The Graveyard Police

The village graveyards are picturesque and sad: whitewashed tombs with the sun beating down all day on their stones, and the dirt roads packed hard by the feet of the mourners. But there is a graveyard in the town of Banes that has hosted unusual cries in the last twelve months. Crosses around which intolerance has no shame, where it has not lowered its voice as one does before a headstone. For several days, moreover, the entrance has been guarded as if the living could control a space dedicated to the dead. Dozens of police officers wanting to keep Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s friends and acquaintances from coming to commemorate the first anniversary of his death.

Those who now patrol the tomb of this bricklayer know very well that they can never accuse him–as they have others–of being a member of the oligarchy seeking to recover his property. This mestizo born after the triumph of the Revolution was not the author of a political platform nor did he take up arms against the government. Yet he has become a disturbing symbol for those who, themselves, cling to the material possessions that come to them through power: swimming pools, yachts, whiskey, bulging bank accounts and mansions all over the country. A man raised under political indoctrination escaped through the door of death, leaving them on the other side of the threshold, weaker, failing more than ever.

Sometimes the end of person cements his name in history forever. This is the case with Mohammed Bouazizi, the young Tunisian who set himself on fire outside a government building because the police confiscated the fruit he sold in a square. The consequences of his immolation were completely unpredictable, the “domino effect” he set off in the Arab world immense. The death of a Cuban on 23 February 2010 has created an uncomfortable anniversary for the government. Right now, when Raul Castro is about to celebrate his three years at the helm of the nation, many are asking what will happen in Banes, in the small cemetery where the dead are more strictly guarded than prison inmates.

Though they surround as much as they can, this week the political police can’t stop people–from within their homes–invoking the name of the deceased Zapata Tamayo much more often than the long string of titles of the General-cum-President.

76 thoughts on “The Graveyard Police

  1. BBC NEWS: Cuba to release political prisoner Diosdado Gonzalez-26 February 2011

    The Roman Catholic Church in Cuba says the government has agreed to free a political prisoner, Diosdado Gonzalez, who had refused to go into exile.

    His release would leave just five of 52 prisoners the communist authorities agreed to free last July still in jail.

    The church said another eight prisoners who were not part of that group were also going to be released.

    The US and EU have made the release of all political prisoners a condition for closer ties with Cuba.

    “In continuation of the process of liberation of prisoners, we inform that the release from jail of Diosdado Gonzalez has been arranged,” said Orlando Marquez, a spokesman for the office of the archbishop of Havana.

    Mr Gonzalez, 48, was arrested in 2003 in a crackdown on opposition activists and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

    His wife Alejandra Garcia is a founding member of the the Ladies in White opposition group that has been campaigning for the release of all political prisoners.

    She said the head of the Catholic Church in Cuba, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, had telephoned to say Mr Gonzalez would soon be returning to their home in the city of Matanzas.

    Struggle continues
    “I feel nervous like a young woman waiting for her boyfriend to visit,” she told reporters. “It has been eight years since my husband set foot in this house”.

    Ms Garcia added that she had spoken to her husband in prison and he had told her he was determined to stay in Cuba and continue to campaign for democratic change.

    In a deal brokered by the church in July, Cuban president Raul Castro agreed to free all 52 of the dissidents still behind bars after the 2003 crackdown.

    Most were released in the following weeks and sent into exile in Spain, but 11 – including Mr Gonzalez – stayed in jail because they refused to leave the island.

    But earlier this month the authorities began releasing the remaining dissidents without insisting they go into exile.

    In a separate announcement, the church said another eight prisoners who were not part of the agreement – including some convicted of violent crimes – were going to be released and sent into exile.

    The Cuban government, which regards dissidents as criminals or US mercenaries working to undermine the communist state, rarely comments on their release.

    On Thursday US President Barack Obama urged the immediate and unconditional release of all jailed dissidents in Cuba.

  2. Love Cuba, is just a matter of time before the Cubans will have access to information, with the “blessings” of the CASTROFACISTS or not! THE MUMMY and LA CHINA are 3rd world THUGS, please! They think they are so smart! Maybe in the 1960’s, 1970’s and maybe 1980’s because their place and time!! NOT NOW TATO FONTES!

  3. Humberto, the internet has been a blessing for people who want to tell the truth. Unfortunately, like every other means of communication, the gangsters and fascists are the first to dominate it. They have no shame and no need to hide. And people who know the truth of Cuba, like me, are too afraid to speak out. One of the reasons I started posting here is because of one too many lies I read by an apologist for Castro-style fascism, lies that turn my stomach when I read them. I’m ashamed for staying quiet for so long, but luckily I have the freedom to post anonymously, something I only discovered recently. I know we are all just drops in the ocean, but sometimes one drop of truth is the one that matters.

    God bless the courageous dissidents of Cuba.

