The Bunkbed

We had not been together on a bunkbed for more than twenty years. My sister preferred to sleep in the lower bunk for fear of falling out in the middle of the night. I, more daring, climbed to the heights of those squeaky bunks at the schools in the countryside. Taking refuge in the fact that I was younger, I jumped on my battered mattress which, with every jolt, threw out a dust cloud of the husks over the recently occupied sheet. My sister complained that I dirtied the pillow with my shoes, muddied from the furrows where we cultivated the tobacco that put us to sleep. With the patience of the elder daughter, she also tolerated that I talked in my sleep all night.

Two decades later we were once again together in a bunkbed, this time without so much as a mat. My sister and I, with one bed up and one bed down in a dark cell at the police station at Infanta and Manglar. We who were once mobilized for agriculture were arrested years later by State Security agents who had also spent nights in those camps at Güira, Alquízar, Los Palacios or Batabanó. A woman next to use asked why we were prisoners as I lay on the plywood of the upper bunk. The stink of the toilet permeated everything and outside, instead of a bell calling us to work, was a grim-faced officer guarding the door.

Memory has certain pitfalls. Now when I recall those hostels full of teenagers they merge in my mind with the image of a cell at the 4th Police Station on the evening of 24 February 2010. My sister and I sharing a can of condensed milk with our classmates, suddenly being thrown into a hallway where the police scream and knock us around. My sister and I, on perpetual bunks, exactly the same amid Pinar del Rio’s red earth as in a damp basement of El Cerro. We went from sheltered girls to arrested women, from Little Pioneers harvesting bananas and oranges, to citizens forcibly pushed into a paddy wagon. My sister and I, one bed above another. She trembles, her voice strained, because she can no longer protect and defend me.

It’s been a year since my sister and I were victims of that arbitrary arrest as we were on our way to sign a book of condolences for the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. After filing a complaint with the Military Prosecutor, the Attorney General of the Republic, the National Assembly and the Director of the National Police, I have received no response from any of these institution. Here, once again, is the audio recording I managed to make that day with my mobile phone.

Translator’s note: These videos have no “images” other than the transcript of the words and sounds. Even to the non-Spanish speaker, however, they powerfully transmit the screams, the blows, the voices of Yoani’s sister and others arrested that day as they try to protect her from abuse. An English translation of the transcript can be downloaded here.


42 thoughts on “The Bunkbed

  1. La verdad que esos tipos lo que son, son unos cobardes sin madres ni %^&$ entre las piernas! Esos son unos besa *ul○$ que no tienen el valor que tiene Yoani y por su complejo de inferioridad es que se tiene que comportar por fuera como los jefes cuando no son jefes ni en su porpia casa!
    Mis respetos a las personas como Yoani y cualquiera que SI tenga el valor de luchar por sus derechos humanos y por respeto propio. Eso es ser mas hombre y mas mujer que un ejercito lleno de policia y militares cobardes como esos que existen aya que se meten con ustedes, con las damas de blanco y con la verdadera justicia!
    Mis oraciones están con ustedes para que pronto llegue la Libertad en Cuba!

  2. solo dire una cosa nuestro pueblo tienes una vacuna en sus venas desde hase mas de 50 anos.muchos al logrados sanar y despectar de la ralidad ya viene llegando lo que todos nesecitamos para nuestro pueblo.solo haria falta trabajar mas en las escuelas y en los barrios para que el pueblo despirte de esta pesadilla,muchos dentro del gobierno saben que todo se viene derrumbando por eso cada dia mas mas robos y abuso de poder.el gobierno cubano ya esta con sus manos atada sin poder haser nada,el gobierno esta conciente que esta en sus ultimos suspiro solo faltaria una huelga genaral que el pueblo se asuma a las calles y criten fuerte libertad como esta sucediendo en los paises arabes ahora o nunca seran libre de los derechos humanos y de la demogracia un GRITO POR CUBA LIBRE LIBERTDAD.

  3. porque no ponen fotos aunque sea en los videos hasi tendra mas audiensia y publicadad..lamento escuchar estas cosas desagradables que siempre a existido en mi pais,algun dias estos perros asesinos seran cuba sin los castro

  4. REUTERS: Cuba trial of U.S. contractor ends but no verdict yet

    HAVANA-The trial of U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross for crimes against the Cuban state ended on Saturday after two days of testimony, but judges were still mulling the verdict, a U.S. official said.
    Gross, 61, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted for his work in a U.S. program to increase opposition to Cuba’s one-party government.

    “The trial was concluded, but a verdict was not announced,” said a U.S. spokeswoman in Havana.

    She said Gross’ Cuban lawyer, Nuris Pinera, would be notified when the five-judge panel makes its decision, “but we have no timeline” when that will happen.

    Cuba says Gross was distributing Internet equipment, including sophisticated satellite phones, to dissidents, in violation of Cuban law.

    He is officially charged with “acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the state.”

    The case halted a brief warming in U.S.-Cuban relations and could do lasting damage if Gross is imprisoned for long.

    He has been an active participant in his case, making what the Cuban government described on Friday as a “free declaration” and mounting what his U.S. attorney called a “vigorous defense.”

    If convicted, Gross, who appeared gaunt in a business suit on Saturday, can appeal the decision to Cuba’s highest court. Wife Judy Gross said he has lost 90 pounds (41 kg) in jail.

    The longtime development worker was in Cuba on a tourist visa working in a controversial U.S. Agency for International Development program aimed at promoting political change on the island. He was arrested December 3, 2009 in a Havana hotel and has been in jail since.

    The United States, at loggerheads with Cuba for more than five decades, said he helped provide Internet service to Jewish groups but committed no crimes.


    Cuban leaders view Gross’ work as more of long-standing U.S. efforts to sabotage the communist government put in place after Fidel Castro rose to power in a 1959 revolution.

    In a recently leaked video of a Ministry of Interior briefing, an Internet expert equated Gross to the “mercenaries” who took part in the 1961 U.S.-backed and unsuccessful invasion attempt at the Bay of Pigs.

    Internet access is limited in Cuba but the expert said the Internet is the latest front in the long ideological war between the two countries.

    The U.S. programs have been criticized in the United States for doing little more than provoking the Cuban government.

