February 2009


Kicked out of cyber café for visiting U.S. site

SANTA CLARA, Cuba, February 27 (Guillermo Fariñas, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – Three young people were kicked out of a cyber café after entering a Web site of the U.S. government.

Yolanda Alemañi, Leonelsys Ávila and Ramón Herrera entered the Web site of the Ministry of Public Health and from there got on Intranet, the Cuban government network only available in Cuba. From there they entered a Web site of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba.

 When cyber café attendant Adriano Castillo saw the page on the screen, he told the trio they were not allowed to visit U.S. government Web sites.

 “I am a revolutionary and I’m not going to allow what you’re doing,” he told them. “Leave immediately or I’m calling the police.” They left.


Gravesites of fallen dissidents restored

SANTA CLARA, Cuba, February (Licet Zamora, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – The gravesites of several anti-Communists who were executed or died fighting were restored by dissidents last weekend.

The work was done by ex-political prisoners Jorge Luis Artiles of the Democratic Solidarity Party and Léster Sánchez of the Independent Democratic Front who trimmed the grass and identified the graves.

While they worked, they were observed by agents from, State Security and members of the Association of Fighters for the Cuban Revolution, who did not interfer.


 Police threaten independent unionist with prison

HAVANA, February 27 (Víctor Manuel Domínguez, Sindical Press / www.cubanet.org) – State Security agents visited the home of the president of the Independent Workers Confederation of Cuba this week and threatened to send him to prison.

The president, Carmelo Díaz, was attending an independent library meeting of poets and writers in his home when the agents arrived Monday.

Two agents indentified as Samuel and Alexei, warned Diaz he’d be imprisoned if  he did not resign from the workers confederation and stop creating independent organizations.


 Police return seized building material

RANCHUELO, Cuba, February 27 (Félix Reyes, Cubanacán Press, www.cubanet.org) – Police returned seized floor tiles and cement after the owner went to the police station with receipts to prove she had purchased the material legally.

Police raided the home of Yenistey de la Paz on Monday after receiving an anonymous tip that she had illegal building material. The police carted off dozens of tiles and a sack of cement.

The woman said she was Spanish and had the right to purchase goods in hard currency stores. She returned with the receipts and the police gave back the seized material. She said some of the tiles were missing.


Brothers to the Rescue victims honored

HOLGUÍN, Cuba, February 26 (José Ramón Pupo Nieves – Holguín Press / www.cubanet.org )   – A homage took place Tuesday to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the deaths of four pilots from Brothers to the Rescue whose planes were shot down by the Cuban air force.

The event took place in the home of María Antonia Hidalgo Mir, vicepresident of the Latin American Federation of Rural Women (FLAMUR). Four white candles were lit to honor Mario de la Peña, Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales and Armando Alejandre.

Dissident José Escobar Sánchez, president of the Gustavo Arcos Bergnes Movement, retold what happened February 24, 1996, when the Miami-based planes were intercepted.


Potatoes on sale again after shortages

HAVANA, Cuba, February 26  (Frank Correa / www.cubanet.org) – After months of not being available, potatoes went on sale in state markets this week for those using ration books.

The administrator of the “El Puesto” market in Jaimanitas, north of Havana, wrote on a blackboard that buyers would be limited to one pound of potatoes upon presentation of the ration book.

The presentation of the ration book for the purchase of potatoes had generally been ignored in the past, but was reintroduced due to food shortages caused by hurricanes last year.


Fires damage sugar cane fields

MORON, Cuba, February 25 (Kallan Poe, APLA / www.cubanet.org).- There have been several fires, possibly arson,  this month in sugar cane fields of the nearby Chillante cooperative. There have been no arrests.

The fires have prevented the workers involved from reaching the goals set by the government.

According to experts, February and March are the months when the sugar canes have the highest sugar content.


Two injured in collapse of apartment building

HAVANA, Cuba, February 25 (Leafar Pérez / www.cubanet.org) –An elderly woman and her brother were injured last week when a three-story apartment building collapsed.

Although the building in the Marianao district had been declared uninhabitable in 1997, its 12 apartments were still occupied because of a housing shortage in Havana.

Firemen and police managed to rescue all the inhabitants February 20, but Juana Domínguez and her brother Ángel Luis were injured.