  4. John Two, I’d like to see Mr. Gross come home too, and I’d never say never negotiate for someone’s life. But the real danger is the kidnappers would be encouraged to kidnap someone else. After you trade him for 3 Cuban spies, who is the next unlucky visitor the Cuban government will accuse of being a spy. Looking around the world, I would say that negotiating with kidnappers and terrorists has only made those businesses very profitable.

    From all the information released so far, Alan Gross wasn’t even aiding dissidents, just helping a very small and threatened community get connected. He would have had to declare everything he brought into Cuba, so the decision to kidnap him might have been made well before he entered Cuba. I see this as more than just a hostage taking. It is a warning to aid workers who want to help Cuba, and especially to anyone with sympathy for the dissident movement, that the Cuban government can arrest you at any time and accuse you of being a spy.

    The US is one of Cuba’s biggest trading partners and could easily retaliate in a way that hurts the Cuban government without hurting the Cuban people. But I’m afraid US business interests would be against that.

  5. John Two, even though I dont believe in extorsion, personally I would release the “lesser” spies for Mr. Gross! This whole thing has really been a debacle in my opinion for the CASTROFCASISTS specially with their BUDDY Qaddafi getting his “Revolutionary” AS* kicked! The world is getting to know what these DICTATORS are all about! They hang around because they have MANY things in common, like HUGE EGOS, NEED TO CONTROL and a need to be FAMOUS! But as history will show, the will be known for being IMFAMOUS, like STALIN and all the other MURDERERS! This is the age of the INTERNET! AND THEY WILL NOT ESCAPE THEIR DESTINY! THE WORLD WILL HAVE ACCESS TO INFORMATION THANK GOD!

  6. If the exchange take place it would be heralded as a “victory” for the rebolution.
    I can see it now, the parades, de acolades, de medals Y all de b.s.
    How could it be done that does not happen?

  7. Humberto, I suspect you’re right that the Castro regime is essentially holding Gross as a bargaining chip in an attempt to exchange him for the so-called Cuban Five.

    I doubt that the US government would release the two Cuban spies directly implicated in the deaths of American citizens. However, how about releasing the other three spies whose offences involved only espionage and who have already served more than a dozen years in jail in exchange for the release of Gross?

  8. ***
    HI LOVECUBA–#62. Some “Americans” wear the Che shirts. They are glorifying an evil murderer. Since they are communists–they should wear a Stalin photo. They are enemies of freedom.
    HOLA LOVECUBA–#62. Unos “Americanos” llevan las camisas de Che. Estan glorificando un matador malo. Como son communistas–debian poner un retrato de Stalin. Son enemigos de la libertad.
    John Bibb

    MIAMI HERALD:Lawyer for jailed American in Cuba also advocates case of Cuban spies jailed in the U.S.- Attorney for American on trial in Cuba Friday has a connection to five spies jailed in the U.S.-By Frances Robles
    An American government contractor whose family and government contend is being unjustly held behind bars in Cuba goes on trial Friday.

    His defense attorney: Nuris Piñero Sierra, who also represents the families of five Cuban intelligence agents who Havana says are being unjustly held in U.S. federal prisons.

    “What a coincidence!” said Wilfredo Vallín, president of an opposition lawyers association in Cuba.

    The selection of Piñero to defend American Alan Gross has raised eyebrows among Cuba-watchers, who suspect the veteran attorney was chosen to strategically place her where she could play a key role as an intermediary brokering a prisoner swap for her other clients. Experts in the Cuban legal field say the world-traveled lawyer will nonetheless do her best to defend the 61-year-old ailing American — who stands little chance of getting a fair trial on charges of acting against the state.

    “Having her as Mr. Gross’ defense attorney is significant,” Vallín said. “She will defend him without limit — guaranteed. They have to at least give the appearance of giving him a fair hearing.”

    Gross was a subcontractor for Maryland-based Development Alternatives Inc., which had a U.S. Agency for International Development contract to promote democracy and communications on the island. The U.S. government has said Gross had gone to Cuba to help bring the Internet to Jewish organizations.

    He was allegedly caught with satellite phones, and Jewish community leaders in Havana told The Associated Press they never heard of him. Another leader told CBS News this week that he met Gross a few times, but already had web access and didn’t need his help.

    Prosecutors recently announced they are seeking a 20-year sentence against Gross for crimes against the integrity of the state. His wife, Judy Gross, hired lawyers in both Washington and Havana.

    “The intent has to be — and I don’t blame her — of trying to make some kind of swap,” said Cuba specialist Andy Gomez, a vice provost at the University of Miami. “It’s the only angle to explain why Alan Gross’ wife would want this.”

    The U.S. government has said emphatically that Gross will not be traded for any of the so-called “Cuban Five,” Cuban intelligence agents arrested more than a decade ago and convicted of spying. Heroes at home, the men infiltrated exile community groups and tried to snoop on military installations.

