Monthly Archives: May 2011

The State That’s Afraid of Words

Henry Constantin

How weak is a State that sees danger in the words of a student? And using its power forcefully attacks and dictates the immediate expulsion of Henry Constantin from the Superior Art Institute (ISA) in Havana, brutally abusing his rights and using psychological torture. In recent days, in the middle of the night, and aware of the cowardice this implies, leaders of the student union (FEU) took action against Henry to avoid that the rest of the students would be witnesses.

Caught in deep sleep, and without giving him a chance to react; manhandled by the dean of students and other manipulated students, and given his refusal to go along (as he made it clear that he would not leave the school on his own two feet), they dragged him from his dorm, down the stairs, events only comparable to the hordes of the Nazi SS or the dictators of the past century in southern lanes, and put him in a car and abandoned him far from home and the university.

How disgusted must they be with themselves, those who committed this outrage? This event could be inscribed in the long anthology of horror of the Castro dictatorship.

How much madness was needed to carry out this procedure?

Where is the “defender of the humble,” Mr. Comandante who now wastes none of the ink of his Reflections to interceded against the unconstitutional abuse he fathered? None of them were expelled from the university despite their armed activities. Why are the universities for communists, if not even Batista himself refused them to his enemies? The “Revolutionary” that cheated us promised justice, rights and freedoms, and instead exceeds in horror the regime he fought against.

Why does the young Henry Constantin, talented art student, in need of freedom, as we all seek through our blogs, not deserve some droplets of ink from the elder strongman, after he’s poured out a veritable river of black letters to publicly defend the murdered Bin Laden and to express sorrow at the loss of this “comrade”?

How much misery has a Government put together to abuse a young artist, diligent and talented student, of a physically barely developed adolescent, for the supposed crime of issuing opinions?

So many questions and so few logical answers.

How then, from different places in the world, have human beings been able to defend a system that puts shames us?

In any event, our friend and brother Henry, you will rarely have the opportunity to be more of a hero than now, it is difficult to grow as high as you have done this time. I’m honored by your courage, being just a boy, you have made a mockery of the system and its perfect fascist machinery.

Know that your strength like ours, is multiplied after each unworthy act. I also know that you harbor no hatred, the artist in you will not let you, despite the shock and feeling of helplessness. They are deserving of pity, because they fear losing the space that they maintain by the force of injustice, they are aware that their attitude has no place in modern times.

You also know that we will not stand by with folded arms. We will continue demanding justice and your rights, which is the same.

Here is my friendship forever, and my breath.

May 31 2011

Silence is Complicity

Henry Constantin

Sometimes I suspect that blogging in Cuba is like a scream from the depths of a cave that is lost in the void without finding any listeners. The echo comes back to me in an irascible silence, making me uncomfortable, thinking that outside the cave there are no inhabitants, we are alone.

The scream simply fades in the air. And we continue to roar in vain. We only manage to exorcise the impotence of knowing ourselves helpless and insignificant. The danger of posting is a personal matter, although to do so signifies, in some way, restoring the Nation to millions.

Death in Cuba is like a card game where the loser is well aware that given the rules and the ethics he must accept the facts and leave satisfied. And history doesn’t contradict me, and I remember some of the most significant tragedies:

A tugboat with several families, including children, one in arms, women, the elderly, is assaulted by another shuttle and with water hoses they are swept from the deck and thrown overboard to their death by suffocation. And the official press pays little regard to the incident.

They shoot some teenagers for the crime of attempting to cross the Straits of Florida, after ticking them and guaranteeing them life, without the blood splatter.

A man dies of hunger in a dark and dirty cell without the guilty missing a minute of sleep. Only his name remains in the anniversaries: Orlando Zapata.

Recently they expelled from the National Assembly, and closed the workshop of the artist Pedro Pablo Oliva, because he publicly expressed his personal ideas of democracy, and called for a multiparty system.

In recent days, they beat an opponent in the most central park of the city of Santa Clara, and hours later he died from the aftermath of the blows. The news becomes know through the willingness and courage of many who run at risk for others, and in just a few days, the news is diluted like a flash on the horizon.

A few hours ago, the Superior Art Institute (ISA), revoked the registration and grades of the student Henry Constantin, because he reported in his blog the news of the dissident murdered in Santa Clara. The young artist decided “not to leave the school on his own two feet.” The government understood it as a direct confrontation at his design, and nothing more dangerous could happen.

