Maggie Alarcón

Posts Tagged ‘Cuban Five’

Alan Gross, American Jailed in Cuba, Vows to Come Home ‘Dead or Alive’

In Alan Gross on April 23, 2014 at 2:39 pm

 

From NBC News

Alan Gross, the American subcontractor jailed in Cuba, has vowed that he will return to the United States within a year “dead or alive” and is pleading for the White House to intervene, his lawyer said Wednesday.

In an interview from Havana, attorney Scott Gilbert told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell that after more than four years in 23-hour lockup, his client can’t face the thought of another decade behind bars. 

Photo Credit: Roberto Leon NBC News Havana

Photo Credit: Roberto Leon NBC News Havana

 “He will return to the United States before his 66th birthday, dead or alive,” Gilbert said on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” after meeting with Gross and Cuban offcials.

Gross, 65, lost 11 pounds during a nine-day hunger strike earlier this year. It was unclear if his pledge meant he might undertake another one.

“I think Alan can be volatile, as would be anyone confined in this situation. And I take Alan’s statement not as a threat but as expression of extraordinary frustration and determination and, and as he said to me yesterday, continued hope.”

Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID),was arrested in 2009 while trying to establish an online network for Jews in Havana.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for subversive activities. Gilbert said that Cuban officials reiterated their offer to begin talks about Gross’ possible release with no pre-conditions, but the U.S. has balked.

“We have asked the president to engage,” Gilbert said. “We believe the administration should do whatever it takes to free Alan, who was in Cuba in the first place on U.S.government business.”

Gross spends all but one hour a day in a cell with two other men, his lawyer said. He is allowed two short phone calls a week and his meals are “limited and mediocre,” he said.

 “He does not intend to endure another year of this solitary confinement,” Gilbert said.
— Tracy Connor

 

Watch  live video from Havana on Andrea Mitchell Reports   @NBC News  Havana

a Letter to Obama

In Cuba/US, Cuban 5 on April 3, 2014 at 1:17 pm

 

April 5, 2014

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear President Obama:
I write you today to urge that you look at the case of the three Cubans still held hostage to our outworn and dangerous foreign policy towards Cuba. Called “The Cuban Five” by their supporters, they were sentenced to lengthy prison terms in 2001 for the crime of trying to protect the lives of their fellow citizens-and, for that matter, the lives of many U.S. citizens too. Two have been released from prison, and of the three who remain, one was sentenced to life imprisonment. I understand far too well the urgency that led the Cuban government to send these very brave men to infiltrate the Cuban exile terrorist organizations.   
“Terrorist” is not too strong a word to describe the groups these men infiltrated in Miami. For decades they have ignored the laws of the United States which gave them new lives and protection. These groups were left alone by U.S. authorities to carry out a war against both Cuba and these with whom they disagree on U.S. territory. Many of them were U.S. citizens. I am one of these victimize by them.  
In March, 1973, a member of one of those exile terrorist organizations placed a large plastique bomb in the Center for Cuban Studies, almost destroying the entire facility in Greenwich Village, New York City. The only part that was NOT destroyed was where I was sitting – my only injuries occurred because the blast caused the large glass window next to me to shatter and fall on me as I was typing.  
For me, then, the “Cuban Five” represent a heroic effort to disrupt activities deemed illegal by our own government. It is past time for the release of the three remaining imprisoned.

Sincerely
Sandra Levinson
Executive Director
Center for Cuban Studies  

SANDRA LEVINSON is the President and Executive Director of the Center for Cuban Studies, and was one of the Center’s founders in 1972. In 1991 Levinson spearheaded a lawsuit against the U.S. Treasury Department which resulted in legalizing the importation of original Cuban art.  She is currently directing works at the Cuban Art Space, which she founded in 1999, to properly house and archive the thousands of posters, photographs and artworks which the Center has collected in the past 42 years. The Center collection consists of more than 3,000 works of art, 2,000 photographs and 5,000 posters and the Art Space shows art exclusively from Cuban artists. It also sponsors talks, film showings, performances, and serves as an arena for visiting artists and writers from Cuba.In 2004 Levinson was awarded the José Maria Heredia Medal in Santiago de Cuba, that city’s most important cultural award, for her dedication to the city’s artists. Earlier, she was given Cuba’s Friendship Medal from the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples. 

