Summit Meeting

On the death of Orlando Zapata

March 4th, 2010

Viva Zapata: A Cuban dissident is murdered while Latin leaders schmooze with Castro.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón wore a broad smile as he warmly greeted Cuba’s Raúl Castro at the Rio Group summit on the posh Mexican Riviera last week. The two men, dressed in neatly pressed guayabera shirts, shook hands as Mr. Calderón, with no small measure of delight, gestured to his audience to welcome Mexico’s very special guest.

A mere 300 miles away, in a military prison hospital in Havana, political prisoner Orlando Zapata lay in a coma. For 84 days the 42-year-old stone mason of humble origins had been on a hunger strike to protest the Castro regime’s brutality toward prisoners of conscience. His death was imminent. Read More..

Cuba and Cholera: Good Hygiene and Good Government Can Save Lives

March 21st, 2013

January 18, 2013

By Frank Calzon

Almost five months ago, the Cuban government announced the end of a cholera outbreak in eastern Cuba. At the time, Cuba’s Public Health Ministry blamed the three deaths and 417 cases on overflowing toilets, heavy rains and contaminated wells. According to the government, thanks to its prompt reaction and the quality of the country’s public health system, the crisis ended quickly.

Just recently, on January 15, the Cuban government announced that there were “only” 51 new cases—this time in Havana.

International and independent media on the island had already reported the outbreak, with independent media doing so months ago. On January 13, the BBC reported a “cholera fear in Cuba as officials keep silent.” Likely prompted by the international attention, the next day the government published an Information Notice to the Population saying it had detected “an increase in serious diarrhea…with symptoms that lead to the suspicion of cholera.”

Lest anyone become concerned, however, the government stated in the notice that it had everything under control and an “anticholera plan…was immediately activated” in which the government has “all the means and resources needed.” The Information Notice offered no additional details other than to say that “due to the measures already taken, the outbreak is on its way to extinction.”

International news reports, however, belied the Cuban government’s claims. The January 13 BBC story reported that one known death had occurred “in one of the poorer and more overcrowded districts of Cuba’s capital” and that “there are increasing signs” of more cases. “Suspected cases are being sent to the Tropical Medicine Institute…All our wards are dealing with this issue—they are almost full,” an Institute employee told the BBC.

As a result of their own independent assessments, both the British Embassy and the American mission in Havana issued travel advisories earlier this week, and other embassies told the Associated Press that they were considering doing the same. The diplomats told AP they “have been concerned that the government is not sharing information with them in a timely manner”

An AP report that appeared in The Miami Herald on January 15 explained that “Cholera is a waterborne disease caused by a bacteria found in tainted water or food. It can kill within hours” and said that “it was unclear why a new outbreak was being seen in Havana. Rains, which can help spread the disease, are common in January, but the weather has been unusually dry this year.”

An ambulance is parked in Varadero, Cuba. Photo: Courtesy of Domenic Scaturchio.

An ambulance is parked in Varadero, Cuba. Photo: Courtesy of Domenic Scaturchio. Homepage Photo: Courtesy of Edgar Rubio Rodilla

Blame Game

To blame the weather (as well as the United States) for all of Cuba’s misfortunes is a common practice of the Cuban authorities. Years ago, Havana claimed the United States was responsible for starting epidemics, and even a tobacco plague, years ago, but when Washington demanded proof they had nothing to show. What the repeated outbreaks and the Cuban government’s efforts to conceal them show is that the much-heralded Cuban public health system is a great sham. The regime makes a great show of sending its medical personnel abroad to countries like Venezuela and Bolivia, while closing a number of clinics and hospitals at home and sending doctors who disagree to pris

Moreover, the persistence of cholera is also laying bear the sorry state of Cuban infrastructure, much of which has not been updated since before the revolution. Unfortunately, the international media has failed to make the connection between the disastrous conditions of Havana’s—and other cities—water and sewage systems and the cholera outbreak, as they would if they were reporting in Haiti or another country. But the truth is that thousands of Havaneros do not have access to running water, a service long since cut off to the homes of many ordinary citizens. Instead, they must patiently wait in line for the government trucks that are supposed to regularly distribute water (but rarely do) for drinking, washing and cleaning.