    Cuba was expected to use the trial to put a spotlight on U.S. activities on the island, but has excluded foreign press from covering it and made no mention of it on Saturday in the official newspaper Granma.

    Judy Gross is attending the trial with Gross’s U.S. lawyer Peter Kahn, who is observing while Cuban lawyers conduct his client’s case.

    “Alan Gross’s trial concluded today in Cuba, the matter is now before a panel for decision. The family remains hopeful Alan will be home soon,” Kahn said in a statement.

    Judy Gross has pleaded for her husband’s release on humanitarian grounds because their 26-year-old daughter and Alan Gross’s 88-year-old mother both have cancer.

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Washington on Friday the United States was “deeply concerned” about the case and called for his release.

    “He’s been unjustly jailed for far too long,” she said.

    (Additional reporting by Rosa Tania Valdes, Marc Frank and Esteban Israel; Editing by Jackie Frank)

  5. Love I agree with you that many of these people are delusional. Some are also naive, misinformed and mislead. But there is a 3rd group and this group is the most sinister and they are the ideological fanatics. The retched marxist that posts here is a good example of this. The ones that fall into this category are “married” to their ideology on a visceral and emotional level. They can not be reasoned with, convinced or bargained with. These types of people by their nature can never be democrats they are absolutist in their thinking and in the defense of whatever fanatical belief they subscribe to.

  6. Definitions of hypocrisy, dishonesty, and insanity:

    The “free the Cuban 5 bunch” can go to Cuba, and bring back anything they want to North America including “sophisticated communication equipment”. They can walk into any Cuban consulate, walk out with wheel barrels full of money, wear T-shirts declaring “I am a Cuban spy” or “Death to America”, and freely demonstrate against the US government – and all they will receive from the US government is a big yawn. Cubans are regularly invited to North America to advocate “regime change in North America” to adoring college audiences, and to work for “regime change” with sympathetic groups in North America.

    And then all these people tell us that what Alan Gross has done is a serious crime anywhere else in the world and would be seriously punished??? Jaywalking is a bigger crime in the USA or Canada. If the people who repeat this propaganda were locked up in an asylum, or serious drug addicts, it would be understandable. But these people are journalists, professors, and politicians! Delusion has no limits.

  7. Yes, Mr. Personality is another of the revolution’s great intellectual success stories. Graduated from Lenin High School with high marks in “screaming”, “sloganeering” and “insulting”, the revolution’s 3 great weapons in the “battle of ideas”

  8. The degenerate communist punching bag makes a reappearance, interesting timing. The Gross kangaroo-court trial opens and he reappears to denigrate Gross and to glorify the 5 criminals. The timing is no coincidence, this tool and psychotic basket-case is one of MININT’s star operatives, sent to this forum to overwhelm and discredit “team Yoani” with his brilliant insights, impeccable grammar and irresistible powers of persuation. Hey, this usanian missed you comrade, don’t be a stranger, every village needs an idiot.

  9. REUTERS: Cuban trial of U.S. aid contractor resumes -(2011-03-05) -By Jeff Franks

    HAVANA (Reuters) – The trial of an American aid contractor facing up to 20 years in jail for his work in a U.S. program promoting political opposition in communist Cuba moved into a second day on Saturday with more testimony and possibly final arguments expected.

    Alan Gross, 61, was an active participant in his own case in the trial’s first day on Friday, making what the Cuban government described as a “free declaration” and mounting what his U.S. attorney called a “vigorous defense.”

    Gross is fighting for his freedom because prosecutors are seeking a 20-year sentence if as expected he is convicted of supplying Internet equipment, including sophisticated satellite phones, to dissidents, in violation of Cuban law.

    He is officially charged with “acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the state.”

    The case put the brakes on a brief warming in U.S.-Cuban relations and could do lasting damage if Gross is imprisoned for long. There is speculation a political solution will be reached that will allow Gross to go free soon.

    The longtime development worker was in Cuba on a tourist visa working in a controversial U.S. Agency for International Development program aimed at promoting political change on the island. He was arrested December 3, 2009 in a Havana hotel and has been in jail since.

    The United States, at odds with Cuba for more than five decades, said he helped provide Internet service to Jewish groups but committed no crimes.

    Cuban leaders view Gross’ work as more of long-standing U.S. efforts to sabotage the communist government put in place after Fidel Castro rose to power in a 1959 revolution.

    In a recently leaked video of a Ministry of Interior briefing, an Internet expert equated Gross to the “mercenaries” who took part in the 1961 U.S.-backed and unsuccessful invasion attempt at the Bay of Pigs.


    Internet access is limited in Cuba but the expert said the Internet is the latest front in the long ideological war between the two countries.

    The U.S. programs have been criticized in the United States for doing little more than provoking the Cuban government.

    Cuba was expected to use the trial to put a spotlight on U.S. activities on the island, but has excluded foreign press from covering it and made no mention of it on Saturday in the official newspaper Granma.

    In a statement on Friday night, the government said Gross spoke freely and answered questions from prosecutors, his attorneys and the panel of judges hearing the case.

    Without naming them, it said other witnesses testified and evidence was presented. More of the same was expected for Saturday, the statement said.

    Verdicts are usually rendered quickly in Cuban trials but decisions on sentencing can take several days.

    Gross, dressed in civilian clothes, could be seen from a distance arriving on at the court on Saturday.

    His wife Judy Gross also is attending and smiled without speaking when reporters asked for comment as she walked into the court. She was accompanied by Gross’s U.S. lawyer Peter Kahn, who is observing the trial while Cuban lawyers conduct his client’s defense.

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Washington on Friday the United States was “deeply concerned” about the case and called for his release.

    “He’s been unjustly jailed for far too long,” she said.

    Judy Gross has pleaded with Cuba for his release on humanitarian grounds because their 26-year-old daughter and Alan Gross’s 88-year-old mother both have cancer.

    (Additional reporting by Rosa Tania Valdes and Esteban Israel; Editing by Eric Walsh)

  10. Yanelys simpatiso con tu situasion. Lo unico mas que te puedo surgerir es que te pongas en contacto con periodicos, emisoras de radio y television. Es posible que en estos medios encuentres alguin que le interese investigar el tema del juez.

  11. HAVANA TIMES, March 5: US State Dept. Awards Yoani Sanchez

    — Award winning Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez has been chosen to receive yet another prize this week, this time from the US State Department.

