Author Archive

Anatomy of a Revolution (Event at UM’s Casa Bacardi)

Two Generations of Dissidents of Conscience Under the Same Regime

A chat between two generations of former political prisoners of conscience, interview and dialgoue about the Castro revolution and the vision for a future democratic Cuba. 
Moderator: Jose Azel, Associated researcher, ICCAS, University of Miami.  Dr. Azel is one of the founders of Pediatrix Medical Group, the principal provider of specialized pedriatic specialitiies in the United States, and served as its first financial director.  Dr. Azel was adjunt professor of International Commerce of the School of Business Administration for the University of Miami.  He is licensed and has a Masters in Business Administration and has a Doctorate in International Studies from the University of Miami.  Dr. Azel is the author of the book “Manana in Cuba”, published on March of 2010.
Welcoming:
Gerardo Martínez-Solanas, Graduated in Political Science with a Masters in Economic Sciences.  In Cuba, he was the diocesan of the Catholic Youth and a member of the Revolutionary Directorate.  In exile, he is the founder of the Cultural Initiative for a Participatory Democracy and Director of the subsidary ‘DemocraciaParticipativa.net’.  He is the author of the book “Government of the People: Option for a New Century”, where he presents an agenda for the XXV century, concepts that go beyond political parties and ideologies, demanding a natural space for the excercise of citizen rights.
Participants:
Huber Matos Benítez was born in Yara and was one of the leaders of the Cuban Revolution when he helped Fidel Castro, Camilo Cienfuegos and the other members of the 26th of July Movement to bring down the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in January of 1959.  He had opposed the coup of 1952, since he considered it unconstitutional.  A few months after the triumph of the Revolution, he started becoming more critical about the Marxist direction of the new government and its growing ties to the Communist Party of Cuba.  He was declared guilty of “treason and sedition” by the Castro regime, only 9 months after rising to power and for renouncing.  Huber was the first prisoner of conscience of the Castro revolution.  He served 20 years in prison before being released in 1979.  He currently resides in Miami and is still active within the opposition to the Cuban regime.
Pablo Pacheco Ávila, born in Puerto Padre, Las Tunas.  In Cuba, he was part of the secretariat of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights (FCDH), helping political prisoners and their families.  He collaborated with the Ciego de Avila Independent Journalist Cooperation as an independent journalist until March 19th of 2003, when he was arrested during the wave of repression known as the Black Spring, being sentenced to 20 years of prison for charges of harming internal order and distabilizing the country.  Pacheco’s blog “Voices Behind the Bars” won the first ever “Virtual Island” contest for Cuban bloggers, and was later changed to “Voices from Exile”, which also won the Mandala Award for Communication.  He lives in Miami and is also active within the opposition movement.
DATE:        Friday, September 21st, 2012.
6:30 p.m. cocktails
7:00 p.m. Interview
PLACE:        Casa Bacardí/Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies
Univeristy of Miami, 1531 Brescia Avenue, Coral Gables
RSVP:        To reserve, call the institute at (305) 284-CUBA (2822).  Limited capacity.

The Silence of the Popular Party

By Pablo Pacheco Avila

I clearly remember my arrival to Spain along with relatives and other ex political prisoners. We lived unforgettable moments which marked our lives. The media would constantly converse with us to report what we had lived through for more than 7 years of captivity due to political reasons under a system which attacks any who opposes it.

Spanish political leaders met with us and made us many promises to support the cause of freedom in our country. Two years later, I’ve noticed that the politics of Spain with the regime of Havana is full of hypocrisy and economic interests. Human rights and the prosperity of the Cuban people then becomes rhetoric of propaganda. But behind all of this, it is preferable to simply take a sip of a good diplomatic wine.

In one of the meetings we had with the then leader of the Popular Party, Mariano Rajoy, I asked him if his Party won the elections what he would do with the Spanish companies which, for years, have been accomplices of the Cuban dictatorship, upon paying a slave-level salary to the workers. As a response, Rajoy promised to keep his compromise with democracy.