According to state statistics, an average of three buildings a day collapse in the capital.


Co-workers protest arrest of two bus drivers

HAVANA, Cuba, February 25 (Leafar Pérez / www.cubanet.org) –Protests broke out last week when police arrested two bus drivers for allegedly pocketing fares.

Jorge Díaz Carmona and Pedro Dondique, drivers for state Ómnibus Metropolitanos, were arrested at the end of their routes. Other drivers threatened to go on strike in protest. They shouted “Abusers!” and “Murderers!” at the police as they tried to prevent the arrests.

The pair was fined 500 pesos each – the equivalent of just over the average monthly salary in Cuba – for alleged “manipulation of state funds.”


Three arrested for collecting recyclables

 HAVANA, Cuba, February 24 (Aini Martín Valero, Agencia Libre Asociada / www.cubanet.org) –Three men were arrested Monday in the Vedado district for collecting empty beer and soft drink cans from garbage cans.

They were identified as brothers José Agustín and José Manuel Reyes Muños and their cousin Gabriel Leiva Reyes, aged 19 to 25.

According to the mother and grandmother of the brothers, arresting officers said there exists an ordinance under which it is a crime to collect cans in the center of the city, subject to a fine of up to 1,500 pesos, about four times an average monthly salary.

The three men live in the Regla district of Havana.


Three dissidents lose government jobs

 HAVANA, Cuba, February 23  (Frank Correa / www.cubanet.org) - Arturo Montgomery, spokesman for the New Republic Movement, says two of its members were fired from their jobs with government entities because they participated in a protest march in Santiago de las Vegas.

 Montgomery identified the pair as Luis Jesús Gutiérrez and Agustín García. He said Gutiérrez worked for Empresa de Medios Ópticos y Audiovisuales in Havana and Garciá for the Health Ministry in an anti-mosquito campaign. The firings occurred February 11.

Their work records say they were let go because their participation in the anti-government march showed they were not trustworthy.


Religious pilgrims prevented from boarding ferry

HAVANA, Cuba, February 23  (Frank Correa / www.cubanet.org) – Seventeen activists were prevented by State Security agents from boarding a ferry to participate in a religious pilgrimage, according to the New Republic Movement

The movement's spokesman, Arturo Montgomery, said he and the other members were taken to a police station and questioned after being stopped February 8 en route to the Church of the Virgin of Regla. He said 30 agents were ay the dock.

He said an agent nicknamed Armored Tank told them he could "disappear" all of them if they continued anti-government activities.


2 aspiring journalists detained by police

HAVANA, Cuba, February 20  (Ana Aguililla / www.cubanet.org) – Two independent journalists were detained by police for three hours on Wednesday after attending a videoconference workshop at the U.S. Interests Section.

Reynier Vera, a member of the Juvenile Martiana Coalition, identified the two as coalition member Heriberto Liranza and Rafael Martínez of the New Republic Movement. He said the police confiscated T-shirts they were wearing and wrist bands which carried the letting "Cambio" (Change), a popular phrase used by dissidents. They were told the police would be on the lookout for them in the future.

 The workshop was given by the International Media Center at Florida International University.


State security agents threaten librarian

HAVANA, Cuba, February 20 (Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, Hablemos Press / www.cubanet.org)  -Omayda Padrón Azcuy, secretary general of the Independent Libraries of Cuba, says State Security agents threatened him because he had attended a journalism workshop at the U.S. Interests Section.

Padrón Azcuy said two agents went to her home Thursday and said she could be arrested and jailed for attending for her participation in the workshops, which are given via videoconference by the International Media Center at Florida International University in Miami. "We're tired of speaking to you and we'll take action," she said one of the agents, named Roque, told her.

She said Roque is the agent who has threatened blogger Yoanis Sánchez for more than a year and a half.


Work stoppages in Ranchuelo

RANCHUELO, Cuba, February 20 (Félix Reyes, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – There were two work stoppages in Ranchuelo this week by workers demanding wage increases.

Fifty workers at the Ramiro Lavandero Cruz cigarette packing plant stopped work for an hour on February 16, idling their U.S.-made machinery. The protest was touched off by a company decision to reduce the amount paid for overtime.

