CubaBrief: May 31, 2021 – Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara freed and defiant. Baseball game between Cuba and Venezuela stopped by young woman demanding a free Cuba. A good day.

May 31, 2021 was a good day for those who aspire that Cuba be freed from dictatorship. The Castro regime lost a Pre-Olympic qualifying baseball game to Maduro’s Venezuelan team, but that was not what angered the dictatorship, or their greatest loss. Hundreds of Cubans and Venezuelans came together to protest their respective dictatorships and join together in their rejection of communism. Furthermore the image of an elderly Cuban exile was shattered with “protesters [that] numbered in the hundreds and transcended class, gender and age,” reported Declan Walsh of The Palm Beach Post.

Maykel Castillo 'Osorbo' shows dangling handcuff after San Isidro neighbors stopped his arrest

Maykel Castillo ‘Osorbo’ shows dangling handcuff after San Isidro neighbors stopped his arrest

Kiele Alessandra Cabrera momentarily stopped the game between Cuba and Venezuela for two minutes, during the Pre-Olympic Tournament of the Americas. She jumped onto the field with a poster that read: “Free Cuba” and had an image of an extended arm with a fist with a handcuff hanging off the wrist. Kiele Alessandra is Cuban-American and 23 years old. She is a graduate of Florida State University and supports the struggle against the Castro dictatorship in Cuba. Her protest was seen around the world and in Cuba.

The significance of the poster references an image made viral weeks ago when the police tried to arrest Cuban rapper Maykel Castillo ‘Osorbo’ on April 4, 2021 but the San Isidro neighborhood turned against the regime agents and they had to flee. Maykel raised the one arm the police had managed to cuff in a gesture of defiance, and the image was recorded and ended up circling the world. Below is video of the attempted arrest and the reaction of the neighbors.

Kiele Alessandra Cabrera momentarily stopped the baseball game demanding a free Cuba, and freedom for political prisoners.

Kiele Alessandra Cabrera momentarily stopped the baseball game demanding a free Cuba, and freedom for political prisoners.

This young courageous woman risked her own safety to send a message of solidarity and freedom to Cubans, and she was taken away by the police and later released.  She is 23 years old and born in the United States, but together with many young Cubans yesterday at the baseball stadium they stood up for a free Cuba, and shattered the stereotypes of the Castro regime against the Cuban exile community.

The public relations disaster for the dictatorship continued into the afternoon in Havana.

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara returned home the same day at 4:00pm after being kidnapped on May 2, 2021. He was held for a month against his will at the Calixto Garcia Hospital, where too many dissidents have died under suspicious circumstances. He made a statement were he spoke plainly about what had been done to him reported AFP:

“After a month in the hands of the beast, we’ll see how things go in the streets to continue the struggle,” Otero Alcantara said in a video published by opposition media Cubanet. He said state security forces had taken his mobile telephone and left him “literally a month without communication and with little access to my family,” adding that he would soon “recount everything that happened to me.”

Mary Anastasia O’Grady in The Wall Street Journal on May 31, 2021 reported the good news, “Cuba Frees Otero Alcántara: A founder of an artists’ movement is released thanks to unprecedented international and local pressure,” and today another manifestation of this unprecedented pressure appeared in a joint statement from institutions at Harvard University that deal both with Latin America and African and African American research.

Luis Manuel Otero at home on May 31, 2021

Luis Manuel Otero at home on May 31, 2021

The “Statement from the David Rockefeller Center for Latin Americans Studies, the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, and the Afro-Latin American Research Institute, Harvard University, on human rights in Cuba” made public on June 1, 2021 expresses their “strong condemnation of recent repression by the Cuban government against artists and activists seeking artistic freedom and freedom of expression. Activists, including Harvard visiting artists such as Tania Bruguera, are being discredited in Cuban state media as “mercenaries” or agents of foreign and hostile governments and organizations.”

This statement describes the “nature, quality, and intensity of the state violence unleashed against its residents resembles forms of racialized state violence in other countries across the Americas, including the United States, which we have also denounced vigorously from our platforms. Cuban Black lives also matter,” and concludes asking Havana to ” to stop this repression, to release those detained or imprisoned immediately, and to heed the San Isidro Movement’s calls for a peaceful national dialogue.”

Thankfully they are not just focused on Luis Manuel but also other ” young men of African descent, including artists such as rappers Denis Solís González, Maykel Castillo ‘Osorbo,’ and Eliecer Márquez Duany ‘El Funky,’ who are currently imprisoned or detained under dubious charges of ‘contempt’ or ‘disobedience’ against public officials.”

The San Isidro Movement over twitter today provided a more extensive listing of their friends who are unjustly still imprisoned: Maykel Castillo, Esteban Rodríguez López, Thais Mailén Franco, Inti Soto Romero, Yuisan Cancio Vera, Luis Angel Cuba Alfonso, Adrián Gongora Santiesteban, Taimir García, Damian Hechevarria, Yeilis Torrez Cruz, and Yoandi Montiel (El Gato).

Monday, May 31, 2021 was a good day for those who wish to see a free Cuba. May this mark the start of many more such good days.