    An unending media campaign in Cuba and the United States was launched on their behalf. Piñero was often the spokeswoman for the spies’ relatives in Cuba, several of whom were denied U.S. visas to visit their jailed family members. She has appeared on Cuba’s government TV news program Round Table, and is often quoted in the state media blasting the American legal system.

    She’s known as an accomplished administrator and public face of the Cuba legal team. Piñero appears to be working hard and visits her client regularly, Judy Gross told The Miami Herald in November.

    Paul McKenna, attorney for convicted spy Gerardo Hernández, insisted that Piñero is an excellent attorney who will put on the best defense, no matter the political overtones.

    “She’s not a commie robot who’s going to screw an American because somebody told her to do it,” McKenna said. “She has integrity, as hard as that is for people in Miami to believe. I don’t vouch for Cuba’s legal system. I vouch for her.”

    McKenna said he spent “hundreds of hours” with Piñero during the more than a dozen trips he took to prepare his case a decade ago. A warm, funny grandmother, she wasn’t afraid to butt heads with authorities who put up bureaucratic obstacles. Her cases ranged from complicated contracts to probate and criminal defense, he said.

    She lives in a comfortable home in Havana’s Marianao suburb, near the famed Tropicana nightclub, McKenna said.

    “The one good thing you could say about Alan Gross’ situation is the lawyer he has,” McKenna said. “She’s a lawyer’s lawyer.”

    Foreigners in legal trouble in Cuba are required to pick a defense lawyer from the Guild of Specialized Legal Services, a government cooperative that handles international cases. For years, Piñero has run that cooperative, which has several dozen attorneys.

    The family’s D.C. attorney, Peter Kahn, declined to comment for this report. Through a family spokeswoman, Judy Gross issued a statement saying she was anxious for her husband’s return, but she did not address the questions relating to how she chose Piñero.

    “I am increasingly worried about the impact the incredible emotional pain and stress he is enduring will ultimately have on Alan’s own health,” she wrote.

    Piñero did not return messages left by telephone and email.

    A U.S. State Department spokesman said consular officials provide jailed Americans with a list of local attorneys but do not make recommendations.

    In court, defense attorneys in Cuba are allowed to present witnesses, who testify before a panel that includes a judge and two civilians. Trials usually last no more than two days and are open to the public, but political cases are sometimes closed to the media.

    “The two civilians will be two old geezers who are asleep,” said Juan Ignacio Hernández Nodar, a Cuban-American baseball agent who stood trial in 1996 for “inciting” players to defect. “After holding me for two and a half months, they came to me one day and said I would have a trial in two days. On Sunday, they gave me a brand new uniform, and on Monday I testified for four hours. A month later, they told me I’d been sentenced to 15 years.”

    He was freed in October 2009.

    “The whole thing is a circus,” said Hernández, who now lives in the Dominican Republic. He acknowledged that his attorney — who worked at Piñero’s collective — worked hard for him.

    “She’s going to fight like the devil for him,” Hernández said. “He’ll get a high sentence anyway, because that’s already been decided by somebody else, and she will use that to pressure the United States to trade him. This is a person who is super-committed to the Cuban state. If she’s defending the ‘five compatriots,’ what kind of power must she have with the Cuban government? They don’t give that job to just anybody.”

    Camilo Loret de Mola, who represented Hernández in the 1996 trial, said he doubts Piñero will litigate the case herself. She’s more likely to contact the family and consular officials, visit Gross in jail and give press conferences, he said.

    “She coordinates, organizes, makes decisions, bills the clients and hands money over to the government,” said Loret de Mola, who defected seven years ago. “She’s not a litigator. She can’t be his attorney. It doesn’t make sense.”

    He agreed with other experts who said the lawyer will put on a good defense.

    “They know it will be pointless and fall on deaf ears anyway,” he said.

  10. Humberto, I can only speculate, but Alan Gross’s real crime might have been not selling his equipment to a black marketeer. Being honest, and working for an organization that receives funds from the US government makes him a perfect hostage. From humanitarian workers and Cubans I know, the only humanitarian aid appreciated by Cuba is the aid that ends up in the hands of Cuban officials, which means it ends up on the black market.

  11. Esmeralda, I don’t know who Miguel Bose is. But we are all human and we have all been conned at some time. Propaganda is Cuba’s only successful industry, and that’s not because the Cuban propagandists are intelligent, but because the rest of us are stupid. I like many actors who like Che and Fidel. I’m not disappointed in them, I just admire their acting and not their stupidity.

