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – Prisoner Juan Carlos Padilla Cabrera, serving an eight-year sentence for armed robbery, committed suicide October 8 by hanging himself with a nylon cord in the Ariza prison in Cienfuegos province, said jailed dissident Humberto Becerra Alfonso.
"For some time Juan Carlos had been suffering depression and said that he could no longer stand the conditions and insults in the jail," he said.
Padilla Cabrera was 38.
Dissident detained in Rodas
RANCHUELO, Cuba, October 10 (Félix Reyes Gutiérrez, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) - Roberto Sierra Rodríguez, a member of the Central Opposition Coalition (Coalición Central Opositora), was detained October 5 by political police in the municipality of Rodas.
Sierra Rodríguez's wife, Niurka Medina Espinosa, said three men who identified themselves as state security agents came to their home and took her husband away.
Police close bakery in Havana
HAVANA, Cuba, October 10 (Iván Sañudo Pupo, Agencia Libre Asociada / www.www.cubanet.org) – Police and state inspectors closed the Flor bakery in the Havana municipality of Regla, arrested the manager and cooks and seized bread, pastries and other foodstuffs prepared there.
According to neighbors, the bread sold at the bakery weighed less that it should have and the ingredients were not as required.
Dissident placed in solitary confinement
RANCHUELO, Cuba, October 10 (Félix Reyes Gutiérrez , Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) - Humberto Becerra Alfonso, a member of the Pedro Luis Boitel opposition group, has spent the past week in solitary confinement at the Ariza 2 prison in Cienfuegos because he denounced abuses to the independent press.
Fellow dissident Luis Cueto Echeverría said the cell where Becerra Alfonso's is confined is five meters by three. "The cell is humid and full of holes where water enters when it rains," he said.
Humberto Becerra Alfonso is serving a 20-year sentence for theft and slaughtering cattle.
Dissidents threatened for supporting colleague
SANTA CLARA, Cuba, October 8 (Yoel Espinosa Medrano, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – A state security agent threatened members of the Central Opposition (Coalición Central Opositora) when they went to his office to inquire about a colleague who had been jailed.
Iris Pérez Aguilera and 16 other members were told by an agent named Olisiac that the jailed colleague, Jorge Luís Garcia Pérez, known as Antunez, had been released the day after his arrest and was then back at his home.
The group told the agent they were going to check to see if Antunez was in fact at home and, if he was not, they'd return to the Department of Subversive Enemy Activities. Agent Olisiac then said they'd be met by bullets if they came back.
Pérez Aguilera telephoned Antunez's home and was informed he had been released.
Pacifist dissident arrested
HABAVA, Cuba, October 8 (Lázaro J. Alonso Román / www.cubanet.org) - Pacifist dissident Jorge Chaple González has been held at the National Revolutionary Police station in Capri since September 27.
Police who raided his home seized books, magazine and a radio, all considered to be illegal. He is to go on trial in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo.
Chaple González is president of the Opposition Fraternal Brothers for Dignity movement.
Dissidents lose license to sell soft drinks
HABANA, October 7 (Reinaldo Cosano Alén, Sindical Press / www.cubanet.org) – A state agency has revoked the license of Miguel and Juan Miguel Martorell – father and son – to make and sell non-alcoholic drinks because they don't live at the address listed on the license.
Miguel Martorell, who with his son live in Manatí in Las Tunas, said they had been making and selling their own soft drinks since 1999 and had no problems until 2003, when they started to oppose the government.
"They detained us eight times from January to May of this year," he said. "Lieutenant Colonel Ramiro Cruz, head of the province's State Security, warned us we'd have problems if we continued in the opposition and supported independent trade unions."
The National Office of Tax Administration cancelled their license August 4.
Victims of Hurricane Ike living under a tree
HOLGUÍN, Cuba, October 7 (Caridad Caballero Batista / www.cubanet.org) – A month after Hurricane Ike hit Cuba, María Eulalia Leiva Batista and her daughter, Adelia Pino Batista, 23, are camped out under mango tree in Velasco in Holguín prvince.
