Maggie Alarcón

Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights’

It’s not always greener

In Cuba, Cuba/US, Politics, US on January 16, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Margarita Alarcón Perea

The most dramatic and necessary of all the changes brought about during the Presidency of Raul Castro, is finally here. Cubans are allowed to exit the country freely, no longer requiring the devilish “exit visa”.

When one factors in the reasons why this is an all around positive move we find that the aspect that tops the list,  contrary to popular belief,  is the reality that of all of those Cubans who will be making trips abroad, most of them, will be coming back home.

Cuba was never really a jail as some have spent years and endless amounts of paper and ink claiming. It was an island that under extremely difficult circumstances was trying to survive, and still is. Still, that said, the concept of having to solicit a formal authorization in order to leave the country was something that after decades, began to weaken much of what the country had been striving to achieve: complete social justice. Cubans on the island simply couldn’t comprehend why they were obliged to go and request the government to allow them to exit the country and then return. Herein lies the gist of the issue, Cubans will not only be allowed to exit, they will also be allowed to remain abroad (this time restraint still needs tweaking) for a maximum of 24 months, and they will be allowed to return home. No longer will  there be the anguish of having to decide between “here” and “there”.

The issue now will be entry visas from the countries where the Cubans will wish to travel to. Not just the United States. Canada, Spain, Mexico and others will be nations where Cubans will swarm the consulates in Havana requesting the right to enter. And not only will it be Cubans who will need to understand the concept and the aspects that regulate world travel, some bloggers out there will also have to take a crash course as I read in one piece.

“A visa is still needed to enter almost any country Cubans wish to visit. There is a short list of countries that the government will allow its citizens to travel to visa free: Malaysia, Hungary, Russia, Liechtenstein, Ukraine, Belarus, Slovakia, Barbados, Grenada, Saint Cristobal and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Moldova, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

The author of this blog post either has a problem with the English language and mixed up the subject of the sentence, or seriously needs to learn a bit more about international travel laws before writing. The Cuban government, whether it wants to or not, has NO LEGAL RIGHT to tell another government that Cuban citizens may travel there “visa free”.  The above mentioned nations may have established a covenant with Cuba (not that I am aware of) which allows Cubans with a valid passport to travel to their nations visa free, but by no means is that ever a decision made by the Cuban Government.

There is another issue which involves the United States specifically. In the past, Cubans wanting to travel to the US were subject to a series of restrictions one of which, of course, was the exit permit, letter of invitation and other paperwork. Now on the Cuban side, all of this has been limited to a valid passport, an airplane ticket and of course a visa issued from the US enabling the individual to travel and enter the country.

Below,  another post, interviewing individuals in Cuba, pretty much sums up the current and future situation:

“I would like to travel and be with my family,” said Maria Eugenia Jimenez, who was seeing off her sister who lives in Miami. “They (the US) turned me down for a visa because I could be a possible immigrant… Now the problem is with the other countries, not with Cuba.”

In the end, the ability to travel abroad and return home will give Cubans the chance to see for themselves what lies across the waters that surround them. They will see for themselves. When they return, they will be able to better understand what is good about the island and what are the aspects within the society and the government that could use valid change. Keep in mind, for 50+ years, the US has been the “forbidden fruit” for most Cubans. They have idolized it through family members living there and friends who left. By and large the years of propaganda stemming from the different programs oriented to disrupt the Cuban revolution have painted the perfect picture of a pristine gold rushing US society where everything is to be had if you have the desire and the will.  Even if you step away from the US as an issue and ask any Cuban on the street they will have a completely distorted concept of what life is like outside of their little enclosed island. Now they will have the chance to see for themselves, and it will be a wakeup call to say the least.

If the political, diplomatic, and economic situation between Cuba and the US were to be resolved, many of these same Cubans could establish a back and forth bridge between both countries, where not only Cuba but the US could benefit.  Meanwhile you have the US embargo still in place, you also have the Cuban Adjustment Act and you have the travel restrictions against normal everyday US citizens,  regarding travel to Cuba. All of this will have to change sooner rather than later. The grass is always greener where you water it; both sides of the fence need a serious sprinkler and Cuba just opened the spout.