  12. Humberto, femmefatale has it all wrong. I think Che is the devil to most Cubans. That is the only explanation for why I’ve seen plenty of Cubans wearing their American t-shirts, but almost never seen a Cuban wearing a Che t-shirt. You’ll see them drinking out of mugs with the american flag, or disneyworld, or anything else, but never from a Che mug. You’ll never see a picture of Che in their homes or on anything they own. I’ve been in the homes of communists and in none of them have I seen an image of Che. It is the greatest mystery to me, who buys all that merchandise? Perhaps when Cubans are offered Che merchandise by tourists they sell it right back to other tourists?

    It is true that criticizing Che is a greater taboo in Cuba than criticizing the system or criticizing Fidel, but that taboo is generated by fear rather than respect. I hope femmefatale gets a chance to see beyond the surface on her next visit to Cuba.

  13. American Jewish organizations appeal to Cuba President Castro for release of Alan Gross-Gross charged with ‘crimes against the state’; Letter of appeal states Gross believed he was ‘advancing humanitarian work’, requests he be reunited with his cancer-ill daughter.-By Natasha Mozgovaya

    An appeal was sent to Cuban President Raul Castro on Friday to release Alan P. Gross from prison on humanitarian grounds. Gross has been charged with “crimes against the state”.

    The appeal – sent by leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and its 51 member organizations – requested that Gross be reunited with his family in the United States.

    Gross, 61, has been held in a Cuban jail since December 3, 2009 and faces charges of “Acts against the Independence and Territorial Integrity of the State”. He awaits trial on March 4th. If convicted, Gross could face up to 20 years in prison.

    “Mr. Gross has long been an active and committed member of the Jewish community in the United States. He has lived his life following the Jewish teachings of tikkun olam (“repairing the world”), as demonstrated by the multiple humanitarian projects he has developed around the world – from the Middle East to Latin America,” said Conference of Presidents Chairman Alan Solow and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein in the letter to President Castro.

    “His work has touched and improved the lives of thousands of people. When Mr. Gross was arrested he believed he was advancing his humanitarian work in Cuba,” the letter continued.

    “If his work had any political implications this was something he did not, or could not, appreciate,” it added.

    Cuban authorities have accused Gross in the past of illegally importing satellite communications equipment and possibly spying.

    But according to Gross’ family and U.S. State Department officials, he was in Cuba on a U.S. Agency for International Development contract to help the Jewish community communicate with other Jewish communities through the Internet.

    The letter states Gross has lost significant weight and is suffering from serious physical ailments as well as from extreme mental stress and anguish because of his daughter’s cancer.

  14. from what I understand there are lots of che merchandise available like underwear clasic & thongs, pens & pencils, condoms, coffee mugs, tees, hats & more.
    I think that the rebolution is making SOME money on this :-)
    I am sure the rest of the world (capitalists ##@!*&#) makes their chunkas well.
    Hey at list he is good for something somewhere …


    Appreciating Cuba’s Clichés: Che Guevara is Everywhere, Everything -February 25, 2011-by femmefatale (she writes like a Cuban!)

    With President Obama working to lessen Cuba Travel restrictions, the island risks getting caught up in a hurricane of clichés. Thinking travelers aren’t generally fooled by the shiny veneer of places plugged in a Lonely Planet, but don’t discard Cuba’s clichés. They’re what make this intriguing country so exotic, so vibrant and so darned colorful. A Jaunted special secret correspondent discovers the best of each, all this week.
    They tell you Communists and religion don’t mix, but Cuba has a God. His name is Ernesto Che Guevara and he is omnipresent: on walls, doors, museums, shrines, monuments, galleries, billboards, t-shirts, caps, postcards, on people’s lips. Strange that Fidel, who has never been a shrinking violet, is almost nowhere to be seen.

    Che’s arrival in Cuba in December 1956 was less than godly, crashing into the coast on the rickety yacht Granma and stumbling onto land half seasick with the Castro brothers. 60 of the 82 men squeezed on board that 12-person cruiser were immediately caught and killed, while Che ran off wheezing (he had chronic asthma) to hide in the Sierra Maestra mountains, near present-day Guantánamo Bay. There he bumped into the Cuban army, who promptly shot him.

    It’s a decidedly unheroic start to a story that ends, post-revolution, in unsuccessful attempts to foment revolution in the wilds of the Congo and then Bolivia. But such is Che’s fame in Cuba that expressing any doubts about the guerrillero heróico’s exploits is met with blank incomprehension or outright rage.

    So it’s best to fall into line and play the Che Guevara game. Here’s how:

    1. Pick up a Che Guevara t-shirt or beret from the Feria de la Artesanía, one of the mercifully few tourist-tat markets in the center of Old Havana. Don’t be shy to wear it—you’ll be in good company.

    2. Admire the scary life-size wax statue of Che in Havana’s Revolution Museum—no rival for Madame Tussauds. There’s also an exhibit of some dirty old clothes that may once have been worn by him (next to Castro’s old boots, of all things). Outside is the restored and repainted Granma, glorified in a gleaming glass enclosure.

