Too Late

Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Just today, after seeing a documentary about recent ruins, I was turning my mind to a new post. Under the title “Unfinished Spaces,” I would collect the testimonies of various architects and students who participated in the building of the Superior Art Institute (ISA). All of them spoke of the original beauty of the project, the novelty of its structure, and the desires to make its form and creation coincide. But they also spoke of the abandonment of the construction, along with some of its faculties, which were never completed. So I was thinking in terms of columns, bricks and weed-covered roofs when I received a call telling me of a collapse in Central Havana. At Infanta and Salud streets, a three-story building couldn’t hold up any longer, and it caved in on the evening of Tuesday, January 17.

I recalled the many times I had passed along this block, hurrying my steps past the bad state of the balconies and walls. It evoked all those times I asked myself how it was possible that people continued to inhabit a place so on the verge of collapse. For the inhabitants of this building, the load of construction materials ordered just a few weeks ago came too late. The structural damage suffered by the building had no remedy, because it was the result of State indolence and decades of lack of paint, cement and other materials to repair the structure. The groaning it gave off before the floor gave way and the walls collapsed in on themselves is a part of the architectural rattle of a neighborhood with houses that are beautiful, but in a terminal state.

So far, the official media have reported three dead and six injured in the collapse on Infanta Street. People who lived the last years of their lives looking up and calculating the time left to the rafters, fearing what finally happened. How many others in this capital run the same risk tomorrow? What urgent solution will be applied so that these tragedies won’t continue to be a part of our daily landscape? We will not accept a response in the style of, “We are studying the issue in order to apply solutions in a gradual way.” Nor do we now fault the inhabitants themselves, who stayed in an uninhabitable place. Where could they go? Instead, we demand that the State construct, repair, protect us.

50 thoughts on “Too Late

  1. Damir, eres muy esupido.

    Tell Castro to dip into the billions and billions of dollars he’s looted from Cuba and its people that now sit in Swiss bank accounts to buy cement.

    Ive been to both Cuba and also to American jails. US prisoners live better than Cubans. Cuba has 11 million prisoners. The main difference is that Cuban prisoners are not guilty of any crime. One of the saddest things Ive ever witnessed is the squashed hopes of Cuban teenagers, entering the prime of their lives, knowing there is a better world out there but also knowing they will never be able to escape their island. “Here’s a picture of the beautiful city of Paris. Its too bad you will never be able to see it.” How would you feel?

    By the way, a free enterprise system would solve the problem of no cement in Cuba and the housing problems

  2. Fresita
    Enero 20th, 2012 at 21:12

    I remember I had taken a nice camera to Habana with me to take some photos of the artictecture. I was sitting on a wall playing with the lens when I took to shoot – and before I pressed the button I saw a woman. She interested me, so I looked at her with my eyes, and again with the lens, and through the window I could see that not all the wall was covered in plaster, that there were bare strips of wood, and a flimsy piece of fabric was flapping and meant to be some kind of curtain to a window with no shutter or glass. She walked away from the window I saw a bare frame of stairs, if you could call them this. I was shocked that people were living like this, but at the time I did not know you could not move house or sort it out! this was my first exposure to this kind of property poverty. Yet there were lots of slick black flags out side the embassy, and many colourful propaganda posters of Americans, many other things money have been spent on….

    Now I am reading this blog I really wish that i had some sense on my shoulders when I went and I that I saw more than I did, although I guess it is there in my head it just needs linking with what is happening.

    On another point you can really tell that yoani is a linguist cannot you and that she enjoys words>? I struggle with the post reading sometimes and I feel a bit overwhelemd by all peoples knowledge and words here.

    FRESITA, when were you in Cuba?

  3. Just to entice your curiosity:

    The US incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, sometimes imposing very long sentences marred by racial disparities. Increasing numbers of non-citizens—363,000 in 2010—are held in immigration detention facilities, although many are not dangerous or at risk of absconding from immigration proceedings.

    The federal government continues abusive counterterrorism policies, including detentions without charge at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; fundamentally flawed military commissions; and effectively blocking lawsuits seeking redress for torture victims.

    The US Census reported in 2011 that 46 million people live in poverty, the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published. Widespread poverty, its many intersections with racial and gender inequalities, and its disproportionate impact upon children and the elderly, raises serious human rights concerns.

    http://www.hrw.org/world-report-2012/world-report-2012-united-states

    Viva el “some kind of pragmatic capitalism” as belovedly championed by the team “yoani” and their nazist white “gods”…

  4. HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH PUBLISHED REPORT ON usanian NAZIST GULAG PRISONS!!!!!

    READ ALL ABOUT IT!!!!!

    http://www.hrw.org/

    Old behind the bars

    Root of humiliation.

    US: Number of Aging Prisoners Soaring

    Click on the above link and read what REALLY goes on in the “paradise on earth”!!!

    The country with the highest number of prisoners er capita?

    Thh usa nazist gulag.

    The country wit the highest absolute number of imprisoned people?

    The usa nazist gulag, of course.

    Now, the question for he team “yoani” is simple: why would THAT be?

    Answers please. I am a dissident and I want some answers on my little preguntitas.

