ETECSA: From Surveillance to Indiscretion


ETECSA on-line phone number look-up screen

How many telephones do you think are listened into by the political police? I asked a man who once worked for State intelligence and who now is just one more private citizen. I ventured a three-digit number, a modest count that provoked gales of laughter across his wrinkled face. “Up to the mid-nineties about 21,000 lines were tapped, and now it must be double that with the addition of cellphones.” Another gentleman confirmed the number; his work had once been nosing around in other people’s conversations and installing microphones in the homes of dissidents, state officials and even inconvenient artists. I spent the day I heard such a bloated number feeling Big Brother’s eye on every tree, in every corner of my house, thinking about the indiscreet ear stationed in that little gadget with a screen and a keyboard that I carry in my pocket.

ETECSA, the only phone company in the country, uses its status as a state monopoly over communications to provide listening services to the Ministry of the Interior. This is not a delusion of my fevered brain. I have tried taking apart my phone, even removing the battery and leaving town; the “shadows” who keep watch over my house immediately get edgy. Sometimes, just to amuse myself — I freely admit it — I use my cellphone to invite several friends to participate in some presentation of an official book or an event organized by a State institution. The resulting operation would seem almost comical, if it weren’t for the evidence of the excessive resources — which should be contributing to the well-being of the people — that the government devotes to such things.

The watchers, however, can also become the watched. ETECSA employees leaked a data base through the alternative networks with many details about the country’s telephone numbers. Without a doubt a violation of the discretion any company should exercise over its information about its clients. But this has served to unmask the phone numbers of those who watch and denigrate us. From journalists working for the newspaper Granma, to members of the Central Committee, to senior police officials, their data appeared with their identity card numbers and even their home addresses. Brief acronyms show which phones are paid for by government agencies and which are private. Which exposes the official links of many who call themselves independent. For once, the detailed inventory they’ve made on every citizen has served for us to know about “them,” to know that those who are listening on the other end of line have names, not just pseudonyms. Now, anyone can call them, send them a message, something as short and direct as a text saying “Enough already!”


33 thoughts on “ETECSA: From Surveillance to Indiscretion


    CANADA FREE PRESS: Cuba: Peaceful human rights defenders continue facing brutal mob attacks – Monday, October 31, 2011

    In the Eastern city of Guantanamo, the home of Niovis Rivera Guerra, (member of the Resistance and Democracy Movement), his wife, Yurilaidy Travieso and three young daughters, 13, 9 and 3 years old, was surrounded by patrol cars, military vehicles, and subjected to, at least, two days of brutal mob attacks (October 25-26, 2011) of around 400 people. Asphalt was thrown against the house, all the windows, as well as the door, were stoned and broken, the family received death threats, and Rivera Guerra was beaten and tear gassed. All this brutal violence was because the family displayed pro democracy and human rights posters in the front of their home. This is the fifth time in 2011, that the home of this activist is attacked. Several members of the Resistance and Democracy Movement were beaten and arrested when they tried to come to the aid of Niovis Rivera Guerra and his family: Hermis Figueras Ros, Francisco Osoria Claro, and the Adventist Pastor Raul Martinez Caraballo.

    Also in Eastern Cuba, on October 26, 2011, several cities suffered government repression, In Contramaestre, any activist or citizen who visits the home of human rights defender, Jorge Cervantes is under scrutiny by the political police. In Moa, Rapid Response Brigades threw eggs against the home of the coordinator of the UMPACU, Juan Carlos Vazquez Osoria and the Lady in White, Annis Sarrion Romero.

    Two human rights defenders in Santa Clara (Central Cuba) who were on a hunger strike since September 28, 2011, demanding that the Cuban government put a stop to the violence against peaceful activists, were taken in critical state to the Provincial Hospital Arnaldo Milian Castro. Alcides Rivera Rodriguez was admitted to the hospital on Thursday, October 27, 2011, and diagnosed with broncho pneumonia. Rolando Ferrer Espinosa was admitted on the following day. Alcides has lost almost 60 lbs. while Ferrer Espinosa who is suffering a severe abdominal pain has lost over 30 lbs.of his body weight. Both continue in critical condition.
    On October 24, 2011 several human rights activists were arrested in Havana when peaceful organizations such as the National Front of Civil Resistance and Desobedience and the Human Rights Party called on activists to gather at the Martin Luther King Park. Adjacent streets to this park were all surrounded by State Security agents. Among several activists arbitrarily detained and released were Sara Marta Fonseca and Rodolfo Ramirez Cardoso.

