CUBA BRIEF: Excerpted from The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, Havana Times, The Daily Signal

Readers of CubaBrief would not be surprised to learn that “the Cuban government has banned the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from being spread in Cuba,” or that “children and teenagers were told to burn copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a ‘hate rally’ against the Ladies in White.” The Havana Times article reproduced here reports that “Baptist pastor and opponent Mario Felix Lleonart, denounced and revealed that Cuban customs seized 64 copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, because it was considered an attack against ‘decency’, as if it were child pornography.”

Be that as it may, it is shocking to learn that the British government turned its back on an English businessman in a Cuban brutal high security prison, not wanting to “rock the boat” while the European Union held negotiations with Havana, as reported by The Guardian.  Will Her Majesty’s Government be asked to explain at the British Parliament?

Also in this CubaBrief:  “How Congress Can Send a Strong Message to Cuban Diplomats in DC,” “More airlines cut service to Cuba,” and “A Cuban film about gay repression pulled from festival. ” Finally who would have thought that Fidel Castro would become a piece of dead art?


Havana Times, March 21, 2017

Cuba “Seizes” the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

By Marlene Azor Hernandez

A member of the UN’s Human Rights Council, the Cuban government has banned people from knowing about and spreading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Cuba.

HAVANA TIMES — On March 6th and 7th this year, a Cuban delegation produced a report about the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance before the UN General Assembly which is assessing how member States are applying this Convention.

The Cuban government signed and ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in February 2009. However, in its latest intervention it has postponed the application of the International Convention in the country’s domestic legal system indefinitely. The Cuban delegation has said that it has been reforming its penal code and other laws since 2012. When asked whether the principles of the Convention were being incorporated into national legislation, the Cuban delegation responded that it didn’t know. [More


The Guardian, March 19, 2017

‘From now on you have no name. You are prisoner 217’: life in a Cuban jail

A brutal high-security prison was the last place Stephen Purvis expected to end up when he moved to Havana. Stephen Gibbs tells his story

By Stephen Gibbs

If you happened to go to a British embassy reception in Havana in the early 2000s, you would likely have met Stephen Purvis. You could not miss him. Six foot four, cropped grey hair, rum in hand, a broad smile and no shortage of good stories.

Purvis loved Cuba. Escaping what he saw as the risk of a “pre-ordained suburban middle-class life” in Wimbledon, the architect and his wife seized the opportunity to move to the island 17 years ago. He had been offered a job as development director with Coral Capital, an investment and trading company. It was one of several small foreign firms – almost all led by maverick, adventurous individuals – that were setting up in Cuba as the country sought international partners following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Purvis’s job was to look for joint venture opportunities with the Cuban government. The planned projects included the first golf course to be constructed there since the 1959 revolution, and the revamp of a formerly glamorous hotel, the Saratoga.

Speaking to me from Myanmar (more about that later) Purvis recalls his early Havana years. “It felt like another era,” he says. “No internet. No TV. No shopping.” The family adapted well to their new life. Home was a handsome 1950s villa, soon full with their four children. Saturdays would be spent by the pool at the beach club. The son of a theatrical designer, Purvis also dabbled in theatre himself, producing the Cuban dance show Havana Rakatan, which performed successfully for several years in London. No one, of course, imagined that those halcyon days would end so abruptly, with Purvis imprisoned in what he describes as a “zoo” for enemies of the state. But that is how it turned out. The title of his powerful memoir, Close but No Cigar, is his own admission of just how badly life can go wrong.

I last saw Purvis in Havana in 2011, a few weeks before his arrest, at a New Year’s Eve party (I had been the BBC’s correspondent in Cuba between 2002 and 2007). The arrival of the New Year is a big deal in Cuba, partly because it coincides with the anniversary of Fidel Castro’s revolution. Two of President Raúl Castro’s daughters were at the event.

By then, the mood among the expats doing business on the island had notably soured. Many were whispering that this would likely be their last fin de año in Cuba. All knew someone who had been caught up in a mysterious but ever-widening series of arrests. Two prominent Canadians, Sarkis Yacoubian and Cy Tokmakjian, had been detained since the summer. A well-known Chilean entrepreneur, who used to boast he was a friend of Fidel Castro, had been convicted in absentia to 20 years in jail. And Purvis’s boss, Amado Fakhre, the British-Lebanese CEO of Coral Capital, had been imprisoned in October.

“The sense of an impending doom was growing day by day,” recalls Purvis. He says he’d be the first to admit he was “an idiot” not to leave the country when he still could. But he was convinced he had done nothing wrong. [More


The Miami Herald, March 21, 2017 6:23 PM

Fidel Castro becomes a piece of dead art


An artistic cadaver of late Cuban ruler Fidel Castro, donning military fatigues and with his head propped on a white pillow, has become one of the main attractions of Art Basel Hong Kong.

Although the fair is not yet open to the public, collectors from all over the world are busy taking selfies with the art piece showcasing the Western Hemisphere’s longest-serving dictator, various news wire services reported.



The Chicago Tribune, March 20, 2017

More airlines cut service to Cuba

Hugo MartinContact Reporter Los Angeles Times

Only six months after U.S. carriers began operating regular commercial flights to Cuba, Frontier Airlines and Silver Airways have become the latest airlines to cut service to the island nation.

The news comes after JetBlue and American Airlines both announced plans in the last two months to reduce their service to Cuba [More]


The Miami Herald, March 21, 2017

A Cuban film about gay repression pulled from festival. Was it censorship?


Cuban filmmaker Carlos Lechuga has pulled an acclaimed film, based on repression against gay writers in the early years of the Revolution, from an upcoming presentation in New York after festival organizers banned it from official competition and instead categorized the screening as a special presentation.

“Santa and Andrés,” which was recently shown at the Miami Film Festival, will no longer be screened at the Havana Film Festival New York next week, following days of social media controversy in which filmmakers accused festival organizers of censorship and organizers declared that the film was no longer worthy of competition due to “political gossip” surrounding the film.

“After being confirmed in more than 30 film events worldwide, the decision whether or not to screen our film in a festival that does not consider us worthy of joining the list of select titles in its main competition slate is totally ours to make,” Lechuga said in a joint statement, according to a report by Variety.

When the decision to exclude “Santa and Andrés” from competition was made, Lechuga made his complaints public via social media, denouncing the awards ban as censorship and blaming the decision on pressure by the Cuban government. [More] 


The Daily Signal, March 20, 2017

How Congress Can Send a Strong Message to Cuban Diplomats in DC

Jackson Ventrella Ana Quintana

Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., have reintroduced a bill to rename the street outside the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C., after Oswaldo Payá.

This bill conveys a sense of solidarity with the Cuban people whose rights have long been abused by their corrupt and evil government. [More