Cuba Chronicle of Events
Issue No. 7, January 20-30, 2006
The Cuba Chronicle of Events is produced by the Prima News Agency in Russia in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe.
Congress of Independent Libraries
Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, a member of the Executive Committee of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society (APSC), has announced the date of the Congress of Independent Libraries.
In a press release issued by APSC, Roque Cabello said the event is scheduled for October 10 this year and will be participated in by independent libraries that are members of the Assembly. The press release said preparatory meetings will be held across the island to gather necessary information and allow provincial libraries that have not yet joined the APSC to send their representatives. The APSC hopes that the planned conference would strengthen the independent library movement in Cuba.
New Independent Library Founded In Cuba
The José Martí independent library was founded in the Cuban capital on January 28, according to Julia Cecilia Delgado González, acting chairman of the Liberal Party of Cuba (PLC). The opening ceremony coincided with the 153rd anniversary of the historic Cuban’s birth. The cultural project is headed by Reinaldo Hernández, a liberal politician and civic activist. The event was attended by several independent librarians, including Juan Mario Rodríguez, Héctor Julio Sedeño, Rogelio Travieso Pérez, and PLC members.
In addition to being chairman of the PLC, Julia Cecilia Delgado González is a member of the Relations Commission of Todos Unidos and is a coordinator of the Independent Library Movement in Havana. Reinaldo Hernández is the national organizer of PLC.
Rights Activists Launch Manifesto To Mark José Martí’s Birthday Anniversary
On January 24, while Castro was sending off marchers to protest outside the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, a group of oppositionists and rights activists gathered at home of Sergio Pastor Martínez Carrazana which also houses the John Locke independent library.
They issued a manifesto that reads, “This is to remind the Cuban people and the world that there are over 300 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Castro’s prisons. They are being held in poor conditions and are enduring harsh treatment only because they have supported honorable peaceful initiatives. Among them are intellectuals, professionals, librarians, journalists and oppositionists. [Jose] Marti said, ‘Each time they forbid man to think I feel as if my son were being killed.’ . . . We urge the illegitimate Cuban government to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. . . .”
The document was signed by Máximo José García González, José Ángel Vera García, Onarsy Alvarado Esquivel, Yuney Alvarado Esquivel, Adriana Montoya Aguilar, Pedro Leonel Ordóñez Rodríguez, Froilan Osmany Rodríguez Sánchez, Lázaro Prieto Álvarez, Cristóbal Soriano Argudin, Edilberto Lores Reyes, Aime Almanza, Sergio Pastor Martínez Carrazana and Ricardo Aguilar García.
Act of Repudiation Against Sigler Amaya’s Family
From 9 am until 4 pm, there was an act of repudiation (repudio) outside the headquarters of the Alternative Option independent movement at Calle 22 #1910, Pedro Betancourt, Matanzas. This is also the family home of prominent dissident Miguel Sigler Amaya, who recently left Cuba and settled in the United States. According to Miguel’s brother, Juan Francisco Sigler Amaya, the mob was shouting insults, threats, including death threats, and there were physical assaults on people entering and exiting. Medical services could not be called because they refused to go to a home of the “counter-revolutionaries.” Dissidents came to Sigler Amaya’s home to express solidarity and were not spared insults, threats, or pushing. The self-restraint and self-control of the dissidents saved them from serious traumas and bodily injuries.
Cuban Dissident Faces An Ultimatum
Juan Carlos González Leiva, the blind dissident lawyer who leads the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights, has rejected an ultimatum from Communist Party officials and political police to go into exile from Cuba or stop his opposition activity. It is feared that the lawyer’s refusal will lead to new repression against him.
“I refuse to leave the country because of threats and blackmail. My intent is to continue peaceful activity for Cuba’s transition to the rule-of-law state,” the opposition leader told PRIMA News. For a week, between January 12 and 19, paramilitary brigades took turns outside Juan Carlos González Leiva’s house to stage “repudio” acts. From morning till night, the pro-government elements, armed with loudspeakers, were shouting death threats, slanderous accusations, and praising the ruling regime. The telephone was also cut off at his home at that time. González Leiva treats such incidents as psychological pressure.
In March 2002, Juan Carlos was sentenced to four years in prison for his opposition activity. Having served two years and two months in Holguin prison, he was paroled to spend the remaining time under house arrest.
300 Books Confiscated From Independent Library
On Saturday, January 14, political police searched the premises of the Rafael Díaz Balart independent library in the Havana municipality of Guanabacoa. Nearly 300 books were declared “subversive” and confiscated. Vladimir Alejo Miranda, head of the library, said over the phone that police had visited him at home where the books were stored.