Today, the government insists that the tourists are fine because they all can have bottle water. But what does that mean for the country’s own citizens?

With a population more than twice what it had in 1959, Havana still depends on the same outdated water systems: its aqueduct, pumps and pipes have served the city since before the Castros came to power. Nationally, more than half of the water supply is lost due to leaks and improper maintenance, according to Cuba’s Institute of Hydraulic Resources. The government’s response? It recommends that Cubans dig their own wells for potable water.

There is also the problem of Cuba’s outdated and short-changed sewer system. The lack of maintenance of the country’s creaky system for safely disposing of human waste is made worse by pipes that dump untreated sewage directly into streams and on to shores close to populated areas. Shoreline pollution is exacerbated by official corruption and the pilfering of pipes, which results in the pollution spreading farther on land.

A Story Foretold

Months ago, dissident journalists reported several deaths attributed to cholera in neighborhoods south of Havana. The epidemic began hundreds of miles away in the city of Manzanillo, but there have been cases in other provinces.

Cuban authorities tried to blame the self-employed for the cholera and responded by prohibiting the sale of lemonade and other fruit drinks. There have been reports of closing of schools. Visitors are not allowed to visit cholera patients at various hospitals. And there are shortages of soap and cleaning products, which often can only be purchased at hard currency stores. But the majority of the population has no dollars.

Tragically, in the absence of real information and honesty on the part of the government, the only way Cubans learn about the situation and how to protect themselves is from independent media and civil society. Last summer, during the outbreak in the eastern provinces, Raúl Castro complained that dissidents and the foreign media had exaggerated the crisis. But without the
independent journalists, Cubans working in the government hospitals who talk to them and foreign correspondents, the government would have been successful in covering up the epidemic.

Last Sunday, Cubans attending a number of churches were told to pay special attention to water and hygiene. But this is easier said than done: typically, three generations are forced to share a single small house or apartment. In this case, as in others, Cubans
learn about developments on the island by listening to foreign broadcasts from South Florida, Dominican Republic and Colombia.

The Castro brothers, like other totalitarian rulers, rewrite history on a regular basis. But while the regime boasts about Cuba being a medical superpower Cubans continue to die of a nineteenth-century disease. The last recorded cholera epidemic in Havana took
place in 1883.

Another Cuban, Wilmar Villar, died in a hunger strike on the island last week protesting the abuses of the Castro regime. His wife was not permitted to see his body. Yoani Sanchez, the Cuban blogger who has received several international awards and who is not permitted to travel abroad, reported his death on the Internet.

or weeks Cuban exiles had been calling on governments and human rights organizations for help. We do not know if Cardinal Ortega Alamino, who has access to General Raúl Castro, interceded privately with him on behalf of Wilmar who is the father of two children; or if the Cuban Cardinal, who participated in the arrangement where Cuba released political prisoners and forced many of them and their families, including children, into banishment in Spain, alerted the Holy See about the impending death.

The Cuban regime can no longer murder in secrecy; it fears the Internet and the Cubans who are willing to die demanding respect for human rights. But the regime continues to enjoy international impunity for its unspeakable deeds. The opening to Havana
sponsored by the Obama Administration has emboldened the Castro brothers who are engaged in a widespread human rights crackdown. Right now Senator Richard Durbin is in Havana, presumably discussing ways of further lessening of U.S. sanctions with Cuban authorities.

Another Cuban, a gay man, was beaten to death by Cuban police earlier in the week. A few days ago, many of the Ladies in White, the group of mothers, wives and daughters of political prisoners who attend mass dressed in white were detained by police in Havana and other provinces when they tried to travel to a meeting of the group. The leader of the group, Laura Pollan, who had been beaten and harassed repeatedly by the police, died under unclear circumstances in a Cuban hospital last year.