 

 

U.S. Secretly Built ‘Cuban Twitter’ to Stir Unrest, AP Reports

In Cuba/US on April 3, 2014 at 12:45 pm

 

The U.S. government masterminded the creation of a “Cuban Twitter” — a communications network designed to undermine the communist government in Cuba, built with secret shell companies and financed through foreign banks, The Associated Press has learned.

The project, which lasted more than two years and drew tens of thousands of subscribers, sought to evade Cuba’s stranglehold on the Internet with a primitive social media platform. First, the network would build a Cuban audience, mostly young people; then, the plan was to push them toward dissent.

 Yet its users were neither aware it was created by a U.S. agency with ties to the State Department, nor that American contractors were gathering personal data about them, in the hope that the information might be used someday for political purposes.

It is unclear whether the scheme was legal under U.S. law, which requires written authorization of covert action by the president and congressional notification. Officials at USAID would not say who had approved the program or whether the White House was aware of it. The Cuban government declined a request for comment.

At minimum, details uncovered by the AP appear to muddy the U.S. Agency for International Development’s longstanding claims that it does not conduct covert actions, and could undermine the agency’s mission to deliver aid to the world’s poor and vulnerable — an effort that requires the trust and cooperation of foreign governments.

USAID and its contractors went to extensive lengths to conceal Washington’s ties to the project, according to interviews and documents obtained by the AP. They set up front companies in Spain and the Cayman Islands to hide the money trail, and recruited CEOs without telling them they would be working on a U.S. taxpayer-funded project.

“There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement,” according to a 2010 memo from Mobile Accord Inc., one of the project’s creators. “This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the Mission.”

The project, dubbed “ZunZuneo,” slang for a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet, was publicly launched shortly after the 2009 arrest in Cuba of American contractor Alan Gross. He was imprisoned after traveling repeatedly to the country on a separate, clandestine USAID mission to expand Internet access using sensitive technology that only governments use.

USAID said in a statement that it is “proud of its work in Cuba to provide basic humanitarian assistance, promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to help information flow more freely to the Cuban people,” whom it said “have lived under an authoritarian regime” for 50 years. The agency said its work was found to be “consistent with U.S. law.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s State Department and foreign operations subcommittee, said the ZunZuneo revelations were troubling.

“There is the risk to young, unsuspecting Cuban cellphone users who had no idea this was a U.S. government-funded activity,” he said. “There is the clandestine nature of the program that was not disclosed to the appropriations subcommittee with oversight responsibility.”

The AP obtained more than 1,000 pages of documents about the project’s development. It independently verified the project’s scope and details in the documents through publicly available databases, government sources and interviews with those involved in ZunZuneo.

 The estimated $1.6 million spent on ZunZuneo was publicly earmarked for an unspecified project in Pakistan, public government data show, but those documents don’t reveal where the funds were actually spent.

For more than two years, ZunZuneo grew and reached at least 40,000 subscribers. But documents reveal the team found evidence Cuban officials tried to trace the text messages and break into the ZunZuneo system. USAID told the AP that ZunZuneo stopped in September 2012 when a government grant ended.

First published April 3rd 2014, 4:07 am NBC News Online

 

 

 

 

 

Menos voces en BBC Mundo.

In Politics on March 28, 2014 at 2:54 pm

 

 

Me llamó la atención que en la entrada del Sr. Hernando Álvarez de la BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/blogs/2014/03/140328_blog_cartas_desde_cuba_nuevas_voces.shtml no hubiera comentario alguno e intenté enviar uno.

Más abajo verán el comentario que intenté publicar en el sitio de BBC Mundo.

No hay forma que lo publiquen. Al parecer, quieren más voces desde Cuba pero en la BBC no quieren oír más que sus propias memeces.

 

“Me van a tener que disculpar los directivos de la BBC y con el mayor respeto, no entiendo. Cómo el Sr. Álvarez nos cuenta que con Cartas desde Cuba, “Hubo polémica, debates y muchos comentarios a favor y en contra. Es decir, un éxito” para luego decirnos, “Queremos escuchar voces críticas de la revolución que no encuentran espacio en los medios cubanos, pero también a aquellas que apoyan el proceso y de jóvenes que sueñan con mejorar el sistema desde dentro.”