    Or are you already soiling yourselves in the face of the truth and facts that work against you?

    Given the silence, I’m not surprised.

    Not at all.

  5. Another cheap propaganda nonsense by the inept team “yoani”.

    Focusin on effect instead on a cause.

    Of course there are not enough new homes built in Cuba.

    How on earth is that government’s fault?

    For building of a house or apartment blocks one ingredient is vital:

    C E M E N T.

    Cuba does NOT have its’ own cement resources.

    Where does it come then?

    From I M P O R T!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    And Cuba is under economic blockade, as the team “yoani” have themselves stated, y the usanian nazist gulag.

    60+ years of economic blockade has impoverished the country to the point where there’s no money in the bank to even pay off the existing debt, let alone to buy commodities that Cuba does not have.

    C E M E N T is one of thos ecommodities.

    THAT is WHY the deficit in housing exists.

    Not even because Castros are inept losers.

    THANKS TO THE usanian NAZIST GULAG, IN CUBA EXISTS HOUSING DEFICIT.

    Go complain to them for this deficit.

    That will require that you finally admit to yourselves that NOT EVERYTHING is Cuban government’s fault.

    Much of Cuban problems are usanian nazist government’s fault.

    Is it really THAT hard to be balanced and objective?

    It is, when you are blinded by your delusional ideology.

  6. Hello to Yoani Sanchez:

    I just read the news that you were given a Brazilian visa and you are now waiting for the exit permit.The Cuban economy needs a break and it can only happen if the population can save and invest free to wherever they feel like it.

    Please let me repeat this: only if the population becomes an important economic agent in the Cuban economy they will be motivated to work inside the island.They need everything to move foward and work inside the island economy and on vacation they can travel to any were.

    My best recommendation: Try not to create too much noise around this matter until Yoani Sanchez will be back.

    I suggest attracting foreign and domestic investments capital but not by force.

    Who can avoid a financial run? The regime may do it?

    Sincerely,

    Julio Gxvs

  7. House deficit is estimated in 1.6 million units. 75% of the units in existence are over 40 years old, and 60% of the total is in bad or average condition according to the Cuban National Housing Institute. During the last 50 years the construction of new houses has been dismal. The regime statistics in the construction of new houses are cooked. This suspicion is validated by Former Vice-Minister Carlos Lage who near the beginning of 2009 revealed that less than half of the 111,300 housing units claimed built in 2006 were in fact built. Beside the 2002 census data show that of the new housing units built between 1990 and 2002, close to 50,000 were bohíos* structures. Bohíos can’t be classified as adequate housing.

    *Bohío, primitive dwellings with palm bark walls, earthen floors and palm leave roofs.

  8. Humberto: I am glad CNN is finally stepping up and actually reporting what is happening in Cuba! Excellent interview with Yoani, I hope we can get it translated into English.

    The fact is, Raul Castro murdered Wilman Villar Mendoza and is personally responsible for his death. Just like he killed Orlando Zapata Tamayo and is responsible for his death. In other words, Raul Castro continues to kill his own people. These are citizens who dared to speak out against a 53-year-old tyranny. Wilman’s wife is now a widow with two young children. Raul Castro needs to be held accountable; he needs to be punished for this crime and countless others. He also needs to provide restitution to the widow he alone has created and pledge to make sure those kids are provided for.

    What about it, Raul? What are you going to do for those kids you have just orphaned?

  9. Human Rights Watch published an extensive report (LINK PROVIDED) on prison conditions in Cuba in 1999. In it it widely criticized most aspect of the Cuban judicial and prison system.

    In it criticized the lack of openness of the Cuban regime: “Cuba’s refusal to allow domestic or international human rights monitors to conduct regular visits to its prisons casts a veil of secrecy over its extensive prison system, reportedly one of the largest per capita in Latin America and the Caribbean. Cuba refuses to disseminate even the most basic prison statistics, such as prison population figures. Cuba’s Penitentiary Establishment Directorate, however, reportedly maintains a centralized, computerized system that would readily make available detailed information about all detainees in Cuba’s prisons.”

    According to an article in the Miami Herald (LINK PROVIDED) in September 2003 Cuba’s jails may hold over 100,000 inmates. The same article puts the last visit of any international organization to Cuba’s prisons in 1989 (International Red Cross). The UN estimated the number of prisoners in Cuba between 100,000 and 200,000 in its 1995 UNHCR Special Rapporteur’s (LINK PROVIDED) report. A figure of 100,000 or more makes Cuba the country with the most prisoners per capita in the world.
    International organizations have reported that inadequate food and medical assistance, sexual abuse, limits and restrictions on visits, beatings,… in Cuba’s prisons. Amnesty International (LINK PROVIDED) has often started letter letter writing operations to support suffering prisoners of conscience.