    The “International Women of Courage” award will go to nine women worldwide and goes to Sanchez “for her work on behalf of freedom of expression in Cuba.”

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama will head up the awards ceremony set for Tuesday March 8, International Women’s Day, informs an official press note.

    Sanchez was invited to attend the ceremony but, as on other occasions when she has won international prizes, the Cuban government keeps her grounded, refusing to grant the required exit visa.

    State Department spokesperson Virginia Staab noted that Sanchez has conquered global attention with her blog Generation Y from where she provides information about daily life on the Caribbean island.

    The United States maintains a half-century economic blockade on Cuba in an effort to promote regime change. A travel ban also prohibits ordinary US citizens from visiting the neighboring country

  12. HAVANA TIMES, March 5: Cuba Press Mum on Alan Gross Trial

    — The trial of US citizen Alan Gross began behind closed doors in Havana on Friday but you wouldn’t know it by Cuban press coverage.

    The official Granma newspaper and its sister Juventud Rebelde make no mention of the trial that is the top news item regarding Cuba in the international media.

    However,, the leading official online website, did run a brief article on the subject by the Prensa Latina news agency.

    The news item states that during the first day of the trial Gross “made a statement and responded to questions from the prosecutor, defense and the panel of judges on the charges against him.” No details were given.

    Prensa Latina said that witnesses gave testimony and answered questions from the different parties. It further notes that the expert witnesses also began their presentations, which will continue on Saturday, with more testimony from them and other witnesses, as well as the closing statements from the prosecution and the defense.

    Gross, 61, is charged with “Actions Against the Independence and Territorial Integrity of the State,” considered a very serious offense on the Caribbean island. He was allegedly caught distributing sophisticated communications equipment on a tourist visa.

    The Maryland resident’s wife Judy, an attorney and US Interests Section officials are attending the trial.

  13. The Gross kangaroo court trial will be used by the criminals running the government to among other things condemn and demonize the USAID programs. Gross’ program is not the only USAID program, there are others. There are USAID programs that help to sustain the families of current and past political prisoners. People who would otherwise not have the means to support themselves because they have been ostracized by the regime. These programs are not a direct threat to the government but it is in their interests to characterize them as such. In the articles that have been copied and pasted here I see a recurring theme about how some see the USAID programs as counter-productive because they inflame the criminal regime. Is that supposed to be a legitimate reason to stop the programs, absolutely not. It would be a sad day if a determination is made to make policy decisions based on not rustling the dictators feathers. These programs are essential and while the Obama administration did put a freeze on them initially, mostly at the behest of Senator Kerry and other left-wingers in the Senate and House, to the administration’s credit they were re-implemented. If these programs aid the victims of the repressive regime and at the same time represent a thorn in the side of the oppressors that in my view is another reason to maintain them.

  14. For anyone interested, the current Jewish community in Cuba is less than 10% of the size it was in 1959. Until the recent “liberalization” it was very difficult to practice any religion in Cuba, except for worshiping Fidel and his associated “atheist” Gods. Anyone who attended a church or said they were Catholic, for example, would find it difficult to attend university or become a doctor or anything else. Things have changed now and Cubans are showing their religious colors, but the religious “leaders” are in no position to offend the government or speak the truth in public. There are a few priests who are starting to speak out now, but the Jewish community is tiny, weak, and much of the congregation only eats thanks to charity sent in from the USA. While visiting one synagogue, everyone came up to us and begged us for pesos, and I saw unmistakable signs of malnutrition. But I see that everywhere in Cuba.

  15. THIS SITUATION WITH ALAN GROSS IS MORE INTERESTING AND MORE ARRESTING (excuse the pun) THAN BENICION DEL TORRO’S DIRECTORIAL DEBUT ON SOME “ARTSY” SHORT FILM TITLED “Seven Days in Havana” ! HOW ABOUT THE EPIC “Over a year without being charged and a two day trial by a CASTROFACIST dictatorship without the international press being present”? WHO WILL WIN BEST PICTURE? IN HOLLYWOOD ONLY THE LEFT WINS!

    MIAMI HERALD: Gross trial opens in Cuba with ‘vigorous’ defense-On the first day of the trial of American Alan P. Gross, his Cuban lawyers were said to have offered a “vigorous” defense of their client.

    A lawyer for U.S. government subcontractor Alan P. Gross said his client put up “a vigorous defense’’ Friday on the first day of a trial in Cuba that could send him to prison for 20 years for giving communications equipment to independent groups.

    The trial of the 61-year-old resident of Potomac, Md. — closed to the foreign news media — lasted nearly nine hours during its opening session and was to resume at 9:30 a.m. Saturday for a possibly final session.

    His U.S. lawyer, Peter J. Kahn, who attended the session, issued a statement saying almost nothing about what happened in the courtroom but urging the Cuban government to free Gross as a humanitarian gesture.

    Gross “has already served 15 months in a Cuban prison. While Alan and his Cuban counsel presented a vigorous defense today, we respectfully urge the Cuban authorities to free Alan immediately for time served,’’ Khan said in a statement released by his Washington law firm, Williams & Connolly.

    “Alan’s health continues to deteriorate as a result of his dramatic weight loss, other physical ailments and the extreme mental stress and anguish he continues to endure,’’ Kahn added. “The recent lung cancer diagnosis of his elderly mother and his 26-year old daughter’s ongoing recovery from a double mastectomy have created an even more urgent need for Alan to be reunited with his family.”

    Khan and Gross’ wife Judy were seen leaving the court building, a converted family home in the 10 de Octubre municipality just south of Old Havana. U.S. consular officials also were allowed in the courtroom, said Gloria Berbena, a spokeswoman for the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana.

    Foreign reporters and photographers were kept across the street from the courthouse, amid a strong deployment of police for several blocks around the neighborhood, a journalist told El Nuevo Herald by phone from Havana.

    Prosecutors have said they would seek a 20-year sentence for Gross’ “acts against the integrity and independence’’ of Cuba, under Article 91 of the penal code of 1987 that outlaws “actions in the interest of a foreign government.”

    He was arrested in Havana Dec. 3, 2009 as he worked for Development Associates International, a Maryland firm contracted by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to help pro-democracy and civil society groups in Cuba.