Months later, Rajoy arrived to power and his minister of exterior relations, Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo, made declarations that he would not visit Cuba until they respect human rights there. This provoked much irritation among those in power on the island. The response was given by Ricardo Alarcon, president of the National Assembly. He threatened the Spanish companies on Cuban soil. And thus began the Spanish silence.

Two years later after our arrival to the Iberic country, many things have happened and none of them have been favorable for change in Cuba. The most lamentable case has been the death of the dissident leader Oswaldo Paya in a suspicious car accident in which there was a Swedish and Spanish citizen involved.

I understand and admire the fact that the Popular Party is doing the impossible to return Angel Carromero to Spain. It is a legitimate action to defend their citizens wherever they are having problems, but it is detestable to not know how the Cuban dictatorship acts and the Spanish politicians are thinking that silence will put their citizen in freedom.

Regardless, I think that Carromero will spend a long time in prison, at least until the spirits die down a bit. It will not be the first foreign captive in Cuba. Nor the last, although one of the only foreigners who will put behind the bars for a car accident. I am convinced that if Paya had been an everyday citizen, Carromero would be in a bar right now watching a soccer game between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

In this recent conflict between both nations, those who lose the most are those of us who want freedom for our country, those who long for all Cubans to have the right to have rights, those who want to return to reconstruct the ruins which this 53 year old communism has left us. Those of us who lose are the friends of Oswaldo Paya, his family and, more than anyone, the internal opposition movement. Carromero has also lost, though I am sure that his government’s silence will not take him out of the hell he must be living in, behind bars in a cell of any Cuban prison.


Hypocrisy, Fear…Both Things.

By Pablo Pacheco Avila

I have lost count of the times I have heard the phrase “I am not interested in politics”. Often, it is young Cubans who say it.

It’s legitimate that we may not be interested in politics, especially if one has lived most of their life under a totalitarian system where even the flight of a pigeon is linked to politics.

Those of us who were born after 1959 were practically converted into robots. Our capacity of thought was reduced to “Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che” or “Country or Death, we will Win”. In sum, it was a bunch of slogans which bordered dementia.

I respect young Cubans who come from the island and are not interested in politics, it is their right.

But, I feel that it is something completely hypocritical to see those same people who are not interested in politics form a scandal when some US congressman or woman proposes a law to restrict something that has to do with Cuba, or when they want to modify the discredited “Cuban Adjustment Act”, a law which so many Hispanics and people of other ethnic groups long for.

The majority of those who take shelter in the “Cuban Adjustment Act” leave the island because of economic problems and not because they stood up against the ruthless regime which enslaves the country. In fact, upon obtaining US residency, one of the first things many Cubans think of is in returning to their homeland to take a look over the shoulders of their own country. Those who act in such a manner are the oddest political refugees which humanity has ever seen.

In the last 9 months, Cuba has lost two important figures of the peaceful opposition. Their deaths have left lots of doubts up in the air. They were both recipients of the “Sajarov” Award. First Laura Pollan, leader of the Ladies in White, in a case of “dengue” and a few weeks ago the president of Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, after a suspicious “car accident”.

Those who have confronted the dictatorship know of what those who are at the service of the intelligence apparatus are capable of doing when any person who wants change for Cuba and who wants to destroy their totalitarian power stands in their way.

I feel shame when I hear Cubans who live in freedom say: “I am not interested in politics”, and it is not even because of the phrase itself, really, but instead it is because of the hypocrisy which hangs on those words. It is true that many are not interested in talking bad about the regime, about condemning its crimes, denouncing every violent act against the people, yet they do say things about the politicians of the country which has given us refuge whenever they try to pass some law against the dictatorship and, in one way or another, affect their interests.

It is possible that Cuba will change very soon. It is also possible that everything will continue the same, or worse, especially for those who confront the power of the Communist machinery from the inside. But every Cuban has the responsibility of taking action for the destiny of our nation.

There is no such thing as good or bad hypocrisy, just like there is no such thing as good or bad fear. It has been proven: every country which has chosen hypocrisy and fear as their shield has ended in ruins or in shackles. It is time to put an end to harmful fear and subtle hypocrisy.