Cartas desde Cuba precisamente se plasma como un éxito gracias a que a través de la buena redacción, una que fue siempre, directa, precisa y oportuna, se logró establecer un dialogo a partir de los comentarios, entre todos; individuos a favor de la Revolución Cubana a ultranza, aquellos que la desprecian visceralmente y los que conforman esa inmensa gama de grises en el medio, todos, participaban. Me parece que lo que BBC Mundo no nos está diciendo es que el problema no es con el contenido de Cartas… el problema es con el creador.

Y si quieren,  considérenme creyente en las teorías de la conspiración, pero me resulta muy interesante que el “fin” de Cartas se produzca justo después de que BBC se negara a publicar la entrada EEUU y la paja en el ojo ajeno | http://cartasdesdecuba.com/eeuu-y-la-paja-en-el-ojo-ajeno/ Un escrito donde el autor, arremete contra la doble moral del gobierno de los Estados Unidos respecto al tema de los derechos humanos y hace referencia al caso de los Cinco Agentes cubanos encarcelados en esa misma nación. Es realmente lamentable que la BBC haya caído tan bajo y le brinden tan poco respeto a sus lectores.

Señores míos, no hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver, mantuvieron a Ravsberg mientras tocaba temas “políticamente correctos” para los intereses allende los mares, en cuanto mencionó algo que no gustó, se acabó la fiesta.

Verdaderamente lamentable. y con los documentales tan buenos que hacen, …  di tu!”

The US and the speck in your neighbor’s eye

In Cuban 5, Politics, US on March 14, 2014 at 2:32 pm

 

By Fernando Ravsberg

Originally published in Spanish in Cartas desde Cuba 

 

Cuban-American congresswoman,  Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), surprised many by recently questioning the US justice system when she said it was “extremely disappointing” that the courts had freed one of the 5 Cuban agents, after serving his sentence.

She doesn’t explain what else they could have done, maybe an alternative would have been to send him off to the US Military Base in Guantanamo Bay, where he would have had no legal rights or lawyers to reclaim him, nor would he have been subject to a judicial process..

But it would have been diplomatically incorrect to have done so on the same week that Washington was publishing their list of nations that violate human rights. Every year it highlights the name of Cuba, without mentioning Guantanamo, although that is where the largest number of political prisoners on the island is concentrated.

Secretary of State Kerry didn’t say anything either in spite of the fact that his President opposes the existence of that prison camp and promised to close it down during his first year in office, a time frame long overdue.

The violation of human rights by some does not justify that others do the same. It is absurd that the nation which possesses the most infamous prison in the world, due to the lack of rights offered those detained there, write up a list of violators world wide and not include itself.

But wait, there is more. Beijing also published a report on human rights where the US does appear,  accused of “having perpetrated 376 drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen, killing 929 people, most of whom were civilians, various children among them.”

It is always easier to see the speck in your neighbor’s eye than the log in your own or in the eyes of “friends”. Thus the governments most vehemently denounced in the US report happen to be “enemies” of Washington, while the human rights violators that are “friends” are barely mentioned.

It wasn’t by coincidence that it was in the US where they said that you can protect an “SOB” as long as he’s “our SOB.” The statement is the best example of a double standard used by the international community and a disservice to the struggle for human rights the world over.

Now things are getting more complicated because the Russian Defense Minister announced that his country is negotiating with Cuba the possibility of establishing Russian military bases on the island. In case anyone has any doubts that they are serious, the next day a Russian navy warship anchored in Havana harbor.

The  students of the University of Computer Sciences (UCI) must be trembling. What if the Russians were  to reclaim their teaching facilities? The current site where the school of higher education resides was previously the Soviet base known as Lourdes, used for  spying on US communications.

It will be difficult for Washington to protest a Russian military presence in Cuba when they maintain a base on the island and subject the rest of the world to illegal eavesdropping, including its European and Latin American allies.

Things have gone so far that the EU and Brazil have agreed to lay a submarine telephone cable between the two continents one which the US will not have access to, and thus avoid the temptation of spying on the official communications of other nations.

Some analysts wonder whether the world will return to a new “Cold War” and nobody knows how all this will be framed within the efforts of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, CELAC, to turn the region into a “Peace Zone.”

Latin America has been free of nuclear weapons for a long time. This year, at the CELAC summit, it decided that all disputes must be resolved peacefully and in the future may well close foreign military bases to avoid getting involved in other nation´s conflicts.