    I refer to the extensive reports linked to at the top (HRW and Cubafacts) for a more detailed report on abuses in Cuba prisons.

    http://www.cubaverdad.net/cuba_prison_system.htm

  10. YOUTUBE: “Nadie Escuchaba” – (Nobody Listened) 1 of 12 PARTS- Filmed in 1987. A passionate documentary by the late Nestor Almendros about the “Cuban Revolution” going wrong, while “nobody listened.” This documentary touches my heart. For most Americans it’s not easy to understand the full dimension of Castro’s dictatorship and the constant violation of human rights in Cuba. While Hitler and Stalin have been considered cruel dictators, Castro is still called the “president” of Cuba, even though he refuses to have free elections; and those who dare to express their opinion against the Communist regime have only three options: jail, death or exile. My respect to late Nestor Almendros and to Jorge Ulla for their dedication of this testimony of the suffering of my Cuban people.

  11. Miguel Angel, I just found this New York Times article on the murder of Wilman Villar Mendoza by the Cuban dictatorship. He was arrested in November and now he’s dead in January. His blood is on their hands.

    Prison Death Brings Outcry Against Cuba
    By DAMIEN CAVE
    Published: January 20, 2012

    MEXICO CITY — Human rights advocates and American officials condemned the Cuban government on Friday for continuing to limit political freedom, reacting to the death of an imprisoned Cuban dissident who had carried out a hunger strike to protest his sentence.

    The dissident, Wilman Villar Mendoza, 31, died Thursday after 50 days without food, according to relatives. He was at least the second political prisoner known to die of a hunger strike since President Raúl Castro took over from his brother Fidel in 2006, highlighting what experts describe as the new Cuban model: cautious moves toward a more open economy, coupled with continued repression of dissent.

    “Human rights conditions in Cuba remain poor,” said William Ostick, a State Department spokesman. “The Cuban government continues to limit fundamental freedoms, including freedoms of speech, including for members of the press, and of peaceful assembly.”

    Cuba denies holding political prisoners and in a statement late Friday said that Mr. Villar “was not a dissident nor was he on a hunger strike,” saying he died of sepsis after being hospitalized.

    Human rights advocates say there is no way to know how many government opponents remain in jail because independent investigators cannot visit. They acknowledge some progress. In 2010, Mr. Castro agreed to free 52 prisoners who had been arrested during a 2003 crackdown. The Cuban government also decided to release 2,900 inmates late last year, but human rights defenders on and off the island say dissidents were not released. The selective pardon itself led to protests, and after the pardons, another inmate — who advocates said was not a political prisoner — died of a hunger strike to protest his exclusion from the list.

    Those on the island trying to lobby for greater freedom also say these releases have not affected patterns of state repression. For example, Mr. Villar Mendoza’s wife, Maritza Pelegrino Cabrales, told Human Rights Watch that government officials had harassed her repeatedly for associating with the Ladies in White, a group of wives, mothers and daughters of political prisoners who often endure threats and assaults when they protest publicly in Havana. Ms. Pelegrino said state security officers threatened to take away her daughters, 7 and 5.

    “We’re all afraid,” said a neighbor who answered Ms. Pelegrino’s cellphone Friday because she had gone to her husband’s funeral. “Maritza doesn’t know what’s going to happen with her children. She’s worried.”

    Mr. Villar Mendoza was detained Nov. 2 after participating in what his wife described as a peaceful demonstration for political freedom and human rights. She said prison guards placed him in solitary confinement after he started his hunger strike on Nov. 25. The last time she was allowed to visit him was on Dec. 29.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/21/world/americas/cuba-is-condemned-after-prisoners-death.html

  12. Wilman Villar Mendoza has made the maximum SACRIFICIO.

    I am sorry we failed you…

    R.I.P

  13. It is incredible that the New York Times has not covered the news of of the death of Wilman Villar Mendoza. If he had been anti US and a leftist it would have been covered.

  14. Griffin and Fresita, glad you both went down and got to look at things with open eyes.

    My condolences to the family of Wilmar Villar.

  15. Hank ! FROM YOUR MOUTH TO GOD’S EAR! I HOPE TO SEE THE DAY, EVEN IF IT IS POSTHUMOUSLY!

  16. R.I.P WILMAN, one more Cuban to die in a CUBAN JAIL at the hands of the CASTRO REGIME.

    The CUBAN REVOLUTION is a FAILURE the DICTATORSHIP oppresses the people.

    FREE ALAN ROSS, another CUBAN CRIME against HUMANITY.

  17. Freud,

    I think the castro dictotorship apologists are re-gouping and figuring out how to spin this latest murder. They are good at it; they have done it for 53 years. They can even spin opinions on that mass murderer/child killer guevarra.

    I think Yoani’s post serves as a good analogy. The whole house of cards is going to come crumbling down upon them. Soon, I hope. I would love to see raul, fidel and the whole cadre of criminals who facilitate their crimes taken into custody and shipped off to the Hague in handcuffs.

  18. Simba Sez: Fresita Post # 23, You are doing very well with the English language even if you do struggle with it. This is a good place to learn, both the Cuban life and the English language. Your contributions will be accepted in any case. All here contribute something, and you will also.

  19. THE CASTROFASCIST MURDER STREAK RUNS DEEP AND LONG! YOU DONT HAVE TO LOOK VERY FAR ON THE INTERNET TO FIND THE PROOF! AND TO ANSWER THE QUESTION ABOUT Cuba Libre & Damir!! SE ESTAN C*GANDO!!