There are several possible sequences of what could happen:

1 – They could assault the student, threaten him, the State Security officials could abuse him and forcibly remove him from campus.

2 – They could manipulate a group of students disposed to “defy” Henry’s position, and in the end the young, emboldened by official pressure, will want to punish and beat him.

3 – In any of these variants a fatal accident could happen: a fall down the stairs, a slip in the struggle and he could receive a serious blow.

I know I’m being tragic but after reading the beginning of this post is there room for any possibility of naiveté or optimism? Does he have to endure another abusive attack before it happens? Why more lives to remember? What will we conquer by allowing them to add more pain to that we already possess?

The silence of those who raise their eyebrows on reading the horror and then turn the page, is direct complicity with the Castro dictatorship.

May 27 2011

Collera and Capote, Second Rate Agents

For some time I’ve wanted to talk about the media series on the Cuban “agents”, a completely carnivalesque show where they invent records with long years of service, unfortunately I was damned surprised to recognize the two of them.

I recognized him from being part of a fraternal organization to which I belonged for twenty-four years, and despite his reaching the highest levels within the organization, and his recognized facility with language to communicate, I never maintained a close relationship with this person. Something strange in me, that I’m given to fraternize with the majority of my brothers, but something in his particular case made me uneasy. Without explanation, I was unjustifiable overcome with a rejection of him, until his obvious anti-Masonic acts began. Ultimately, for his disdainful underestimation of the fraternity, he was first sanctioned for several years to lose his Masonic rights and be separated from the organization, and later he was expelled by the Supreme Court of Justice, confirmed by the Most Serene Upper Masonic House. He was the only Grand Master ever expelled from the organization. Quite a feat!

José Manuel Collera Vento

We knew that Mr. Collera Vento had businesses, illegal in the eyes of the government, and he survived in this way, because not even he himself remembers the last time he treated a baby in his pediatrics office. What can one infer from the fact that he was sought out by State Security, typical of their modus operandi, and blackmailed to cooperate for whatever they offered him. Once you respond affirmatively, all is lost. And Mr. Collera thought, like the great manipulator he is, that he could emerge unscathed from this blackmail, and they were squeezing him, threatening him until he was filled to the brim with excrement.
Not only did he sell his Masonic family when he sowed division among his brothers, but he betrayed his son, also a Mason, and they say that he now hides, for shame or for fear, in some part of the United States and doesn’t want to hear any news of his father, not forgetting that he deceived his mother and ex-wife, who left for Miami. Mr. Collera lied to his brother Masons through the oath that he took with his hand on the Bible, and the worst thing is that he betrayed himself. The final sad thing about this gentleman is that he has run out of land, they don’t want him over there and much less here.

The other “agent” I know is a fellow writer whom I called more than a friend, brother, supposedly, a gift life had given me. Mr. Raúl Capote also had been caught at some point, or he just gave up. Several times he wore me out asking to take his kids in my car to high school, where they were harassed over the counterrevolutionary activities of their father: they weren’t given credit for tests even though they passed them, they marked them down for misbehaviors they didn’t commit, they stole their things, obviously with the knowledge of the school officials, among other abusive practices.

It seems to me that therein lies the weakness of Capote: his children. Through them they conquered him, broke his will. We parents know that we don’t have the right to ruin our children’s future, who hasn’t felt the same? The biggest shame was that they lived off Capote’s mother who, from the United States, kept sending them remittances, at times ignoring her own welfare to give them a decent life.

Raúl Antonio Capote

Capote never thought he’d end up like this. Knowing him, he thought he could play both sides with State Security, and take one side and the other without ever knowing their treachery. In fact, he sold me my laptop for five hundred dollars’ possibly it was some donation, because he told me that he had received several for his Cuban Pen Club project.

His daughter was baptized by Dagoberto Valdés, then Director of the magazine Vitral, and I can still hear the sweet sound of the girl calling her “padrinito” who loaded her up with presents and attention purely from his feeling and particular affection for her, because to my son, who participated in the same activities when we worked on the magazine as jurors of its contest, he never felt obliged to go beyond his duty as a friend and host.

For both “agents,” their greatest punishment is their conscience, above all at night when they lay their heads on their pillows and remember that they are cowards and mercenaries.

A shot in the temple would be their only relief, only to do it they would have to have what they couldn’t find when they should have said “no.”