In Cuba´s case, if Washington were to agree to return the Guantanamo Naval Base it would then have the moral authority needed to demand that Havana not allow the installation of military units of other countries on its territory.

This would then be tantamount to a dream come true for two presidents. It would put an end to the military occupation of Guantanamo, a constant  demand made by Raul Castro, and Barack Obama would fulfill his promise of eliminating the prison that has brought the United States so much criticism.

 

Note: AjiacoMix regrets that this past Thursday marks the first time in seven years that a post from  Cartas desde Cuba does not appear on the BBC site.

Political faux pas or was something lost in translation? …

My grandson in the Protest of the Thirteen (*)

In Education, History on March 11, 2014 at 12:05 pm

By Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada 

Originally published in Spanish for  Cubarte

We spent most of the afternoon watching the sparrows and talking about neocolonial Cuba. “What was young people’s life like then, what were they like?” He would stop playing to ask me over and over again. “Where were you and what were you doing when you met Fidel?”

That’s my grandson, who’s eager to know about Cuba back when his grandfather was his age. In my answers I tried to explain to him what Cuba had been like under [the tyrant Fulgencio] Batista . I think I noticed a certain disappointment on his face when I told him that [president Gerardo] Machado’s regime had come to an end before I was born. As the last of the hummingbirds were flying away and we were going into the house, we talked a little about [Cuban poet, writer and revolutionary leader Rubén Martínez] Villena’s immortal phrase.

The following day I attended “Un paseo por la Historia” [A walk through history]0) at the UIE Elementary School. It was one of those beautiful celebrations that give the word “participation” a real meaning beyond any rhetoric. Present there were all the children from preschool to sixth grade and their teachers –most of whom, not surprisingly, were female– as well as family members and local neighbors. The school building was used both as “dressing room” for the “artists” and to accommodate the audience around.

The students and teachers took over the street. We saw a parade of natives and slaves, mambí and rebel fighters (and their opponents) enacting historic events ranging from the“discovery” to the Cuban Five’s heroic deed. I saw my grandson with the other twelve“protesters”, voicing [president Machado’s nickname] “donkey with claws” and daring the“pro-Machado henchmen” to come out in the open.

It was a form of  Jerzy Grotowski´s “poor theater” , with few material resources. All that was needed was provided by the children, their families and teachers. It was above all, a labor of love and a testament to the enormous moral force that continues to animate countless anonymous educators willing to keep the legacy of Luz, Varela, Martí and so many others alive. Men and woman who throughout the years have known how to feed patriotism and plant the seeds of values in our smallest. Some there present that day lamented the lack of press coverage and one asked me to write something for Cubarte.

I had been to this place over half a century ago on many occasions, with colleagues from the FEU (Federation of University Students) and members of the UIE, (International Union of Students), all of us guided by Ernesto “Che” Guevara, doing voluntary work in the construction of a building where today you can feel Che´s presence, his revolutionary spirit, his authentic magistrate sustained always by example.

At the end of the ceremony we went inside the school, where I saw a comrade from my younger days. Several of his photographs accompany a text which summarizes the life of José Ramón Rodríguez López, whom we called “Ramoncito”, never mind that his strong body had been forged by physical exercise and sports. He was born and raised in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, right where he was cowardly murdered by the Batista police,  not far from this school which remembers him so well. “Ramoncito” had yet to celebrate his 20th birthday. Had he not been killed on that distant August day, he too would have surely enjoyed –with his own grandchild– last Friday’s unforgettable tour of our history.

And yet, who is to say he wasn’t there? José Ramón, “Che” Guevara and many others came back to life that morning along side all those children whom they joined in song, dance and laughter. Because, as is written on a wall of the  school, children are the ones who know how to love, and love will always vanquish death.

 

 

(*) Manifesto drafted by Rubén Martínez Villena and a group of fellow Cuban intellectuals denouncing governmental corruption and triggered by the purchase of the Santa Clara Convent by then-president Alfredo Zayas for more than two million pesos.

A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann. With special thanks to Eileen Boruch-Balzan

And Then There Were Three

In Cuba/US, Cuban 5 on March 4, 2014 at 2:46 pm

 

By Tom Hayden

 

Fernando Gonzales became the second member of the Cuban Five to be repatriated to his homeland when he arrived at Havana’s Jose Marti airport on Friday. His prison term cut from nineteen to fifteen years, it was a long journey for Gonzales from a desert cell in Arizona to his release in Havana.