The hurricane destroyed Leiva Batista's home. She is the mother of Arnaldo Pino Leiva, a dissident.
Independent journalist arrested in Holguín
HOLGUÍN, Cuba, October 7 (María Antonia Hidalgo Mir / www.cubanet.org) – Independent journalist Juan Carlos Reyes Ocaña was arrested while protesting the fact that his son was unable to register in grade 10 at the local technical institute, even though his grades were high.
According to Reyes Ocaña, his son, Juan Pablo, was refused admittance by the Ministry of Education. He said he was arrested September 30 for carrying a sign in public saying "I demand respect for my son" after mailing to receive any reply to his complaints.
Neighborhood without electricity or food
HOLGUÍN, Cuba, October 7 (Caridad Caballero Batista / www.cubanet.org) – Human rights activist Manuel Martínez León says the neighborhood of La Jijira in the municipality of Gibara remains without electricity, water or food in following Hurricane Ike.
He said that 80 percent of the homes in the neighborhood were destroyed, affecting hundreds of residents.
Journalism student expelled from university
LA HABANA, Cuba, October 6 (Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez / www.cubanet.org) - Journalism student Henry Constantín Ferreriro was expelled from the Universidad Central de las Villas September 30, according to Yuri Pérez Vázquez, president of the Coalición Juvenil Martiana
"Constantín Ferreriro, who was expelled from the Universidad de Oriente in 2006 on the pretext that the university was only for revolutionaries, managed to enroll in the Universidad Central, where he was again expelled, this time for a script he wrote about José Martí which he presented as an assignment to journalist Miosotis Fabelo, who censured the work," said Pérez Vázquez.
The student edits an independent magazine and is an activist in the Coalición Juvenil Martiana.
Anti-government signs appear in two localities
LA HABANA, Cuba, October 6 (Aini Martin Valero, Agencia Libre Asociada / María Antonia Hidalgo Mir – Holguín Press/ www.cubanet.org) – Anti-government signs appeared in Havana's Regla municipality and in the town of Jiguaní, in Holguín province, over the last few days.
Agents from the Technical Department of Investigations and state security descended on Regla in an attempt to identify whoever posted signs saying "Down with Raul" and "Down with the Castros" on October 10 Street.
Following the posting of the signs on October 3, the municipal government organized several public revolutionary events at which state employees were obliged to attend.
In Jiguaní, a poster saying "Lessen up or you'll starve us to death" was placed on a wall near the bus station on October 1.
Police and state security agents covered up the poster with canvas.
Prisoner demands better food
LA HABANA, Cuba, October 6 (Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez / www.cubanet.org) – Common prisoner José Manuel Rodríguez Ricardo, serving a sentence in Santa Clara, has written a letter to authorities asking that rotten food and food of a doubtful origin no longer be served.
The prisoner said that the main plate served at mealtimes at the prison consists of a ground meat dish made from cow lungs and the kidneys and genitals of other animals.
"It gives off a strong smell when it's being prepared and causes among those who eat it a stomach upset that can last days," he wrote.
Rodríguez Ricardo also said in the letter that the amount of food served has been cut in half over the last few weeks.
Human rights activists detained
SANTA CLARA, Cuba, October 3 _ (Guillermo Fariñas, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – Some 30 human rights activists and residents of the Loma de Belén neighborhood in Santa Clara were detained by police agents September 27 when they protested the removal of people living in nine houses.
Members of the Central Opposition Coalition (Coalición Central Opositora) approached the area on Alemán Street and the Carretera de Circunvalación where 100 agents from the National Revolutionary Police, backed up by patrol cars, trucks and motorcycles, surrounded the homes, considered illegal.
