CUBA BRIEF: Hugh Thomas is dead. Cuban student arrested after trip to DC. Cuban carrying US flag rewrote monotonous script of Havana’s May Day

Hugh Thomas (Lord Thomas of Swynnerton) is dead. Thomas was hated by Francisco Franco and Fidel Castro for “The Spanish Civil War,” and “Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom.” Both dictators banned Thomas’s books. An internationally acclaimed author he wrote many books and had many friends among the free Cubans. 

Also in this issue of CUBABRIEF: “Cuban student arrested after trip to Washington,”  “Cuban man carrying U.S. flag rewrote monotonous script of Havana’s annual celebration,” and “A double standard” about the hypocrisy of Cuban official academics at a Latin American Studies Association.

Latin American Herald Tribune, May 9, 2017

Renowned Historian Hugh Thomas’ Great Passion in Life Was Spanish History

LONDON – For the British historian and writer Hugh Thomas, Spanish history was a life-long passion, his daughter Bella told EFEon Monday, two days after his death.

Lord Thomas de Swynnerton (1931-2017), the author of a seminal text on the Spanish, died Saturday after a long career as a highly respected historian, novelist, politician and university professor that marked a whole generation of Anglo-Saxon students of Hispanic culture.

“He went to Spain in the fifties and found a fascinating and extraordinary place and wanted to know more, and he found there was a lot of poverty in the 1950s; there were children in the streets with no shoes and he wanted to know what happened and wanted to read about it and found there was no book about it,” said Bella.

That was when he decided to write “The Spanish Civil War,” which was published in 1961, when Thomas was barely 30 years old, and is considered one of the most important texts in its field, though at the time it was banned by the regime of Gen. Francisco Franco, whose forces had won the country’s internecine 1936-1939 conflict.

Bella said her father tried to make it as neutral as possible, though its sympathies did skew towards the Republicans, as he sought not to take an ideological position but to be fair and understand the conflict. [More]

His obituary was published by numerous newspapers around the world. According to Diario Las Americas, Cuban writer Carlos Alberto Montaner met him in London, Madrid and Washington. Thomas and Montaner discussed for years political developments in Cuba, Spain and elsewhere.  “His history of Cuba is magnificent. The Queen of England made him Lord and Knight of the United Kingdom but he was always a gentleman, and the Spaniards finally got to know him well during the Spanish transition to democracy,” Montaner said.

Frank Calzon, knew him since the early 70’s when he met him in Washington at the home of Elena Mederos who had been Minister of Social Welfare until Fidel Castro betrayed his democratic promises.” Thomas spoke at Georgetown University at several conferences sponsored by Of Human Rights, the organization presided by Elena Mederos and later by Cuban bishop in exile Eduardo Boza Masvidal. “Thomas favored the establishment of TV and Radio Marti,” Calzon said.  (More for the Diario Las Americas in Spanish) (The Biblical Recorder), May 8, 2017

Cuban student arrested after trip to Washington

By Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Religious liberty leaders are interceding on behalf of a college student interrogated, threatened and charged with public disorder by the Cuban government because of his work to expose Christian persecution there.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, a commissioner with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), are advocating for the student, 20-year-old Felix Yuniel Llerena López, who was arrested April 27 upon his return from a trip to Washington.
Cuban state security authorities made him sign an “Acta de Advertencia” or pre-arrest warrant for public disorder, ordered him to appear in court and also interrogated his mother, CSW said in a May 2 press release.
“We are extremely concerned about the government’s treatment of Felix Yuniel Llerena López upon his return to Cuba,” CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in the press release. “Public accusations linking him to terrorism are not only preposterous and unfounded, but also put his family in danger. We call on the Cuban government to cease its harassment of Felix and to turn its attention to addressing its ongoing violations of freedom of religion or belief as a matter of urgency. We also urge the international community to closely monitor this situation.”

Llerena, central region coordinator for the independent Patmos Institute for religious freedom, was part of a Patmos delegation including evangelical pastors who briefed USCIRF, the State Department and non-governmental groups on religious freedom violations in Cuba, CSW reported. Llerena is described as the only Christian in his family.
Arriaga, who met Llerena during his trip to Capitol Hill, has initiated a Twitter campaign on the student’s behalf – @FelixLlerenaCUB. While Llerena’s current whereabouts were not disclosed, Arriaga said on a May 2 WORLD Radio broadcast that he remained in custody.
“He came to the United States briefly with a group of evangelical pastors,” Arriaga told WORLD Radio, “and after he met with the commission members – precisely because he met with the commission members – he flew back to Havana with great courage to again continue to spread the word of gospel.”
The exposure of Llerena’s story will not only encourage him but will also help deter the Cuban government from harming him, Arriaga told WORLD Radio. She also encouraged Americans to call and email the Cuban government directly, urging them to stop harassing people of faith. [More]

Diario de Cuba, May 8, 2017

A double standard

By Armando Chaguaceda | Ciudad de México

Within the framework of the Congress of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), a group of Cuban academics and former officials recently circulated a document protesting the LASA’S position regarding the wave of repression and political crisis in Venezuela.

In their missive they questioned the presence of OAS Secretary Luis Almagro at the event, while equating criticisms of the Government and opposition, placing them on the same level, while accusing the latter of purportedly undemocratic stratagems.

The list of signatories includes well-known members of the Cuban political apparatus, intellectuals with proven analytical skills and access to information, as well as people from the artistic sphere and para-State NGOs. That is: people who know this initiative very well, and how much truth there is supporting it, and its scope; along with others who, politics not being their regular terrain, signed it without a thorough understanding of the realities involved.

I wonder if they would be as willing to take up positions affecting domestic culture and social sciences today as they were to do so in relation to what is a foreign scenario. Will those who question the actions of foreign political actors do the same at home? And I do not mean in order to, necessarily, denounce the Cuban political system. Rather, just to utter, even from a revolutionary stance, so much as a collective whisper in response to the censorship to which filmmakers are subjected, or the arrest of young journalists, or the expulsion of professors and students from universities, all events having occurred in recent times. Aren’t these issues —which directly affect intellectual life on the Island— of concern to the signatories? How can they be concerned about the rule of law in Caracas, but not its infringement in Havana? [More]

The Miami Herald, May 08, 2017 

Cuban man carrying U.S. flag rewrote monotonous script of Havana’s annual celebration

By Mario J. Pentón

The rehearsals for Havana’s annual May Day celebration went on for weeks. The Plaza of the Revolution was to host hundreds of thousands of Cubans as they marched past top government leaders in the best Soviet tradition.

But a man who came out of nowhere rewrote the monotonous script this year.

Self-proclaimed dissident Daniel Llorente waved a large U.S. flag as he ran down the plaza and demanded freedom at the top of his lungs. His performance lasted just a few seconds, until security forces tackled and pummeled him before a shocked audience that included several foreign journalists.

“He had everything figured out. My father is an educated man. A few days before he had bought books on the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” his son, Eliezer Llorente Perez, 17, recently said by phone from Havana. “He says that you have to know history to understand what we’re going through.”

As he ran in front of the marchers, Llorente shouted, “Freedom for the Cuban people.” His words were drowned out by the official song, produced by members of the Young Communists’ Union, to energize young Cubans long indifferent to government propaganda. [More]