    Cuban officials allege that the USAID programs are designed to topple the communist government and brand the recipients of the U.S. aid as “mercenaries.”

    Gross delivered at least one satellite telephone and other communications equipment to Jewish groups and “other marginalized groups’’ so they could communicate with each other and the outside world, according to various U.S. government reports.

    Among those spotted entering the courtroom Friday morning was William Miller, the only member of Cuba’s tiny Jewish community who has acknowledged having met Gross.

    Community leader Adela Dworin has repeatedly denied knowing Gross.

    With U.S. officials claiming that Gross did not violate Cuban law — “What he did is not a crime,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said last month — his 15-month detention has become the key stumbling block in Obama administration efforts to improve relations with Havana.

    “He has been unjustly jailed for far too long,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “We call on the government of Cuba to release him and unconditionally and allow him to leave Cuba and return to his family.”

    Most analysts expect that Gross will be convicted and sentenced, but then will be freed within months as a “humanitarian gesture.” A senior U.S. State Department official said in January that Cuban officials had hinted Gross would be freed soon.

    Kahn’s statement about a “vigorous defense’’ put to rest speculation that Gross would plead guilty and ask for mercy from the panel of three professional judges and two common citizens appointed for brief periods. Cuban judges usually issue a verdict quickly, then take weeks or months to announce the sentence.

    The Gross trial sparked calls by U.S. critics of the sometimes semi-covert Cuba democracy programs, run by USAID and budgeted for about $20 million a year, to make them less provocative to Havana.

    It “shows that the programs as currently constituted may do more to provoke the Cuban government than to promote democracy, and they endanger the American contractors who work on them,” said a statement by the Washington Office on Latin America.

    Two strong critics of U.S. sanctions on Cuba — academics Lawrence Wilkerson and Arturo Lopez-Levy — meanwhile co-authored a column in the Web site The Washington Note calling for Gross’ release on humanitarian grounds and adding that his trial would serve three Cuban government goals:

    • ‘‘Mobilize the nationalist sentiments of the Cuban people to denounce foreign interference in Cuba’s internal affairs.”

    • ‘‘Set an example and deter other Cubans, Americans, and nationals of third countries from participating in regime change programs.”

    • ‘‘Generate international condemnation of US policy and invigorate solidarity with Cuban sovereignty.”

  16. I also “sneaked in” ball-point pens to Cuba, considered advanced communications equipment by most Cubans. I didn’t really sneak them in but the government can always claim I did. I’ve also associated with Cubans who dissent, about 99% of the population. I hope I’m not the next counter-revolutionary mercenary spy who finds himself in jail for 20 years.

  17. Thinking of the Alan Gross kidnapping, I can only see some combination of the following 4 possibilities:

    1) There are no American spies in Cuba so they had to imprison an American who looks like he could be a spy. Not likely, but less far-fetched than it sounds, as contrary to all the propaganda, Cuba is a very low priority. And all the defectors from Cuba have probably painted the most accurate picture of Cuba available.

    2) Spies or no spies, the Cuban secret police are far too corrupt and inept to ever find one. This is very likely.

    3) They didn’t want to arrest a spy. Putting innocent people in jail sends a strong message to would-be dissidents and to foreigners to watch their step.

    4) Someone asked Gross for a bribe and he refused to pay. In combination with the above, this sealed his fate. This is a very likely scenario.


    HUFFINGTON POST:Trial of US contractor ends first day in Cuba-PAUL HAVEN | March 4, 2011

    HAVANA — A marathon first day in the trial of a U.S. government contractor facing a 20-year sentence on charges he sought to undermine the island’s communist government wrapped up late Friday, with no verdict.

    The wife of Alan Gross, his lawyers and U.S. consular officials left the courtroom in a converted mansion in a once-prosperous neighborhood of Havana about nine hours after testimony began, and his American lawyer later called on Cuban authorities to release Gross on humanitarian grounds.

    “Alan and his Cuban counsel presented a vigorous defense today,” said the lawyer, Peter J. Kahn.

    He said Gross was suffering “extreme mental stress” and reiterated the family’s call that he be released on humanitarian grounds. “We respectfully urge the Cuban authorities to free Alan immediately for time served.”

    Kahn gave no details about what was said in the courtroom – which was off limits to the media.

    Cuba’s Foreign Ministry released a statement saying the trial would reconvene Saturday and indicated the proceedings could finish that day after presentation of further evidence and final statements from the prosecution and defense.

    Sentencing, should Gross be convicted, would likely come in about two weeks.HC

  19. The CUBAN GOVERMENT really wants those “CUBAN 5″ SPIES BACK! Just take a look at all the BLIND IDEOLOGS putting up propaganda events and fundraisers in the USA and the world. I ran into a few of these types in Venice at a party for Chucho Valdez. Such “METICHES”! They can never escape that IDEOLOGY even with all the information available online about THE CASTROFACISTS!!

  20. As I said, anyone to cry over the usa terrorist is a hypocrite for as long as the five Cuban citizens are imprisoned in the usa for the EXACTLY SAME reasons.

    Indeed, who is here really affraid of the information? Csatro or anti-castristas?

    Obviously the latter.

  21. Adding to my previous comment. The revolution doesn’t have to threaten most Cuban “leaders” with jail, the threat of losing their position and going hungry is usually more than enough to make anyone say anything.

  22. Mazorra..

    sinceramente .. no resolvi nada..

    llame a Ileana y no me responden..

    llame a Mario Diaz-Balar y me respondieron que ellos no pueden hacer nada..

    es muy decepcionante saber que en un pais como este un juez discrimine a los cubanos y no les quiera cambiar la corte solo por entrar por frontera buscando libertad y un futuro..

    vere que hago..

  23. I agree with Humberto. There is only one Jewish leader in Cuba. He’s also the Christian leader, the Hindu leader, and the Muslim leader, and the sports leader, and the literature leader, and the leader of every other community in Cuba. The other “leaders” are simply hostages reciting a script. And any of the other “leaders” who don’t recite the script could find themselves in the same cell as Alan Gross.

  24. THE INDEPENDENT: A new dawn for Cuba as capitalism eclipses communism-Saturday, 5 March 2011

    As state control rolls back, 500,000 are about to lose their jobs. In the first part of a new series, David Usborne reports from HavanaHidden and hedonistic, the party begins to pop at about midnight when the half-naked male models point the last stragglers to the open roof top.

