We publish in this issue Carlos Alberto Montaner’s “A Year without Fidel,” and Diario de Cuba’s “Those who refused to mourn” about some Cubans who remain in jail because they refused to join the collective bereavement a year ago. And the good news that Radio Marti is increasing its broadcasts to Cuba. 

Also in this Cuba Brief, a collection of photographs of Fidel with some of his friends: Zimbabwe’s Mugabe,  Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad, Romania’s Ceausescu, Leonid Brezhnev, North Korea’s Kim Il Sung, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Jamenei, Cabo Verde’s Amilcar Cabral, and together with his brother Raul with Saddam Hussein.  There are other photographs of friends and admirers which could have been included, some with a few American Senators and Members of the House of Representatives. We will published those at another day.


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Radio Martí increases its transmissions to Cuba

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Radio Martí increases its broadcasts to the island, adding a new frequency today, according Andre V. Mendes, acting director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting.“In addition to our powerful 1180 AM signal from Marathon, FL, and its Hispasat signal, Radio Martí will continue its mission to provide the Cuban population information which is censored by Castro dictatorship,” he said. The new frequency in 7355 kilohertz (kHz), is in addition to broadcasts in 7435 kHz and 7405 kHz, and are scheduled from 6:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. and from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Radio Marti broadcasts in nine frequencies. In 2014, the first opinion survey conducted since 1959 revealed that 20% of the 1200 Cubans surveyed had listened to the station in the previous seven days.

FIDEL CASTRO’S ‘DEATHDAY’ : Those who refused to mourn

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Eduardo Cardet. (HAZTEOIR.ORG)

Madrid, November 27, 2017. A year after Fidel Castro’s death, the nine-day period of mourning that the Government imposed on the people still haunts some families. The legacy of the repression of dissent – under unusual criminal charges such as “defamation of the martyrs of the fatherland” and “attack, among others – is ongoing, while the regime engages in a massive tribute to the dictator.

Some who refused to join the collective bereavement have been released, but others remain behind bars. DIARIO DE CUBA runs down the most representative cases known.

Eduardo Cardet Concepción

The national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) was violently arrested in front of his house in the municipality of Velasco, Holguín on November 30 of last year, five days after the death of Fidel Castro.

Cardethad previously visited the United States and, in statements to the press, criticized the legacy of repression left by the dictator.

He was sentenced to prison for an alleged “attack,” and the Provincial Court of Holguin ratified his sentence: three years of incarceration.

In September the leader’s family complained that Cadet should have been moved to an open facility, in accord with his sentence.

The human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) declared him a “prisoner of conscience” and Spain’s Peace and Cooperation Foundation awarded him its Annual Freedom of Conscience Prize, in recognition of his efforts on behalf of democracy on the Island.

His wife, Yaimaris Vecino, summed up the dissident doctor’s first year of imprisonment:

“It’s been too long, too hard for the whole family. And everything has been worse because it’s unfair, because he is innocent, and because he has not even been given the same treatment possible for other prisoners, under the law.

All the appeals that we have filed have been denied. In the beginning, bail; then, the appeal, and, finally, we are with the review of the case, which is dragging on, and we don’t know what the result will be, or if they will approve it. Our lawyer tells us that if they approve the review his sentence will be reduced.

His family’s hope, however, is dwindling. “I don’t know anymore. So far all the legal avenues that we have explored have been for naught. Everything that has been done has been done, but we haven’t seen any results.

He should be on a farm (“open facility”) but they (the authorities) haven’t made that decision. We had a scare a few days ago because they told us that he was going to be transferred to the Cuba Sí prison (where conditions are more severe, in the province itself), but then they told us he wouldn’t, that it had been a mistake.

We don’t yet know what is going to happen to him. We live with the uncertainty. Saturday, November 18 was our last visit. We found him quite strong. He was already preparing for the transfer he had been threatened with. But we are desperate, thinking about what may happen to him in a place where he is surrounded by prisoners with long sentences, who don’t mind more years being added to them. We fear for his safety.”