    The “Tugboat massacre” is the name given by Cuban-Americans, exiles, and dissidents, to a July 13, 1994, incident where 41 Cubans who attempted to leave the island of Cuba on a hijacked tugboat drowned at sea.[1][2] The Cuban archive project, a New York City based organization which promotes human rights in Cuba, has alleged that the Cuban coast guard deliberately sank the commandeered vessel and then refused to rescue some of the passengers.[3] For their part, the Cuban government has denied responsibility, and stated that the boat was sunk by accident.[1]

    YOUTUBE: Víctimas del remolcador “13 de marzo”.- Victims of the Tugboat Massacre in their own words

  20. Where are Damir and Cuba Libre today?????…… as usual……. castrofascist agents get underground when castro regime kills and repress….. it is not the same to fabricate a speech full of nonsense attacking one of Yoani’s chronicles than make a comment trying to justify a killing……… same happen in all media sites where castrofascist agents uses to work misinforming people, they disappear when the theme in hard.

  21. Here is the Amnesty International Report. What is missing, as usual, are the names of the judges and guards who are responsible for this crime against humanity. Ultimately, of course, it is the dictator R. Castro upon who’s head this rests. Four years in prison for a peaceful protest?!!! Who does he think he is? They won’t get away with this because we are watching — and recording — all of these atrocities.

    Cuban authorities ‘responsible’ for activist’s death on hunger strike

    The death in custody of a Cuban prisoner of conscience after a hunger strike is a shocking reminder of the Raúl Castro government’s intolerance for dissent, Amnesty International said today.

    Wilman Villar Mendoza, 31, died this morning in Juan Bruno Zayas Hospital in the city of Santiago where he was transferred from prison on 13 January due to health problems allegedly arising from a hunger strike protesting at his unfair trial and imprisonment.

    He was serving a four-year prison term on charges related to his participation in a public demonstration against the government.

    “The responsibility for Wilman Villar Mendoza’s death in custody lies squarely with the Cuban authorities, who summarily judged and jailed him for exercising his right to freedom of expression,” said Javier Zúñiga, Special Adviser at Amnesty International.

    “His tragic death highlights the depths of despair faced by the other prisoners of conscience still languishing in Cuban jails, who must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

    “The Cuban authorities must stop the harassment, persecution, and imprisonment of peaceful demonstrators as well as political and human rights activists.”

    On 14 November 2011, police arrested Villar Mendoza and eight other members of the Cuban Patriotic Union dissident group in the eastern town of Contramaestre for taking part in a protest against the Cuban government.

    While he was in detention, police intimidated Villar Mendoza, telling him he would be disappeared or face imprisonment on criminal charges stemming from an earlier arrest if he did not stop his protests and leave the dissident group.

    He was released after three days in police custody but was then summoned to Contramaestre Municipal Tribunal on 24 November. Judges tried him in private and refused to accept testimony from his wife or other defence witnesses.

    The judges sentenced the activist to four years’ imprisonment and immediately transferred him to Aguaderas prison, in the provincial capital Santiago. The same day, he began a hunger strike in protest at the ruling.

    As Villar Mendoza’s health deteriorated over recent days, members of the Cuban Patriotic Union and the Ladies in White opposition group organised a vigil outside the hospital. On 18 January, state security officials broke up the gathering and detained more than a dozen people.

    Wilman Villar Mendoza is not the first prisoner of conscience to die in Cuban custody.

    Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a prisoner of conscience jailed after the “Black Spring” crackdown on opposition groups in March 2003, died in prison on 23 February 2010 after several weeks on hunger strike.

    http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/cuban-authorities-responsible-activists-death-hunger-strike-2012-01-20

  22. I remember I had taken a nice camera to Habana with me to take some photos of the artictecture. I was sitting on a wall playing with the lens when I took to shoot – and before I pressed the button I saw a woman. She interested me, so I looked at her with my eyes, and again with the lens, and through the window I could see that not all the wall was covered in plaster, that there were bare strips of wood, and a flimsy piece of fabric was flapping and meant to be some kind of curtain to a window with no shutter or glass. She walked away from the window I saw a bare frame of stairs, if you could call them this. I was shocked that people were living like this, but at the time I did not know you could not move house or sort it out! this was my first exposure to this kind of property poverty. Yet there were lots of slick black flags out side the embassy, and many colourful propaganda posters of Americans, many other things money have been spent on….

    Now I am reading this blog I really wish that i had some sense on my shoulders when I went and I that I saw more than I did, although I guess it is there in my head it just needs linking with what is happening.

    On another point you can really tell that yoani is a linguist cannot you and that she enjoys words>? I struggle with the post reading sometimes and I feel a bit overwhelemd by all peoples knowledge and words here.

  23. The last line in the article above:

    “Instead, we demand that the State construct, repair, protect us.”

    Um… isn’t that the root of the problem in the first place? Then it won’t be the solution.

  24. I recently visited Cuba as a tourist. I know people say we should not come because it helps support the regime. I had mixed feelings before visiting, as I was never a fan of Castro, but I was very curious to see Cuba with my own eyes. I spent 3 days in Havana walking around, photographing everything I saw and talking to the people. I totally fell in love with the Cuban people, the culture the art and music. I came away with a deeper understanding of the reality in Cuba and the pervasive repression by the hated regime.