    On a second level above us under the stars the DJ turns it down briefly to allow a solo trumpeter to play a sensuous salsa serenade while behind the bar – as long as a swimming pool and sagging with mojito cocktails – lesbian porn from the nineteen thirties is projected on an bare wall.

    The guests, in from Sao Paolo, Mexico City, Paris and Madrid, take it in their sophisticated stride, navigating past mattresses for the boozed up and the louche and feigning insouciance as Oscar-winning actor Benicio Del Toro brushes past. There had been a clue in the invitation about what was to come. Dress code: “tropical glam”.

    Yet there is wonder if not actual shock in their smiles even as they dance their last dance and surrender to the approaching Caribbean dawn. We are not in Miami, Palm Beach or even Los Angeles. This is Havana, home to one of the last Soviet-style regimes in the world. Now in the lift going back down an impossible rumour goes around. Two of Raul Castro’s sons attended the party. You never saw them?

    Cuba is changing. The roof-garden fete, with its decadent pulse, was not something you see in Havana on your average Saturday night. Some may have thought of it as an aberrant flashback to the pre-revolution days when frolicsome behaviour was the norm. But to others it seemed like a back-to-the-future experience. Was this a glimpse of this grand but crumbling city 10 or 20 years from now, raring once again for fun? A reporter meanwhile tries to straighten out those Castro sightings. The surprise: no sons but two grand-daughters had indeed shown up.

    Grandfather Raul, who turns 80 this year four years after taking over as President from his ailing brother and founder of the revolution, Fidel, will not have given the party a second’s thought. That Cuba is tiptoeing back into the sunlight is of his own personal doing, after all. It was last September that a stunned nation as told that the centrally planned economy was dying and needed radical surgery. By the end of this April, the government decreed, 500,000 Cubans would have been fired from state jobs. In the longer term, the Raul-sanctioned plan would eliminate about 1 million jobs, or roughly 20 per cent of the workforce.

    It is an audacious blueprint that will kill the socialist model erected by Fidel and his co-revolutionary Che Guevara 53 years ago or save it from collapse. Its success or failure will depend largely on whether Cuba, with its epic inefficiencies and laid-back rhythms, can rediscover long-suppressed capitalist instincts. Today, the state employs almost 90 per cent of all workers. As many of those are now laid off they will be encouraged to apply for licenses to try their hand at private enterprise. Fidel did something similar 15 years ago, but on a far tinier scale – Havana saw the opening of a handful of family-run restaurants and hostelries for tourists – and he later backed away. This promises to be much bigger.

    What it means is that Cuba is in a state of high agitation. Interviews over several days with Cubans of all backgrounds suggested a people uncertain whether to be deeply afraid of what is coming or grateful that after decades of stagnation, their leaders finally are ready for reform. And there have been other signs of movement from the top. In February, the regime with little fanfare lifted the internet firewall that for years had blocked much of what Cubans could see on the web (though only a fraction of the population has access to it). And the months since last July have seen 60 political prisoners released, all originally rounded up in the so-called ‘Black Spring’ of 2003. Only seven of those arrested in that crackdown now remain behind bars.

    Miguel Barnet, the President of the Writers’ and Artist’s Union, an amiable man about Havana who has a direct line of communication with the Castros (and is therefore not free to speak entirely candidly), accepted that Cuba is in a tricky place but was certain that Raul knows what he’s doing. “I am very optimistic for Cuba,” he tells me. “What would be tricky is if there was no transition going on. We need to do this.”

    Raul has support from other members of the top communist leadership. Next month, a Communist Party Congress will be convened, something not seen in a decade and a half. It will approve the full Raul reforms that not only will significantly broaden the areas in which free enterprise will be tolerated and even encouraged but – perhaps most surprising and risky – will simultaneously introduce a system of income tax.

    We also know, however, that resistance has been powerful at the next level of communist leaders – the ones who have to choose who is to lose their jobs and then tell them. Sources spoke of uproar one recent night at the luxury, state-operated Melia Cobiba Hotel when top socialist officials gathered the staff of 580 people and told them only 480 would be returning the following day.

    In an attempt at consultation and fairness, committees were established to discuss how the lay-offs might work. Their work was concluded last weekend and on Monday Raul acknowledged that progress on sacking the first 500,000 workers had been slow. The end-April deadline, he said, would therefore be extended. He gave no new clear schedule for reaching his final goals.

    Speculation abounds that he may also be slowing the pace because of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other countries in the Middle East where citizens have risen up against authoritarian regimes. However, Cuba is different. It does not have a youth-heavy population, access to sites like Twitter and Facebook is extremely limited and there is no issue of corruption or great displays of wealth among the ruling elite. “We write to our capitals every day and say it is not going to happen in Cuba,” says one junior diplomat at the Canadian embassy here. “Change is going to come not at once, but bit by bit.”

    Then there is this: while the prisoner release programme has cheered human rights groups and even some dissident leaders in the country, no one supposes that old habits of repression have died. Thus two weeks ago, on the first anniversary of the death from hunger strike while behind bars of dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo, the regime moved temporarily to round up 45 dissidents and confine 60 more in their homes to diminish the chances of street protests. All were released when the anniversary was over.

    “Some positive steps have been taken,” a diplomatic source in Havana said, noting the release of the 60 political prisoners. “But we remain extremely worried about the human rights situation.” He described a security apparatus that remained alert and ubiquitous. Any kinds of street gatherings are instantly quashed, in part by thugs hired by the state. The front page of the Communist Party paper, Granma, last week reported that the spokesperson for the Ladies in White, a protest group of wives and relatives of those first incarcerated in 2003, had been unveiled as a government informer. What motivated the paper to run this is unclear.

    The United States, which maintains its 49-year-old economic embargo although restrictions on sending money and travelling to Cuba have been eased by President Barack Obama, has its own human rights crisis with Cuba, involving US citizen Alan Gross, 61, who was to go on trial in Havana yesterday. Caught distributing satellite reception equipment to Jewish groups in Cuba to improve their access to the internet, he was arrested on charges of espionage and could face 20 years in jail if convicted. The US has protested and demanded his release.