Carlos Alberto González

In December Carlos Alberto González Rodríguez, a 48-year-old engineer, was sentenced to two years of imprisonment after placing a sign that read “Abajo Fidel” (Down with Fidel) in the town of Camajuaní, Santa Clara, on November 26, one day after the dictator’s death.

Librado Linares, General Secretary of the Movimiento Cuban Reflexión, explained to DDC that, in the context of Castro’s funeral, González Rodríguez “was caught on Camajuaní Boulevard painting anti-Castro graffiti. His arrest involved a great commotion. They went to his house and raided it.”

“They then detained him at the Camajuaní police station. After 72 hours he was told that the charges for graffiti were being dropped, but that he was going to be prosecuted as a ‘pre-criminal social threat’. All this happened very quickly, suggesting that it was a summary trial. He was prosecuted and sanctioned to over two years of incarceration.

When he reached the prison they put him in a high-security unit, not corresponding to inmates who have been arrested for being a social threat. All this indicates that it was a maneuver to give him a political profile, for him to serve as an example, and to keep him behind bars,” said Linares.

He is currently at El Pre, in the city of Santa Clara. He now lives as a political prisoner, but manages to keep his spirits up.”

Darío Pérez Rodríguez

In January Holguín’s Darío Pérez Rodríguez was sentenced to one year of imprisonment for the crime of “defaming the martyrs of the fatherland,” set down in Article 204 of the Penal Code.

Perez, 49, was arrested on December 2 when, at work, he refused to watch the television program featuring Castro’s funeral procession.

“When they called him to watch the broadcast, he said ‘no,’ that it was disgusting,” explained at the time Dexter Perez, an activist with the UNPACU (Patriotic Union of Cuba) and Darío Pérez’s brother.

His coworkers and officials at the National Bus Transportation Base (ASTRO) notified the regime’s security forces of his behavior, and he was arrested.

Pérez Rodríguez was sentenced to one year of forced labor during internment. He was released in October.

Luis Andrés Domínguez Sardiñas

The activist with the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Civic Action Front (FACOZT), Luis Andrés Domínguez Sardiñas, was arrested on November 27 at his home and “accused of ‘celebrating’ during the imposed period of mourning,” according to the FACOZT’s complaint at that time on its Facebook page.

Hugo Damián Prieto, the leader of the FACOZT, explained to DDC that Domínguez Sardiñas “spent eight months in the Combinado del Este prison (Havana) for the crime of ‘contempt for the Commander’. He was arrested in the context of the dictator’s funeral for publicly demonstrating and saying that, after Fidel’s death, Raúl Castro ought to be executed.”

The trial was held on August 24 and he was sentenced to two years. He is currently on probation, but could be sent back to prison again,” noted Hugo Damián Prieto.

The FACOZT leader also explained that he, along with two other activists, Ricardo Luna Rodríguez and Lázaro José Noval Usín, were arrested on the same day that Fidel Castro died.

“We were arrested during the mourning period, out of fear that we would react in some way. We were detained for three days in the seventh unit, in San Agustín, La Lisa. They released us, without a fine or any charges. Danilo Maldonado was detained with us there,” he concluded.

El Sexto

Graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado (El Sexto) was arrested after painting “Se fue” (He’s gone) on a wall of the ground floor of the Hotel Habana Libre, on 23rd Street, hours after the announcement of Fidel Castro’s death.

The painting was visible for about three hours, according to DIARIO DE CUBA associates in Havana.

El Sexto served almost two months in prison, without a trial or charges.

Leyva Family

The Holguín family, made up the activists Maydolis Leyva Portelles and her sons Fidel Batista Leyva, and the twins Adairis and Anairis Miranda Leyva, also suffered imprisonment after the death of Fidel Castro.

They were all prosecuted for the crime of “defamation of the martyrs of the fatherland.” The mother was sentenced to one year of house arrest, and the brothers to one year of correctional work during internment, but were released on probation after prolonged hunger strikes, for which they were hospitalized, under strict surveillance.


