January 2009


Dictatorship in the genes / By Martin Barillas 

Che Guevara: The Fish Die by the Mouth / By Humberto (Bert) Corzo


An outbreak of porcine cholera in Cuba

ISLA DE LA JUVENTUD, Cuba, January 29 (Lamasiel Gutiérrez, Agencia Isla Press / www.cubanet.org) – An outbreak of porcine cholera has caused the deaths of thousands of pigs on the Isle of Youth, according to a report by the region's Veterinary Institute.

Although the cholera does not affect humans, authorities have banned the sale of pork from local farmers and the movement of their animals.


Shortage of sanitary napkins

HAVANA, Cuba, January 29 (Asela Vega / www.cubanet.org) – The monthly allotment of sanitary napkins has not arrived at some pharmacies in Havana.

The Public Health Ministry allows every Cuban female between the ages of 10 and 55 to buy 10 napkins per month if they're registered in the pharmacy.

Various pharmacies that were checked said they did not know the cause of the  non-supply of napkins.


Cuban flag missing star in state newspaper

HAVANA, Cuba, January 29 (Asela Vega / www.cubanet.org) – Authorities are investigating why the star was colored over in a photo of the Cuban flag that appeared on page one in Tuesday's edition of Granma, the Communist Party newspaper.

It's not the first time that a photo in the newspaper has been altered. A photo of Fidel Castro was once published showing the former president with a moustache like that of Adolfo Hitler. Another time a photo appeared of members of the National Assembly blindfolded.

Indications given this reporter is that discontent with the government has even reached some people on the newspaper or with access to it.


Police target sellers of birds

HAVANA, Cuba, January 29 (Leafar Pérez / www.cubanet.org) – Police last Sunday raided the so-called Bird Park, confiscated cages and exotic birds and fined sellers.

Some of the sellers told this reporter that buyers went to the park to find bargains since the government sells the bird sat a much higher price.

The authorities said the sellers did not have licenses to sell the birds. The sellers said the licenses are too costly and complicated to obtain.


Political prisoner released conditionally

HAVANA, Cuba, January 28 (Tania Maceda Guerra / www.cubanet.org) – Political prisoner Manuel Estepe has been given conditional freedom after serving half of his six-year sentence spreading "enemy propaganda."

Estepe, 44, a member of the Cuban pro Human Rights Committee, served most of his sentence in the Nieves Morejón prison in Sancti Spiritus province, where he lived.


Member of Group of 75 released

HAVANA, Cuba, January 27 (Tania Maceda / www.cubanet.org) - Reinaldo Labrada Peña, a member of the so-called Group of 75 imprisoned in 2000, has been released after serving his six-year sentence.

He becomes the first of the group to fulfill his sentence. Others have been released on medical grounds.

 "I'm very happy to be returning to my family," said Labrada, 46, shortly after his release January 15.

Estoy muy contento de volver al seno de mi familia" -dijo Labrada poco después de abandonar la prisión.

Labrada Peña, a member of the Cuban Human Rights Council, has been suffering from anemia and chromic gastritis.


Police arrest and beat street peddler

HAVANA, Cuba, January 27 (Aini Martín, Agencia Libre Asociada / www.cubanet.org) -  A 60-year-old street peddler named Pablo was accused of illicit activity, beaten and arrested, according to eye witnesses.

The incident took place January 21 in the Vedado district, where the peddler was selling toothpaste and coffee.

The peddler told police the goods weren't stolen but were purchased under his ration card and not used by him, so he was selling them


Arrested ball player transferred to Havana

SANTA CLARA, Cuba, January 23 (Licet Zamora, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – The Department of State Security transferred previously arrested baseball player Juan Yasser Serrano to Havana January 15. Serrano had been held at State Security headquarters in Santa Clara since his arrest January 11 under suspicion of attempting to leave the country.
Before being arrested, Serrano was greeted by three foreign tourists at the Coppelia ice cream parlor in Santa Clara and was subsequently arrested by several agents under the command of lieutenant colonel José Luis Rabel.
According to Serrano's relatives, the tourists held false passports and police are investigating a possible link to the ball player.

