November 2009


Contaminated needles left in phone booths

HAVANA, Cuba, Nov. 24 (Álvaro Yero / www.cubanet.org) – Police are searching for the person or persons who left needles supposedly infected with the HIV virus in telephone booths.

Four people have said they were pricked by the needles, some when they sat down in a telephone booth. It is not known if any of them later tested positive for HIV.

Authorities suspect that those responsible left the needles out of resentment.

The official news media have not mentioned the needles, but warning signs have been posted near telephone booths.


Hot streets destroy tires on Russian buses

HAVANA, Cuba, Nov. 24 (Leafar Pérez / www.cubanet.org) – Dozens of Russia-made buses have been taken out of service in Havana because their tires can’t stand the hot Cuban streets, according to sources.

Driver Edelmis Rodríguez said in an interview that the tires aren’t made to stand the hot Caribbean asphalt.

José Díaz, a former driver, said the Transportation Ministry has complained to the builders of the buses but that these say local driving conditions nullify any service guarantees.


Words of Cuban dissident Miriam Leiva before the US Congress on November 18th, 2009 (Via teleconference from Havana, Cuba)


Beating of blogger Yoani Sánchez raised in class

HAVANA, Cuba, Nov. 23 (Aini Martín Valero, ALAS / www.cubanet.org) – A 10th grade student at a Havana high school says a classmate brought up for discussion in class the recent beating given blogger Yoani Sánchez by State Security agents.

The incident occurred at the Onelio Dampiel pre-university school in the Regla district where the 10th grade teacher asks students to give a news item for daily discussion. Without naming Sánchez, a female student said foreign television newcasts, whose reception is illegal in Cuba, reported a blogger was beaten by agents for voicing her opinion.

When the teacher said foreign newscasts were not reliable sources of information because they’re not official, the student replied, “it’s news independently of where it comes from.”

It was not known if the teacher cancelled the day’s discussion.


Independent journalist detained for taking photos

HAVANA, Cuba, Nov. 20 (Roberto de Jesús Guerra, Hablemos Press / www.cubanet.org) - Independent journalist Aini Martín says she was detained last week as she took photos of a policeman seizing merchandise from an elderly street vendor.

Martín, who belongs to the Agencia Libre Asociada independent journalists group, said she was walking down Zanja Street in central Havana Nov. 10 when she saw the policeman take soap, toothpaste and cigarettes from the vendor. “The man threw a punch at the policeman and at that instant I took the photo without realizing that two officers were observing me,” she said.

The journalist was taken to the district police station where she was questioned by a State Security agent who had once before interrogated her.

She was released after four hours and her camera was returned. When she tried to use it, she said she realized the police had broken it.


Paints front of house black as sign of mourning

HAVANA, Cuba, Nov. 19 (Juan Carlos González Leiva, www.cubanet.org) – Former political prisoner Vladimir Alejo Miranda has painted the front of his house black, which, he says, is a sign of mourning for Cuba.

Miranda, 46, is president of the Miguel Valdés Tamayo Pro-Human Rights Popular Movement.

Miranda, who painted his Havana house Nov. 16, said he has been threatened with being arrested again.


Making candy leads to charges against human rights advocate

HAVANA, Cuba, Nov. 18 (Juan C. González Leiva / www.cubanet.org) – Human rights advocate Edey Sánchez says he was arrested by national police agents following a five-hour search of his home that turned up an oven, a mixer and trays for making candy.

Sánchez, who lives in Cumanayagua in the province of Cienfuegos, was held by police for seven days and charged with illicit economic activity. The stove, mixer and trays were confiscated.

He was released pending trial after posting a 500,000 bond.


Power at home of HIV sufferer cut for fourth time

ISLA DE LA JUVENTUD, Nov. 17 (Lamasiel Gutiérrez, Isla Press / www.cubanet.org) - Julio Cesar Vargas, who suffers from HIV, says he was fined 300 pesos – the equivalent of three week’s salary – on charges of aggression against a government inspector who cut the electricity at his home for the fourth time in recent months.

Vargas, 42, said the inspector told him that electricity had to be saved and that he was not targeted because he was an HIV carrier.

Vargas, who is married and the father of a six-month-old son, said he went to the electricity company to complain and was given the right to buy an air conditioner.


Cook says he’s unemployed because of his dissidence

MORÓN, Cuba, Nov. 11 (José Manuel Caraballo Barvo, APLA, www.cubanet.org) - José Antonio Vázquez, a graduate of the Hotel and Tourism School, says he’s been unemployed as a chef for two months because of his opposition to the government and the fact he wears a “Change” bracelet.