    On Sunday, October 30, 2011, ten Ladies in White, in Eastern Cuba, were beaten and arbitrarily detained as they tried to attend mass in the Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba. The following women were mistreated and suffered short term detention: Aymeé Garcés ( as well as her husband Julio Valcarcel) Leyva, Belkis Cantillo Ramírez, Vivian Peña Hernández, Liudmila Rodríguez Palomo, Adriana Núñez Pascual, María Elena Matos, Oria Casanova Moreno, Yuremi González Pavót, Tania Bandera González, Ana Celia Rodríguez Torres and a minor 14 years old, Marta Beatriz Ferrer Cantillo the daughter of Lady in White, Belkis Cantillo and the expolitical prisoner of conscience, Jose Daniel Ferrer.

    At least three homes of activists who had gathered in the Eastern cities of Palma Soriano and Palmarito de Cauto to protest the violence against the Ladies in White on October 30 were surrounded by repressive forces. Under siege were the following human rights defenders of the National Front Orlando Zapata as well as members of the UMPACU (Patriotic Union of Cuba): Prudencio Villalon, Roberto Quiñones, Pedro Manuel Guerrero, Julio Cesar Salazar, Ruben Torres, Dany Lopez, Rudy San Ramirez, Rolando Humberto Gonzalez, Maximiliano Sanchez, Abraham Cabrera, Amauri Abelenda and Manuel Martinez.


    TRUST LAW NEWS: For Cuban women, Sundays are for protest marches-31 Oct 2011 (WOMENSENEWS)– Four women stood with anti-government signs in a well-trafficked square in Havana.

    They were members of Ladies in White, a group that formed in 2003 after 75 political dissidents were jailed.

    Dressed in white–the color of peace–they march to Catholic mass to pray for human rights and the release of relatives and loved ones in prison.

    The group has been meeting on Sundays across Cuba for years. But this particular small demonstration a couple of months ago–on Aug. 23 in Havana–proved momentous. When a plain-clothes police officer came to break up the women, some nearby people defended the women and forced the officer to leave in search of backup.

    It wasn’t the first time bystanders had aided the women, but because it was in such a busy area, it was the first time such an action was caught on video with cell-phone cameras and uploaded to YouTube the very next day.

    “It was visible proof, released to an international audience over YouTube, that there is an increasing support for the resistance movement,” said Aramis Perez, a leader of the Assembly of Cuban Resistance, based in Miami, Fla.

    Often, he said, reports filed from Havana are censored or written by government supporters and describe activist groups as “small and fragmented.”

    Two days later Amnesty International, the London-based rights group, published a call to stop the repression of the Ladies in White.

    Police and government officials have violently attacked individuals and groups of female political dissidents on at least 25 occasions this year–sometimes while the women were engaged in nonviolent protest, and other times while they were with their families at home–according to a report released by the Assembly of Cuban Resistance in August. The report, “Cuba: Violent Aggressions Against Women, Human Rights Defenders,” was based on daily communication with activist groups in Cuba.

    ‘A Leading Role’

    The resistance movement is carried out by a wide cross-section of Cuban citizens–urban, rural, farmers, students–but “women have been playing a leading role,” said Perez.

    One of those women is Laura Pollan, the leader of Women and White and the recipient of the European Parliament’s 2005 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Pollan died on Oct.14 at age 63.

    Another is Bertha Antunez who lives in exile in Florida.

    She spoke at a meeting last month on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly along with other human rights activists, including Marina Nemat, Iranian author and former political prisoner; Jacqueline Kasha, Ugandan LGBT rights activist and winner of Martin Ennals 2011 Human Rights Defenders Prize; and Rebiya Kadeer, Uyghur dissident and former political prisoner.

    Antunez used the podium to urge the international community to help women in Cuba who are working for human rights.

    “These women, today, at this moment, risk their lives, put their bodies before the police violence,” she told a roomful of people at the forum, organized by a coalition of international nongovernmental groups. “Their voices shout for freedom while they are brutally beaten and they continue to take to the streets.”

    Antunez said her activism was fueled by prison visits to her brother, released in 2007, after 17 years of incarceration in various prisons, making him one of the longest serving political prisoners in Cuba.

    “Soldiers from the prison savagely beat my brother in my presence and in the presence of two children from our family. We were beaten too. On various occasions I had to resort to a hunger strike to save my brother’s life,” she told the human rights activists, advocates and supporters.

    Motivational Visits

    In an interview with Women’s eNews, Antunez expanded on how those prison visits had motivated her.

    “I got firsthand testimony from many prisoners and there were things I couldn’t believe” she said. “I never thought these abuses were taking place in my country. I knew there were injustices outside the prison because we are all victims of those; but this was torture.”

    A Cuban dissident group, the Cuban Democratic Directorate, based in Hialeah, Fla., reports that Antunez’s brother, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, was arrested during a demonstration for yelling that communism was “an error and a utopia.” His speech was considered “oral enemy propaganda,” the report says. His sentence was extended several times for speaking back to guards and continuing to vocalize his political beliefs.