Government calls an end to "Battle of Ideas"

SANTA CLARA, Cuba, January 23 (Guillermo Fariñas, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – Provincial officials of the National "Battle of Ideas" program say they were told in Havana that the program will draw to a close shortly to save money.
Officials said Party Central Committee members Rolando Alfonso Borges and Julio Martínez announced at a meeting in Cojímar, east of Havana, that the program had fullfilled its objectives.
Officials also reported that at the same meeting the gratuities granted to the social workers involved in the program had been discussed.
The "Battle of Ideas" is a campaign involving public relations and actual deeds initiated in the year 2000 by order of Fidel Castro. The campaign consisted of 77 specific tasks aimed at improving health and living conditions in Cuba.


Antigovernment graffiti in Havana municipality

Havana, Cuba. January 20 ( Julio Beltrán, Agencia Libre Asociada / www.cubanet.org) – Someone painted antigovernment graffiti at several bus stops near a police station in the Havana municipality of Arroyo Naranjo overnight.
Police cordoned off the affected areas starting in the early morning and hurriedly photographed, scraped and painted the walls on which slogans such as Down with Fidel! and Down with Raúl! had been painted.
Police also searched nearby houses, but apparently did not find what they were looking for nor were they able to identify any suspects.
A local resident who decided to talk to this reporter said: "Talking to you could cost me several years in prison. Already a State Security agent came to me, and after asking whether I had seen anything, told me if any counterrevolutionaries came asking questions to not talk to them and to let him know immediately. He also said they are not afraid of a few signs painted on a wall."

Police confiscate journalists' cameras

Havana, Cuba. January 19. (Francisco Chaviano / www.cubanet.org) – Police intercepted two journalists Friday and took them to the Santiago de las Vegas police station, where they confiscated the journalists' cameras and other equipment. According to the journalists police refused to properly document the confiscated equipment.
The journalists were arrested after they left the residence of the Public Affairs officer of the United States Interest Section in Havana, where they had been invited to a ceremony marking their completion of a journalism course they had been taking. During the ceremony, the journalists received presents, including some cameras.

Frequent blackouts in Havana

Havana, Cuba. January 16. (Belinda Salas / www.cubanet.org) – Havana has been subject to frequent blackouts since the beginning of the year and residents find no information as to their causes in the government media.
The blackouts have been of short duration, happening indistinctly during the day and night in the Havana municipalities of El Cerro, Centro Habana, 10 de Octubre, and Arroyo Naranjo.
Beyond the inconvenience, residents fear they may be a harbinger of extended blackouts such as those seen during the '90s, when the so-called "special period" brought extensive blackouts after the Soviet Union cut economic subsidies to the island.

Baseball player arrested

Ranchuelo, Cuba. January 16. (Félix Reyes Gutiérrez, Cubanacán Press / www.cubanet.org) – Juan Yasser Serrano, 20, who plays with the Villa Clara baseball club was arrested by State Security agents January 11 under an accusation of "presumed illegal attempt to leave the country."
Jorge Luis Artiles, a former masseuse at the baseball academy in Villa Clara said the ball player was arrested before dawn after he left the Santa Clara Libre hotel where the team were staying.
Serrano, who was at one time a member of the Cuban national youth team, was taken to the State Security headquarters in Santa Clara, the provincial capital, for interrogation.
Serrano had apparently had some contact with Enrique César Rodríguez, also known as Kiki Mayonesa, who is said to be an informer for lieutenant colonel Uberto Rodríguez, in charge of the human trafficking department at the Interior Ministry.