"We'll restart the equipment when the government reduces the price of soap, detergents, oils, shoes, clothing and other products sold in the convertible peso stores," said one worker.

A similar situation occurred at the Ifraín Alfonso Agroindustrial Complex where welders, mechanics and electricians walked off the job, saying their salaries weren't in line with the work they were performing.


Shoe repairers form independent union

HAVANA, Cuba, February 19  (Víctor Manuel Domínguez, Sindical Press / www.cubanet.org) – An independent union of shoe repairers was constituted on Monday, according to Carmelo Díaz Fernández, president of the Confederation of Independent Workers of Cuba.

Forty-five union activities and members of the Cuban People's Party and the National Commission of Cuba participated in the organizational meeting in the capital.

Founding members of the Independent Union of Shoe Repairers were identified as Eduardo Bravo, secretary-general; Orlando Castillo, organizer; Secretary-General, Alain Cairo, social and labor affairs; and Daraisi Pérez González, vocal.


Pedicab driver sentenced to 22 months in jail

HAVANA, Cuba, February 19 de febrero (Víctor Manuel Domínguez, Sindical Press / www.cubanet.org) - Richard Brown was sentenced last week to 22 months imprisonment for driving a pedicab without a license.

According to Minaldo Ramos of the Confederation of Independent Workers Brown had gone many times to the National Tributary Office and requested a license but was always turned down.

"Citizens have the right to work and if the government denies them this right, they're forced to work outside the law," said Ramos.

Brown was sentenced by the El Cristo Popular Municipal Court in Old Havana February 8.


Police break up illegal dog fight

HAVANA, Cuba, February 19  (Aini Martín, ALAS / www.cubanet.org) -
Havana police on Tuesday raided a home where an illegal dog fight was taking place and arrested the owner and those who were betting.

Scene of the fight was the home of Reinaldo Beltrán in the Valle Oculto neighborhood of the municipality of Regla in Havana.

Dog fights are illegal in Cuba, but are said to take place regularly in the capital and the interior.


 Government denies exit visas to more than 1,000

CAIBARIEN, Cuba, February 19 (María de la Caridad Noa González / www.cubanet.org)  – The opposition Human Rights and Family Reunification Commission says more than 1,000 Cubans have visas to travel to the United States but are being denied exit visas by the government.

Commission president Margarito Broche Espinosa said at a meeting February 16 that the government was denying the exit visas to penalize the commission for its work.

She said there were hundreds of Cubans living in the United States who want to visit Cuba but were being denied visas by the Cuban government.


Ex-government official harassed and threatened

ISLA DE LA JUVENTUD, Cuba February 16 (Lamasiel Gutiérrez, Isla Press / www.cubanet.org) -  An ex-official of the Interior Ministry and current dissident, Raúl Luis Risco,  continues to be harassed by authorities in Pinar del Río province.

On February 5 Judge Ana María Carmona told him his conditional liberty will be revoked if he continues anti-government activities.

Later, he was questioned by Judge Carmona and a colleague about his activities in Pinar del Río.  They advised him to join a block committee.

Risco was jailed in 2003 for allegedly trying to illegally leave Cuba.


Police searches and checks increase in Pinar del Río

PINAR DEL RÍO, Cuba, February (Rafael Ferro Salas , www.cubanet.org)  - Residents say police have stepped up operations in Pinar del Río over the past two weeks, stopping cars on the highway and searching people in neighborhoods.

"One is obliged to stay at home like a prisoner, but it's better to be prisoner at home with the family than being detained by the police," said one resident while shopping at the local market. "They'll arrest you for any reason and seize what you're carrying."

Some residents say they no longer visit friends and relatives in other places for fear of being stopped on the way.

No explanation was given for the increase police activity.


Four deaths in maximum security prison reported

HAVANA, Cuba, February 17 (Juan Carlos González Leiva / www.cubanet.org) – Four prisoners have died in the Boniatico maximum security prison in Santiago de Cuba so far this year, according to political prisoner Raumel Vinajera.

Vinajera said the last prisoner was Guillermo Collazo, who suffered a fatal heart attack on January 31 and died in a cell in the prison hospital.