May 25 2011

Sebastián Martínez, Spanish Journalist in Cuban Prison

Sebastián Martínez

The Cuban government doesn’t censor, persecute and punish its nationals enough, though they live in the diaspora, but that it also is expanding to foreigners its need to teach a lesson to anyone who dares to break the “untainted” — and only authorized — image that it exports of the deteriorating “Revolution” which, if it ever was, has now lost its way.

For eleven months the Cuban authorities have held the Spanish citizen Sebastián Martínez Ferraté, who authorized one of the Spanish journalist who reports for TV5 in that country to do an expose, professionally done of course, on child prostitution in Cuba, which is clandestinely carried on in a great number of homes on the island.

It’s worth mentioning that there are no images in the report of pedophilia, nor anything morbid, much less the corruption of minors; the documentary only uncovers public opinion about the food chain of prostitution on the Island, particularly in Havana, where young girls are sold to the highest bidder. The saddest part, not just for the Government, but for all Cubans, is that the supply chain operates with the complicity of teachers who, for 10 CUC, allow the girls to leave school during class hours and cover up their absences to avoid the notification of their parents, who rely on them for the “rigor and protection” of Cuban education.

Time passed and, through a Cuban “friend” who lives in Spain,  they deceived Sebastian and brought him to Cuba believing that he would be airing some reports on hospitality. The day his plane landed at the airport in Havana, was the last day of the World Cup in South Africa, and Cuban Security took care to note, once again, a penalty without a player in, and so the most universal sports was celebrated.

As soon as he stepped foot in the airport terminal, they were waiting for him and without offering him any explanation he was arrested and taken to an unknown place, which reminds me of the complaints of the Cuban Government itself against the United States with regards to the prisoners at the Guantanamo Naval Base without any criminal proceedings.

Eleven months have passed and his family has not been authorized to visit him nor to receive news of his legal status nor even a report on his health. His wife, Dr. María Ángeles Sola, is–consistent with her name, Sola, meaning alone–on her own with their five-year-old daughter, having taken every possible measure at the Spanish Foreign Office in Madrid, but in the first six months the only response she’s gotten from the Cuban authorities was to deny her any contact with the Ambassador in Havana; they will not even tell her the reasons for keeping him in prison.

Maria says, as she recently declared on a Spanish radio station, that the Government has ignored Sebastian’s situation. And that the declarations of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Trinidad Jimenez, have only served to placate the media and the press and to justify her Government.

Cuban authorities have allowed Maria to contract for the services of an attorney to represent Sebastian,  and paying several thousand euros, she’s come to the conclusion that it’s useless, a waste of time, and that they’ve stolen her money.

After great insistence by the Spanish mass media, the wife managed to get the Consul in Havana to visit him in prison, without receiving any concrete response to his kidnapping, given that to date no legal charges have been filed against Sebastian. Maria strongly denies the statements of the Spanish Foreign Office, and charges that the Government and the Spanish Socialist Party is complicit with the Cuban dictatorship.

The question we all have is why doesn’t the Spanish Foreign Office defend Sebastian’s rights as an ordinary citizen. When will the Spanish Government assume a critical posture, without complications of any kind, with the totalitarian policies of Cuba, and turn its back to later justify what it did not witness. The truth is that both the Spanish Socialist Party and the Spanish Government have abandoned Sebastian, even as they affirm that he’s receiving consular assistance.

His wife Maria Sola and a mutual friend, Manual Fernandez, have appealed to me to use this space to help in spreading this outrage against international rights, and of course I have urgently complied. Knowing that the regime specializes in constructing false crimes and simulating trials where, before they’ve heard a single word from either party, they’ve already passed sentence.

I would hope that within this grain of sand that I am launching at international opinion–like that of Jose Marti for whom the whole glory of the world fit into a single grain of sand–can fit all the righteousness of good human beings, and that we can join our voices in demanding the Rights that belong to a defenseless man who suffers unjust imprisonment for doing his job as a journalist.

I want this kernel of corn that launched international opinion, like that of José Martí, the whole glory of the world fit into a kernel of corn, now it fits all the righteousness of the good human beings, and we demand our voices joining the Rights that corresponds to a helpless man who suffers unjust jail for doing his duty as a journalist.

Hopefully we will achieve our aims.

May 20 2011

In Cuba You’re an Agent or a Criminal

For fifty years the Cuban government, scripted by Fidel Castro, has decided to convert Cubans into heroes or traitors, according to its own convenience.

All those who left during the Mariel Boatlift were “scum and worms,” notwithstanding that they had committed no crimes or were doctors or engineers.