    3. Take a cab to Havana’s Revolution Square. Che’s image—yes, a copy of that famous photo by Alberto Korda—is plastered 100 foot high on the side of the drab Ministry of the Interior office block. It’s so large that no doubt you can see it from space. Smile at the po-faced guards and pose for a photo in a suitably revolutionary stance.

    4. Make the 185-mile (300-km) pilgrimage east to Santa Clara, a small industrial town whose biggest merit is that it is conveniently off the main highway. It turns out Che was mortal after all, and his remains were buried here in 1997 after being recovered from an unbefitting, unidentified Bolivian mass grave. At the Monumento Ernesto Che Guevara—a stupendous mausoleum topped by a 23-foot bronze statue of Che à la Emperor Nero, a large billboard quotes Fidel: “Queremos que sean como Che” (“We want you to be like Che”). Having made the trek here, you may as well check out his PVC jacket, pistol and trademark beret in the museum below.

    5. Know the reason Che is buried in Santa Clara. It was here, on New Year’s Eve of 1958, that he and his gang gathered together enough revolutionary nous to derail an armored train. The train was carrying supplies and ammo to support president Fulgencio Batista’s flailing efforts to keep the communist rebels at bay. Its derailment—and the town’s subsequent capture by Che and his teenage army—are described as “el último reducto de la tiranía Batistiana” (the final bastion of the Batista tyranny”). There’s now a small museum marking the spot.

    If it wasn’t for Che Guevara, then, it’s likely Fidel and Raúl Castro would either be rattling their chains in a deep, dark dungeon or pushing up daisies. Whether we ought to be thankful to him for helping the brothers gain their sticky seat in power is a decidedly moot point.

  16. MIAMI HERALD: Cuba is no Egypt-Castros’ dictatorship not same as autocratic Egypt
    Somewhere in Havana, Fidel Castro is probably laughing out loud to see Hosni Mubarak lose his grip on power after 30 years of undisputed leadership. In Castro’s eyes, no doubt, the octogenarian Mr. Mubarak brought a world of trouble on himself by trying to mollify Western critics through the creation of a phony democracy that would give his regime a veneer of respectability.

    Mr. Mubarak was never a softie. Egypt’s intelligence service, the Mukhabarat, is justly feared throughout the Middle East for its inhumane treatment of anyone perceived as an enemy of the state., well documented in a 95-page report issued recently by Human Rights Watch on its use of torture and repression.

    But the flip side of this officially sanctioned terror was the attempt to create a kind of fictional democracy to give the state the appearance of legitimacy. Thus, Egypt’s citizens had access to the Internet. Opposition (closely watched and within strict limits) was allowed in the media. The anti-regime Muslim Brotherhood was officially banned, but its underground survival tolerated. Rival political parties exist, at least on paper. Until now, foreign reporters have operated freely and with little fear of harassment. Uncensored TV news from sources like Al-Jazeera was widely seen.

    In Mr. Mubarak’s Egypt, the illusion of freedom was allowed to flourish. When the upheaval came, the mirage vanished. Internet access was cut off, Al-Jazeera banned, foreign reporters detained and in some cases beaten by mobs, opposition silenced, the regime’s thugs given free rein.

    Cuba is a different place.

    In Cuba, none of the trappings of democracy have existed for half a century. It is not part of the Castro playbook to permit any activity that would nurture the popular aspiration for liberty.

    Access to the Internet for everyone – are you kidding? There is no opposition press, real or make-believe, no opposition parties, foreign reporters are closely monitored and the average citizen has practically no access to independent sources of information. Egypt’s business class is reported to be in anguish over the turmoil because it’s hurting the economy. In Cuba, there is no business class – the military runs the economy. Nor is there any civil society to speak of.

    In Cuba, moreover, the military is an uncondtional appendage of the Castro regime. In Egypt, the armed forces are an institution apart. Officers must support the regime, but the institution’s ultimate loyalty is tied to the state and to the military’s own traditions and customs, not to the political fortunes of one individual.

    In Cuba, it’s all about loyalty to Fidel and Raul. Officers are closely scrutinized for signs of disloyalty (and publicly disgraced, even executed, if they fall under a cloud of suspicion).

    Fidel Castro has no use for the trappings of democracy because he has no interest in democracy. His is a zipped-up, no-nonsense totalitarian regime, designed to perpetuate one-man rule, brooking no opposition and making no concessions to foreign or domestic critics.

    In the place of normal civic organizations, there are the notorious Committees for the Defense of the Revolution – neighbors spying on neighbors. Principled and outspoken critics of the regime are thrown in prison and left to rot. Dissidents honored by foreign human rights groups are rarely allowed to go abroad to accept their honors.