Vinajera, who's serving a five year sentence, also reported by telephone that a prisoner named Joel Basulto, who was serving a life sentence, hanged himself on February 6.


Prisoner stabbed to death during crap game

HAVANA, Cuba, February 17 (Juan Carlos González Leiva / www.cubanet.org) – Common prisoner Alexis Pupo was stabbed to death last week in the Las Tunas municipal prison for failing to honor a debt from a dice game, according to a political prisoner.

José Daniel Ferrer, a member of the Group of 75 dissidents imprisoned in 2003, said Pupo, 36, owed three packets of cigarettes to Richard Ramos, 26, and a fight ensued.

"A few days ago there were two other bloody incidents in this jail that resulted in injuries but no deaths," Ferrer said.


Human rights activist José Orta Acosta dead at 84

HAVANA, Cuba, February 17 (Oscar Espinosa Chepe / www.cubanet.org) -José Orta Acosta, a human rights activist who initially supported the 1959 revolution, died last week of a heart attack at age 84.

His death February 9 was reported by the Mayabequino Pro Human Rights Committee. He was buried the following day in the San José de Las Lajas Cemetery.

Orta was a member of the Cuban People's Party (Partido del Pueblo Cubano) in 1948 that opposed President Machado.

He opposed President Batista but soon broke with Fidel Castro when the revolution turned totalitarian.


Rural community left without a doctor

SANTA CLARA, Cuba, February 17 (Yoel Espinosa / www.cubanet.org) – Residents of the rural community of El Jiquí in the province of Villa Clara have been without a doctor ever since the last one left for service overseas three months ago.

"They comment on radio and television every day about the presence of Cuban doctors in remote places in other countries, but they don't talk about the hundreds of towns on the island where there are vacant clinics because the doctors are in Venezuela, Bolivia and who knows where else," said María Pérez, a resident of this community of 200.

Pérez said the nearest functioning medical post is 10 miles away and can only be reached on foot, bicycle or pedicab as there is no available motorized transportation.


Police close privately-owned ice cream parlor

RANCHUELO, Cuba, February 13 (Félix Reyes Gutiérrez, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – Police forced the closing of one of four privately-owned ice cream parlors in Ranchuelo last week by seizing all the ingredients.

Owner Javier Rodríguez was held in custody for 48 hours, accused of buying the ingredients, such as milk, sugar and flour, on the black market.

Jorge Reyes, who lives nearby, said the closing of the shop, which is located across from a school, has caused protests from students and parents.


Dissident loses state job

HAVANA, Cuba, February 10  (Georgina Noa / www.cubanet.org) – Dissident  Luis Jesús Gutiérrez was fired from his job at a government company because of his participation in a march in Santiago de las Vegas January 22 demanding the release of political prisoners.

Gutiérrez, who worked at Empresa de Medios Ópticos y Audio Visuales in Havana, said, "They told me that I couldn't continue working there and to make any pertinent claims if I wanted to."

He said he was convinced he was fired because of his participation in the march.


Dissidents prevented from crossing bay

HAVANA, Cuba, February 10  (Julio Beltrán, Agencia Libre Asociada / www.cubanet.org) – State Security agents stopped a group of dissidents from boarding a boat Sunday to take them from Havana to Regla for a church service in support of political prisoners.

Georgina Noa, president  of the Movimiento Liga Cívica Martiana, said, "This government should be ashamed of itself for committing these abuses against the integrity of people after signing international agreements on human rights."

Besides members of Noa's organizations were members of Por una Nueva República.


Independent journalist rejects rehab plan

SANTA CLARA, Cuba, February 9 (Guillermo Fariñas, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – Imprisoned independent journalist Pablo Pacheco has refused to participate in the government's re-education Confidence Plan (Plan Confianza) under which he could gain his freedom.

A committee from the Interior Ministry and the penitentiary system interviewed Pacheco February 4 in the Ciego de Ávila prison.

Pacheco told the officials he was imprisoned because he was trying to save Cuba from socialism and did not regret anything he had done.

"To enter this plan of ideological rehabilitation would be betraying my principles," he told them, according to family members who were in contact with the prisoner.