The New Life of Cuban Dissidents in Spain

In Alan Gross, Blockade, CAFE, Cuba, Cuban 5, Politics on July 31, 2012 at 11:43 am


By Salim Lamrani


Originally published in Opera Mundi


In 2010 and 2011, all Cuban “political” prisoners were released following mediation by the Cuban Catholic Church and the Spanish government. The majority chose to move to Spain with their families and start a new life there. But the European Eldorado they had dreamed of was not to be found on an Iberian peninsula suffering from a grave economic crisis. Some even wish to return to Cuba.


At the petition of the Vatican and the Spanish government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the Cuban Catholic Church, headed by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, mediated with the authorities in Havana, an intervention that led in 2010 and 2011 to the release of 127 prison inmates, 52 of whom were considered “political” by Amnesty International [1]. According to that human rights organization, there are no prisoners of conscience in Cuba [2]. The Cuban Catholic Church shares this viewpoint [3].


Some sectors accused the Cuban government, the Catholic Church and the Zapatero government of forcing those people into exile. Several Western media outlets repeated that version [4]. The Spanish Popular Party (rightist) denounced “the expatriation” of the Cuban dissidents [5].


Nevertheless, that version does not resist any analysis. In effect, of the 127 persons released in the framework of the agreement between Havana, the Vatican and Madrid, 12 chose to remain in Cuba. Laura Pollán, the then-spokeswoman for the opposition group Ladies in White, and a bitter detractor of the Cuban government, spoke clearly on the subject: “Nobody has forced any prisoner to leave the country. Whoever says the opposite is lying.” Similarly, several dissidents affirmed that at no time did the Cuban authorities ask them to leave the country as a precondition to their release [6].


Fernando Ravsberg, BBC correspondent in Havana, also denied that assertion. Several dissidents who chose to leave the country told him that “they could have remained on the island if they had so wished. They assured me that at no time was departure abroad imposed upon them as a precondition for release” [7].


The painful reality in Spain


Far from finding a prosperous nation, the Cuban dissidents were strongly impacted by the economic crisis that besets Spain. Most of them have no jobs, no resources and sometimes no roof over their heads. The Red Cross shelters take care of them. According to the Spanish press, “one year after their arrival, the exiles are losing government aid and find themselves without any resources, because a huge majority of them have not found stable employment” [8].


The new right-wing Spanish government decided to eliminate the aid granted to the Cuban dissidents one year after their arrival and refused to extend it 12 months, as originally planned, for economic reasons [9]. In fact, Spain spent an average of 2,000 euros a month per person, i.e., more than 18 million euros, to cover the needs of the 115 dissidents and their 648 relatives for one year. The cost was deemed to be too high in a country with 5 million unemployed citizens, about 25 percent of the active population [10].


Nevertheless, the Popular Party (PP) did not hesitate to use the Cubans in its political war against Havana and took four of them to Brussels to testify and defend the need to maintain the European Union’s Common Position toward Cuba, which limits political, diplomatic and cultural relations. However, the PP was ungrateful when it halted the financial assistance to them, leaving the Cuban dissidents with the bitter feeling that they had been used [11].


Since their arrival in Spain, the dissidents had ceaselessly expressed their support for the PP and criticized Zapatero’s PSOE [Socialist Workers Party], which had helped to release them [12]. Then, the Cuban dissidents decided to go on a hunger strike to protest against the PP’s decision and express their “total abandonment.” “It’s the only alternative we’ve got left,” said one of them, sitting under a tent outside the Spanish Foreign Ministry building [13].


Far from being attended by the Spanish authorities, the hunger strikers were “brutally” removed by the police and told to leave the public square [13]. Dawuimis Santana denounced the police brutality inflicted on them: “They were dragged along the ground, struck on the face and arms; one of them has a broken nose.” Four of them were arrested [15].


The forces of order usually are severe with demonstrators of every kind and made no exception with the Cuban dissidents. Some observers said that the Popular Party, habitually very willing to come to the defense of the Cuban dissidents and denounce the “oppression” of which they were victims on the island, was this time very discreet when it came to the behavior of the Madrid municipal police toward them [16].


José Manuel García Margallo, the Spanish Foreign Minister, acknowledged that the Cubans’ case was not “simple” and they were “in a difficult situation.” But he rejected any idea of extending their financial aid in view of the economic crisis afflicting the country. At most, he promised to speed up the process of validation of university diplomas [17].