 


The Path Depends on Ourselves

By Pablo Pacheco Avila

The most important month of the calendar for me is July.  Firstly, it is when my only son was born and second, it was the month that I left Cuba.

Life, without one choosing, imposes change on us.  Many times, these changes are too rough to handle, like crosses hanging over our backs, but human willpower is limitless.

Just a few hours ago, it was the second anniversary of my arrival to Spain, and the first of arriving to the United States.  I remember that I told my family after talking on the phone with Cardinal Jaime Ortega in the provincial prison of Ciego de Avila, “We have to pack our bags, without even thinking of returning, at least as long as the same ones who are forcing me to leave are in power”.

Fifteen or twenty minutes before boarding the plane with my wife and son in a semi-empty terminal of the “Jose Marti” Havana Airport, I felt the strongest of emotions I had ever felt.  I found some of my partners in cause and their families.  A nightmare of more than 7 years was ending, but most of all, it was the illusion of discovering a path with lots and lots of expectations of living in a foreign land.

Time flies.  It goes by so fast that sometimes we do not even notice.  Yesterday, I was being consumed in a prison cell of high severity in Cuba, and today, right now, I enjoy freedom in this country which has always lent a helping hand to Cubans.

Now, I look back at the past and I laugh, although with a mixture of pain- it is inevitable after everything we lived- but I thank God for all the good and bad things he has given me.

Many of my brothers have found the path, while for others it has been more difficult, but I am certain that each one of them will find that route of happiness and prosperity.

Those who are no longer with us will always be remembered with love and respect, especially Orlando Zapata Tamayo, our martyr.  Zapata was the climax which opened up the iron bars which, during years, kept us in inhumane conditions for simply thinking differently.  His sacrifice caught the attention of the free world, that world which sometimes, because of complicity and other times because of ingenuity, was on the side of those who oppress, on the side of those who have ruined an entire nation.  Of course, the political and economic interests have surpassed human rights, the rights of a people to live in freedom, prosperity, and of living like human beings.

Those who decided to continue the struggle from the inside and said no to exile deserve an outstanding position in the history of Cuba.  Not all of us have the valor of living with the Sword of Damocles hanging over heads.  Supporting them from here is more than a duty, it’s an obligation.

Right now, I dry my eyes off and do so with a bittersweet emotion.  I live free, alongside my lovely wife and my rebel son.  I can see my mother everyday and my two brothers frequently.  That, for me, is more than enough to be happy.  However, pain does invade my heart each night.  Cuba is still a slave.  Those in power continue ruining it, and whats hurts me the most is seeing how people decide to take refuge in fear and double-standards to just end up enslaved.

I look back again and I thank God and all those who have lent me a hand.  I have to look towards the future, for in the past one cannot dwell, and the future is unpredictable, while the present is magnificent for me, for I have what I have dreamed of in life.


Opening Pandora’s Box (Pt. 1)

By Julio Cesar Galvez

Math does not make mistakes.  Two plus two is always four.  It is part of the exact sciences.  The Spanish press agency EFE published a report titled “Spanish government studies possibility of slashing aid for former Cuban political prisoners”, which has been re-posted in various other news agencies around the world.  However, the “sources close to the Ministry of Exterior Relations”, which EFE quotes without mentioning names, does not say the absolute truth, or is not aware of specific details.

Two minutes before boarding the plane which brought us to Madrid on July 13th of 2010, we signed documents provided by functionaries of the Spanish embassy in Cuba at the airport of Havana.  These documents were known as BROA, and they specify the aid we would receive upon arriving to Spanish soil for 18 months, but could be extended to 24 months in cases of VULNERABILITY, which we do find ourselves in at this very moment.

According to the document, we were to receive house payment of up to $745.00€ monthly, not 700 as the functionaries of the Red Cross who tend to us have informed.  The document which we signed was to give us funds for being political refugees in the European Union, not in Spain.  The truth is surely known by the functionaries who elaborated the secret agreement between Moratinos, Zapatero, Raul Castro, and Jaime Ortega.