Yusnier Bernal Peralta, provincial director provincial of the National Housing Institute (Instituto Nacional de la Vivienda) in Villa Clara, warned those living in the buildings that they should leave them or run the risk of being forcibly removed. State security major Fulgencio Bague and Peralta told the human rights advocates that they should leave the area and not look for trouble.
Idania Yanes Contreras, president of the Coalition, replied: "We're not leaving, we're here to peacefully support this group of families that you plan to remove." Following her remarks, some people shouted, "Long live human rights! Don't leave these Cubans homeless."
Minutes later police and members of the Interior Ministry's Anti-riot Brigade removed the activists and took them away in several trucks.
The detainees were taken to several police stations where written warnings were issued to them.
Protest in Santa Clara
SANTA CLARA, Cuba, October 3 (Guillermo Fariñas Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – Residents of Santa Clara staged a protest September 28 against the delivery by the Cuban government to a state store of foreign humanitarian aid.
Pedestrians walking on the local boulevard saw a truck from the government's Corporación Cubalse unloading boxes clearly lettered "Humanitarian Aid" at a Siboney store.
When some of the passersby asked if the boxes contained donations for victims of Hurricanes Ike and Gustav, they were told by the government workers to move on and not get involved in something that did not concern them.
Police summoned by the store cordoned off the area after pedestrians started to shout anti-government slogans.
Shortages of meat and vegetables
CIEGO DE ÁVILA, Cuba, October 3 (Valentín Balart, APLA / www.cubanet.org) – Shortages have started to appear in shops that sell meat and vegetables in the province. Some shops only had pumpkins and sweet potatoes, which were restricted to only several per customers.
One farmer told this reporter that people will be forced to go directly to the farms to buy their foodstuff because the government does not want to set prices that take into consideration the costs of the growers.
"We're not prepared to go to prison or pay excessive fines, that have been threatened in the press, against those who sell foodstuff above the fixed price," the farmer sai.,
Action taken against a pacifist
RANCHUELO, Cuba, October 3 (Félix Reyes Gutiérrez, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) - Some 40 members of the rapid response brigades in Rodas gathered September 28 in front of the home of pacifist Roberto Sierra Rodríguez and shouted insults at him.
Ricardo Pupo Sierra, delegate of the Plantados in Cienfuegos province, said: "They were concentrated in front of his home in the Candita district and shouted that he was a counter-revolutionary, sold out his country, was a worm, a terrorist and a mercenary."
Sierra Rodríguez locked his doors after several of the brigade members entered his patio and took down posters saying "I don't cooperate with the dictatorship" and "Change." They left after 45 minutes.
Worker refuses to serve in military
HAVANA, Cuba, October 1 (Reinaldo Cosano Alén, Sindical Press / www.cubanet.org) – Yansi Cárdenas, a 27-year-old self-employed mechanic, says he was threatened with jail because he refused to work for the military reserve.
Cárdenas told the National Independent Worker Confederation (Confederación Obrera Nacional Independiente de Cuba) that the head of the area's military committee, Lieutenant Espinosa, made the threat.
"I was detained and taken to the committee's office," he said. "The lieutenant questioned me about my refusal to be mobilized as a mechanic. He said they'd pay me 231 pesos a month. I replied that I work alone and I set the price, that I consider myself a free man and don't work for the military."
Two inmates die in Ariza prison in 14 days
HAVANA, Cuba, September 30 (Juan Carlos González Leiva / www.cubanet.org) - Two prisoners died within 14 days at Ariza prison in Cienfuegos, south central Cuba, said Yosvani Socarrás, a political prisoner at the facility.
One, Sixto Herrera, died after suffering a heart attack. A few days earlier, Yoagy Franco, 19, also died. Franco was an AIDS patient and was serving a two-year sentence.
In the past eight months, 14 inmates have died at the prison, some reportedly by hanging and others from heart attacks.