    Fidel and Raul Castro have had 50 years to hone the apparatus of Cuba’s paranoid tyranny. Crushing dissent has been their principal preoccupation.

    If the streets of Havana do not burst forth with protest, it is not because Cuba’s people are any less thirsty for liberty than the people in Cairo. But, unlike Hosni Mubarak – and Sadat and Nasser before that – the Castro brothers have foreclosed every avenue of rebellion and taken every conceivable step to stifle the longing for freedom. Like the Sun King, Louis XIV, Fidel Castro has been able to proudly proclaim that he is the state.


    CANADIAN PRESS: Cuba denounces Obama for support of dissidents, says US media lies-By Paul Haven

    HAVANA — Cuba on Friday denounced U.S. President Barack Obama as a copy of his conservative Republican predecessor, and said he gave more credence to Cuban-American exiles than his own diplomats.

    An opinion piece in the official Communist Party newspaper Granma criticized Obama for supporting dissidents on the island and called for Cuba to release all political prisoners. It said the president’s Wednesday statement shows he is being manipulated by exiles, uninformed advisors and a biased U.S. media.

    Obama’s call came on the one-year anniversary of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a political prisoner who died after an 83-day hunger strike.

    Obama termed Tamayo’s death “selfless and tragic” and said it brought the world’s attention to the mistreatment of prisoners unjustly held by Cuban authorities for standing up for the rights of the Cuban people. Tamayo’s mother was briefly detained in Cuba over the weekend, an action Obama criticized.

    Cuba has said its doctors did all they could to keep Tamayo alive. It maintains he and all other dissidents are common criminals, and says his jail term was extended because of poor behaviour behind bars.

    The Granma piece refers to a secret diplomatic cable sent out in 2009 over the signature of Jonathan Farrar, America’s chief diplomat in Havana, which describes Cuban opposition groups as petty, fractured and out of touch. The cable was revealed by WikiLeaks late last year.

    The article says Obama’s statement made clear he had ignored his chief diplomat’s council.

    “The White House is giving more attention to pressure from Miami and its mafia in the capital then it is to its own diplomats,” the article says, adding that Obama’s emotional statement “emulated his predecessor George W. Bush in its abuse of adjectives.”

    The article was published next to a series of altered photos showing the face of former President George W. Bush gradually turning into that of Obama.

    The newspaper also had harsh words for Cuban bloggers and the U.S. media, particularly The New York Times — the latest in a series of official articles criticizing the American press.

    “In an era where newspapers are filled with more lies than advertisements … it is hard to tell who got the president so worked up, the New York Times or an adviser on the National Security Council,” it said.

    Granma also carried an article denouncing The Wall Street Journal for an editorial that drew parallels between Cuba and Egypt, where a popular uprising forced former President Hosni Mubarak to step down. Cuba has been led by brothers Fidel and Raul Castro since 1959.

    The article said the newspaper’s “image of sobriety and power cannot hide fanaticism and hate.”

    The articles come days after Cuban media lashed out at CNN’s Spanish-language network for reporting that an opposition demonstration was going to take place in Havana. The protest never occurred.

    Cuban state cable providers last month removed CNN’s Spanish network from a package of channels provided mostly to hotels, foreign companies, and diplomats on the island, though no reason was given.

  18. #51 and 54: I do not agree with Miriam either the way she describes it, although I do understand her frustration, and possibly, anger, the same way I understand the anger of many that don’t know who to blame given their misery. My point was only with respect with Yoani and others in similar circumstances, and how much she/they are able to do. The fact that we as exiles are here is in itself a choice taken by us or our parents who decided to vote the only way they could: by leaving the communist hell created by the dictatorship, and leaving all their possessions behind.

    Back then the colostomy bag holding mummy, his very small brother, and Che Guevara were one cocky group of bloodthirsty killers. They could blow anyone’s head off, followed up by a puff of smoke from their respective cigars with no regrets period. They even took videos every now and then, of people being killed for their amusement. What does anyone expect our parents to do, stay under such horrific circumstances? In fact one of them, Guevara, moved next to El Morro castle, to do his job of shooting people from the opposition. I’m not kidding, I asked various people who have recallection of those days, and they point to the other side of the Havana Bay next to El Morro, to where “Che” used to live. Many readers who read this list may not even believe this, it sounds like something out of a Hollywood tragicomedy, and may think I’m making this up, but it is the absolute truth.

    Regarding Esmeralda’s post. As per the agent/clone from Minint giving the presenatation a few posts ago, very soon, internet satellite dishes will come to the rescue of all bloggers. They are due to become so cheap that just about every neighborhood or building in Havana will have one on the roof. This will allow entire blocks to have Wifi access, thereby a small window of freedom for all Cubans.

  19. Esmeralda, it is true that many Cubans do not have acces to internet. Sometimes I email a hotel manager from Cuba…and a few times I was sending him links about bad reviews his hotel recieved on tripadvisory. He mentioned it to me that he can only use email and that he was not able to acces the world wide web.