    The embargo is a big part of what ails Cuba, which was kept afloat for years by Moscow until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989. The other problem is the lack of liquidity in Cuba, where no system of credit exists. Meet Jose, for example, who for years worked as a carpenter before – in the Cuban equivalent of winning the lottery – landed a job last year driving a tourist horse-drawn buggy in Old Havana on a monthly salary of $11 that is multiplied many times over by tips. With two of his four sons along with him, he acknowledges that he risks being fired under Raul’s reforms. “We will deal with that if it comes,” he says, before revealing an ambition to open a paladar – the name of the private restaurants permitted to serve tourists: “I will be the waiter and my wife will cook.” But he echoes the worries many others have.

    “The pillars of our country are all gone – coffee, sugar, rum – they aren’t good any more,” laments Fran, 66, once a farm labourer who now earns $4 a month as cabaret singer for the state aviation institute. He too is lucky as the holder of one of Fidel’s original licenses to entertain tourist groups. He sings old Beatles’ numbers at a creaking paladar on a river outside Havana. Fran tells me something that would be hard to credit were we not in Cuba where nothing seems too bizarre. He claims his son Ojani was married in the early 1990s to Jennifer Lopez. “I told him not to worry about the money and just leave,” he says with a smile of obvious chagrin. He is pessimistic about the Raul reforms. “So, the people will be allowed to work for themselves and have their own business. Yes, fine. But how do you that without any money? We have no savings.”

    “It will all come from Miami,” says a US businessman who has permitted business dealings in Cuba. In spite of the embargo, the US is Cuba’s fifth trading partner. This is why the relaxation of the rules on money remittances to Cuba by Obama are seen by some as crucial, because those dollars may fuel the nascent free enterprise sector.

    Few in Cuba, however, expect the embargo to end soon and most react sceptically to the idea that when Fidel dies, Uncle Sam will come with dollars and cruise ships and take the island for itself. “I don’t think that the Americans want another mortgage,” says Mr Barnet, the union leader. “We have to do this for ourselves.”

    More important now, with the Communist Congress around the corner, is if ordinary Cubans think it can be done. That they want to have faith is clear and they don’t need rooftop parties to feel the breeze of possible change. But the gap between Raul’s promises and free enterprise taking root is wide and fear still reigns over hope. “This,” says a diplomat “is their last chance, because the country is in dire shape.”

  25. NPR:In Cuba, Jailed American Faces Trial-March 4, 2011
    Today, American contractor Alan Gross goes on trial in Cuba. He’s charged with “acts against the integrity and independence” of the state. Gross says he was just trying to help enhance Internet connectivity for the island’s small Jewish community. Nick Miroff is watching, and he speaks with host Melissa Block. FOREIGN JOURNALISTS ARE NOT ALLOWED TO ATTEND THE TRIAL.


  26. Damir, Damir! So good to see ya! and your “PERSONALITY”!!Please, most people know that the Jewish Community was strong armed to say what THE CASTROFACISTS want them to say! It aint call FACISM for nothing! And as far as the CUBAN SPIES, their jails are five star hotesl compared to the GULAGS where all Cuban Political prisoners are held at! And speaking of weapons of “MASS DESTRUCTION”, meaning those cell phones and laptops that Alan Gross was giving out! Why are the CASTROFACISTS so afraid of INFORMATION? Can you tell us, all mighty, intellectual genious DAMIR?

  27. And since nobody has anything to say about what the team “yoani” writes, so a lot of shyte is posted instead, here’s my own comment unrelated to the above slimey outpooring of bull.

    Get that usanian craphead and keep him in the prison forever.

    Treat him exactly as the usa treats the five Cubans in their prisons so that whoever raises the voice against his treatment becomes automatically a hypocrite.

    Remember all one thing: cuban jewish community confirmed that the terrorist agent NEVER contacted them, and they had NOTHING to do with him. They refused a suggestion that they had received any “support” from the guy.

    In fact the leaders of the jewish community were quite annoyed with him and the usa for being so blatantly exploited for usanian terrorist activities against Cuba and made to look like a bunch of traitors when they actually had NO role in it whatsoever.

    Lies are the only thing the team “yoani” and their usanian masters have to offer.

    Just like the “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq.

    Get off and give it up. No one believes this cwap. Not even you.

    Give it a rest. The jinetera herself has the latest laptop on the market, yet she complains of poverty and empty stores.

    Hypocrisy at its best.

  28. I see losers are still barking at the caravan. How touchy.

    Just to remind those who remember this “audio”, we discussed it when the team “yoani” posted it the first time around and we debunked it easilly as a joke with no substance. If anything, the only polite and composed character in the audio seems to be the voice posing as a policeman.

    Funny that…

    Hey, how come the team “yoani” never actually criticise Castros and the government, being such “democrats” and all that nonsense?

    Jineteros and jineteras of the worst quality.

    But taxi drivers, bastards, they are the ones guilty for everything, no? And the schools that “force” kids to wear uniforms and boys must be tidy and have a haircut!!!!

    Sacre bleu!!! Haircuts!!!! Now, THAT is a communist oppression!!!!

    Down with it!!!

    Jinetera. And a traitor of her own people. The team “yoani” are about “democracy” just as much as their idols Castros.


    U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE:Notice to the Press -Office of the Spokesman-Washington, DC-March 4, 2011

    Secretary Clinton to Host the 2011 International Women of Courage Awards With Special Guest First Lady Michelle Obama on March 8

    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will host the 2011 International Women of Courage Awards Ceremony with special guest First Lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday, March 8. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer and other U.S. and foreign dignitaries also will participate. The event will be held at approximately 11:00 a.m. in the Dean Acheson Auditorium of the U.S. Department of State.
    The prestigious Secretary of State’s Award for International Women of Courage annually recognizes women around the globe who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women’s rights and empowerment, often at great personal risk.

    The International Women of Courage Award Ceremony will be open to credentialed members of the media and live streamed at

    Pre-set time for cameras: 5:00 a.m. from the 23rd Street Lobby.

    Final access time for journalists and still photographers: 8:15 a.m. from the 23rd Street Lobby.

    Following the ceremony, Ambassador Melanne Verveer will brief the press on-camera in the press briefing room at the Department of State.

    Since the inception of this award in 2007, the Department of State has honored 38 women from 27 different countries. This is the only Department of State award that pays tribute to women activists worldwide.