This was one deportation to celebrate.

Gonzales is fifty years old, and will join hands with Rene Gonzales, released last year, in advancing the campaign to free the remaining three.

The US government and media define the men as “spies” who belonged to a Cuban “Wasp network”, when the truth is far different and complicated. The five Cubans were not stealing US nuclear secrets, but monitoring live plots by US-supported Miami Cuban exiles to harass and attack the island. (For a recent authoritative account, see Stephen Kimber, What Lies Across the Water, 2013.)

Resolution of the Cuban Five matter is one of the impediments to overcome in normalizing US-Cuba relations after a fifty year hot-and-cold war. Behind the scenes, contacts and talks are developing. The Cubans are holding a US AID contractor, Alan Gross, convicted in 2011 of illegally smuggling advanced communications equipment into Cuba. His sentence runs through 2026.

There is reason to believe the US position is changing gradually. If so, releases of both Gross and the remaining Cuban Three could evolve on separate tracks as part of a mutual overall resolution of the US-Cuban conflict before President Obama leaves office and President Raul Castro retires.

 

Mi nieto en la protesta de los Trece

In Cuban 5, History on March 4, 2014 at 11:55 am

Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

25 de febrero de 2014

Nos pasamos buena parte de la tarde mirando a los gorriones y hablando de la Neocolonia. ¿Cómo vivían entonces los jóvenes, cómo eran? Hacía un alto en su juego para interrogarme una y otra vez ¿Dónde tú estabas, qué hacías, cuándo conociste a Fidel?

Es mi nieto que quiere descubrir cómo era Cuba cuando su abuelo tenía su edad. Traté de explicarle lo que había sido el batistato respondiendo siempre a sus preguntas. Creí notar cierta frustración cuando le dije que el régimen de Machado había terminado cuando yo aun no había nacido. Algo conversamos sobre la imborrable frase de Villena mientras el último zunzún se perdía entre las ramas y entramos a la casa.

Al día siguiente asistí a “Un paseo por la Historia” en la Escuela Primaria UIE. Fue un acto hermoso de esos que dan veracidad al vocablo “participación” más allá de toda retórica. Participaron todos los niños y las niñas, desde los de preescolar hasta el sexto grado y también los maestros y las maestras (ellas, por supuesto, eran mayoría) y no faltaron tampoco los familiares ni los vecinos. El edificio de la Escuela sirvió como “camerino” para los “artistas” y para alojar al público en su exterior.

Los alumnos con sus maestros se hicieron dueños de la calle. Por allí desfilaron aborígenes y esclavos, mambises y rebeldes y también sus antagonistas, desde el “descubrimiento” hasta la heroica hazaña de los Cinco. Vi a mi nieto, junto a los otros doce “protestantes” y luego proclamando “Asno con garras” y desafiando en la calle a la “porra machadista”.

Fue una suerte de “teatro pobre” sin grandes recursos materiales. Todo lo necesario lo aportaron los niños, sus familiares y maestros. Fue sobre todo, una obra de amor y una prueba de la enorme fuerza moral que sigue animando a incontables educadores anónimos capaces de mantener viva la herencia de Luz, Varela y Martí y de tantos otros de nombre desconocido que, a lo largo de los tiempos, han sabido alimentar el patriotismo y sembrar valores en los más pequeños. Algunos de los presentes lamentaron que en el lugar no estuvieran representantes de la prensa y alguien incluso me pidió que hiciera esta nota para Cubarte.

A este lugar concurrí muchas veces hace más de medio siglo, con compañeros de la FEU y miembros de la Unión Internacional de Estudiantes, guiados por Ernesto Guevara, a hacer trabajo voluntario en la construcción de un edificio donde hoy se palpa la presencia del Che, su espíritu revolucionario, su auténtico magisterio fundado siempre en el ejemplo.

Concluido el acto pasamos al interior de la Escuela y me topé con un camarada de juventud. Varias fotos suyas acompañan un texto que resume la existencia de José Ramón Rodríguez López a quien solíamos llamar Ramoncito aunque su cuerpo estaba forjado en la práctica sistemática del ejercicio físico y el deporte. Nació y se crió en el Vedado. Y también en el Vedado, no lejos de esta Escuela que lo recuerda fue asesinado cobardemente por la policía batistiana. Ramoncito no tenía aun veinte años de edad. Si no lo hubiesen matado aquel día de un agosto ya lejano seguramente él habría disfrutado, también con su nieto, el pasado viernes, de un inolvidable paseo por nuestra historia.

