Latest

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.

I Felt Shame, Much Shame

By Pablo Pacheco Avila

Translated into English by Alberto de la Cruz

Last Sunday ended the Catholic Social Week of the Miami Archdiocese, and luckily, I was able to participate in two of the events.

In one of the programs, Cuban American businessman Carlos Saladrigas held a conference on the business future of Cuba.

Saladrigas allowed the public to present written questions. According to the moderator, not all were answered due to the financier’s lack of time. A group of participants in which I found myself offered a retort to some of the answers given by Saladrigas. This gentleman compared our retorts to an act of repudiation.

Personally, my concerns are for the members of the peaceful opposition who risk their well being and even their lives for the rights of all Cubans to participate in the country’s economy. Those who demand peaceful changes and are repressed by the Cuban political police.

I have a premonition that the thesis presented by Saladrigas regarding the economic future of our country will serve the rich businessmen in exile, like Saladrigas. Those who today demand liberty for Cuba from inside will not have many options; they lack capital and business experience.

According to Saladrigas, an opposition member may be within the actual ranks of the Cuban Communist Party.

What is curious here is that Carlos Lage, Abel Prieto, Esteban Lazo, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura or any other can be an anonymous member of the opposition according to his hypothesis. These individuals can possess large amounts of capital obtained through theft and the suffering of the Cuban people. Those who confront the regime hardly have enough to put food on the table and feed their children.

Nevertheless, I respect the beliefs of Saladrigas, it is his right and I will not deprive him of it. It is also my right not to believe in his theory and my duty to remind him that the most vulnerable sector in Cuba are the members of the peaceful opposition in Cuba who the regime prohibits from investing in the country’s economy.

What caught my attention the most at this conference with Carlos Saladrigas were the words of Father Jose Conrado in response to the replies to Saladrigas. According to the pastor, he saw in this conference the same thing he sees daily in Cuba and he felt shame because of this.

Shame is what I felt, and much of it, after hearing these words from a man whom I admire. To offer a retort is a right provided by freedom of expression. The opposite would be true if they had not invited those who disagree with Saladrigas’ theory. What happens in our country can only be compared with fascist hordes or totalitarian communist regimes like the one in Havana. It has nothing to do with what took place at this conference held by Saladrigas.

Today I felt like throwing in the towel, forgetting everything, but I cannot. Cuba is above everything and everyone. I hope my wife and son will understand because I have involved them in something that is very personal; the liberty of Cuba.

Writing What my Conscience Dictates (II and Final)

By Pablo Pacheco Avila

I arrived to the Matanzas prison known as ‘Aguica’ on April 29th.  I was kept there in solitary confinement for 17 months.  The Head of Penitentiaries applied a special regiment on us: family visits were only allowed every 3 months and could only last 2 hours, they only allowed 2 relatives and their underage children, the bag with food which was intended to keep us somewhat healthy had a limit of 30 pounds.  Conjugal meetings were only allowed every 5 months and could not exceed 3 hours.

My time in ‘Aguica’ was always in The Polish Cell, located in the most rigorous of sections and which aimed to hold prisoners who were punished for disobedience, those who were sentenced to death, or those with life sentences.  There were other members of the group of the 75 there.  In ‘Aguica’, I lived the hardest days of my life, but I was also blessed because I met Miguel Galban, Alexis Rodriguez, Manuel Ulvas, and Roberto de Miranda, also victims of the crackdown of 2003.

In a matter of 7 years and 4 months, I learned of the dark side of humans, the misery of the heart always corrodes the conscience.  The impunity and low level of education of the soldiers would always start quarrels between guards and prisoners.  The soldiers would always win, while the latter suffered unimaginable punishments.  With my own eyes, I saw men amputate their ears, cut their veins, pinch their eyes and go blind, cut of their hands and legs, swallow barbed wire, throw themselves from a third floor, and all with the intent of avoiding a beating by the guards.

The sad part of this story is that, in the majority of these self-inflictions, the ones suffering are demanding that their fundamental rights, which had been violated for years, be respected.  Others grew sick in the nerves due to the rigorous conditions of captivity, while some would hurt themselves to end up in a hospital, where they could eat at least a little better.

Putting us together with common prisoners was a perverse tactic by the authorities.  Fortunately, during those years I was able to shatter the plans of the ruling elite.  Without intending it, the prisoners saw me as a shield to confront their oppressors and, with time, they [the common prisoners] ended up respecting our cause, with very few exceptions.  In fact, there were even some  policemen of lower ranking which defended political prisoners of conscience.

On the day which Cardinal Jaime Ortega informed me through the phone that I would be allowed to travel to Spain, I was shocked and it was difficult for me to speak.  It was the end of a terrible nightmare which consumed me for years.