Of the monthly 180.00€  per person which we receive, we have to pay electricity, gas, water, food, and everything else, which we have to justify with receipts.  This is something which is very good and normal, just that I can’t buy candies and sweets for my 7 year old son Emmanuel.  Inviting a friend to drink coffee at any shop is a sacrilege.  Albert Einstein could not carry out any similar mathematical analysis in order to survive.

In regards to medical coverage, it is the same which every other resident of Spain has, and it is registered.  It is much better and of excellent quality. Very far from the Castro propaganda which says that Cuban healthcare is the best in the world.  The Cuban medical centers wish they were at the level of Gomez Ulla or Gregorio Maranon, doctors whom I’ve met.  There is nothing special, save for the fact that the first 8 families which arrived to Madrid were able to routinely carry out medical check-ups thanks to the gestures of the Community of Madrid, considering that the Red Cross, which was the entity in charge of the refugees at that time, had refused.


The Storm Has Passed but the Calm Has Not Arrived

By Pablo Pacheco Avila

The visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Cuba left a storm of arrests, blocked phone lines, and beatings against non-violent dissidents.  The most visible of these cases has been the measures taken against the individual who screamed “freedom” in the Pope’s Mass in Santiago de Cuba.  The worst part of this specific case is that the oppressor used a symbol of the Red Cross to attack the victim.

For me, what has been most lamentable about the Papal visit has been the exclusion of a sector of the Cuban population.  It is unbelievable that His Holiness dedicated half an hour to Fidel Castro, the main henchman of the Cuban Catholic Church, and refused to meet with the Ladies in White and/or other peaceful dissidents, even if for just a minute.

On this trip to the island by the Vicar of Christ, there was no truce on behalf of the oppressors against the dissidents.  Actually, I see the Catholic Church of Cuba as the winner of this story, as well as the peaceful Cuban opposition.  The decadent dictatorship has lost.

The Cuban Catholic Church was persecuted, insulted, and decimated during the first years of the dictatorship.  Their convents and schools were closed, countless priests were exiled, etc.  But they never lost Faith and continued preaching the Gospel.  Something similar happened to those who believed in freedom, those who confronted the regime and who would die in the execution wall screaming “Long Live Christ the King“.

The dictatorship loses, because they lose spaces and the tiny openings become cracks.

Raul Castro, one of the executioners of such cruelty, looked tired, humiliated and worn out on television when the Bishop of Santiago de Cuba refused to shake his hand.  Who was to say that the atheist soldier, 52 years after persecuting the religious would witness another Papal Mass.  God forced him, for God has power over men.

I agree with the words of Benedict XVI: “Cuba should be the home of all and for all Cubans, where justice and freedom may thrive in an atmosphere of serene brotherhood“.  But I should also point out that the only ones who do not allow this to happen are the sames ones who His Holiness shook hands with.

Evidently, there will not be reconciliation between the blade and the wound.  The wound is carried by those who slept in dungeons while the Pope visited Cuba, those who are not allowed to travel to their own country, those who have died for defending the freedom of their land, the oppressed, those who were excluded by Benedict XVI.  And the blade is carried by all those who oppress their people, who beat people, especially women who carry flowers in their hands.  They are the sharp blades, ready to stab the victims.


The Church is Sacred

By Adolfo Fernandez Sainz

Translated into English  by “Translating Cuba”

With respect to what other dissidents can do in Cuba, this is my opinion.

To me it seems like a great mistake to “occupy” a church by assault, as if it were a military base. If they had protested in front of the Communist Pary offices that would have been good. If they had gone as a group to talk with the church authorities, that wouldn’t have been all bad. But to entrench themselves in a church is playing State Security’s game.

The best thing they can do at this point is to obey what the priest in charge of the church tells them. Not to offer any resistance to the Church. These are not the ways to ask something of the Pope.One does not demand things from the Pope. Leave it in the hands of the Ladies in White’ who are doing it divinely. The Ladies in White are asking Santa Rita to intercede for the Pope to grant them a minute. This is the only way. Our opposition has always been peaceful and civilized.

In any event, God writes straight with crooked lines. The crooked lines we make ourselves, there God writes straight because He is God.

Perhaps He can take something good from this.


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