    Antunez and relatives of other family members of political prisoners founded the National Movement of Civic Resistance “Pedro Luis Boitel” to fight abuse in prisons.

    The group remains active and continues to organize peaceful protests, sit-ins and hunger strikes at prisons across the island.

    This year, the incarceration of two of the group’s members and other recent crackdowns on dissidents spurred Human Rights Watch to issue statement in June saying that Cuban laws “criminalize virtually all forms of dissent, and grant officials extraordinary authority to penalize people who try to exercise their basic rights.”

  3. Which Leader Do Latin Americans Give The Highest Approval Rating?

    Associated Press

    SANTIAGO, Chile — Latin Americans give U.S. President Barack Obama the highest approval rating for any leader in the region.

    Obama is rated 6.3 on a scale of one to 10 in the survey conducted by the Chile-based Latinobarometro polling organization. He is closely followed by Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff at 6.

    Latinobarometro polled 20,000 people in 18 Latin American countries. The leader with the worst mark is former Cuban President Fidel Castro at 4.1. Next lowest are Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, who tied at 4.4.

    Bolivian President Evo Morales has 4.9 and Chilean leader Sebastian Pinera got 5.1.

  4. U.S. experts on Cuban security agencies agree with the Stasi role in Cuba:

    “East Germany had a major role in building up Cuban counterintelligence as well as its foreign intelligence services, providing training for decades . . . right up to the final days of East Germany,” said Chris Simmon, a career U.S. counterintelligence officer and expert on Cuban intelligence.

    “’The repressive system that existed in East Germany . . . is the same one that exists today in Cuba,” he says. “What MININT learned from the Stasi has not been forgotten.”

  5. NTN24 : Yoani Sánchez: “Para mi la vida no está en otra parte, sino en otra Cuba”
    La bloguera cubana habló con Moisés Naím desde su casa en La Habana, desde donde mantiene su quijotesca cruzada contra la opresión del régimen de los hermanos Castro. Armada con un teléfono celular, una memoria USB y un computador personal, la autora del blog ‘Generación Y’ ha conseguido sortear las censura que impera en su país, para dar a conocer al mundo sus ‘crónicas de lo cotidiano’.


    Nuestra Tele Noticias 24 Horas (usually abridged NTN24) is an international 24-hour news channel. NTN24 provides news, analysis, opinion, sports and entertainment news programs in Spanish. Its programming can be seen on cable and satellite from Alaska to Patagonia. NTN24 also produces online English language news with an emphasis on news from The Americas. Its main Spanish website is Its main English website is NTN24 USA is a Delaware Corporation with offices in New York, Washington, D.C., and Bogotá, Colombia.



    8.4 – Intercambio comercial de mercancías por países seleccionados y áreas geográficas (Conclusión) Trade in goods in selected countries and geographical areas (Conclusion) -in thousand of pesos (added the last four zeros)- The rate of change of the Cuban Peso (CUP) with the USD or the Convertible Peso is of 1/26.

    Estados Unidos de América (USA)
    2004 = 443,900,000 ($1.7 billion dollars)
    2005 = 476,311,000
    2006 = 483,591,000
    2007 = 581,657,000
    2008 = 962,767,000
    2009 = 675,420,000

    República Bolivariana de Venezuela (Venezuela)
    2004 = 1,509,776,000
    2005 = 2,265,191,000
    2006 = 2,641,210,000
    2007 = 2,693,639,000
    2008 = 4,887,004,000
    2009 = 3,138,136,000

    2004 = 754,986,000
    2005 = 777,796,000
    2006 = 896,985,000
    2007 = 1,399,689,000
    2008 = 1,412,400,000
    2009 = 726,230,000


    BOOK: Political Disaffection in Cuba’s Revolution and Exodus – Silvia Pedraza – Cambridge University Press

    Cuba’s Refugees: Manifold Migrations
    The triumph of the Cuban revolution was one of the most popular political events of the 20th century. A social movement that the majority of the Cuban population initially applauded, and for which many risked their lives, the Cuban revolution had the capacity to capture the imagination of most of its citizens. Romantic in its execution, expressing a call for social justice, it had vast international support. Yet by the end of the century, 40 years later, a very sizable proportion of the Cuban population had left for other lands.Working both with U.S. and Cuban statistics, Antonio Aja- D´ıaz (2006) of the Center for Migration Studies at the University of Havana estimates that between 1959 and 2004 roughly 1,359,650 Cubans left Cuba for various countries and by different means. Because the Cuban population has grown from 5.8 million at the time of the 1953 census to 9.7 million at the 1981 census and 11.2 million in 2000 (Mart´ınez-Fern´andez 2003a), that number probably represents from 12 to 15 percent of the Cuban population. Certainly, it is larger than the population of Cuba’s second largest city – Santiago de Cuba – at present. This study captures the process of political disaffection – the disappointment and sense of betrayal – that led so many Cubans, many of them ardent supporters of the revolution initially, to leave their homeland for other lands.