All of this is happening while the eyes of the world focus elsewhere. May the assassins be brought to justice in a free Cuba. And may all the victims rest in peace.

Frank Calzon is a guest blogger to AQ Online. He is the Executive Director of the Center for a Free Cuba in Washington DC.

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Where is Cuba Going?

March 21st, 2013

By Joaquin Pujol

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Since taking over as ruler of Cuba, in 2008, Raul Castro has adopted a number of economic policies seeking to bring the economy out of a situation of declining productivity, lack of economic growth and serious balance of payments disequilibrium.
To deal with the crisis, Raúl Castro’s government has exhorted citizens to consume less, save more and work harder. In his first speech as president in February 2008, Raúl promised to make the government smaller and more efficient, to review the potential revaluation of the Cuban peso, and to eliminate excessive bans and regulations that curb productivity. So far, three main areas of structural reforms have been advanced: A liberalization of private consumption, a turning over of fallow lands to private exploitation, and a flexibilization of the labor market…

Read the full report

Lista Parcial De Sancionados O Procesados Por Motivos Politicos O Politico-Sociales

March 21st, 2013

Read Full List

Independent Journalist Detained in Cuba

March 20th, 2013

INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST DETAINED IN CUBA Independent journalist Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias has been detained since September 2012 in Cuba in relation to his work. Amnesty Inter national believes he is a prisoner of conscience solely detained for peacefully exercising his freedom of expression.
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Cuba and Cholera: Good Hygiene and Good Government Can Save Lives

March 20th, 2013

January 18, 2013

By Frank Calzon

Almost five months ago, the Cuban government announced the end of a cholera outbreak in eastern Cuba. At the time, Cuba’s Public Health Ministry blamed the three deaths and 417 cases on overflowing toilets, heavy rains and contaminated wells. According to the government, thanks to its prompt reaction and the quality of the country’s public health system, the crisis ended quickly.

Just recently, on January 15, the Cuban government announced that there were “only” 51 new cases—this time in Havana.

International and independent media on the island had already reported the outbreak, with independent media doing so months ago. On January 13, the BBC reported a “cholera fear in Cuba as officials keep silent.” Likely prompted by the international attention, the next day the government published an Information Notice to the Population saying it had detected “an increase in serious diarrhea…with symptoms that lead to the suspicion of cholera.”

Lest anyone become concerned, however, the government stated in the notice that it had everything under control and an “anticholera plan…was immediately activated” in which the government has “all the means and resources needed.” The Information Notice offered no additional details other than to say that “due to the measures already taken, the outbreak is on its way to extinction.”

International news reports, however, belied the Cuban government’s claims. The January 13 BBC story reported that one known death had occurred “in one of the poorer and more overcrowded districts of Cuba’s capital” and that “there are increasing signs” of more cases. “Suspected cases are being sent to the Tropical Medicine Institute…All our wards are dealing with this issue—they are almost full,” an Institute employee told the BBC.

As a result of their own independent assessments, both the British Embassy and the American mission in Havana issued travel advisories earlier this week, and other embassies told the Associated Press that they were considering doing the same. The diplomats told AP they “have been concerned that the government is not sharing information with them in a timely manner”

An AP report that appeared in The Miami Herald on January 15 explained that “Cholera is a waterborne disease caused by a bacteria found in tainted water or food. It can kill within hours” and said that “it was unclear why a new outbreak was being seen in Havana. Rains, which can help spread the disease, are common in January, but the weather has been unusually dry this year.”

An ambulance is parked in Varadero, Cuba. Photo: Courtesy of Domenic Scaturchio.