Doctor threatened with firing

HAVANA, Cuba, January  14 (Álvaro Yero / www.cubanet.org) – Dr. Carmen Hernández says she has been threatened with loss of her post at the Mantilla Polyclinic for her opposition to doctors serving abroad, among other things.

"I've never wanted to destroy the image of the revolution," she said. "I only want to improve work conditions."

"I'm not in agreement with the exportation of our medical personnel to other countries if that means neglecting the health of our people," she said. "Thinking isn't a crime."

Hernández said that two State Security agents showed up at the clinic and told her she runs the risk of losing her post and not being able to practice medicine is she continued to reveal problems in the health system. She said this was not the first time she'd been threatened by State Security.


 Health of political prisoner worsens

HOLGUÍN, Cuba, January 14  (José Ramón Pupo Nieves, Holguín Press / www.cubanet.org) – The health of political prisoner Julián Antonio Monet continues to worsen because of lack of medical attention and his hunger strike, according to a fellow inmate at the Boniato prison in Santiago de Cuba.

 Ángel Antonio Blanco said in a telephone call that four of the ailments Monet suffers have become chronic: laryngitis, asthma, pharyngitis and tonsillitis.

Monet's 84-year-old mother said she has told United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon of her fear that she'll never again see her son alive.

Monet, president of the Miguel Valdés Tamayo Movement, is serving a three-year sentence for transgression.


Youth sentenced for selling ham sandwiches

HAVANA, Cuba, January 13 (Álvaro Yero Felipe / www.cubanet.org) - Edel Eduardo Martínez, 18, was sentenced to a year in prison last week for illicit salesmanship: selling ham sandwiches to beachgoers.

 Martínez was arrested January 2 at the Guanabo beach and accused of insult and of resisting arrest, besides the charge of being an independent seller.  But his brother said he didn't insult anyone and went peacefully with the police.

 "Those who were abusing were those who beat my brother as he lay handcuffed on the floor," he said. He added that his brother was denied the services of a lawyer at his trial.


Dissident fined for refusing to leave house

HAVANA, Cuba, January 13 (Leafar Pérez / www.cubanet.org) – Dissident Carlos Ríos was fined 250 pesos – about a month's salary – for refusing to leave his house which authorities say is to be demolished as unfit for habitation.

Ríos has lived in the house, located at kilometer 2 ½ of the highway to La Coloma in Pinar del Río province, for 10 years. Last November 25 the Municipal Housing Board decreed the house not fit for use and ordered Ríos out and the structure demolished.

The chief of the district police fined Ríos last week and told him he'd be jailed and his 13-year-old would become a ward of the government if he didn't move out


Fire partially destroys foreign currency store

Leonel Alberto Pérez Belette

HAVANA, Cuba, January 12 (www.cubanet.org) -  A fire December 30 partially destroyed a foreign currency department store in La Puntilla.

The government gave some details of the fire but omitted to say that firefighters didn't arrive until 30 minutes after the alarm was given. Store workers, in the meantime, used the few fire extinguishers in the building to try and control eh blaze.

The fire began around 2:30 p.m. in the basement where employees said paint and other inflammable products ignited.


Dissident denied permission to travel to capital

HOLGUIN, Cuba, January 12  (José Ramón Pupo Nieves – Holguín Press / www.cubanet.org) – State Security agents prevented dissident  María Antonia Hidalgo Mir from travelling from Holguín, where she lives, to Havana last week. 

When she entered the Frank País Airport to board her flight, two agents stopped her and took her the State Security offices in the building where she was questioned.

After the Holguín-Havana flight had left January 8, she was taken home, along with her husband and young daughter in a police cruiser.

 "I don't know how the government of Raúl Castro is fulfilling the human rights agreements it signed when in reality we peaceful defenders of those rights are victims of infernal harassment," she said.


Pro-government signs pasted on dissident's home

HAVANA, Cuba, January 9 (Leafar Pérez / www.cubanet.org ) –Pro-government messages were pasted last week on the door of the home of ex-political prisoner Orlando Fundora and excrement smeared on the entrance.