    Dr. Pedraza holds a B.A. and a Master’s in Teaching from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago. She is the author of three books and numerous articles. Some of her publications include: Political Disaffection in Cuba’s Revolution and Exodus (Cambridge University Press, 2007); “Assimilation or Transnationalism? Conceptual Models of the Immigrant Experience,” in The Cultural Psychology of Immigrants, edited by Ram Mahalingham (Lawrence Earlbaum, 2006); and “Women and Migration: the Social Consequences of Gender,” Annual Review of Sociology (1991). She is also a frequent contributor to the news media, both in the US and other countries.

    In the American Sociological Association Dr. Pedraza has just been elected Chair of the International Migration Section. In the past, Dr. Pedraza was elected to several offices: member of its Council; Chair of the Section on Latinos in the United States; Chair of the Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities; and member of its Committee on Nominations. Most recently, the Latino/a Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association gave her a major award: the Julian Samora Distinguished Career Award. At the University of Michigan, she has been an elected member of the Curriculum Committee of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, as well as of the University’s Senate Assembly and the Senate’s Executive Committee (SACUA), for which she was also elected Vice-Chair. Dr. Pedraza is also a two-time winner of the Excellence in Education Award, and most recently she was awarded the President and Provost’s Award for Service to the University of Michigan. She was also named as a Faculty Fellow of the Honors Program.


    This is a study that was done in the 1960’s in Miami about the Cuban exile community there. It is very detailed and it contains survey results on things like: when and why they decided to leave Cuba, how they first felt about Fidel Castro and the Revolution, and things of that nature. This book is very good for Cuban Americans and for anyone else who is curious about where we (the Cuban Americans that came during the first wave of the exile) come from.

    SELECTED PAGES OF BOOK : CUBANS IN EXILE : Disaffection and the Revolution, Volume 7
    By Richard R. Fagen, Richard A. Brody, Thomas J. O’Leary-Stanford University Press


    SKILLED LABOR = 44% (my family was part of this group)

    Page 56 : ” The predominantly young and relative well educated refugees who participated in the struggle against Batista would be more likely than other refugees to engage in anti-Castro activity once in exile.”


  9. Comment 25 was truncated, here is what Vázquez said: “I want to hold the Cuban government responsible; I want to denounce it for its collaboration with the Stasi.”

  10. Excerpts from “E. Germans drew blueprint for Cuban spying”, The Miami Herald, November 4, 2007

    Jorge Luís Vázquez, a Cuban exile who was jailed in one of the Stasi cells in 1987 in East Germany under communist rule, now leads tours through the prison-turned-museum.

    Vázquez says he found the MININT is ”almost a copy” of the repressive Stasi security system, exported by East Germany to Cuba in the 1970s and ’80s, and that the ties between the two organizations run far deeper than previously known.
    ”I want to provoke a change,” Vázquez says. “I want to hold

  11. 291 RCR, it’s all a big CIA plot. The CIA controls everything, including the 186 countries that voted against the USA in the United Nations. That’s just one of their trickier plots, to make it look like they don’t control anything.

    They control you too, they use zee-rays broadcast from satellites and mind-altering drugs they put in your water supply. Be careful.


  13. The Castros’ regime security system has its own prisons, interrogators, lawyers and judges, control by the ruling elite. This state security and its repression is what sustaining the Castros’ regime.


    BOSTON GLOBE: Latin Americans grade Obama high, Castro low- October 28, 2011
    SANTIAGO, Chile—Latin Americans give U.S. President Barack Obama the highest approval rating for any leader in the region.

    Obama is rated 6.3 on a scale of one to 10 in the survey conducted by the Chile-based Latinobarometro polling organization. He is closely followed by Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff at 6.

    Latinobarometro polled 20,000 people in 18 Latin American countries. The leader with the worst mark is former Cuban President Fidel Castro at 4.1. Next lowest are Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, who tied at 4.4.

    Bolivian President Evo Morales has 4.9 and Chilean leader Sebastian Pinera got 5.1.