    The decay and ruin in Havana is heartbreaking. One can see what once must have been great buildings and beautiful streets crumbled into rubble. And people still living in what looked like bombed out shells of houses! The line we tourists are fed by the official tour guides is, “The Embargo! The Embargo!” . But this does not make sense to me. Havana harbour was full of ships from around the world. Cuba could buy cement or paint from anywhere in the world, or they could make it from the abundant limestone the island is formed from. Yet cement production in Cuba has steadily fallen for decades now.

    Neglect by the State is only part of the real reason, but there are deeper structural causes, such as the lack of a mortgage market in Cuba. In a capitalist society, a home owner or a small business owner could borrow money against the equity of their home or business and use that to repair & renovate their building. This is, as I understand, impossible in Cuba. Thus whatever equity existed in these once beautiful buildings sinks to the bottom of the pit, never to be seen again. Just as the roof collapses and the walls sink, so does the wealth invested long ago in the architecture of Havana: it sinks into the rubble and decay.

    Dead capital, in a dying capital city. It is to cry.

  25. The White House- Office of the Press Secretary: Statement by the Press Secretary on the Death of Cuban Activist Wilmar Villar

    President Obama’s thoughts and prayers are with the wife, family, and friends of Wilmar Villar, a young and courageous defender of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba who launched a hunger strike to protest his incarceration and succumbed to pneumonia.

    Villar’s senseless death highlights the ongoing repression of the Cuban people and the plight faced by brave individuals standing up for the universal rights of all Cubans. The United States will not waiver in our support for the liberty of the Cuban people. We will remain steadfast in our outreach to the Cuban people through unlimited Cuban American family visits and remittances, purposeful travel, and humanitarian assistance to dissidents and their families in support of their legitimate desire to freely determine Cuba’s future.

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/01/20/statement-press-secretary-death-cuban-activist-wilmar-villar

  26. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Cuban authorities ‘responsible’ for activist’s death on hunger strike – January 20, 2012

    The death in custody of a Cuban prisoner of conscience after a hunger strike is a shocking reminder of the Raúl Castro government’s intolerance for dissent, Amnesty International said today.
    Wilman Villar Mendoza, 31, died this morning in Juan Bruno Zayas Hospital in the city of Santiago where he was transferred from prison on 13 January due to health problems allegedly arising from a hunger strike protesting at his unfair trial and imprisonment.
    He was serving a four-year prison term on charges related to his participation in a public demonstration against the government.
    “The responsibility for Wilman Villar Mendoza’s death in custody lies squarely with the Cuban authorities, who summarily judged and jailed him for exercising his right to freedom of expression,” said Javier Zúñiga, Special Adviser at Amnesty International.
    “His tragic death highlights the depths of despair faced by the other prisoners of conscience still languishing in Cuban jails, who must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
    “The Cuban authorities must stop the harassment, persecution, and imprisonment of peaceful demonstrators as well as political and human rights activists.”
    On 14 November 2011, police arrested Mendoza and eight other members of the Cuban Patriotic Union dissident group in the eastern town of Contramaestre for taking part in a protest against the Cuban government.
    While he was in detention, police intimidated Mendoza, telling him he would be disappeared or face imprisonment on criminal charges stemming from an earlier arrest if he did not stop his protests and leave the dissident group.
    He was released after three days in police custody but was then summoned to Contramaestre Municipal Tribunal on 24 November. Judges tried him in private and refused to accept testimony from his wife or other defence witnesses.
    The judges sentenced the activist to four years’ imprisonment and immediately transferred him to Aguaderas prison, in the provincial capital Santiago. The same day, he began a hunger strike in protest at the ruling.
    As Mendoza’s health deteriorated over recent days, members of the Cuban Patriotic Union and the Ladies in White opposition group organised a vigil outside the hospital. On 18 January, state security officials broke up the gathering and detained more than a dozen people.
    Mendoza is not the first prisoner of conscience to die in Cuban custody.
    Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a prisoner of conscience jailed after the “Black Spring” crackdown on opposition groups in March 2003, died in prison on 23 February 2010 after several weeks on hunger strike.

    http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/cuban-authorities-responsible-activists-death-hunger-strike-2012-01-20

  27. HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Cuba: Dissident’s Death Highlights Repressive Tactics- Stop Threats against Villar Mendoza Family

    (Washington, DC) – The death of the 31-year-old dissident Wilman Villar Mendoza on January 19, 2012 following a 50-day hunger strike highlights the ongoing repression in Cuba, Human Rights Watch said today. The Cuban government should immediately put an end to the threats against his wife, Maritza Pelegrino Cabrales, and the group Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), which supports her, and drop any measures that would prevent her and dissidents from attending Villar Mendoza’s funeral.

    Villar Mendoza was detained on November 2, 2011, after participating in a peaceful demonstration in Contramaestre, Cuba calling for greater political freedom and respect for human rights, his wife told Human Rights Watch. He was a member of the Union Patriotica de Cuba, a dissident group the Cuban government considers illegitimate because its members express critical views.