One year without Fidel

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

It has been one year since Fidel’s death was announced. It seems like a century ago. For more than a decade, from July 26, 2006 to Nov. 25, 2016, he lived with one foot in the grave. That slow-motion agony was very useful to his brother Raúl. It served to fasten him to the presidential chair and allowed Cubans to adapt to his control while he gained power and surrounded himself with people he trusted.  

Raúl is president because that’s what Fidel decided. He may have seemed a mediocre person to Fidel, without savvy and without charisma, but he was absolutely loyal, a virtue that paranoid people value far above all the others, so Fidel fabricated a biography for him to turn him into his shield bearer. He dragged him into the revolution. Made him commander. Made him defense minister. Made him vice president, and finally bequeathed to him the power, initiating the Castro dynasty.

Since then, Raúl has governed with his familial retinue. With his daughter Mariela, a restless and plain-speaking sexologist. With his son, Col. Alejandro Castro Espín, educated in the KGB’s intelligence schools. With his grandson and bodyguard Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro, son of Deborah. With his son-in-law or former son-in-law (nobody knows if he’s still married to Deborah or if they divorced), Gen. Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, head of GAESA, the main holding of the Cuban chiefs of staff.

Those are the people who govern with Raúl, but they have three very serious problems. The most important is that very few believers in the system remain in Cuba. Sixty years of disaster are too many to stay faithful to that folly. Raúl himself lost his confidence in the system in the 1980s, when he sent many army officers to European centers to learn management and marketing techniques. 

Why should the Cuban brass learn those disciplines well? To implement the “Military Capitalism of State,” Cuba’s only and devastating intellectual contribution to post-communism. The State reserves to itself the 2,500 midsize and major enterprises of the productive apparatus (hotels, banks, rum distilleries, breweries, cement factories, steel plants, ports and airports, etc.) directed by high-ranking military or former military officers. When these people cannot directly exploit an industry for lack of capital or expertise, they bring in a foreign partner to whom they promise ample profits, all the while watching him as if he were the worst of enemies.

Simultaneously, ordinary Cubans are barred from creating major businesses. They must limit themselves to running small places of service (restaurants), baking pizzas, frying croquettes or frying themselves driving taxis. They are forbidden to accumulate wealth or invest in new businesses, because the objective is not for entrepreneurial individuals to display their talent and keep the profits but to come up with the manual labor that the State cannot provide. In contrast with China, making money is a crime in Cuba. In other words, the worst of both worlds: statism controlled by the army brass and microcapitalism bound hands and feet.

The second problem is that the Communist Party means nothing to almost no one in Cuba. In theory, communist parties are segregated by a doctrine (Marxism) that, after losing all meaning, turns the CP into a purely ritual affair. That’s what happened in the Soviet Union. Because nobody believed in the system, the CP was terminated by decree and 20 million people went home without shedding a tear.

The third is that Raúl is a very old man (86) who has promised to retire from the presidency on Feb. 24 next year, although he will probably remain ensconced in the party. In any case, how long can he live? Fidel lasted 90 years, but all you need to do is read his final screeds to understand that he had lost many of his faculties. The oldest Castro sibling, Ramón, died at age 91 but had spent many years crippled by senile dementia. 

The sum of those three factors foretell a violent ending for Castroism, maybe at the hands of some army officer, unless Raúl Castro’s heir (officially Miguel Díaz Canel, the first vice president, but it could be someone else) opts for a true political opening and dismantles the system in an organized manner, to prevent a collapse that will destroy that fragile power structure.

That’s what the electoral process is supposed to do, but the Raulists have already barred the way to a hundred or so oppositionists who are willing to participate in the next election, while rejecting the referendum proposed by Rosa María Payá, daughter of Oswaldo Payá, a leader assassinated for asking the same as the girl, bravely, is pleading for today.

In other words, Raúl will bequeath to his successor a terrible jolt. The dynasty will die with him. 

Journalist and writer. His latest book is the novel A Time for Scoundrels.