    The names of this year’s honorees follow and full biographies and headshots are attached.

    Biographies of the Secretary of State’s 2011 International Women of Courage Awardees

    Kyrgyzstan President- Roza Otunbayeva

    Maria Bashir of Afghanistan-Prosecutor General, Attorney General’s Office, Herat Province

    Henriette Ekwe Ebongo of Cameroon-Journalist, publisher of Bebela, political activist

    Jianmei Guo of China-Director and Lawyer, Women’s Law Studies and Legal Aid Center

    Agnes Osztolykan of Hungary-Member of Parliament, Politics Can Be Different Party, Lehet Mas a Politika (LMP)

    Eva Abu Halaweh of Jordan-Executive Director, Mizan Law Group for Human Rights

    Ghulam Sughra of Pakistan-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Marvi Rural Development Organization.

    Marisela Morales Ibañez of Mexico-Deputy Attorney General for Special Investigations against Organized Crime

    Yoani Sanchez of Cuba – Unable to attend the ceremony-Innovator and Blogger, Founder of Generación Y blog
    Blogger, technological innovator, and emerging civil society leader Yoani Sanchez has attracted an international following for her blog, Generacíon Y, which gives readers unprecedented insight into life in Cuba. She has worked to improve the ability of ordinary Cubans to access and disseminate information, and to expand information flow and free expression throughout Cuba. She has been credited as the “founder” of the independent Cuban blogosphere. Her work has expanded beyond blogging to training and advising dozens of newcomers to the blogosphere, providing a voice for young Cubans and for established civil society leaders. Languages Spoken: Spanish

    Nasta Palazhanka of Belarus – Unable to attend the ceremony-Deputy Chairperson, Malady Front (Young Front) non-governmental organization

  30. If Dr. Biscet survives his imprisonment I believe he has a key role to play in a future transition to democracy. He is a dedicated democrat, a charismatic and passionate speaker and an Afro-Cuban. The criminals running the government would like to see him rot in prison. If they release him he will be a loud and tenacious advocate for change as he was before being imprisoned unjustly.

  31. Mazorra…intento fallido..

    unos no me responden..otros me dijeron que no està en sus manos..

    asi que todo parece indicar que el juez puede hacer lo que le da la gana sin que nadie lo pueda franar..

    gracias de todas formas..

    un abrazo.. esperemos que no me deporten..porque yo, realmente, no puedo ir a Buffalo..

  32. ASSOCIATED PRESS: Trial against US contractor starts in Cuba
    HAVANA — A U.S. government contractor went on trial in Cuba on Friday in a case sure to have a profound impact on relations between the Cold War enemies.

    Alan Gross faces a possible 20-year sentence for “acts against the integrity and independence” of Cuba. The 61-year-old Maryland native was working for the Bethesda-based Development Associates International on a USAID-program that promotes democracy when he was arrested in December 2009.

    His family, and U.S. and company officials, say he was bringing communications equipment to Cuba’s 1,500-strong Jewish community. Cuban Jewish groups deny having anything to do with him, and there was speculation some Cuban Jewish leaders would testify against him.

    Gross’s wife, Judy, and lawyer Peter J. Kahn arrived by foot at the courthouse in a converted residential mansion in Havana’s once-prosperous 10 de Octubre neighborhood. American consular officials also arrived at the court as observors. They did not speak to reporters, who were kept some distance away across a narrow street.

    The trial — closed to the media — is expected to be over in a day or two, with a verdict announced immediately thereafter. Sentencing, should Gross be convicted, would likely come about two weeks later.

    “We hope it will be resolved so that Mr. Gross can return home to the United States,” State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said from Washington. “He has been in prison for too long.”

    The proceedings offer Cuba a chance to highlight Washington-backed democracy-building efforts like the one Gross was working on, which Havana says are designed to topple the government.

    Washington spends more than $40 million a year on the programs, with USAID controlling most of that and doling out the work to subcontractors.

    Development Associates International, or DAI, was awarded a $4.5 million contract for the program in which Gross was involved, and Gross reportedly was paid more than a half-million dollars himself, despite the fact he spoke little Spanish and had no history working in Cuba. Gross traveled to the island several times over a short period on a tourist visa, apparently raising Cuban suspicions.

    The programs have also been criticized repeatedly in congressional reports as being wasteful and ineffective. In March 2010, Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Democratic Rep. Howard Berman, of California — both longtime critics of Washington’s 48-year trade embargo on Cuba — temporarily held up new funding in the wake of Gross’ arrest. The money has begun flowing again, though U.S. officials say DAI is no longer part of the program.

    A senior congressional aide with knowledge of the USAID programs told The Associated Press the Cuba effort — which was ramped up under the Bush Administration with the goal of promoting “regime change” on the island — was on autopilot by the time President Barack Obama took office.

    “Neither the State Department nor USAID knew who all of these people were or what they were doing in the name of the US government and with US taxpayer money,” he said, adding that oversight was insufficient to tell whether the programs were effective.

    He said the contractors themselves designed and evaluated the programs and determined whether they were doing a good job.

    “They had the mandate, the money, and political advocates in Congress,” he said.

    The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the programs with the media, said that “to this day” it is not clear who Gross was working with in Cuba.

    Cuban authorities have not spoken publicly about their case against Gross. But a video that surfaced days before the charges were announced indicates prosecutors will likely argue that the USAID programs amount to an attack on the island’s sovereignty.

    Judy Gross has appealed to Cuba to release her husband on humanitarian grounds, noting that the couple’s 26-year-old daughter Shira is suffering from cancer and that Gross’s elderly mother is also very ill.

    On a blog she started to track her cancer treatment, Shira Gross asks followers to keep her father in their thoughts.

    “G-d listens to our prayers, so please pray for his release,” she wrote in an entry posted Thursday.

    Many observers do see a way forward that would get Gross back to his family, and avoid a standoff between Havana and Washington.

    As recently as January, a senior U.S. State Department official said she had been given signals by the Cuban government that Gross would be sent home soon following a trial. American officials were taken aback when — a few weeks later — prosecutors said they were seeking a 20-year jail term.

    Phil Peters, a longtime Cuba expert who is vice president of the Arlington, Virginia-based Lexington Institute, said he saw Cuba freeing Gross soon, despite the fact prosecutors are seeking such a stiff sentence.