Hurricane relief requested by Antilla residents
HOLGUÍN, Cuba, September 30 (José Ramón Pupo Nieves, Holguín Press / www.cubanet.org) – At least several homes in Antilla, Holguín province, in eastern Cuba, are sporting signs requesting aid for hurricane damage. Antilla was hard hit by hurricane Ike recently.
One home, that of Noemí Sánchez, has a sign that reads: "We want aid from any country, no matter which," perhaps referring to the Cuban government's refusal to accept aid from the United States.
Prisoner stabs another to death
HAVANA, Cuba, September 30 (Tania Maceda Guerra / www.cubanet.org) - A prisoner stabbed another inmate to death during visiting hours at Guanajay prison in Havana province September 17.
Prisoner Osmel Pagés accosted fellow inmate Cristóbal Nogueira, 34, in front of visitors, and stabbed him with a prison-made shiv.
A political prisoner reported from the prison that Nogueira, a former resident of San Miguel del Padrón in Havana, had been in the prison for 16 years after being convicted of murder. There was no word on the possible motives for the attack.
Yateras Man Vanished After Hurricane
HAVANA, Cuba, September 29 (José Antonio Fornaris, Cuba-Verdad / www.cubanet.org) - Relatives of Jesús Valier, a 45-year-old resident of Yateras, in Guantánamo province, say he has been missing since August 31.
According to relatives, Valier was walking with a policeman along the margins of the river Toa after heavy rains that accompanied hurricane Gustav.
The policeman, say relatives, told them that he had turned around to look for Valier and he wasn't there.
Structures in Regla in Precarious Condition
HAVANA, Cuba, September 29 (Iván Sañudo Pupo, Agencia Libre Asociada / www.cubanet.org) – The staircase to the top of Lenin Hill in Regla, a small municipality across the bay from Havana, is in such precarious condition that municipal authorities have posted a sign warning passersby not to use it.
The staircase, a steel structure opened to the public May 1, 1925, ascends the more than 300 feet to the top of the hill and is the only means of access to the top.
In the same municipality, the Puente del Ahorcado, or Hangman's Bridge, is also in imminent danger of collapsing. The bridge is officially closed and vehicular traffic across it is forbidden. Residents say they fear the bridge's collapse could carry with it houses in the vicinity.
Debris accumulates in the streets of Santa Clara
SANTA CLARA, Cuba, September 26 (Yoel Espinosa Medrano, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) - Residents of Santa Clara in central Cuba say they are increasingly concerned about the accumulation of debris in the streets and its possible effects on public health.
Sanitation authorities in the provincial capital say they lack the resources to pick up the garbage, citing primarily fuel.
To the debris from construction and demolition activities, there are now added tree trunks and branches knocked down by hurricane Ike.
Handicapped man has no electrical service, gets bill anyway
SANTA CLARA, Cuba, September 26 (Yoel Espinosa Medrano, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – Pedro Contreras says he received a bill for electrical service even though his home has had no service for the past six months. Electrical company employees told him to pay it so he can complain.
Contreras, who is confined to a wheel chair due to a hip fracture, said he has had no service since May when the company cut off service after he got behind with payments.
He said a month ago he was finally able to pay the bill out of his meager 200-peso-a-month (about eight dollars) pension but that the company has not connected the service after repeated requests.
A few days ago, he said, he received a bill of 42 pesos (less than two dollars) for 196 kilowatts. That was when company employees told him he had to pay before he could file a complaint.
Police raid open air market
HAVANA, Cuba, September 26 (Aini Martín Valero, Agencia Libre Asociada / www.cubanet.org) – On September 24, police and local inspectors raided a market in Regla, across the bay from Havana, and confiscated produce and scales.
The people who run the seven stalls that make up the market say they have no idea why they were raided. Officers said the produce in the market was "of unknown origin" and therefore suspect and considered illegal.
Stall operators said they were all taken to the 13th police station in Regla. Some were fined for having decomposing produce but all said they lost their wares.
The market is now closed. One worker there, Abel Sánchez, said he didn't know when it would reopen.