Vázquez said he’s been fired from several restaurant jobs and that authorities tried to incriminate him in an act of sabotage against the Florida restaurant in downtown Morón.

"I’m unemployed and the father two young boys,” he said. “My family survives thanks to help from my father who’s in the United States.”


Guards detained at provincial prison

HAVANA, Cuba, Nov. 10 (Roberto de Jesús Guerra, Hablemos Press / www.cubanet.org) – Reports from the Canaelta prison in Ciego de Ávila province say seven guards have been detained in an investigation of corruption that included the sale of drugs to prisoners.

Prisoner Jorge Moliné Tapia said drug trafficking at the prison dates back some three years. “The introduction of drugs in the prison is causing self injuries, violence, suicides and a high level of corruption,” he said.

He said the drugs are brought into the kitchen in pails containing sancocho.

Several prisoners were accused of selling drugs and alcohol on behalf of the implicated guards.

Moliné Tapia said the guards were detained last week.


Police arrest five blind street vendors

HAVANA, Cuba, Nov. 9 (Juan Carlos González Leiva, www.cubanet.org) – Members of the National Police Force arrested five blind street vendors in the capital last week.

The five were selling CDs and similar products in the Víbora section of Havana Nov. 1 when they were arrested and taken to the Aguiletra police station. Two were released the same day but three others were held overnight in jail.

Those arrested were identified as Taíma Barzola Veloz, Enrique Barrera Acosta, Juan Miguel Ruiz Ruiz, Byron Sotolongo Pérez and Eduardo Ruiz Ruiz. Barzola Veloz said she had been shoved by a policeman in an incident several days earlier.


Dissident begins one-year sentence for hoarding

HOLGUÍN, Cuba, Nov. 9 (José Ramón Pupo Nieves, www.cubanet.org)  – Dissident Fidel García Roldán started to serve a one year sentence last week after being found guilty on charges of hoarding.

García Roldán has served more than four years in prison on earlier convictions related to his opposition to the government.

“This is nothing more than a dirty maneuver by the political police, using false trials to get rid of men and women who’ve decided to fight their lies,” said García Roldán before entering the Típico Prison in Las Tunas Nov. 3. 


Crackdown on illegal vendors

HAVANA, Cuba, Nov. 5 (Ángel Luis Bernabé, Isla Press / www.cubanet.org) – The City of Havana provincial court has punished 85 persons so far this year for illegally selling goods and food on the street.

Antonio Torres of the public prosecutor’s office said those punished were guilty of anti-social acts because they were selling prime need goods. He said the measures taken against them will put a brake on hoarding and thievery.

Housewife Mercedes Campos said reality was different and that the sellers were offering goods and foodstuffs unavailable at government stores and markets. “They’re the ones who are at risk and loss, but the real thieves are those in the government,” she said. “They’re the ones who are stealing the goods for sale on the black market.”


Subsidized potatoes dropped from ration book

HAVANA, Cuba, Nov. 4 (Leafar Pérez, www.cubanet.org) – The government has eliminated potatoes from from the subsidized basket of food purchased under the ration card in the capital.

Before the change, effective Nov. 1, residents could buy four pounds of subsidized potatoes. Now, they cost 150 percent more than they did before.

The government has given signs that it would like to eventually eliminate the ration card.


Bus breaks down but fares not returned

SANTA CLARA, Cuba, Nov. 3 (Yesmy Elena Mena Zurbano, www.cubanet.org) – Frustrated passengers protested last week at the local bus terminal when a departure was canceled because of mechanical problems with a bus and the fares weren’t returned.

A primary school teacher who identified herself as Magda said, “The government doesn’t see this and says there are no problems in Cuba.”

An employee of the company said the bus to a Caibarién, Camajuaní and Vueltas had broken down and there was no replacement.

Supermarket fire was intentionally set

HABANA, Cuba, Nov. 3 (Lisbán Hernández / www.cubanet.org) - Investigators from the Interior Ministry say a fire that gutted the Vía Blanca supermarket on the highway to San Miguel del Padrón was arson.

A police source said the fire started at 8:40 p.m. on Oct. 4 and was not controlled until t he following morning.

“At first we thought it was caused by a short circuit but following an analysis by the experts it was determined that the fire was set,” the source said.

There was no loss of life but the damage was extensive.


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