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HAPPY AT 90 MILES » 2009 » March
Mar
26
2009
0

Yoani – Still a prisoner

The courageous Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez has had her solicitation for permission to travel abroad denied for the third time. Read about her experience on her blog, which sports excellent English translations.

Her first permit was denied when she wanted to go to Spain to receive the prestigious journalism prize Ortega y Gasset for her work as a chronicler of the million indignities and humiliations that ordinary people suffer in Cuba on a daily basis.

In her recount she includes pictures of her passport, showing that she has the necessary foreign visas in order to enter Europe or the U.S. The tragedy is that her own country imprisons her, although she’s never been tried with any crime. Unfortunately there’s a myth perpetuated by Castro’s fellow travelers that Cubans throw themselves on a raft because they cannot obtain visas to enter the U.S. In fact, there are plenty of cases where demonstratively the Cuban Government is the guilty party.

Also on Yoani’s blog, make sure to read a great interview with a young (30) man who is ready for his third attempt at leaving on a boat. In it he states clearly the things that appeal more than just the prospect of a house and a car in the land of supposed milk and honey 90 miles to the north.

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Written by IPH in: Uncategorized |
Mar
19
2009
0

An end to exit permits?

Next week, Cuban officials have set up a 3-day meeting in Havana with Cubans residing abroad to discuss possible changes to Cuba’s migration policy.

The question on everybody’s mind is that of the exit permits that Cubans need to obtain from the Ministry of Interior to be able to leave the country, even if they have a foreign visa. One of the reasons for the desperate attempts of many to flee the island on rafts is that this permit is rarely given.

Other obstacles to emigration include the high prices of the exit permit (paid in dollars equivalent to approximately 5 years of a professional person’s total peso salary. Adding to this hardship is the fact that people requesting political asylum abroad are routinely fired from their workplace for being “politically unreliable”, depriving them of the income needed to apply.

Ever since Raul Castro took over the presidency from Fidel there has been talk of some easing in the restrictions the government places on its citizens who wish to emigrate. There seems to be a reduction in the number of permits denied, i.e. 247 citizens or their dependents who had received foreign travel documents were denied exit permits during the year, down from 836 in 2004.

If Cuba does indeed lift the infamous travel restrictions it will be interesting to see to what degree the U.S. is prepared to give visas to the masses of Cubans ready to travel. Sceptics think the result of the conference will instead be aimed at making it easier for Cubans residing abroad to travel back and forth, with no substantial change for the resident population.

This makes sense as a reciprocity for the recent easing of rules on Cuban nationals in the U.S. for travelling and spending money in Cuba.

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Written by IPH in: Uncategorized |
Mar
14
2009
0

Show trials

Once in a while I glance at GRANMA, the mouthpiece for the Communist Party in Cuba. Together with a handful of other papers of equal revolutionary fervor it rules the space of acceptable public opinion. (Juventud Rebelde, “Rebel Youth” is aimed at the young adepts, making sure to repudiate those who actually rebel against the regime) Here, you can find all the articles about Fidel and Raul, poems about Fidel, homages to the soldiers who fell 5o years ago, articles by Fidel etc that your heart desires.

A rule of thumb; if it’s not in any of these papers, it’s probably untrue, illegal enemy propaganda or unimportant.

Granma sports an online version (one of the few permitted areas for Cuba’s few cybernauts, surrounded by digital barbed wire) with accompanying versions in English, French Russian and other languages for the benefit of  sofa revolutionaries in the free world.

This article caught my eye today. It’s about a public show trial of a black marketeer, a dangerous criminal. Dealing in the black market is the only way to avoid starving, as rations has long since stopped pretending to provide proper nourishment. With practically everything being illegal for Cubans, they are all forced into living criminal lives in one way or another.

It’s a sad spectacle, a humiliating puppet show with Stalinist language of re-education and medieval shaming.

Would you like to read about it in the English language version? Go ahead, click on the link in the top right corner. No luck? You see, the English version talks more about the imminent fall of capitalism and the evils of The American Empire than about the treatment Cuban citizens are getting from its heavy handed state. They obviously don’t want to bum out the solidary brothers and sisters abroad.