Czech Supermodel Detained In Cuba For Taking Pictures Of Slums
Well known Czech supermodel Helena Houdova was arrested in Cuba for taking photographs in a slum. Journalists learned about the incident from the model. Houdova said she and her woman travel companion were detained by Cuban police in a poor neighborhood in Havana. They were not allowed to contact the Czech Embassy. They spent 11 hours in police custody and were released only after signing a letter pledging not to engage in “counter-revolutionary activity.”
Helena Houdova is the former Miss Czech Republic 1999. She heads a New York based foundation to aid disadvantaged children in nine countries.
Attempt On The Life Of Cuban Oppositionist
A group of unknown culprits made an attempt on Juan Francisco Sigler Amaya’s life on January 27. The incident took place at 6.30 am on the 2nd km of the road between Pedro Betancourt and Jovellanos when Sigler Amaya was riding on a bike to his work. In his own account, he was overtaken by a fast moving car with no lights on. The car pushed him off the road into a ditch. He got bruises on his arms and legs. Then the driver slowed down, and Sigler Amaya heard a female voice calling him, “A worm, worm!” Then men’s voices joined in. They were shouting, “We’ll crush you, worm!” The attackers fled away before he could see their faces.
The oppositionist says, “I am a peaceful man, I have no enemies. People like and respect me. But there have been other similar incidents recently when Communist elements, government and state security agents have publicly threatened to kill me. My life has become a nightmare. The situation is extremely dangerous both for my family and myself, but I will never leave the country. They know that, and that makes me hold them responsible for whatever might happen to me and my whole family.”
Peaceful Oppositionist Summoned For Questioning
Lázaro Vilar García, representative of the November 30 Frank País Democratic Party in Manzanillo, Granma province in eastern Cuba, was summoned to the police for questioning by a state security officer called Escalona.
“He threatened me with prison for my activity. He has opened a case against me and issued a written caution which I refused to sign. I was also fingerprinted,” the peaceful oppositionist told.
Vilar García added that security agent Escalona reprimanded him for participating in “counter-revolutionary” activity on Human Rights Day on December 10 and accusing him of smearing tar over street posters with pictures of five Cuban spies arrested in the United States. The oppositionist denied the allegations.
“I am a peaceful opposition activist. We want to have a rule-of-law state, a free and democratic state. I don’t engage in vandalizing posters. They could destroy my body but not my soul and ideas. We want changes, we’ve had enough of repression and intimidation of oppositionists,” Vilar García said.
Oscar Mario González Transferred To Prison
Independent journalist Oscar Mario González has been transferred to San Miguel del Padrón prison # 1580 on January 18, according to his wife Mirta Wong. Oscar Mario González was arrested on July 22, 2005 without being charged.
Mrs. Wong who was allowed to see him for 30 minutes said that Oscar Mario was being held at a prison section known as “receptacle.” The journalist’s wife added that he was in good spirits. The regime of detention is less strict there and Oscar Mario will have an opportunity to spend 30 minutes in the sun every day. Previously, González, who reported for the Decoro labor group, had been incarcerated at 100 y Aldabo prison in the Cuban capital, and at Marianao and October 10 police stations.
The arrested journalist is in need of medicines for a stomach ulcer. In 2004, Oscar Mario González received a journalistic prize in the first ever competition organized by the Foundation for Freedom of Expression.
Incarcerated Independent Journalist Suffers From Lack Of Medical Aid
Caibarién (Cuba) — Independent journalist Normando Hernandez Gonzales, who is being held at Kilo 5 prison in Pinar del Rio province, has not been receiving any medical aid despite being “in a deplorable state of health,” according to his wife. Yaraí Reyes Marín said that prison guards did not allow him any medicine brought in from the outside. “During our last conjugal visit, I found him very weak,” she noted, saying that he has lost 20 pounds. Mrs. Marín said her husband was suffering from stomach aches and could not eat prison food.
Three Dissidents Imprisoned Without Being Charged
Havana, January 26 — Cuban dissidents Miguel Lopez Santos, Raul Martinez Prieto and Francisco Moure Saladriga, who had been held for six months in the Acosta jail with no charges leveled against them, were transferred to other prisons last week. The three activists were detained while expressing support to an anti-government demonstration held in front of the French Embassy in Havana.
Lopez Santos has been sent to the psychiatric department of the military hospital for prisoners; Martinez Prieto was sent to the provincial prison in Santa Clara and Moure Saladriga to Melena II correctional facility in the province of Havana.