    “Villar Mendoza’s case shows how the Cuban government punishes dissent,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Arbitrary arrests, sham trials, inhumane imprisonment, and harassment of dissidents’ families – these are the tactics used to silence critics.”

    Villar Mendoza was charged with “contempt” (desacato) and sentenced to four years in prison in a hearing that lasted less than an hour, his wife told Human Rights Watch. While she was allowed to attend the trial, dissidents who tried to enter the courtroom were denied access. Villar Mendoza was not given the opportunity to speak in his defense, nor was he represented by a defense lawyer, she said.

    His wife said he initiated his hunger strike to protest his unjust trial and imprisonment.

    The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, a human rights monitoring group that the government does not recognize, classified Villar Mendoza as a political prisoner in December.

    Prison guards placed Villar Mendoza in solitary confinement after he initiated the hunger strike on November 25, his wife said. He told his wife he was stripped naked and placed in solitary confinement in a small, cold cell. The last time she was allowed to visit her husband was on December 29, she said.

    His wife also told Human Rights Watch that government officials had repeatedly harassed her for associating with the Damas de Blanco, a human rights group consisting of wives, mothers, and daughters of political prisoners. She said state security officers explicitly threatened to take away her and Villar Mendoza’s daughters, ages 7 and 5, if she continued to work with the Damas.

    According to his wife, Villar Mendoza was transferred to a hospital in Santiago de Cuba days before he died. His wife said authorities had not notified her of his death, and that she had been informed by contacts outside of Cuba, who read the story in the international press. She said she has not yet been allowed to see his body, nor has she been informed about funeral arrangements.

    On February 23, 2010, another Cuban political prisoner, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died after an 85-day hunger strike, which he initiated to protest the inhumane conditions in which he was being held and to demand medical treatment.

    http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/01/20/cuba-dissident-s-death-highlights-repressive-tactics

  28. FOX NEWS LATINO: Imprisoned Cuban Dissident Dies During Hunger Strike

    A prominent leader in the opposition movement to the Cuban government announced that an imprisoned dissident who went on a hunger strike to protest his four-year sentence has died.

    Dissident Elizardo Sanchez, who heads the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, said that 31-year-old Wilman Villar Mendoza died Thursday night of pneumonia in the eastern city of Santiago.

    Sanchez has been in contact with Villar’s family and says the prisoner had been hospitalized for a couple of weeks after pursuing his hunger strike for 50 days.

    Villar was arrested Nov. 12, convicted of disrespecting authority and resisting arrest, and sentenced to four years. He protested his sentence by stopping eating.

    “The family is mourning the dead. Tyranny has just committed another crime,” said Daniel Ferrer García of the Cuban Patriotic Union, according to El Nuevo Herald.

    The Miami-based newspaper also reported that Villar had been on life support for a number of days and his condition had recently worsened due to an outbreak of sepsis caused by an infection in the bloodstream.

    On Thursday, his wife Maritza Pellegrino said to El Nuevo Herald that agents of Cuba’s state security initially did not allow her to see the body of her husband.

    Villar’s death has drawn criticism from Castro opponents both on and off the island.

    “How many more tragic deaths should occur until the international community wakes up from its comfortable sleep and requires the dictatorship of Castro and the Cuban people to help usher in a new era of freedom, democracy and human rights for country,” said Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee.

    Berta Soler, a spokeswoman for the Ladies in White, mothers and wives of political prisoners, said that all of Cuba was morning his death. “We lost a young man of 31-years because the Cuban government is not interested in the lives of its citizens or those men who protest the inhumane conditions,” she said.

    latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2012/01/20/imprisoned-cuban-dissident-dies-during-hunger-strike/

  29. Manifestacion in Contramaestre en Oriente (Manifestation in Contramaestr in Oriente Province)- Marcha el 2 de noviembre de 2012 donde participó Wilman Villar Mendoza. (March on November 2, 2012 where deceased dissident Wilman Villar Mendoza participated and the reason he was jailed.)

  30. PRETTY HEARTBREAKING THIS INTERVIEW! WE NEED TO KEEP THE PRESSURE AND INFORMATION FLOWING ON THE ATROCITIES COMMITTED BY THE CASTROFASCISTS! PLEASE PUT ON YOUR FACEBOOKS AND TWEETS! GRACIAS A TODOS!

    RADIO ESPANA: Los protagonistas -La viuda de Wilman Villar Mendoza, última víctima de la dictadura castrista, ha contado en esRadio el calvario por el que pasó su marido. “Ellos lo han dejado morir”.(The widow of Wilman Villar Mendoza, the latest victim of the Castro dictatorship, tells esRadio the hell that her husband endured-“They let him die”) – Editado por Libertad Digital S.A.- C/ Juan Esplandiu, 13 28007 Madrid –

    http://fonoteca.esradio.fm/2012-01-20/testimonio-en-esradio-de-la-mujer-de-wilman-villar-38912.html

  31. ANOTHER MURDER OF A POLITICAL PRISONER BY THE CASTROFASCIST! THEY STILL THINK INFORMATION CAN BE CONTROLLED AND THAT THEY CAN GET AWAY WITH MURDER EASILY!