Sometimes, the feeling of abandonment that the Cuban dissidents experience in Spain takes tragic turns. Albert Santiago du Bouchet, who lived in the Canary Islands since his release, committed suicide on 4 April 2012 in response to the Spanish authorities eliminating his monthly cash allotment [18]. The Spanish government rejected any “direct link” between the suicide and the decision to end the financial aid. Still, his family and several friends stated that his precarious economic situation was the principal cause of the drama [19].


Return to Cuba?


Contrary to all predictions, several dissidents declared their intention of returning to Cuba if they couldn’t travel to the United States, accusing Spain of abandoning them [20]. “It’s better to be in Cuba than on the street here,” said Ismara Sánchez [21]. “I’ve been on the street since March 31,” unable to afford a room, complained Idalmis Núñez. “Things are difficult now; we have dragged our families far from home and we can’t feed them. For the first time in my life, my conscience weighs on me. I’m afraid,” admitted another oppositionist [22].


“The children have no more food, no milk. The children can’t go to school because they don’t have money for transportation,” said oppositionist Bermúdez [23]. Orlando Fundora and his wife had to face such difficult living conditions that they even missed their homeland. In an interview with the BBC, Fundora unexpectedly confessed: “We ate better in Cuba [24].”


In reality, the decision to return to Cuba is not so surprising. Despite the nation’s limited resources, the difficulties and daily vicissitudes created by the economic blockade the United States has imposed since 1960, which affects all categories of the population and is the main obstacle to the nation’s development, the government of Havana has built a relatively effective system of social protection that satisfies the population’s basic needs. Thus, despite the troubles, 85 percent of the Cubans own their homes. They also benefit from free access to education, health care and cultural activities. The ration card allows them to receive each month, in addition to their salary, a basic food basket that’s sufficient for two weeks. That way, nobody is left to his own devices and the state looks after the more vulnerable strata of society. For that reason, despite the limits in natural resources, in Cuba you won’t find homeless people or abandoned children on the streets. According to UNICEF, Cuba is the only Third World country without malnourished children [25].


In the end, Europe was not the Eldorado promised to the Cuban dissidents. They had to face the brutal economic reality of the Iberian Peninsula and discovered that the most vulnerable were swiftly left to their own fate. They also realized that their island is not the anteroom to Hell, despite the daily problems, and that Cuba’s system of social protection takes care of the weakest citizens.




[1] Amnesty International, « Cuba, Annual Report 2012 », 2012. (site consulted July 2, 2012).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Juan O. Tamayo, « Tensa cita de las Damas de Blanco con Iglesia cubana », El Nuevo Herald, May 25, 2012.

[4] Axel Gyldén, « En exil forcé, un dissident cubain met fin à ses jours », L’Express, April 7, 2012.

[5] Público, « Aznar afirma que los presos cubanos sufren ‘un destierro’ en España », July 28, 2010.

[6] Fernando Ravsberg, « La conspiración católico-comunista », BBC, June 23, 2011. (site consulted June 14, 2012).

[7] Ibid.

[8] Carmen Pérez-Lanzac, « Exprisioneros políticos refugiados en España protestan tras quedarse sin ayudas », El País, April 11, 2012.

[9] Carmen Pérez-Lanzac, « Entre 2010 y 2011 llegaron a España 767 cubanos : 115 presos y sus familiares », El País, April 10, 2010.

[10] Joaquín Gil, « El Gobierno paga 2.000 euros al mes por cada uno de los 762 disidentes y familiares », El País, July 13, 2011.

[11] Jerónimo Andreu, « Exprisioneros políticos traídos a España por Exteriores hace un año pierden las ayudas públicas », El País, April 9, 2012.

[12] EFE, « Opositores cubanos piden a España una actitud ‘más enérgica’ contra castrismo », January 20, 2012.

[13] EFE, « Diez ex presos cubanos deciden emprender una huelga de hambre en Madrid », April 13, 2012.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Europa Press, « Denuncian la detención de cuatro expresos cubanos que protestaban en Madrid ante le Ministerio de Exteriores », May 23, 2012.

[16] EFE, « El Partido Popular español exige a Cuba que deje de oprimir a la disidencia », January 20, 2012.