An ambulance is parked in Varadero, Cuba. Photo: Courtesy of Domenic Scaturchio. Homepage Photo: Courtesy of Edgar Rubio Rodilla

Blame Game

To blame the weather (as well as the United States) for all of Cuba’s misfortunes is a common practice of the Cuban authorities. Years ago, Havana claimed the United States was responsible for starting epidemics, and even a tobacco plague, years ago, but when Washington demanded proof they had nothing to show. What the repeated outbreaks and the Cuban government’s efforts to conceal them show is that the much-heralded Cuban public health system is a great sham. The regime makes a great show of sending its medical personnel abroad to countries like Venezuela and Bolivia, while closing a number of clinics and hospitals at home and sending doctors who disagree to pris

Moreover, the persistence of cholera is also laying bear the sorry state of Cuban infrastructure, much of which has not been updated since before the revolution. Unfortunately, the international media has failed to make the connection between the disastrous conditions of Havana’s—and other cities—water and sewage systems and the cholera outbreak, as they would if they were reporting in Haiti or another country. But the truth is that thousands of Havaneros do not have access to running water, a service long since cut off to the homes of many ordinary citizens. Instead, they must patiently wait in line for the government trucks that are supposed to regularly distribute water (but rarely do) for drinking, washing and cleaning.

Today, the government insists that the tourists are fine because they all can have bottle water. But what does that mean for the country’s own citizens?

With a population more than twice what it had in 1959, Havana still depends on the same outdated water systems: its aqueduct, pumps and pipes have served the city since before the Castros came to power. Nationally, more than half of the water supply is lost due to leaks and improper maintenance, according to Cuba’s Institute of Hydraulic Resources. The government’s response? It recommends that Cubans dig their own wells for potable water.

There is also the problem of Cuba’s outdated and short-changed sewer system. The lack of maintenance of the country’s creaky system for safely disposing of human waste is made worse by pipes that dump untreated sewage directly into streams and on to shores close to populated areas. Shoreline pollution is exacerbated by official corruption and the pilfering of pipes, which results in the pollution spreading farther on land.

A Story Foretold

Months ago, dissident journalists reported several deaths attributed to cholera in neighborhoods south of Havana. The epidemic began hundreds of miles away in the city of Manzanillo, but there have been cases in other provinces.

Cuban authorities tried to blame the self-employed for the cholera and responded by prohibiting the sale of lemonade and other fruit drinks. There have been reports of closing of schools. Visitors are not allowed to visit cholera patients at various hospitals. And there are shortages of soap and cleaning products, which often can only be purchased at hard currency stores. But the majority of the population has no dollars.

Tragically, in the absence of real information and honesty on the part of the government, the only way Cubans learn about the situation and how to protect themselves is from independent media and civil society. Last summer, during the outbreak in the eastern provinces, Raúl Castro complained that dissidents and the foreign media had exaggerated the crisis. But without the
independent journalists, Cubans working in the government hospitals who talk to them and foreign correspondents, the government would have been successful in covering up the epidemic.

Last Sunday, Cubans attending a number of churches were told to pay special attention to water and hygiene. But this is easier said than done: typically, three generations are forced to share a single small house or apartment. In this case, as in others, Cubans
learn about developments on the island by listening to foreign broadcasts from South Florida, Dominican Republic and Colombia.

The Castro brothers, like other totalitarian rulers, rewrite history on a regular basis. But while the regime boasts about Cuba being a medical superpower Cubans continue to die of a nineteenth-century disease. The last recorded cholera epidemic in Havana took
place in 1883.

Another Cuban, Wilmar Villar, died in a hunger strike on the island last week protesting the abuses of the Castro regime. His wife was not permitted to see his body. Yoani Sanchez, the Cuban blogger who has received several international awards and who is not permitted to travel abroad, reported his death on the Internet.

or weeks Cuban exiles had been calling on governments and human rights organizations for help. We do not know if Cardinal Ortega Alamino, who has access to General Raúl Castro, interceded privately with him on behalf of Wilmar who is the father of two children; or if the Cuban Cardinal, who participated in the arrangement where Cuba released political prisoners and forced many of them and their families, including children, into banishment in Spain, alerted the Holy See about the impending death.