    REUTERS: Jailed Cuba dissident dies in hunger strike

    A 31-year-old jailed dissident, Wilmar Villar Mendoza, died on Thursday in eastern Cuba from the effects of a 56-day hunger strike and what fellow opposition activists believe was mistreatment by the Cuban government, a Cuban human rights activist said.

    Villar launched his hunger strike shortly after he was arrested in November, put on trial and sentenced to four years in prison for crimes including disobedience, resistance and crimes against the state, said Elizardo Sanchez of the Cuban Commission of Human Rights.

    He said Villar joined an opposition group in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba called the Cuban Patriotic Union last summer and had been an active dissident since then.

    He was placed in solitary confinement under difficult conditions which, combined with his hunger strike, caused serious health problems that led to his death, Sanchez told Reuters.

    He was been taken to a hospital in the city of Santiago de Cuba on January 14 as his condition deteriorated, and died there.

    “We hold the Cuban government categorically responsible because he died under their care. We consider this another avoidable death,” he said.

    Cuba drew international condemnation when another imprisoned dissident, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died in February 2010 after an 85-day hunger strike.

    President Raul Castro said Zapata was just a common criminal, but his death is believed to have contributed to Castro’s decision in the summer of 2010 to release 130 political prisoners in a deal brokered by the Roman Catholic Church.

    Zapata was classified a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International, but Villar’s case has drawn little attention.

    The Cuban government has not yet said anything about Villar’s death, but pro-government blogger Yohandry announced it in his blog, saying “the delinquent Wilmar Villar Mendoza died.”

    He predicted the death would bring criticism of Cuba from opponents of the Cuban government in the United States.

    “The scavengers are beginning to arrive. Another campaign against Cuba starts to take off,” he wrote.

    Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez tweeted the news of Villar’s death and asked “How many more have to die? How many more?”

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/20/us-cuba-dissident-death-idUSTRE80J0C020120120

  32. There is an error in the translation above of Yoani’s post. The first sentences (based on her Spanish post) should read:

    “Just today, after seeing a documentary about recent ruins, I was considering a new post. Titled “Unfinished Spaces,” the documentary had collected the testimonies of various architects and students who participated in the building of the Superior Art Institute (ISA).”

    And the link to the documentary is: http://www.unfinishedspaces.com

  33. Help,

    Thank you for your post. I chose not to go there a long time ago. Not until things change.

    As I see it, Yoani’s post is about infrastructure. Basic infrastructure.

    A friend recently told me about a book, the title of which is “Trilogia Sucia de la Habana.” I haven’t read it yet. But I can paraphrase an especially poignant vignette in that book, as follows:

    An apartment dweller in Havana was fed up with the communal toilet the inhabitants of his building had to suffer. He lived on an upper level floor with a view of rooftops of other buildings below. Unfortunately for him, the communal commode his neighbors and he had to share was constantly backed up. In other words, it overflowed, did not flush and did not work. The protagonist of this vignette solved this problem in the following way. Instead of using the non-functioning toilet, he used newspapers which he then tossed onto the roof tops of the surrounding buildings below.

    I think that pretty well sums up the state of affairs in Havana. Miserable, crumbling and disgusting.

    As you say, nice system.

  34. ***
    It is the fault of the U.S. embargo. Not the fault of Comrades Fidel and Raul. Their palaces are in very good condition! Or maybe the CIA destroyed the buildings. Couldn’t have been caused by the poverty of the Cuban people.
    ***
    Es la culpa del “enbargo” de los Estados Unidos. No es la culpa de Comrades Fidel y Raul. Sus palacios estan en muy buenos condiciones! O por supuesto el CIA destruyo los edificios. No puedo ser causado por la pobreza de la gente Cubano.
    ***
    John Bibb
    ***

  35. BBC NEWS:Cuba’s housing crisis-There is an acute housing crisis in Cuba.

    Even before the recent hurricanes that damaged over half a million homes, accommodation was one of the greatest causes of complaint on the island.

    The black market in property and building materials is thought to be huge.

    And as Linda Pressly finds out in Crossing Continents, in a nation where it is illegal to buy and sell property, Cubans have come up with unique ways of getting around the regulations, and securing a new home.

    BBC Radio 4’s Crossing Continents was broadcast on Monday, 29 December, 2008 at 2030 GMT. It was repeated on Thursday, 1 January, 2009 at 1230 GMT.

    Reporter: Linda Pressly
    Producer: Polly Hope

    CLICK LINK SO YOU CAN LISTEN TO THE STORY

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/crossing_continents/7795824.stm

  36. IMAGES ARE WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS!THE CURRENT STATE OF ARCHITECTURE AND INFRASTRUCTURE IN CUBA!

    VIMEO VIDEO : Paraiso (The Cuban “Paradise”)- by Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

    COPY AND PASTE LINK TO BROWSER TO VIEW VIDEO!
    vimeo.com/28024540

  37. JUST GOT A NEW FOLLOWER ON TWITTER! IS VERY FLATTERING THAT THEY ARE INTERESTED IN MY ACTIVITIES! JE JE JE!

    @ObamaFreeThe5 Free The Cuban Five – Worker to Worker Canada-Cuba, supporter of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five, Postal Worker Ottawa

  38. Hank,

    We see the problem with press reporting from totalitarian states.