[17] Carmen Pérez-Lanzac, « Exprisioneros políticos refugiados en España protestan tras quedarse sin ayudas », El País, April 11, 2012.

[18] El País, « Fallece un expreso político cubano llegado a España el año pasado », April 6, 2012.

[19] Europa Press, « España no ve ‘relación directa’ entre el suicidio de un disidente y el fin de la ayuda », April 9, 2012.

[20] Juan O. Tamayo, « Ex presos políticos cubanos en España viven pesadilla », El Nuevo Herald, April 17, 2012.

[21] Ríos Biot, « ‘Es mejor estar en Cuba que aquí en la calle », El País, April 13, 2012.

[22] Jerónimo Andreu, « Exprisioneros políticos traídos a España por Exteriores hace un año pierden las ayudas públicas », El País, April 9, 2012.

[23] EFE, « Ex presos cubanos denuncian en Madrid su ‘total desamparo’ », April 10, 2012.

[24] Fernando Ravsberg, « La conspiración católico-comunista », BBC, op. cit.

[25] UNICEF, Progreso para la infancia. Un balance sobre la nutrición, 2011.


Docteur ès Etudes Ibériques et Latino-américaines at the University of Paris Sorbonne-Paris IV, Salim Lamrani is adjunct faculty at the University of Paris Sorbonne-Paris IV, and the University of Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée. He is also a journalist, specializing in Cuban-American relations.

His latest book is État de siège. Les sanctions économiques des États-Unis contre Cuba, Paris, Éditions Estrella, 2011 (prologue by Wayne S. Smith and preface by Paul Estrade).

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“Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone” (John 8:2-11 KJV)

In Asamblea Nacional/National Assembly, CENESEX, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Cuban Americans, Human Rights/Derechos Humanos, Politics on February 27, 2012 at 11:46 am


Margarita Alarcón Perea

Famous words one might say. They are also words that although often pronounced out of context, since not always are we referring to a woman committing adultery, have the incredible added plus that they may be applied to practically every scenario in modern life.

I am not a religious person but I do subscribe to much of what is contained in the Bible. I also agree with almost everything that was spoken – or said to have been spoken lest my atheist friends feel betrayed – by Jesus Christ. After all He was the first true revolutionary of modern times.

I heard this phrase once again today during the answers to questions by Professor Salim Lamrani to Dr Eusebio Leal, the head of the restoration project of Old Havana in Cuba’s capitol. Professor Lamrani was asking Leal about Cuba’s human rights record.  Leal, a catholic himself, began his answer with the phrase.  He continued with another phrase often seen on billboards in Havana and all across the country, “of the thousands of children in world living on the streets, not one of them is Cuban.” This phrase is not Biblical, it is actually a sentence used by UNICEF to explain the situation on the island regarding the healthcare, education and general well being of Cuban children. The head of the UNICEF offices here in Havana repeats the same sentence in every interview he gives whether it be about human rights or not.

Every single country in the world violates the Human Rights Charter in one way or another, every single person on the planet has at one given moment of their lives “violated” the rights of another person, whether it be a co-worker, an employee, a parent a sibling a neighbor, a passerby or even ones own children. In all honesty, is it not a violation of ones own child’s rights at the age of seven to force upon them the terrible act of eating peas?

The European Union has chastised the government of Cuba for violating the Human Rights of its citizens because as they say, there is no free press. I guess that makes sense when you look at Rupert Murdochs track record. The government of the United States will repeatedly state that it will not establish normal relations with the government of Cuba until the island abides by US standards regarding Human Rights. Also a logical point, given the island has complete universal health care and education and a much lower per capita percentage rate of its prison population and has never needed affirmative action in order to sustain a rational level of blacks and women in the work force or Universities.

Am I being too ironic? Let’s see who throws the first stone…

Dialogue or what isnt mentioned dosen´t exist…

In CENESEX, Cuba, Education, LGBT on February 2, 2012 at 12:55 pm


By Alberto Roque Guerra

I was reading on the digital web site Cubadebate an article by Arleen Rodriguez Derivet “El espíritu del Partido frente a la realidad nueva” and this caught my attention:

As some might suspect, when it comes to the commissions, I chose the ideological one to follow during the event. I could no longer distance myself from the debates till the very end. It is because of this that I would like to go over some of the more intense moments. The first when guest speaker Mariela Castro suggested that the word “dialogue” be included in an explicit manner, where it had till then be deemed implicit (…). Had I been a delegate I would have voted in favor of including the polemic word, essence from where one must look on to the political communications of these times. Only thing is, as Dr. Eusebio Leal Spengler would say, “there are words that say it all and there are no words to say it all…but words are not the determinant, actions are.”