When General Del Pino took a small plane to flee to the north, in his television interview Fidel Castro, to discredit the high official, going at him from his machismo, exposed that the General’s son, also a soldier, was a homosexual.

I remember that through the national press they constructed a problematic past as an abuser for Guillermo Fariñas with the intent to create a criminal persona for him. With regards to the writer Raúl Rivero, when they wanted to commit abuses against him, they discredited him by manipulating his personal life.

The same thing happened with Orlando Zapata, with the regime’s version being that he was a criminal with no ideology manipulated by the opposition.

And with the Ladies in White something similar happened: they are catalogues by the Cuban government as scoundrels and mercenaries running after money from the United States Interest Section.

Apparently this is the oldest and the recourse most used by the system in these fifty years of social injustice. If is the technique of discrediting, through a media show, and voice that is exalted beyond the permissible limits of the game. The Government does not pardon the opposition and attacks, with all the means at its disposal, to stifle any attempt at freedom.

Recently we’ve seen they have killed Juan Wilfredo Soto, a born fighter since his teens. His family, terrified, has declared there were no signs of a beating on his body. A niece said the opposite. Some witnesses asserted that they saw the brutal beating. Others just claimed that Juan Wilfredo was led across the red carpet laid out by the cops, into a police car where they gave him a cup of coffee and a full body massage.

A neighbor of Juan Wilfredo Soto’s family telephoned me to say they the sister of the deceased was justified, saying that “If they tell the truth they won’t come back alive.” The niece and her husband came to the conclusion that, “He died as he’d always wanted, fighting in opposition; it makes no sense for them to commit suicide by telling the truth if they are young and want to live. They are aware of what could happen to them if they contradict the official version.”

On listening to the news from the neighbor I just smiled. I don’t need a telephone call to confirm what I already knew. There are so many repetitions, a script written in the first years that they came to power which they know by heart.

When freedom comes, each one will have his place.

May 17 2011

Juan Wilfredo Soto, in the Parque Vidal

Juan Wilfredo Soto

For Mother’s Day the Cuban government gives exactly what can cause the most pain: the loss of a child. And the Great Mother, the Nation, is mourning another of its sons who, like the long-ago freedom fighters, the Mambises, decided to die rather than be abused, expelled from his own land, a park, Vidal Park, where he took his first steps in life and from where some thugs tried to evict him.

Juan Wilfredo Soto was a man of principles. From his youth he presented his ideas against the “revolutionary process” and, therefore, at age 17, was expelled from school and imprisoned, for which he was known as the “Student.” Then followed other convictions for the same alleged “crimes”, rights that the Constitution of the United Nations itself recognizes as inalienable for all human, but which the Cuban government considers violations of its “iron fist” policy.

One day we will also have a “Wailing Wall” and there we will carve the names of those who have been dying in silence for over fifty years, without an electronic medium that could deliver the news and break the jaw of censorship, reaching the new era thanks to satellites, where they cannot stop the names of Orlando Zapata and Juan Wilfredo Soto escaping, men who will be together because they chose to take the path of freedom and become the pride of their countrymen.

As always, the Cuban press keeps silence or publishes the official version, drafted by the leaders of the State. Wasting words justifying a cruel murder, without offering more space in their newspapers than they allot to the whining of bin Laden, the “prodigal son” of Fidel Castro.

Perhaps this is the revenge of an eye for an eye. The Americans took away the most hated terrorist and the Cuban government, in response, bludgeoned to death a righteous man, although at the time he was defending merely the principle of being able to walk in the park in his city.

We have just buried John Wilfredo Soto, who is now a star blazing in the firmament, watching us.

May 10 2011

The Manipulated of Little Note

Foto: Karel Poort

For many it came to be the program with more viewers, but far from looking at it for ideological reasons, they took it as simple entertainment, assuming it was another fictional series, very bad indeed, but at that time on the schedule there was nothing more entertaining than baseball. Those who had satellite channels in their neighborhood had the option to watch other things on TV, but the majority, with no other choice, chose to wait for the surprise. It could be any program, the least expected, and hence the appeal of “Cuba’s Reasons.”

There are those of us who remember the serial, “It had to be in silence” (1979), which marked our generation. It was about the Revolutionary hero who risked his life to foil the plots against the lives of Cuban leaders or to sabotage of national industry. Comparing that to the new series, “Cuba’s Reasons,” leaves us no option but to make fun of so much ridiculousness.