    Besides the constantly repeated line about Cuba’s housing disaster being due to hurricanes (how old is that line?) there is this winner:

    “Authorities have tried several times to clear people from the dilapidated structure, neighbors said”

    I’d like to see those neighbors interviewed and judge for myself.

    A family I know in Miramar were visited by housing inspectors in the 1980s, almost 30 years ago, and told their apartment was uninhabitable as the roof was about to cave in. They were told they should move. And that was it, the inspectors never came back.

    You can see the rusting rebar in their ceiling and they put in a big lumber support beam, at their own expense, in the middle of the room to prevent the whole ceiling from caving in. Their whole apartment consists of one tiny room with one small bed, it was shared by two people with the rest of the family on the floor.

    Most of the family has now passed away, and the remaining elderly will be dead long before any housing inspectors return.

    The inspectors do work though – another friend in Miramar is regularly visited by a housing inspector, to receive his monthly bribe because he caught my friend who added an illegal room to his house and illegally rents it out.

    Nice system.

  39. I have been documenting the collapse of buildings in Havana over the past few years. An architect told me that, on average, 2.7 buildings collapse per day, a figure I have never been able to verify, but which seems reasonable. The tragic-farcical aspect of this is that in the past, the state has prosecuted civil-society dissidents for such “crimes” as illegally buying cement to save their houses. Many of the fine, arcades streets of Centro — such as Reina — are like a set of teeth so rotten that it is no longer possible to do remedial bridgework. The universal crumbling has spread to Vedado and Miramar. In eastern Miramar there is a famous waterfront apartment building abandoned years ago by Soviet technicians, and now it looks like an Middle Eastern coastal city after a civil war. The move to allow house sales should have taken place years ago. Old Havana continues its renovation — a cross between Disney and Potemkin village– under the supervision of Eusebio Leal, another typical Cuban one-man band. The great contradiction about the dictatorship of the masses is how little agency anyone has.

  40. Three Killed when Building Collapses in Cuba

    HAVANA – Three people died and six others were injured when one of the many dilapidated buildings in Havana collapsed, Cuba’s official media said Wednesday.

    The three-story building was declared uninhabitable several years ago, but several families continued to live in the structure, area residents told Efe.

    Four of the six people hurt in the collapse were hospitalized, Radio Reloj said.

    The building’s third floor gave way shortly after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, one of the residents, 23-year-old Teresa Reve Lopez, told Efe, adding that she barely had time to grab her two young daughters and dash out onto the street.

    Authorities have tried several times to clear people from the dilapidated structure, neighbors said.

    Cuba, a nation of 11.2 million people, had a housing shortfall of roughly 600,000 units in 2010, partly as a result of the damage caused by three hurricanes that pounded the Communist-ruled island in 2008.

    More than half the buildings in Cuba are in disrepair, according to official figures. EFE

    http://laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=463555&CategoryId=14510

  41. How incredibly, tragically sad. Yoani says this happened last night. I hope they have managed to get everyone out of that building.

  42. Buenas Yoani y a los demás:

    Esta es una tragedia más, como la pregunta que siempre se hace en esas situaciones, cuantas mas nos esperan?

    Cuando los negros cubanos tengan CUC o dolares US, en cantidad suficiente, no va a haber tanta hambre y delicuencia.(no estoy haciendo un chiste ni una burla)

    Son muchos los que quieren defender a la isla.Otros nos quieren secuestrar la isla de Cuba para disfrutar de la envidiable posición geográfica que la Isla tiene en el Caribe.

    Yo recuerdo haber vivido algunos años en Quebec,Canada. Tuve que reconocer que si bien los niños cubanos tenían algunos privilegios con relación a los demas en la America Latina, eso se acabó.

    Hoy días se ven niños que ya no van a la escuela y que buscan y rebuscan en los latones de basura buscando golosinas,sandwiches,Coca-Cola,etc.

    Eso es lo más desagradable que nos ha pasado; despues que dijimos que a los niños cubanos no les faltaría nada; hemos posado de orgullosos y pedantes algunas veces y terminamos sin un rumbo específico donde ya casi nos falta de todo.

    Sinceramente,

    Julio Gonzalez Jr

  43. Wow, Cuban media is reporting this stuff? A sign of Glasnost? Or just too many tourists around?

    As a further sign of the complete corruption of the state, one just has to look at the Malecon or Old Havana. A friend with family in Old Havana told me the state company simply restored the facade of their residential building without any work done on the rotten structure or the interior residences. It now looks prettier for tourists.

    On a recent walk down the Malecon, I saw they clearly have no clue how to restore buildings to their original glory, or if they do, are simply going for the cheapest solutions and stealing the rest.

    Yes, I know, someone will show up here saying these things happen in the capitalist world. I agree. But we also get the benefits of an open society. Cubans are stuck with the worst aspects of capitalism in a police state where the number of collapsing buildings and dead is a state secret and where any Cuban who protests is accused of being a CIA agent.

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