Magnificent piece. Regarding Mariela’s proposal, I see nothing polemic about the word dialogue but what does worry me is that someone as brilliant as Eusebio Leal might think that way, when no other like him has given such use to words in their just context and with a clarity that has no bounds. No one has had to confront dogmas like Eusebio has, silences and omissions in order to build the great body of work that without a doubt, have given him passage through the Gateway of the history of this nation.

Dialogue is necessary, it invites unity, consensus, participation, and cleansing; it adds, never subtracts, it is necessary in order to evolve and to continue giving impulse to this Revolution. I agree with everything said by Eusebio in regards to action and the implementation of ideas, yet, our feminist colleagues have said something brilliant: “what is never mentioned, doesn’t exist.”

Paulo Freire, the great pedagogue and defender of the oppressed described and practiced the principle that he termed ¨diologuery¨. To it he gave a transcendental value inside popular education in order to over throw the relations between human beings based on inequality. Within our context, we too have to establish dialogue with the burocrat, with the dogmatist, which are the worst form of counter revolutionaries preventing this country from being a better place. We will have to establish dialogue among Cubans regarding gender relations, racial issues, education, culture, inequality, access to culture and citizen participation.

Once again, bravo Mariela!

Mariela Castro: “Cuba’s Sex Education Policy Respects Human Rights”

In Asamblea Nacional/National Assembly, CENESEX, Cuba, Education, Human Rights/Derechos Humanos, LGBT, Politics on January 27, 2012 at 1:41 pm


By Myrsini Tsakiri

“Cuban sexual education policy is based on emancipating paradigms that hail human values of solidarity, equality and equity,” director of the National Center for Sexual Education, Mariela Castro Espin, stated in Havana on Monday.

In her lecture about sexual education in the processes of social transformation at an international Congress underway in the Cuban capital, Castro Espin said sexuality nowadays is characterized by its comprehensive approach focused on gender and diversity, and the respect of the full dignity of every human being.

Castro Espin, who chaired the Congress’ organizing committee, pointed out that since the beginning of the socialist transition in Cuba, sexual education has been considered a State politics, as expressed through the implementation of the National Sexual Education Program launched in 1962 with the purpose of developing a responsible and happy sexuality.

Meanwhile, CENESEX has facilitated the articulation of social networks for the training of sexual right activists, she noted.

The 6th Congress on Sexual Education, Orientation, Therapy, running until Thursday, is attended by 300 delegates from 18 nations. The event is expected to foster interdisciplinary debate about the concept of human sexuality, seen as a complex process for the transformation of social spaces.

The topics of discussion include the impact of modern communication technologies and social networks in sexuality; pregnancy in the adolescence; the assistance to transgender people, those with special needs, senior citizens and people living with AIDs.

Regional Expert Extols Cuba’s Progress on Sexual Education

The vice president of the Latin American Federation of Sexology and Sexual Education Societies, Elizabeth Gutierrez Florez said Cuba has done good progress on the matter and that the work of health authorities’ efforts to educate the people are wonderful.

The Colombian specialist, who is attending the 6th Cuban Congress on Sexual Education, Orientation and Therapy, told the media she has taken part in similar events in Cuba in which she has noticed the advances made by the island in this science.

Gutierrez Flores insisted on the importance of educating the people noting that sexual illiteracy existing worldwide is the main cause leading to sexual dysfunctions.

The specialist announced that Colombia will be the venue for the 16th Latin American Congress on Sexology and Sexual Education in 2012. She said the event will tackle problems related to violence, abuse and sexual harassment and aggressions in the different countries of the region.

On Tuesday, the scientific program of the meeting underway in Havana includes a master lecture about key factors for AIDS prevention, and a round table on local strategies to warn the people over the disease.

The Cuban Congress is organized by the National Center of Sexual Education and the Cuban Multidisciplinary Society for Sexuality Studies.