Dissident awaiting trial for selling tomatoes

SANTA CLARA, Cuba, February 9 (Licet Zamora, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – Police arrested dissident Juan Ramón Rivero in Santiago de Cuba for shouting anti-government slogans and illegally selling tomatoes.

Rivero, delegate of the Opposition Movement for a Republican Alternative (Movimiento Opositores para una Alternativa Republicana) was selling tomatoes and other vegetables in front of his house when detained by revenue agents and asked for his self-employment permit.

When the agents tried to seize his vegetable, he started to toss them to passersby and shout, "Down with Fidel!" and that Raul Castro was starving the people to death. Police were then called and arrested Pacheco.

He's now awaiting trial.


Block committees conduct employment census

LA HABANA, Cuba, February 9 (José Antonio Fornaris, Cuba-Verdad / www.cubanet.org) – Committees for Defense of the Revolution are carrying out a house-by-house census in Cuba to determine who has a job and who's unemployed.

Members of the block committees ask for the occupants' name, identity card and if they are employed.

All adults are required to respond.

The Ministry of the Interior will organize the replies.


Prison Inmate Commits Suicide

HAVANA, Cuba, February 5, (Frank Correa, Buró Informativo Unidad Liberal de la República de Cuba  / www.cubanet.org)   - Prisoner Benito Ramírez García committed suicide February 1 in his cell in the maximum security prison called Kilo 8.
Ramírez was in prison for murdering his wife and had expressed intentions of killing himself, but had not received psychiatric attention. He was from Cándido González municipality in Camagüey province.

Young Man Kills Himself in Santa Clara Prison

CAIBARIÉN, Cuba, February 6 (María de la Caridad Noa) – Inmate Maikel Pacheco, 26, killed himself by taking an overdose of unspecified medicines at the La Pendiente prison in Santa Clara January 23.
Pacheco died in the prison infirmary. He was from Santiago de Cuba and was serving an eight year sentence.

Police beat, arrest, protesting student

HAVANA, Cuba, February 6 (Jorge Alain Cantero / www.cubanet.org) – Police in the Vedado district of Havana beat up and arrested a medical student identified only as Ricardo after he publicly criticized a recent speech by president Raúl Castro.
The student loudly protested about Castro's recent speech in which he called the rental of beach houses "improper subsidies." Police in the area warned him and the student said he was excercising his right to an opinion. At that point, police beat him and arrested him.

Member of Group of 75 on hunger strike

HAVANA, Cuba, February 3  (Tania Maceda / www.cubanet.org) -   Independent journalist Fabio Prieto Llorente, a member of the Group of 75 sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in 2003 for consorting  with anti-government elements, started a hunger strike last week, said fellow dissident Rolando Jiménez.

JIménez, also serving his sentence at the Guayabo prison on the isle of Youth, said by telephone that Prieto Llorente started the strike January 28 to protest scant and poor quality food being served on dirty trays.

Prieto Llorente suffers from lung and liver problems, as well as hemorrhoids.


Independent union members write Obama

HAVANA, Cuba, February 2 (Víctor Manuel Domínguez, Sindical Press / www.cubanet.org) – Cuba's Independent Union Movement (El Movimiento Sindical Independiente de Cuba) sent a letter last week to President Obama in which it expressed the hope he'd be the first American president to visit a free and democratic Cuba.

The letter said the organization's members have listened to some of the president's speeches and that the language he used were a sign that the role of the United States as an inspiration for others is assured.

The letter was signed by Carmelo Díaz Fernández, Jorge Olivera Castillo, Roberto Larramendi Estrada, William Toledo Terrero, Maydelin Caraballo, Milagros Toledo García, y Minaldo Ramos Salgado, among others.


Police try to stop contact with tourists

HAVANA, Cuba, February 2 (Héctor Julio Cedeño / www.cubanet.org) – The police have increased the number of cruisers whose occupants are on the lookout for Cubans speaking to tourists, an action that can lead to arrest and a warning.

 "The number of cruisers has multiplied and there are police everywhere," said one Cuban crossing Central park.

One of the crimes they're supposedly trying to stop is the "harassment of tourists" which can result in the person doing the harassment, often a young Cuba, being taken to the police station and warned to stop. He or she is told to keep away from tourists.

Repeat offenders can be charged as a danger to society and imprisoned for up to four years.

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