    Latinobarómetro Corporation is a private non-profit organization, based in Providencia, Chile. It is responsible for carrying out Latinobarómetro, an annual public opinion survey that involves some 19,000 interviews in 18 Latin American countries, representing more than 400 million people.[1] It observes the development of democracies, economies and societies, using indicators of attitude, opinion and behavior.[2]


    FREEDOM HOUSE: Will winds of change sweep Cuba?- by Daniel Calingaert
    Deputy Director of Programs

    President Raúl Castro introduced market reforms in Cuba earlier this year to preserve, not dismantle, the communist system. He retains a tight grip on power and seems intent on pursuing a Chinese model of market economics combined with political repression. The reforms have, however, brought about a significant change in attitudes in Cuba, according to a recent Freedom House survey. Optimism is growing, expectations are rising, and Cubans want more freedom. Will the Chinese model work in Cuba?

    The government shows no intention of opening up the political system. At the Communist Party congress in April, when Castro welcomed a “new generation” of leaders, they were led by revolution-era geriatrics like himself. Political repression meanwhile remains intense. The heavy-handed response last week to a gathering of the dissident Ladies in White was typical. Twenty members of the group, which advocates on behalf of political prisoners, were detained on their way to a meeting to discuss the organization’s future following the death of its leader, Laura Pollán.

    Repression is also evident in the Cuban government’s control over the media. Only 8 percent of the respondents to Freedom House’s survey get their news from independent sources; 92 percent still rely on state sources. These state media keep Cubans in the dark about major international events. While four in five respondents had heard about the economic reforms in Cuba, awareness of the Arab Spring was very limited. Only 40 percent knew what happened to Egypt’s leaders, and only 36 percent knew what started the revolution in Tunisia.

    Although Cuba remains among the most repressive places on earth, Raúl Castro’s economic reforms are driving larger changes, which seem likely to gain momentum. While most Cubans expect conditions to stay the same, the percentage who expect their family’s economic situation to improve in the next year has increased to 30 percent, from 17 percent in December 2010, when Freedom House conducted its previous survey on Cuba. Unless these increased expectations are met, Cubans may grow dissatisfied quickly. Moreover, the sense of insecurity and resentment about the reforms is most pronounced among Cubans who favor the socialist economic system and form one of the government’s main bases of public support.

    The current reforms, particularly the cuentapropista (self-employment) licenses issued for small-scale businesses, have generated a desire for further changes. Some respondents to Freedom House’s latest survey expressed interest in lower taxes, access to credit, and fewer restrictions on hiring employees, so that they could expand their businesses. Others want the Cuban government to issue licenses for professional services rather than limit them to unskilled work, such as street vending and running small restaurants. An architect interviewed by Freedom House, for example, would like a license to start a business building and selling houses.

    As the economic reforms take effect, Freedom House’s survey also found a growing demand for civil liberties. When asked what reforms they would most like to see in Cuba, the largest number of respondents answered that they want increased freedom of expression and freedom to travel. By contrast, the most frequent answer to this question in the December 2010 survey was improved economic conditions. Cubans are increasingly looking beyond poor living conditions and seeking greater individual freedom.

    The change in public attitudes between the two Freedom House surveys is quite striking. The December 2010 survey painted a picture of an overwhelmingly passive population. Cubans seemed to have no control over their destiny. They were simply trying to get by in tough times. The sense that emerges from the latest survey, particularly among the self-employed, is very different. Cubans now see that they can improve their lives. An economics student, for example, told a Freedom House researcher that “you should be able to get more money when you work harder,” while a businessman in Pinar del Río declared, “I am my own boss … and I earn what I want.”

    More Cubans now want to work in private business than in the state sector, even though state salaries are secure and a fixed rate of taxes is imposed on private enterprises regardless of their profits. The preference for private-sector jobs suggests that many Cubans are ready to get past their dependence on the state and gain personal autonomy.

    In the survey, Cubans assume that the reforms are here to stay. There is no talk about reforms being rolled back, only about further changes when the Castros pass away.

    As expectations rise and interest in individual freedoms grows, Cubans may come to demand more than the modest economic reforms they are getting. While some still cling to the old system, others look forward to additional changes or a complete transformation. As a young Afro-Cuban man in Santa Clara told us, “I want the total fall of the system; I want total freedom and capitalism; … I also want to scream in the streets what I think about the country and its politics.”

  16. God how naive you are… Craving for hitech surveillance … Sorry to tell you guys in communism the most effective surveillance is neighbour on neighbour husband on wife child on parents and inlaws on sons and daughters .. STASI files should have taught you one thing … Tapped phones are a myth of disinformation ..the most dangerous are the people near you .. They tap phones when they know you are up to something from other sources… For the rest they pretend to be tapping to keep you scared and to keep the myth alive …the informers do the work..they are the most effective..