Among the messages were ones saying "Long Live Fidel," "Down with the worms," "Death to traitors" and "We don't want you in Cuba." There were also photos of Fidel and Raul Castro.

After the unknown person did the pasting on January 2, they threw rocks against the entrance.

Fundora was sentenced in 2005 to 20 years imprisonment but was released under supervision for reasons of health. He is currently director of the Pedro Luis Boitel Association of Political Prisoners.


Police seize sales goods worth US$4 from vendor

CAMAGŰEY, Cuba, January 8 (José Agramonte, Agencia de Prensa Libertad / www.cubanet.org) – Three government inspectors seized cigarettes and candy worth US$4 from Zoila Leyva, 75, who was selling them to passengers at the bus depot to augment her pension.

Leyva was hospitalized after suffering a case of nerves while being questioned at the police station, where she was taken.

 "It was abusive," said a passenger who witnessed the incident. "She wasn't hurting anyone. What she sells helps us who are waiting, a candy here, a cigarette there."

Leyva told police she started selling candy and cigarettes at the bus depot because her pension was insufficient to cover her needs.


Police threaten female dissident with a machete

SANTA CLARA, Cuba, January 8 (Idania Yanes, Villa Clara Press / www.cubanet.org) – A police officer threatened pacifist Neris Castillo with a machete and told her she wouldn't be allowed to speak badly of the government, according to an eye witness.

Activist Juana Gómez Riego said she saw Vicente García, chief of the area police, wave the machete at Castillo at her home in San Miguel del Padrón in Havana on January 2.

Hours earlier Castillo had protested publicly hats he called poor medical attention in Cuba. She had been fruitlessly trying to find medication for her ailing young son.


Opposition leader sentenced to 6 years

HAVANA, Cuba, January 6 (Leafar Pérez / www.cubanet.org) – The provincial court in Pinar del Río province sentenced Víctor Paino Viera, coordinator of the Independent Change Union  (Sindicato Independiente Cambio) to six years in prison last week on charges of insult, anti-government acts and resisting arrest.

 Paino Viera, who is also a member of the New Nation Alliance (Alianza Nueva Nación) was arrested October 2 and held at the 5 1/2 Kilometer prison. He was sentenced January 2 at a closed trial

To prevent any other dissidents from trying to attend the trial, provincial state security officers under the command of Lieut. Gen. Ramón Veume Ruiz were on duty.


Work stoppage at railroad repair shop

MORÓN, Cuba, January 5, Tico Morales, APLA / www.cubanet.org).-  After the New Year's holiday, the railroad repair shop in Morón did not open as scheduled because no one showed up to work.
According to one worker at the shop, they worked up to 16 hours a day on the 30 and 31 of December and on January 1, but management is refusing to pay them overtime wages.
The personnel assigned to the Morón repair yard includes 15 locomotive operators, 9 of whom are beyond retirement age, and 10 mechanics, of whom seven are near or beyond the age of retirement, said the worker.

Police take down anti-government signs

SANTA CLARA, Cuba, January 1 2009, (Yunieski García López, Villa Clara Press / www.cubanet.org) – On December 29 a number of State Security agents, "Rapid Response Brigades" shock troops, and regular police stormed the home of government opponent Idania Yanes Contreras in order to take down a number of anti-government slogans.
The slogans painted on the exterior walls of the house, read: "Up with Human Rights," "Down with Castro," and "Cuba Yes, Castro No."
Initially, Yanes refused to obliterate the signs, so the official party broke through a chain securing a gate and beat up Yanes and anti-government activists Damaris Moya Portieles, Aramilda Contreras Rodríguez and Alcides Rivera Rodríguez.
They then took the four to the police station and released them after several hours after issuing them "warning writs."
Yanes later said that while they were detained, authorities scraped the slogans off the walls, and added that they repainted the slogans as soon as they were released.


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