Now that the storm faded, I believe that if it had not been for my faith in God, the love of my country and love of my family, I could have not withstood such torture.  I appreciate all that Spain and its people did, offering human warmth to me, despite the difficult financial crisis that country is going through.  They lent me their hand, and I will never forget that, just like I will never forget my days behind bars.

To live in exile is difficult, and because of this, I admire the Cuban diaspora very much.  Despite the hardships they may live on a daily basis, they never forget the political prisoners and they offer help to those who now arrive with nothing.

Cuba is physically missing from us, but it is still in the mind of this exile.  What is true always lasts, and because of this, my cause does not fade, for it is the cause of those who aspire to achieve a better world.

Writing What my Conscience Dictates (I)

By Pablo Pacheco Avila

Writing what one’s conscience dictates in a totalitarian system represents a grand risk for those who break the barriers of silence which the soldiers impose.  Generally speaking, those who are brave end up in prison, exiled, and in the worst of cases in a cemetery.  Despite this, continuing to write without censoring our thoughts means to strengthen that free soul which we all carry inside.

Luckily for Cuba, while the State-run media assumes the role of the submissive spokesperson of the longest dictatorship of the Western hemisphere, others decided to describe the cruel reality in which Cubans live.  If the crackdown of March 2003 was the reflection of hate and intolerance of a regime, the brutal deportation of various dissidents to Spain is proof that nothing has change on the island.  It is just a cosmetic sign of “open-ness” which is far too absurd.

On March 19th, 2003, as I was taking an afternoon nap with my son, a large number of State Security agents knocked on my door.  I was arrested and taken to a cell of the political police in the province of Ciego de Avila.

One week later, I was able to see my wife again and she told me that the soldiers forced my son Jimmy to wake up so that they could search the mattress in search of proof to incriminate me.  At that moment, I did not imagine that I would spend 87 months behind bars.  One day before my 33rd birthday, I met for the first time with my lawyer and she was the one who told me the trial would be held on April 4th.  A fiscal petition of 26 years imprisonment weighed over my head.  The trial was nothing more than a Roman Circus.  The Communist Party members and the soldiers played the role of Cesar, while the fiscals and judges represented  the lions, and the defense lawyers were just spectators.  Pedro Arguelles and I were the slaves being sacrificed.  After various hours in that judicial parody, we were both sentenced to 20 years of prison.

Oleivys was left in the mercy of the goodwill of a few friends which followed their human instincts and tore apart their ideological indoctrination, in addition to the hostility of the authorities  from the Ministry of Health for which she worked.  To this they added an additional punishment of forcing her to travel 360 kilometers with our 4 year old son in order to see me.  Oleivys, with her strong and optimistic character, stood back up again.  The separation forced her to be a mother, a father, a sister, a friend, and confident of Jimmy.  He was the one who least understood what was happening.  Day after day, he would ask his mother when his father was going to return.  My other half, finding strength somewhere inside of her, would respond with pain: when he finishes studying.

“Every night, I would submerge myself in a sea of tears”, Oleivys now tells me, after she surpassed the storm.

One of my Dreams Has Come True

By Pablo Pacheco Avila

When my only son was born, I dreamed that he would be a baseball player.  Ever since he was very young, Jimmy liked baseball and he did not miss a single occasion for any adult to throw him a ball.  He batted with style, something very impressive for his age.

Everything was going good, little Jimmy was showing signs of being a good athlete.  He had the drive and talent.

On one afternoon of March 2003, I was taking an afternoon nap with my son who was only 4 years old at the time, when a Cuban political police official, accompanied by a large police operation, knocked on the door of my house.

That day, they shattered my dream and the dream of an innocent child.  Hate, intolerance, and the obsession with power of Fidel Castro took me away from my family for more than 7 years.  However, we still did not give up and we continued onward.

Against all odds, my wife Oleivys knew how to confront the situation and fueled my hope and desire of having my son become a baseball player.

This past weekend, Oleivys, Jimmy and I went to the inauguration of the baseball championship of Miami Lakes.  Our son, now an adolescent, is among the ranks of The Giants team.

Seeing the teams come out filled me with an indescribable feeling.  I was emotional, proud, and happy, but most of all, my dream had come true.  It is possible that my son may end up wanting to be a baseball player and it’s really what I desire the most, but my greatest satisfaction is that he lives in a free country where only he can decide his own limit.

Today, I can proudly say that despite all the missteps we have suffered and of all the efforts of the Cuban dictatorship to try and ruin our lives, they were not successful.  We can walk through thorny paths or even over sharp blades, but if we never give up, we will make it.  And that’s what is important.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.