  17. Julio

    Yo soy Americano y me es dificil seguir tu comentario . Que tiene que ver prostitutas en Holland y las Damas en Blanco. Si estas diciendo que debemos ser mas vocal sobre las violaciones de derechos humanos en Cuba te doy la razon. Pero si cres que los que se espresan en estas paginas estan perdiedo el tiempo yo soy un ejemplo de que eso nos es verdad. Gracias a Yoani y todos lo que ponen la verdad de Cuba para que el mundo lo reconosca. El momento esta llegando cuando todos los veremos ocupando la plaza de la Revolucion para demostrar contra Los Barbudos. El problema de Cuba no es un problema de blanco y negro es un problema de concienca.


    THE ECONOMIST OBITUARY : Laura Pollan Toledo, teacher and human-rights campaigner, died on October 14th, aged 63 – Oct 29th 2011

    THE house at 963 Calle Neptuno, in the centre of Havana, was small, but Laura Pollán kept it beautifully. The grey floor-tiles with their snowflake motif were always swept clean, even though her fluffy mongrel terrier shed his long hair everywhere, and though the door was kept open to get some air in from the bike-filled, rowdy, dusty street. In the front living room she had cane chairs with heart-shaped backs, and triangles of lace decorated the shelves. Outside, the tiny back yard was a jungle of pot plants and climbers, with neatly folded washing hung against the ochre walls. And the tower of the Iglesia del Carmen watched over it all.

    But her house was also a cell for liberty. The living-room walls were hung with lists of the names of political prisoners, their photos, and a huge chart that showed them bursting from their chains when her group notched up a success. Prisoners’ wives and daughters crowded there for her monthly Literary Teas. She once got 72 women in, under the slowly turning ceiling fan, and put up 25 overnight. They came from all over Cuba: Pinar del Rio, Santa Clara, Las Tunas, Manzanillo (in the east, where she was born), even from the Sierra Maestra, where Fidel Castro had holed up in the mountains to start his revolution. They gathered at her house because she was central, and had a telephone. After 2003 the phone kept ringing, and she would answer it in a whisper, knowing it was tapped; each call would end with “Cuidado”, “Be careful”. A security camera and floodlights appeared outside her front door, supplementing the plain-clothes men who loitered there. Her bookshelf now held a tiny statue of Santa Rita, the saint of the impossible.

    What had started all this was the arrest of her husband, Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez, for “acting against the territorial integrity of the state”. Seventy-four others were arrested with him in that Black Spring of 2003, and given average prison sentences of 20 years. Ms Pollán knew he had done nothing. The picture of him she wore emblazoned on her T-shirt showed a mild, smiling man, an engineer, who kept his glasses on a cord round his neck. He liked to underline phrases in the newspapers and clip pieces out, organising them under “Politics” or “Environment”. She supposed he was just trying to point out contradictions in the government line. They didn’t discuss it, any more than she took part when his friends from the banned Liberal Democratic Party came round to talk. She would disappear to the kitchen then, making coffee, and leave the men alone.

    But they were taken away. Husbands, fathers, brothers, disappeared. Ms Pollán came home from teaching evening class to find 12 state security agents invading her house, carrying away the clippings and two old typewriters. One agent stood by even as she and Héctor tried to say goodbye to each other. Two weeks later she started to bring together the women she kept meeting at the Villa Marista barracks and at various government offices, seeking news of their men. They became the Damas de Blanco, or Ladies in White.

    Marching through Miramar

    Ms Pollán came brand-new to campaigning. She was a mother (of Laurita), a housewife and a teacher: someone who loved literature and had taught peasants to read in the early years of the revolution. She had never done anything wilder. Short, blonde and stout, she was not cut out to be hauled into a bus by the police. All she wanted was to see Héctor back, and all the others. Her group would meet each Sunday at the church of Santa Rita in Miramar, Havana’s grandest district, say the rosary, hear mass, and then walk ten blocks in silence along Quinta Avenida on the green verges under the palm trees. The women wore white, symbolising pure intentions, and carried gladioli, a single stem each.

    Yet politics crept in. At the end of every march the women would chant “Libertad!”—for Cuba as a whole, as much as for their men. They would throw out pencils with Derechos Humanos on one side and Damas en Blanco on the other, hoping that, slowly, people would pick them up. Enemies called them “mercenaries” and “Ladies in Green”, in the pay of the United States, and Ms Pollán had to admit that they did get American dollars and American parcels for their imprisoned men. Shock mobs of other women were especially bused in to attack them, beat them and pull their hair. Ms Pollán could fight back with the best: when a man called her “Puta!” once, she threw her gladioli in his face. In one battle in September she was crushed against a wall, which may have set off the breathing troubles that killed her.