But the last thing we should do is underestimate the creators of this media show, because there was something surreptitious about it which was their true intention: to create paranoia. To instill more fear; to make people afraid of those closet to them, be it a family member, a friend or colleague of a lifetime. At a time when revolutions are starting in Egypt and other countries, they need to reinforce the justification that we are a country under attack in case demonstrations happen in Cuban demanding that the dictatorship open the doors of Democracy.

The Ladies in White were the spark, the detonator of an awaking of national dignity, because then they, the fascists, could defend themselves in their own way and ensure the manipulation of the rest of the population that remains naive or is unwilling to see the truth; and to beat, as on other occasions, these Ladies, whom the men of Cuba envy for their courage, and to call for marches of “reaffirmation,” which are nothing more than blackmail, where people are forced to attend because they don’t want to lose their “stimulation” (monthly cash), or even their jobs, and even students, independent of their grades, they won’t give them the political endorsement that allows them to attend college. So they have taken up once again, the slogan, “the universities are for revolutionaries.”

So the viewers have no other choice but to wait for a second season that will improve, if possible, the quality of the scripts. Meanwhile, others, those who have no bosses, nor masters, nor gentlemen to whom they respond in exchange for their gives and rewards, nor who receive payment in hard currency for labor and political behavior, but whom the honesty of feelings compels, we are left to construct for the Nation a dignified history of shame and modesty.

The Silent Re-Evolution

Photo: Reuters

MANY FRIENDS HAVE written me to ask why my posts are postponed when the always turbulent Cuban reality, unfortunately for us, requires direct and constant attention. My closest friends demand a commitment to my readers. Others, most of them strangers, have approached me in the street to tell me that they are aware of my blog and miss new writings.

On reading the emails or hearing the words I couldn’t help but feel a certain irresponsibility and, at the same time, an infinite pleasure, because to demand my opinion is a sign of recovery of the social health so lacking in our society, the need for information, and the search for it no matter what.

Something is changing in the minds of Cubans, perhaps because we have begun to lose our fear, others because the blinders have fallen from their eyes. They know they were misled. There is nothing left, now, of what was so much promised in exchange for the sacrifice of several generations. They have been cheated of their lives, and the only thing left is to search for the truth, then to tell it to those close to you, because they need it, and urge them to share it and to feel the relief provided by it. Knowing the truth is like a virus that, after an incubation period, runs through our bodies, and at the instant of filling them, is contagious.

I owe my readers an explanation: my work as a writer, these days, occupies all my time and I don’t believe I’m able to write all the literature that, emerging from within me, kick with anger because it is the moment of their birth. I finished two books of short stories, started a novel, halfway, and happened to have another almost finished. I am preparing an anthology of my stories to be published in Europe. A publisher asks me for a noir novel that a wrote for amusement some years ago and haven’t looked at again, and so I have taken it up again lately.

I have also been regularly summoned by and met with the police authorities of the country. Since I haven’t received any new denunciations after their accusing me of being a “rapist,” “assailant,” “thief,” “murder suspect,” “threatener of a stranger,” “running over a child with my car,” etc. without any victims nor witnesses coming forward; in short, the years the Prosecutor is asking for these supposed crimes, exceed fifty.

As I wrote in a previous post, after the presentation of a hidden camera video where a supposed “witness,” who never came to testify against me, confesses the pressure and offers made to him to agree to discredit me, that haven’t continued this line of government blackmail.

Now there’s a new variant. They’ve referred me the Havana Psychiatric Hospital (Mazorra),where they make me write, draw cartoons, answer questions from doctors who tell me secretly that they like my books. In a way, there’s nothing for it but to enjoy it, I know that  in some way I have to collect this experience, and it is a post I have to write, because I looked for the pavilion where, last year, they killed the elderly left unprotected.

At this time I add my duties to a fraternal organization which I have belonged to for twenty-three years and which I love with a passion, where I hold positions of importance. Add to that, due to an accident, I lost the phalanx of a finger. But all is well now, the rest of the fingers type. Anyway, I have lost other spiritual pieces that were more important to me.

But nothing is overwhelming when I think that “something is changing,” I’m sure that’s the salvation of our country. This is a silent “re-evolution,” an insubordination in the minds of people that leads to postponed resolutions.

These days I write the posts I owe, it’s my duty, because “something is changing” in the Cuban population, and it’s for the better.

April 29 2011