Pero ¿quién dice que él no estuvo allí? José Ramón, el Che y muchos otros, volvieron a la vida aquella mañana de la mano de las niñas y los niños y con ellos cantaron, danzaron y rieron. Porque como está escrito en un muro de la Escuela los niños son los que saben querer, y el amor siempre vencerá a la muerte.

The outstanding debt

In Cuban 5, Fidel Castro Ruz, Politics on December 6, 2013 at 1:14 pm

 

“Fidel Castro would say that going to Africa to fight against apartheid and colonialism was a way of paying an outstanding debt.”
Hedelberto López Blanch, journalist and writer.

“The defeat of the racist army at Cuito Cuanavale has made it possible for me to be here today. What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations with Africa? For the Cuban people internationalism is not merely a word but something that we have seen practiced to the benefit of large sections of humankind.”

Nelson Mandela

Margarita Alarcón Perea

I remember a song from way back with the lyrics Free Nelson Mandela. It was back in the 70´s and I was in school in the US, at UNIS (United Nations International School). UNIS had been a vision of Secretary General U Thant´s, he had wanted the sons and daughters of the members of the United Nations to also gather together and share their ideas, beliefs , hopes and dreams. With this he laid the ground work for the creation of a school that would gather people of all races and beliefs . A place where there was no white , no black; color was a rainbow and beliefs were taken in  and shared. We were a melting pot for future dreams.

One day I remember walking down the halls on my way to class and being stopped by a young man, older than I, probably in the 11th grade. He was a stocky good looking black kid with a very intense demeanour and  attitude. He looked at me, pointed his finger at my shirt and asked “Do you know what that means?!”. I was wearing a white t-shirt with the African continent on it in brown and the letters ANC across the map. I looked down, then back up at him and responded “African National Congress, why?”. He held his left fist up and said, “good!”.  I later learned he had escaped South Africa with his mother and two younger siblings, his father was in jail in South Africa accused of being a member of the ANC, a political party prohibited in Apartheid South Africa.

After my return from the US back home to Cuba I began to live the dread of the Cuban presence in Angola. My cousin was sent over as part of the internationalist movement to teach, others would go to war.  I grew to learn that more and more people I knew or was meeting would either have a loved one sent over or be one who had gone.  It was a complicated situation. For many Cubans this was not Cuba´s fight, so why be there? For others it was an issue of solidarity with the Angolan people and the people of Namibia and South Africa.  It was an issue of putting an end to a political system of colonialism and underdevelopment and the hideousness that was apartheid.  It was a huge step in fighting for  the freedom of peoples including the father of my schoolmate and Nelson Mandela.

Finally after years of struggle, the war was over. Angola was free, Namibia was to hold democratic elections, apartheid was over and Nelson Mandela was finally out of jail. In college I remember saying goodbye to two Namibian girls who were being educated in Cuba in my faculty at Havana University, they were going home to vote for the first time in their lives.

I remember the day Mandela came out of prison. I watched the parade on the streets on Cuban television and I cried. Never in my life had I thought I would be around to rejoice the end of horror and the birth of a new beginning.

For many Cubans who came back after the war, the term Veteran is either an homage or an insult. It is a difficult conversation to have with most. They either become silent or talk till they lose their breath, proving that war is hideous no matter the circumstances,  coming to terms with war is possibly one of the most difficult of all tasks.

This war was a necessary one. We are indebted to the African continent and continue to be. The fight against colonialism in that region, the need to put an end to an unfair and unjust system of government, the beauty in the eyes of children holding toys in their hands for the first time, smiles of hope, for that it was all worthwhile.

To all the combatants who made it back and to their families, to the families of those who didn’t. To those who were there fighting for something they may not have well understood at the time and might still not understand today, you are all members of an intricate part of history. You all made the lives of many people worth living and dying for.  Nelson Mandela died in freedom, and I for one  thank you.