    By then, the 75 prisoners they were campaigning for had been released; most by the intervention of the Catholic Church and the government of Spain, but around 20 by their own efforts. Héctor, gaunt and thin, came out only last February. The numbers of Ladies dwindled, to 15 or so, as their work seemed to be done. But for Ms Pollán it was not done. Her Ladies had to go on marching as long as the laws remained that could fill the prisons again. As long as Cuba was not free, she would go on sitting at her computer with her little dog stretched out on the tiles beside her, alert for the telephone, with her front door open and Santa Rita at the ready, and the ceiling fan turning slowly in the smothering air.

  19. Buenas Yoani y a todos Uds un saludo:

    “Eso es una canallada” me dijo el viejo miembro del Partido que murio ya tarde en sus 80. Eso le oi decir cuando comentó lo de la hijita de papa quien paseaba por el mundo sin siquiera saber hablar español correctamente, mientras Yoani Sanchez no la dejaban dar un pie dentro del aeropuerto.

    El pidio que lo pusieran en la Asamblea Nacional para debatir temas significantes, y recibio su respuesta, en la cúpula dicen que Ud dice lo que piensa.Yo pase horas escuchandolo, no por ser miembro del Partido, a su edad ya eso no pesaba tanto pero todavía le profesaban respeto.Antes de la llegada al poder de los “barbudos” ya el tenía un trabajo científico premiado y reconocido como médico.

    Eso no es competencia relevante para Ud Yoani no pierda el tiempo que hace falta para tener mas energía necesaria, para que respeten a las Damas de Blanco.Eso si es un problema, ella defiende a las prostitutas en Holanda pero en Cuba no valen para nada esas negras hay que darles golpes.Al menos eso han demostrados a lo largo de estos años.


    Julio Gonzalez Jr.

  20. This is the height of hypocrisy. Raul knows if someone sneezed in Oriente and he did not now this was going on . Maybe they were skimming to much from his cut .

  21. East Germany Stasi taught the MININT “how to mount effective camera and wiretap systems for eavesdropping, provided computers and introduced new archiving methods that better organized, protected and sped up the processing of security information. It delivered one-way mirrors used for interrogations and provided equipment to fabricate masks, mustaches and other forms of makeup.”

  22. REUTERS : Cuba arrests telephone executives in corruption sweep-By Marc Frank-Tue Aug 9, 2011

    * ETECSA executives arrested, one defected in Panama

    * President Raul Castro has targeted white-collar crime

    * Corruption probes put business class under microscope

    HAVANA, Aug 9- Cuba arrested senior executives at state-run telephone company ETECSA in an anti-corruption sweep at one of the communist-run country’s top businesses, according to sources with knowledge of the scandal.

    Several executives at Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba SA were arrested in July while the company’s president Maimir Mesa and most of its vice presidents have been suspended at least temporarily and sent home, the sources said.

    ETECSA, which is owned by Cuban state and military companies, is one of the 10 largest enterprises in the country, with annual revenues well over $500 million.

    “Five or six department directors and deputy directors, and maybe a vice president, have been arrested so far and the vice president of logistics, who was in Panama when the investigation began, decided not to return,” one source said.

    “But the investigation has just begun and many more people might be involved,” the source said, adding that a retired company vice president was brought to Havana for questioning.

    The sources said two separate investigations underway at ETECSA, one involving its booming cellular phone business and the other into a submarine fiber optic cable financed largely by Venezuela that links Cuba to that country.

    The $70 million cable project, designed to circumvent U.S. efforts to deprive the island of a ground-based connection to the Internet, was supposed to be activated in July, but has reportedly run into technical difficulties.

    The number of cellphones in use in Cuba trebled between 2008 and 2010 to more than one million, according to the government’s statistics office. Mobile phone cards can sometimes be purchased on the black market.


    President Raul Castro, who is locked in a battle with the state bureaucracy as he tries to decentralize government and move Cuba in a more market oriented direction, has made fighting white-collar crime a top priority.

    Soon after succeeding his ailing brother Fidel in 2008, Castro created the Office of the Comptroller General and put the comptroller on the ruling Council of State.

    Hundreds of senior Cuban Communist Party officials, state managers and employees have lost their jobs and often their freedom in the shake-up that has followed.

    It has included the breaking up of high-level organized graft in the civil aviation, cigar and nickel industries, and at least two ministries and one provincial government.

    Cuba’s state-run media does not cover corruption scandals, but at times announces verdicts once cases are concluded.

    Nevertheless, when high level officials are involved, word filters onto the streets with various versions of the details.

    According to Western diplomats Cuba does not suffer from drug-related corruption like many of its Latin American and Caribbean neighbors, but corruption is rife in foreign trade and offshore companies and operations.

    “A big problem is there is no transparency, no open bidding when Cuba goes to market,” a Western businessman said, asking that his name not be used.