The Cuban regime can no longer murder in secrecy; it fears the Internet and the Cubans who are willing to die demanding respect for human rights. But the regime continues to enjoy international impunity for its unspeakable deeds. The opening to Havana
sponsored by the Obama Administration has emboldened the Castro brothers who are engaged in a widespread human rights crackdown. Right now Senator Richard Durbin is in Havana, presumably discussing ways of further lessening of U.S. sanctions with Cuban authorities.

Another Cuban, a gay man, was beaten to death by Cuban police earlier in the week. A few days ago, many of the Ladies in White, the group of mothers, wives and daughters of political prisoners who attend mass dressed in white were detained by police in Havana and other provinces when they tried to travel to a meeting of the group. The leader of the group, Laura Pollan, who had been beaten and harassed repeatedly by the police, died under unclear circumstances in a Cuban hospital last year.

All of this is happening while the eyes of the world focus elsewhere. May the assassins be brought to justice in a free Cuba. And may all the victims rest in peace.

Frank Calzon is a guest blogger to AQ Online. He is the Executive Director of the Center for a Free Cuba in Washington DC.

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2012 CFC Outreach Report

March 20th, 2013

View the 2012 CFC Outreach Report.
Download Full Report

Familia Payá pide al PP y al gobierno español que revelen la verdad

December 31st, 2012

Payá, representante del Movimiento Cristiano Lliberación en España y hermano del fallecido líder de la organización, Oswaldo Payá pidió el sábado que tras el regreso de Angel Carromero “los que tienen que quitarse la mordaza sobre lo sucedido, se la quiten”, informó el diario ABC.

Insistió en la versión de la familia, según la cual un SMS enviado desde el teléfono móvil de Modig, el día del suceso, hablaba de un vehículo marca Lada que golpeó al de los opositores.

“Desde el PP, incluida personas con altas responsabilidades nos dijeron que la vuelta de Carromero supondría un punto de inflexión para quitarse la mordaza”, dijo Carlos Payá. “Ahora pedimos que lo hagan y que se ponga fin a esta especie de ley del silencio mantenida tanto en el PP como en Exteriores”.

El exiliado afirmó que a su organización se le pidió discreción durante el proceso. “Nos pidieron que no hiciéramos nada que pudiera molestar al régimen”, dijo. Agregó que diplomáticos españoles en La Habana manifestaron a Ofelia Acevedo: “cuando Ángel Carromero esté libre, se sabrá la verdad”.

Carlos Payá dijo comprender que Carromero haya optado por autoinculparse para lograr salir de Cuba, pero “si se ha guardado silencio para conseguir la liberación de un español, no se puede olvidar que Oswaldo Payá es también ciudadano español y eso exige que se intente buscar la verdad de lo sucedido”, advirtió.

“Por eso pedimos que se quiten la mordaza quienes estuvieron en contacto con Carromero y con Modig y tienen información no utilizada en el juicio, para que hablen ahora”, añadió.

Raul Castro confirma visita a Chile en enero

December 28th, 2012

El gobernante cubano, Raúl Castro, confirmó a Chile su participación en la Cumbre de la Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y del Caribe (CELAC) y la Unión Europea (UE), del 26 al 28 de enero próximo. Notimex.

Según el diario El Mercurio, que citó fuentes del presidencial Palacio de La Moneda, “La Habana despachó la confirmación a la cancillería chilena de la visita de Raúl Castro”.

Cuba recibirá el 28 de enero la presidencia pro tempore de la CELAC, ostentada hasta este año por Chile.

Esta será la primera visita de Raúl Castro a Chile. Su hermano, Fidel Castro, estuvo en el país sudamericano en 1971, durante el gobierno del fallecido presidente Salvador Allende.