    “The odds are the guy is going to get convicted, that’s not hard to predict,” he said. “But I don’t believe that the Cuban government has an interest in holding him in jail for the long term.”

  33. Dr. Oscar Biscet

    “Oscar’s Cuba is a feature-length documentary video that will help spread the message and story of Dr. Oscar Biscet, a prisoner of conscience currently serving a 25-year prison sentence in Cuba for his promotion of human rights. Oscar’s Cuba will highlight the courage, faith and hope of Dr. Biscet and others working for democracy on the island. The goals of Oscar’s Cuba include raising public awareness about the plight of the Cuban people, helping individuals to stand and work in solidarity with those unjustly imprisoned and, ultimately, helping to secure the release of Dr. Biscet and all of Cuba’s prisoners of conscience.”

    The Oscar’s Cuba documentary “sneak peek”

  34. I can’t describe the feelings of rage and revolt I have while listening to the recording of Yoani’s arrest.I feel also so much powerless in front this injustice.
    At the same time,I deeply admire the courage and the dignity wich she showed in front of her aggressors and wich she still show today.
    This recording is a historical document and could serve as proof of the disrespect of human rights of the castrist regime in a court of justice.

  35. Mazorra..

    he llamado a esos telefonos..yyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

    Ileana Ros no me responde..

    Mario Diaz-Balart (la recepcionista) me ha dicho que ellos no pueden hacer nada..que es un abogado el que hace el intento de cambiar la corte y que si el Juez no quiere..ellos no pueden hacer nada!! despues de dejarme en varias ocasiones en espera y por ultimo mas de 20 minutos en espera..y tuve que volver a llamar.. bueno realmente decepcionante..

    Por fin Marco Rubio me enviara un documento a llenar y enviarselos ..vamos a ver si resuelvo..

    Ha sido muy frustrante llegar a este pais donde supuestamente existe uan democracia y los jueces no se pueden aprovechar del puesto de trabajo como ocurre en Cuba.. Ver que se lo permiten es una gran decepcion para mi..pero mas decepcionante es ver como un senador o un congresista no puede evitarlo..

    Me que democracia cual justicia…

    Mi primera impresion en este pais fue la trataron en la frontera como nunca me han tratado en Cuba.. la verdad es que me ha chocado mucho que ese juez haga lo que le venga en gana pisoteando a tantos cubanos y a NUESTROS REPRESENTANTES!!!


  36. @#1
    Forgive me but: who is Bicet, does he/she have a full name?
    What happened to him/her?
    Perdon pero: quien es Bicet, tiene el/ella nombre completo?
    Que le paso?

  37. Muchas Gracias!! ahora mismo llamare!! o ire..
    ya le comentare despues!!!

  38. Yanelys, aqui tiene la informacion de contacto para los dos Representantes y dos Senadores. Le incluyo a el Senador Marco Rubio que no mensione previamente.

    Ileana Ros Lehtinen
    Miami, Florida Office
    4960 SW 72 Avenue
    Suite 208
    Miami, Florida 33155
    Telephone: 305-668-2285

    Mario Diaz Balart
    Miami District Office
    8669 NW 36 Street, Suite 100
    Doral, FL 33166
    Telephone: (305) 470-8555

    Marco Rubio
    8669 NW 36th Street
    Suite 110
    Doral, FL 33166
    Phone: (305) 418-8553

    Bob Menedez
    One Gateway Center, 11th Floor
    Newark, NJ 07102
    Attn: Constituent Services
    Phone: 973-645-3030
    Phone: 973-645-0502

  39. Yanelys, aqui tiene la informacion de contacto para los dos Representantes y dos Senadores. Le incluyo a el Senador Marco Rubio que no mensione previamente.

    Ileana Ros Lehtinen
    Miami, Florida Office
    4960 SW 72 Avenue
    Suite 208
    Miami, Florida 33155
    Telephone: 305-668-2285

    Mario Diaz Balart
    Miami District Office
    8669 NW 36 Street, Suite 100
    Doral, FL 33166
    Telephone: (305) 470-8555

    Marco Rubio
    8669 NW 36th Street
    Suite 110
    Doral, FL 33166
    Phone: (305) 418-8553

    Bob Menedez
    One Gateway Center, 11th Floor
    Newark, NJ 07102
    Attn: Constituent Services
    Phone: 973-645-3030
    Phone: 973-645-0502

  40. Mazorra..Gracias..pero no tengo medios para contactar con ellos..

    ya a Ileana le escribi por Facebook y no me contesto!!! y a Mario no tengo como localizarlo..

    Por favor si tiene como hacerme llegar algun telefono o email.., aunque tambien llame a un telefono que solo me sale un contestador..

    se lo agradezco mucho!!!

  41. Yanelys le recomiendo que contacte a Cubanos que tienen autoridad en este pais y quen tienen influencia politica. Me refiero a Ileana Ros Lehtinen y Mario Diaz Balart Representantes en la Camara de Representantes de los Estados Unidos en el estado de Florida. Y tambien a Bob Menedez Senador de el estado de New Jersey.

  42. Quisiera escribir algo aqui aunque no tenga que ver directamente con Cuba.. pero es una muestra mas de como aun en un pais democratico, donde se vive en libertad,..algunas personas con puestos para hacer cumplir las leyes..lo que hacen es un abuso de cargo.. y es en el caso del juez Philip J. Montante, Jr Immigration Judge de la Corte de Buffalo que ha sido trasladado a ese sitio sancionado por su xenofobia hacia los cubanos..y se rehusa a cambiar la corte de aquellos cubanos que cruzan la frontera por Canada para llegar a este Gran pais que nos ha permitido sentirnos como reales seres humanos..

    no entiendo como en este pais se le continua permitiendo a Montante, que no acepte cambios de corte y haga a los cubanos recien llegados, sin recursos, sin posibilidades…hacer un viaje solo porque a el no le da la gana de cambiar la corte para poner a pasar trabajo a los cubanos..

    Ese juez no deberia ejercer su profesion..deberia ser castigado severamente por padecer de un racismo y una inmensa xenofobia!!!

    Espero que esto sea leido por tantas de las tantas personas que leen este blog aunque no escriban… y que se tomen medidas en este sentido..

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