    Truly democratic, right MINIT clowns aka Dumbir & Collin ???

  20. I think Yoani Sanchez is excellent and brave to maintain this blog. I hope that she and the many Cubans yearning for freedom of speech will one day be aloud to express their feelings as openly in Cuba as they do on the web.
    However, I am concerned that most Cubans probably do not have access to the internet or pc’s,laptops etc hence their inaction and lack of organisation. Do they actually read Yoani’s blog and all these comments? Talk is cheap,and writing reaching the outside is aimed at making all aware, but there is a limit to what we outsiders can do. The writing and conscientiating has to be aimed towards the local population. It is actions that count, but that is easy for us to say from outside, living in countries where we take all our freedom for granted and do not have to risk our lives.
    Still, if the Lybians have brought a die-hard nutcase such as Gadaffi to his knees it is only a matter of time until Cubans get their act together and take the frail grip on power from the Castro brothers.I think it is a mirage that the Castro brothers are still powerful and it is in this low ebb that Cubans should take the opportunity to overthrow them. It is up to the Cubans themselves and they will decide when the time is right. But I agree The Time is Now!!
    p.s I was very saddened to hear how the Spanish popsinger Miguel Bose( whom I have admired for many years) and other Spaniards on YouTube dismiss the deceased Zapata as a common criminal. When are Spaniards going to progress from their feudal mentality? Zapata, a man of humble origins, was nevertheless a freedom fighter.And God Bless his mother!

  21. CBS NEWS: Cuban Jewish leader knew imprisoned American-First member of Cuba’s small Jewish community admits knowing and talking to American Alan Gross, imprisoned for allegedly smuggling illegal satellite communication devices-By Portia Siegelbaum

    Havana, Cuba — William Miller, until this fall vice-president of the Beth Shalom Temple told CBS News Thursday that he had met more than once with the American contractor who faces a possible 20-year sentence for crimes against the security of the Cuban state.

    Alan Gross, a Potomac, Maryland native, goes on trial March 4, accused of allegedly smuggling in satellite communication devices prohibited under Cuban law. He has been jailed for the past 15 months.

    Gross worked for a company that subcontracted a U.S. Agency for International Development program designed to bring about regime change in Cuba. The program dates back to the Bush Administration.

    Miller ducked the question of whether he is going to be a prosecution witness, saying only, “I’m going to be there, I’m part of it.”

    Miller is the first member of Cuba’s small Jewish community to admit knowing and talking to Gross.

    “I know the person. I know exactly the person you’re referring to,” he said in a phone conversation with CBS.

    “I met him at the Jewish community [the building housing Beth Shalom Temple, known as the Patronato, the largest Jewish community center in the country]. He came there more than once,” Miller said responding to questions.

    Adela Dworin, who took over as president of the Temple following the death of Miller’s grandfather Jose Miller in 2006, had denied knowing Gross when asked shortly after the American’s arrest in December 2009. More recently she told reporters that so many Americans come to the Temple, she simply didn’t know if he had been one of them.

    Miller said he won’t speak on camera until after the trial, adding, “Let me tell you, the solution to the problem is coming very soon. It’s complicated. It’s hard even for me.”

    Asked what he meant, all Miller would say was, “Better for the government to explain everything.”

    Miller, formerly a constant presence at the Patronato, disappeared from the community in the early Fall. Asked what he has been doing, Miller said, “I’ve been very busy” working on unspecified “projects”. Sources close to the community suggested he has been working with the prosecution to build the case against the 61-year old development worker.

    When asked if Gross had offered him a B-gan (a satellite accessing device with internet and telephone capability), Miller speaking in English said, Gross “was trying to play a little bit about that. I was not sure what his real work was, what he was doing.”

    He also denied “personally” accepting any satellite equipment from the American. There has been some speculation that Miller had taken something from Gross and was going to be charged in the case.

    U.S. demanding Gross’s release

    The United States is demanding that Cuba release Gross, saying he was only providing internet access to Jewish groups on the island so they could communicate with each other and with other Jews around the world and has committed no crimes.

    Miller, however, insists that what Gross was doing had “absolutely nothing to do with the Jewish community.”

    Referring to a CBS shoot at the Patronato last September, Miller declared, “I was there when you were filming at the Community. You saw. We have computers. We have internet. We don’t need persons like Alan Gross.”

    It’s been implied that Miller’s stepping down as vice-president of the Temple is intended to distance the religious community as a whole from the case.

    In a meeting with some members of a delegation from the South Florida League of Women Voters Thursday afternoon, Dworin said the Jewish community “had the best of relations with the government” and stressed that they stayed out of politics. She mentioned President Raul Castro’s recent visit to Beth Shalom, when wearing a yarmulke he lit the first of the Hanukkah candles. It was a visit interpreted by many observers as an attempt to show that the government was not allowing the Gross case to spill over onto Cuba’s Jews.