Political Prisoners Begin a Chain of Fasting and Prayer for the End of Repression in Cuba
Several political prisoners from Cerámica Roja prison in Camagüey have joined an appeal of Juan Carlos González Leiva, president of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights (FCDH), to start a chain of fasting and prayer for the end of repression in this country. Daily fasting, praying and reading verses from the Bible might last from several hours to the whole day, said González, adding that “we all should pray, individually or jointly, for the Cuban people.” In his appeal, made public on January 16, the dissident leader called on human rights advocates to pray to God for the end of violence launched by the government against all those who think differently than the government. Among prisoners of conscience who have joined the action are Lázaro González Adán, Edverto Ángel Escobedo Morales and Jorge Luis Suárez.
Cuban Refugees Rescued Near Mexico after 20 Days at Sea
Five Cuban refugees were saved 90 miles off Mexico’s Caribbean coast after spending 20 days at sea on a small makeshift raft that sank one day before the rescue, according to the National Migration Institute of Mexico. A Mexican fishing trawler operating 90 miles of the Yucatan Island in the Caribbean picked up five people who had fled Cuba. According to the refugees, they departed on the night of January 7 from Puerto Guajimal village in Pinar del Rio province on a 13 x 4 meter makeshift raft on which they put sail and took to the open sea. They intended to reach Mexico’s Yucatan in 7-8 days, however they were hit by two strong storms with 15-meter high waves and lost course. By the 12th day of their voyage they had only 3 liters of fresh water and several water crackers left. On the 21st day, their raft collapsed and sunk and the refugees had to spend nearly 24 hours on the high seas, hanging on to the wreckage of the mast. Mexican fishermen recalled that when the refugees were taken aboard they were semi-conscious and their lives were at risk due to dehydration. After the Cubans were taken ashore, they were brought to Merida, the capital of the state of Yucatan, to the National Migration Institute. According to Institute’s officials, 12 Cubans have been “fished out” in Yucatan’s coastal waters in a recent week.
U.S. Allows Cuba in World Baseball Tournament
The U.S. Treasury Department has announced that it granted a license permitting Cuba to participate in World Baseball Classic after it made certain that the Fidel Castro regime would not benefit economically from its participation.
Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said that “working closely with World Baseball Inc. and the State Department, we were able to reach a licensable agreement that upholds both the legal scope and the spirit of the [Washington] sanctions” against the Communist government of Fidel Castro. She noted that the “agreement ensures that no funding will make its way into the hand of the Castro regime.”
The WBC tournament’s first application for Cuba’s license was rejected by the U.S. Treasury Department in past mid-December. The 16 nation tournament will be held in Japan, Puerto Rico and the United States from March 3 to March 20 this year.
Walesa Tells Cuban Dissidents To Be Ready For A Democracy
Former Polish President Lech Walesa advised Cuban dissidents to be ready for an inevitable democratic transition, telling that dissidents in his country were unprepared for the collapse of Eastern European communism.
“When liberty arrives it’s going to be difficult,” Walesa said during an hour-long video exchange, his image beamed on a screen set up in a salon. “We made a lot of errors. We were not prepared.” The former Solidarity leader and Nobel Peace prize winner took questions from Cubans gathered for an Internet conference at the Havana residence of U.S. Interests Section chief Michael Parmly. About 100 people attended the event, including around a dozen Cuban known dissidents, diplomats from Poland, and other Eastern European countries, and international journalists.
“For me, for many Cubans, you are a symbol of liberty, of the defense of the rights of man, a courageous leader,” independent Cuban journalist Angel Polanco told Walesa. Former political prisoner Martha Beatriz Roque told Walesa that more than 300 prisoners of conscience are held in Cuba. “They have paid a very high price for liberty in Cuba,” Roque said.
Castro Infuriated At Neon Running Letters
Cuban President Fidel Castro called the U.S. mission’s decision to broadcast messages on a special electronic sign running along its building a “gross provocation.” According to representatives of U.S. authorities, the electronic sign will run excerpts from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One of the messages streaming along the U.S. mission building was “everyone has the right for one’s own opinion.” U.S. officials said the decision to install the electronic messaging system was taken to break the information blockade in Cuba. In a three hour televised speech, President Castro lambasted U.S. government officials, calling them “bandits.” He asserted that the long-time ideological enemy of Cuba had no right to speak about human rights ant that the decision to broadcast messages on an electronic display an “open attempt of the United States to sever all relations with Cuba.”
American diplomats insisted that the sign is meant to establish a dialogue with the Cuban people. In retaliation, the Cuban authorities are planning a protest meeting outside the U.S. Interests Section building. Several hundred thousand people are expected to take part in the meeting.