I’m providing a bare bones translation below, I ran it through a computer translator, and then went in and fixed the things that computers inevitably mess up. While some of the language is machine-like, I assure you that it’s not so much from the poor computer translator as from the stultifying “revolutionary” style, with its familiar over-wrought phrases and insulting vocabulary.

This young man will be put in hard labor for three years at least, reinforcing the fact he and the spectators at the “trial” already knew, that the Cuban State owns you, body and soul, his slave condition made evident by a pick axe and the meager rations he’ll be served.

The trial

The trial

JUSTICE AND A LESSON, CONGRATULATIONS.

LAS TUNAS.— Attracted by the event, called to elevate the legal culture and the conscience of the population, numerous people congregated in the park Vicente Garcia González, where, in an exceptional process, the municipal court develops an act of public court appearance around the dangerous state of anti-social conduct of a citizen prone to the practice of the illegal traffic of currencies and selling merchandise illegally.

According to the technical requests for those processes, the defendant has the possibility to speak, to accept or to deny the charges that are attributed him, the district attorney’s office exposes reasons and arguments, the defense intervenes, the judges deliberate and they dictate sentence…

In spite of being carried out in an open area, each step elapses in the middle of a deep silence.  The faces do not lie.  Nobody (not even the specialists called to do justice) is pleased with the session.  Gustavo, the defendant, knows it.  Perhaps therefore, part of the time remains with his face down, perhaps fleeing the looks of the surrounding people, a mix of repudiation of his improper attitudes and the worry that are cause when youth are the “sad protagonists” of such deformations.

Hopefully the discomfort that reflected in his face is shame, repentance, gratitude before the able defense on the part of the lawyer, assumption of the uprightness with which was expressed the president of the court, recognition of the nobility on the part of hid neighbors, authorities of the interior order, members of the common working party by whom several times he was notified and called on to change his devious activities.

Logical it would be that, after various years without working, neither to contribute to society in correspondence with everything that he receives, his recent link with the labor activity have left a lesson for those who practice the illicit sale of currencies, the swindle of ingenuous people, the hoarding of rationed products resold at lucrative prices and other misdeeds of which the Municipal Court in Las Tunas is proposed to help cure Gustavo, by means of a period of re-education (a three year security measure) in one of the specialized work establishments at the disposal of the Interior Ministry.

Let’s hope the repercussion of this and of other cases evaluated by its “index of danger”, serve to have all, (“twisted” and straight, family and community, institutions and company) make the conclusions that help us  be more preventive and intolerant with bad behavior and to better know the responsibilities that correspond to each of us..


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Written by IPH in: Uncategorized |
Mar
12
2009
1

Canaleta Prison

Cuba Democracia y Vida, an organization of Cuban exiles in Sweden and elsewhere alerts that political prisoner Antonio Sánchez is being housed with violent criminals as punishment for his hunger strike in Canaleta prison.

Canaleta is a high security prison with more than 3000 inmates in the Ciego de Avila province of Cuba, where prisoners of conscience and activists are often put in overcrowded cells at the mercy of murderers and rapists.

In addition there are punishment cells that measure 1.5 X 1 meters wide by 1.5 meter high, dressed in rough concrete, including the bed. This means it’s extremely claustrophobic, as it’s impossible to stand up straight, lean against the wall or sleep outstretched.  There’s a hole in the ground for a toilet and a water spout that comes on twice a day only. The only light in this hole is a mesh covered light bulb which stays on night and day. The door is solid metal with a peephole for guards and a hatch for food.

Jorge spent more than 5 years this prison, part of it without sentencing, and has related to me these inhumane conditions. It was here that he lost his arms. He was put in this punishment cell for 8 months at a time with reduced food rations. (1 bun and sugary water)

Unfortunately, Canaleta is not unique in Cuba, just a provincial part of a network of Castro’s repressive prison system.


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Written by IPH in: Uncategorized |

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