“Crime” & un-just Punishment

In Blockade, Cuba, Cuban 5, Cuban Embargo, Culture on September 17, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Margarita Alarcón Perea

Years ago Vanessa Redgrave used the podium of the Oscars on Oscar Night to demand the rights of the Palestinian people. I remember how my mother pointed out to me that there stood a gutsy woman with principles who wasn’t going to allow an opportunity like that one pass. It was back in the early 1970’s and many more like her followed suit using the podium to voice their opinions on political and social matters.

Not that long ago, during the Bush Jr.  administrations invasion of Iraq, the Academy having learnt its lesson, prohibited any artist-presenter from using Oscar night to say anything other than what appeared on the teleprompter. This brought about an appearance of ribbons of peace on the lapels of those who were against the invasion and ribbons in red white and blue donned by those who supported the idea and or the troops.

People in the US have learned that certain podiums are simply considered inappropriate for certain outburst s of opinions.

Is this correct?

Well, no. Not everyone is in favor of establishing guidelines regarding freedom of speech. But there is an issue of ethics in the Amy Vanderbilt sort of way. One would never expect it to be appropriate to shout out in favor of the use of condoms and abortion rights in the middle of a televised wedding for example, although your right to express yourself should never be prohibited.

Last week marked the 15th anniversary of the imprisonment of 5 Cubans, known in Cuba as Heroes and incarcerated in US federal prisons wrongly accused of acts that garnered them sentences from two life sentences to 15 years.

The Cuban government organized a live concert at an open air esplanade where over 30 artists performed honoring these men and demanding that they be set free. People in attendance had yellow ribbons tied to their wrists, around their necks as scarves or on their lapels.  Ribbons were also tied to the many flag posts that separate the esplanade from the US Interest Section in Havana. Yellow ribbons indicating as they do in the US that Cubans want the Cuban Five back home where they belong.

Nearing the end  of the concert was a performance by one of Cuba’s foremost musicians, Robertico Carcassés who is the director and pianist of Interactivo (Interactive) a jazz fusion band which by all accounts is the Suma Cum Laude of musical and artistic excellence.

During the presentation, Carcassés stepped aside from his piano and began to improvise lyrics. During this improvisation he turned around and faced the US Interest Section and requested the Cuban Five be released. He also demanded an end to the 50+ year embargo the US has against Cuba and the internal embargo Cuba has against Cuba. He requested freedom of information on the island, facilitation rights in order to acquire a car and direct voting rights in order to elect a president. He also requested freedom for  “Maria”. (Street term for marijuana).

All of this is really not news to most Cubans. The internal blockade as many refer to it on the island has been an issue that goes back in time. It speaks against red tape, stupidity, and restrictions. A change to the electoral system is something that some, not that many in reality, also have issues with. In my personal opinion, the idea is beautiful but was only good on paper and stone, it died along with the Greeks as have the many columns they once built; true democracy simply doesn’t exist – at least not for now – anywhere in the world. But again, he has the right to dream.

The following day he and his band mates were called to the Cuban Institute of Music and were informed that Carcassés actions the night before had been inappropriate, self serving and were not in line with what the concert had been designed for.  This may or not be true, and it definitely is a matter of opinion. He was then informed that he would not be allowed to perform live till further notice.

Going too far?

If one agrees that a live concert honoring Five Cuban men who have dedicated the better part of their lives to protecting their home land against acts of terrorism,  is not the place for one individual to voice concerns ranging from authorization to buy a car to changing the voting process in Cuba, one also has to bear in mind that prohibiting an artist from performing goes beyond inappropriate, it is downright insane.

Yes , he could have chosen a different place to voice his opinions, yes,  some of those opinions may not necessarily be the most important issues that are wrong with the Cuban Revolution. But in the end, when you come right down to it, the punishment doesn’t  fit the “crime”.

Roberto Carcassés is a 41 year old musician not a politician. He is a man with an enormous following inside and outside of the island, he is living proof that the system of musical education in Cuba is as good as any anywhere in the world, and last week, he not only voiced his personal opinion on aspects within the country that he believes need be mended, he also turned around faced the US Interest Section in Havana and called for an end to the embargo and the freedom of the Cuban Five.

In my book,  when  someone like him does what he did,  and gets the word out on issues that are close to the Cuban peoples hearts, he doesn’t deserve a reprimand, heck! he deserves a medal.

… to err os human, to forgive divine http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2013-09-18/cuban-troubadour-singers-concert-ban-lifted