El Mercurio señaló que, con motivo de la Cumbre de CELAC-UE, arribarán a Chile unos 45 jefes de Estado y de gobierno de Europa, América Latina y el Caribe.

El anuncio de la visita de Raúl Castro fue criticado por el secretario general del centroderechista partido Renovación Nacional, Mario Desbordes.

“Lamentable la venida a Chile de Raúl Castro. Cualquier justificación que se dé es insuficiente para recibir a tan nefasto personaje”, manifestó el político a través de su cuenta de Twitter @desbordes.

Respaldan en Chile a hija de Oswaldo Payá

December 27th, 2012

El rector de la Universidad Miguel Cervantes de Chile, Gutemberg Martínez, criticó las trabas que el gobierno de La Habana puso a Rosa María Payá, hija del disidente fallecido Oswaldo Payá, para que curse un diplomado en esa casa de estudios, reportó la agencia Notimex.

Gutemberg dirigente del Partido Demócrata Cristiano (PDC) dijo el miércoles a periodistas que las posibilidades de que la joven estudie en Chile “son difíciles porque el diplomado inicia el 4 de enero” próximo.

Rosa María Payá fue becada por la universidad chilena para realizar un diplomado sobre políticas públicas. Sin embargoel gobierno cubano rechazó otorgarle el permiso para viajar a Santiago de Chile.

Gutemberg, expresidente de la Organización Demócrata Cristiana de América (ODCA), consideró “inexplicable” la determinación del régimen de La Habana y agregó que la joven de 23 años también “ha tenido problemas laborales allá” en Cuba.

Aseguró que el PDC realiza gestiones para tratar de revertir la decisión del gobierno cubano, aunque advirtió que “el tiempo es el principal obstáculo” para la licenciada en Ciencias Físicas, ya que el diplomado se inicia a principios de enero próximo.

Opositores cubanos en Chile escribieron una carta pública a la directora de ONU Mujeres, la ex mandataria chilena Michelle Bachelet, solicitándole intervenir ante el gobierno de La Habana para que se permita a Payá cursar el diplomado.

Carromero llega hoy a Madrid.

December 26th, 2012

El vicesecretario de Nuevas Generaciones condenado a cuatro años de cárcel en Cuba por el accidente de tráfico donde murieron los opositores cubanos Oswaldo Payá y Harold Cepero, llegará al Aeropuerto de Barajas hoy según Europa Press.

El Gobierno no cedió “absolutamente nada” a las autoridades cubanas a cambio de la repatriación del dirigente de las Nuevas Generaciones del Partido Popular Ángel Carromero, afirmó el ministro de Asuntos Exteriores, José Manuel García-Margallo, a medios de prensa españoles.

“No hemos cedido en nada para lograr la vuelta de Carromero”, afirmó García-Margallo en una entrevista publicada por el diario ABC.

El Canciller precisó, sin embargo, que España apuesta por una “interpretación flexible” de las relaciones con Cuba, regidas por la Posición Común Europea, aprobada en 1996, por iniciativa del entonces jefe del Ejecutivo, José María Aznar.

Esto “nos puede llevar, incluso, a un acuerdo de cooperación” con la Isla, afirmó. “Esta postura ha sido ratificada por todos los Estados miembros de la UE”, agregó, subrayando: “es difícil que nos hayamos vuelto castristas al mismo tiempo todos los Estados europeos”.

Carromero, condenado a cuatro años de cárcel en Cuba por la muerte accidental del líder opositor Oswaldo Payá, cumplirá su condena en España a raíz de un acuerdo con las autoridades de la Isla para su repatriación.

El embajador de España en La Habana, comunicó a Ofelia Acevedo, viuda de Payá que su petición de hablar con Carromero antes de que fuera repatriado a España era imposible, porque éste sería trasladado por policías cubanos, directamente al Aeropuerto.


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