    Gross’ wife Judy has begged the Cuban government to send her husband home on humanitarian grounds, even sending a letter expressing remorse for her husband’s work directly to President Raul Castro last August. She was given permission to visit her husband in his prison cell in a Havana hospital last summer.

    The Cuban government says U.S. consular officials–who have had access to Gross during his imprisonment–, his family and his family’s lawyers will be allowed to attend the trial.

    The Cuban legal system is modeled on the Spanish and usually involves a panel of judges rather than a jury. The press is nearly always denied access to court cases involving political crimes and there is no expectation that an exception will be made in this case.

    The Cuban government views Washington’s current programs to “develop civil society” on the island as just a continuation of the more than half a century long efforts to undermine the revolution brought to power by Fidel Castro in 1959. He led the country until 2006 when illness forced him to relinquish control to his brother Raul, formally elected president three years ago.

    The U.S. State Department has said that Gross’ imprisonment is a major obstacle to any improvement in relations between the two countries, which do not have diplomatic relations but simply maintain Interests Sections in each other’s capital. But various Cuban analysts point out that while President Obama came to office talking about changing policy toward the communist island, he has not done much more than roll-back restrictive regulations to what they were in the Clinton era.

    President Raul Castro has on more than one occasion said that nothing has changed in U.S. policy toward his country while the Obama White House remains totally behind the more than five-decades-old U.S. economic and trade embargo ( known here as the blockade) against the island.

  22. I know old men in Cuba who have hated the government for over 52 years. They didn’t trust the rebels before they came to power and have lived the wreckage of Cuba. They speak openly about the regime to fellow Cubans and to visitors, and go up to the neigborhood snitches and tell them their time is coming. I am sure that they have a lot more courage than me. BUT they are still afraid to appear at a ladies in white rally or to talk to a TV camera. Those few dozen repudiators represent the horror of everything they have seen, the executions, the camps, the punishment by starvation, and the threat that all that can happen again.

    Looking from the outside, if the government can only bring together 200 repudiators at a time, half of them embarrassed to be there or reporters with cameras, it tells me this regime has lost all support among every segment of society. I feel some of those repudiators must be among the mentally ill, and don’t realize the consequences of their actions being filmed. Cuba has already collapsed, the question is just when the government gets around to admitting it and what comes next. To Yoani and all the other dissidents, you have the moral support and admiration of millions of Cubans, and many more outside of Cuba. Keep on speaking the truth!

  23. Your points are well taken Cold but it is not a matter of people sitting in couches asking others to risk their lives. I too read Celaya’s article and while I believe she is one of the most pointed and astute commentators in Cuba today I do not agree with her viewpoint on this particular subject. Are she and others who agree with her prepared to sit for another 50 years waiting for the whole thing to come down on it’s own? I think we all agree that the days of calling for Uncle Sam to “take care” of the situation in Cuba are long gone, no military action/intervention by the US will be forthcoming short of a castro inspired bloodbath in Cuba. If we do agree that change must start/come from within someone, some group will have to step up. We need those very few Cubans who have gained international notoriety through their courageous work to become even more visible and vocal in their opposition. The Ladies in White and Fariñas are out there confronting and agitating for change, others must join or we will be here another 10 years from now still pining for change.

  24. @#46 & 47 & 48
    Point well taken, from the last to first.
    What comes to mind is the inane theory el chancho vomited w/hate on the world, since the “liberation” of Cuba was a success in his eyes from the way it was conducted & the momentum he thougth it created, el chancho came to belive in his deluted mind that quoting loosely: many vietnams could be created & the example of the cuban rebolution could be exported to be used all over the world.
    El chancho pushed that issue like it was a revelation from God, the idea that change can be forced upon de people creating an atmosphere of turnoil & w/the use of violence overthrow goverments of oposing views without regards for its people.
    I think el chancho called foco or something … I like to call it coco.
    I personally don’t believe a movement of this nature can have a successful outcome (espected outcome?) if it is pushed & forced down the people’s throats, yes it might succeed in overthrowing the present regime but it will create a power vacuum where another group of ideologues much like the ones in Cuba did over 50 years ago & we know the results.
    I don’t think the cuban people in the island is ready, I think they are moving towards it, I don’t think is a question of one leader (caudillo) since we can still feel what that is, I think is a question of the people comming to a union of purpose & of mind, I think only the people in the island will know when the “when” will be.
    While not been afraid of blood & rather not have it spilled (if possible) specially since I think the rebolutionary garbage will not go quietly but it will go eventually because their “world image is so important & the new generation rebolutionaries can not be counted to stay, their convictions are suspect & their loyalty as well …

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