    After 20 years of economic crisis, and with the average state wage at the equivalent of $18 a month, almost all Cubans engage in illegal activities to survive, setting the scene for the business class to do the same.

    Top state managers make around $50 to $100 equivalent per month, barely enough to feed their families, even as foreign consumer goods tempt them at state-run hard currency shops. (Editing by Jeff Franks and Anthony Boadle)


  23. If the Castros have 706 Million dollars they have the sophisticated communications software to monitor any and all communications in Cuba. As a telecom Engineer I have worked with many sniffing sysems that monitor the public telephone system and the internet. It really is not very difficult to do . The Russians do it , the Chinese do it, the US government does it and i guarantee the Brothers do it.The real story here is the spending of 706 million dollars by anyone in Cuba . With the people malnourished and the lack of medical services in country as shown in the videos on Youtube This is why they do not want free communication in Cuba , the people would be in the streets rioting if they knew this kind of information.


    MSN NEWS: Fidel Castro should go: ClintonFrom – Lalit K Jha

    Washington, Oct 27 (PTI) The United States firmly believes that Cuban ruler Fidel Castro should go, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton told lawmakers today, but conceded that this policy is not going anywhere.

    “Our position has been the same for more than 50 years. We think Fidel Castro should go. That is the unfortunate commitment that we have put forth over many years.

    “Unfortunately, he doesn”t seem to be going anywhere,” Clinton told lawmakers at a Congressional hearing.

    She said the US strongly supports the desire of the Cuban people to freely determine their future and wants to help those who are trying to work toward positive change.

    “So we do support a wide variety of activities on the island. We interact with a broad cross-section of individuals and groups in Cuban society. And we provide humanitarian assistance, including food, over-the-counter medicines and so much more,” Clinton said.

    The Secretary of State said while the US wants democracy in Cuba and move towards reform, it would also keep working with individuals.

    “We have a lot of areas of mutual concern. We have drug trafficking, we have immigration, we have all kinds of issues,” she said, adding that US officials keep meeting their Cuban counterparts.

    “Our main objective for the last two years has been to ensure Alan Gross” unconditional release,” she said referring to the American national detained in Cuba.

    “So at no point has the US government been willing to give unilateral concessions to the Castro regime or to ease sanctions as a means to secure Mr Gross” release,” she said.

    “I will underscore we think it is a gross violation of his human rights and a humanitarian abuse that he has not been returned to his family. And we would like to see that happen as soon as possible,” Clinton said in response to a question


    MIAMI HERALD : Corruption investigation reported in Cuba- By Juan O. Tamayo – 08.08.11 (SOME EXCERPTS OF ARTICLE)

    Cuban prosecutors are investigating several top officials of ETECSA, the state telecommunications monopoly, on allegations of corruption, according to knowledgeable sources in Havana and Miami.

    José Remos, a former senior Cuban telecommunications official who now lives in Miami, told El Nuevo Herald on Saturday that former co-workers in Cuba had told him that several top company officials are detained in connection with a fiber-optic cable financed by Venezuela.

    Havana residents separately said that the version making the rounds there has several top ETECSA officials detained or under interrogation as part of an investigation into corruption, although the exact allegations were not known.

    If the ETECSA reports are true, it would be the latest in the long string of major corruption scandals that have shaken Cuba since the Raúl Castro government began moving the island toward a so-called “socialist market economy.”

    “But now there’s more money involved, so it’s more spectacular,” said Larry Catá Baker, a professor of international affairs at Pennsylvania State University’s school of law who monitors Cuba issues.

    While the exact nature of the corruption alleged in the ETECSA case remained unknown, the Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A., considered one of the largest enterprises on the island, marked two milestones this year.

    On Feb. 8, the Alba-1 fiber-optic cable from Venezuela reached Cuba after a four-year wait. The $70 million cable was financed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez as part of Cuba’s integration with his regional movement, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America.

    And in January, Telecom Italia sold its 27 percent ownership of ETECSA to Rafin, a Cuban firm variously described in news reports as owned by the island’s armed forces or as personally controlled by Cuban rulers Fidel and Raúl Castro.

    Rafín was created in 1997 with the stated purpose of negotiating, buying and selling financial instruments, and paid $706 million to the Italian telecommunication company, according to the news reports. It is unclear how Rafín paid for the deal.


  26. And these days the same guys have to monitor every internet user whether at home or from one of those public access places. I know this because friends have been warned by administrators that their emails are being read.

  27. OK, up to the mid-90s there were 21,000 phones being bugged at any time, out of how many?

    From CIA world factbook 1995:
    Telephone system:
    229,000 telephones; 20.7 telephones/1,000 persons; among the world’s least
    developed telephone systems

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