Anti-American Protest In Havana
Cuban President Fidel Castro addressed a huge anti-American rally in Havana blaming the United States for trying to force a rupture in current minimum diplomatic contacts with Cuba. The demonstration brought traffic to a virtual standstill. The action was organized by Cuban authorities to protest against a special electronic billboard at the U.S. Interests Section building in Havana carrying excerpts from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and quotes from various freedom fighters.
Speaking to the demonstrators, Fidel Castro called the U.S. measure a “gross provocation.” The Cuban leader. As Castro accused the United States of trying to completely destroy the “tenuous links” between the two countries, the U.S. ticker board flashed results of the general elections in Canada and ran quotes from Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi. The demonstrators chanted slogans calling U.S. President George W. Bush a “fascist” and “terrorist.” Posters compared Bush with Adolf Hitler.
Castro Building A Mysterious Structure In Front Of The U.S. Cultural Mission
Fidel Castro paid a night visit to a huge construction site in front of the U.S. cultural mission in Havana. The construction work began after Americans installed a 3-meter-high electronic news board that streams quotes from prominent anti-communist fighters across the façade of the mission. When asked by reporters what the building would be, Castro replied, “If I tell you it will spoil the surprise.” He said he came to the site to welcome brigades of workers.
In a three-hour televised speech delivered after the nocturnal visit, Fidel Castro said the only purpose of the U.S. messaging system “is to provoke the destruction of the tenuous links” between the two countries. That was followed by a march of protest past the 3-meter-high ticker. Thousands of Cubans took part in the protest. The next day, Castro notified the U.S. cultural mission that it could no longer use an adjoining parking lot because construction work would begin there. Americans responded with a public statement saying that they perfectly understand the purpose of the planned construction. “We are not surprised by Castro’s reaction to our messages. Building walls to isolate Cubans from the rest of the world is what the regime knows best,” U.S. mission officials said.
Oppositionists Express Solidarity with U.S. Interests Section
On January 25, members of Party for Peace, Love and Freedom (PAL), College of Independent Pedagogues of Cuba, and the Marti Youth Coalition in Colón, Matanzas province expressed solidarity with employees of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana following a rally outside the mission organized by Cuban authorities a day before. The anti-government activists called the protest “ridiculous and rude,” said Juan Carlos Bueno Artola, acting president of PAL.
“We support employees and staff of the U.S. Interests Section and actively protest against the action organized by the Cuban government, which once again has exposed its totalitarian, intolerant, and anti-democratic nature by dragging Havana residents to such a ridiculous and rude demonstration aimed at further aggravating the current tense relationship between the two countries,” the opposition groups said in their statement.
Fidel Castro Compares Cuba’s Corruption To U.S. Blockade
Cuba’s leader Fidel Castro has taken new measures against “vampirism,” a Cuban term for theft of state property. The scale of such theft is growing visibly throughout the country. On his personal order, 800 Communist activists have been urgently dispatched to major enterprises, shops and entertainment centers in Havana to detect and stamp out theft undermining the state-run economy.
A similar drive had already been undertaken by Castro in November 2005 when he sent thousands of young Communists to gas stations to put an end to the theft of gas and diesel fuel, which had sometimes reached 40 percent of supplies. Justifying the measure, the Cuban leader said in his speech that corruption in Cuba had reached a scale threatening the existence of the socialist system. It is no less a danger for the Revolution than the U.S. blockade, he stressed.
After young Communists replaced allegedly corrupted gas pump attendants and began to work the pumps themselves, no results of this anti-corruption campaign have been reported by the press. Experts believe that such dictatorial campaigns using loyalists of the government yield only a short-term effect. The shortages in Cuba are so acute and there are so many everyday problems that most Cubans call it “resolver,” meaning that it helps resolve problems, and not theft.
Surgeries Suspended Because Of Donor Blood Shortage
Santa Clara, Cuba — Many patients waiting to be operated on in local hospitals have been discharged because of a shortage of donor blood needed for transfusion during a surgery.
CMHW provincial radio station has appealed to its audience to donate blood to collect an adequate blood supply. A source in the Health Ministry told Ismel Iglesias Martínez, vice-president of the Independent Medical College in Santa Clara, that the shortage had been caused by sending donor blood, as well as Cuban doctors, to Pakistan to give medical aid to earthquake victims.
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The Cuba Chronicle of Events is produced by the Prima News Agency in Russia in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe. Items are reproduced with permission and attribution from other news agencies. Please direct inquiries and comments to Editor, Cuba Chronicle of Events, Prima-News at firstname.lastname@example.org or to email@example.com.