The Wall Street Journal, May 31, 2021

Cuba Frees Otero Alcántara

A founder of an artists’ movement is released thanks to unprecedented international and local pressure.

By Mary Anastasia O’Grady

May 31, 2021

Cuban dissident Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, leader of the San Isidro Movement, minutes before he is arrested in Havana, April 5. Photo: yander zamora/Shutterstock

Cuban dissident Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, leader of the San Isidro Movement, minutes before he is arrested in Havana, April 5. Photo: yander zamora/Shutterstock

It is still not known if Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was subjected to psychiatric torture by the Cuban military dictatorship. The 33-year-old artist was held incommunicado at Havana’s Calixto Garcia Hospital from May 2 until Monday afternoon when he was finally released.

A short, edited video of Mr. Otero Alcántara, posted by regime surrogates via social media on May 20, alarmed friends, supporters and the human-rights community. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience. On Wednesday the New York Review of Books ran an open letter from more than 30 artists and writers across the globe demanding his release.

The struggle is far from over. This poor Afro-Cuban, armed only with his courage, intellect and creativity, is an existential threat to Cuba’s ruling elite.

Full article ]

https://www.wsj.com/articles/free-otero-alcantara-11622474168


David Rockefeller Center for Latin Americans Studies, June 1, 2021

Screen Shot 2021-06-02 at 11.38.44 AM.png

Joint Statement on Human Rights in Cuba

Statement from the David Rockefeller Center for Latin Americans Studies, the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, and the Afro-Latin American Research Institute, Harvard University, on human rights in Cuba

As research and teaching units that maintain longstanding relations of collaboration and exchange with Cuban colleagues and institutions, we want to express our strong condemnation of recent repression by the Cuban government against artists and activists seeking artistic freedom and freedom of expression. Activists, including Harvard visiting artists such as Tania Bruguera, are being discredited in Cuban state media as “mercenaries” or agents of foreign and hostile governments and organizations.

Prominent among those suffering the most violent forms of state repression are members of the San Isidro Movement. A social movement created in 2018 to protest Decree 349 criminalizing independent artistic creation, its members are visual artists, rap musicians, poets, young intellectuals who use the arts to articulate demands for recognition and inclusion. Their main demand has been to dialogue with authorities. As their founding Manifesto states, “We are not calling for anarchy or confrontation, we want dialogue and understanding.”

These calls have met with violent state repression. The leader of the movement, artist and activist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, was taken by police forces from his home on May 2 and was detained against his will, at a hospital in Havana, without access to family or friends, for weeks.   We knew very little about his fate, his health, or his condition.  Cuban state security forces detained him without due process. Amnesty International declared Otero Alcántara a prisoner of conscience and demanded his immediate and unconditional release. 

That call should be extended to other members of the San Isidro Movement, who are experiencing various forms of state repression.  Many of them are young men of African descent, including artists such as rappers Denis Solís González, Maykel Castillo “Osorbo,” and Eliecer Márquez Duany “El Funky,” who are currently imprisoned or detained under dubious charges of “contempt” or “disobedience” against public officials. San Isidro is a poor neighborhood that is mostly inhabited by people of African descent.  The nature, quality, and intensity of the state violence unleashed against its residents resembles forms of racialized state violence in other countries across the Americas, including the United States, which we have also denounced vigorously from our platforms. Cuban Black lives also matter.

We respectfully call on Cuban authorities to stop this repression, to release those detained or imprisoned immediately, and to heed the San Isidro Movement’s calls for a peaceful national dialogue.

https://drclas.harvard.edu/statement-cuba

The Palm Beach Post, May 31, 2021

Cuban, Venezuelan fans protest communist regimes at Ballpark of Palm Beaches

Declan Walsh

The Palm Beach Post

Cuban and Venezuelan protesters march outside the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches Monday before the Olympic qualifying game between Cuba and Venezuela. Julia Bonavita / Special to The Post

Cuban and Venezuelan protesters march outside the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches Monday before the Olympic qualifying game between Cuba and Venezuela. Julia Bonavita / Special to The Post

WEST PALM BEACH — The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches stood starkly divided between Cubans and Venezuelans Monday, as fans flocked to the stadium dressed in the flags, hats and jerseys of their home countries as they battled in the opening game of the Baseball Americas Qualifier.

But outside the stadium, protestors demonstrated in solidarity against the communist governments that govern each nation.

“Socialism is simply destruction,” said Eric Jimenez, a protest leader who emigrated from Cuba in 2014. “We cannot allow that to continue in Cuba and Venezuela or anywhere else. So we’re here to show that many people are against it and many are willing to speak out.”

As for the opening game of the tournament, which will help determine the final field for the Summer Olympics, Venezuela held on for a 6-5 victory. The win was the first for Venezuela in a world-level tournament against Cuba since the 1953 World Cup.

Meanwhile, in the first Olympic qualifying game in Port St. Lucie, the Dominican Republic defeated Puerto Rico, 5-2. Luis Liberato’s tiebreaking home run in the sixth inning was the game-winner.

In Monday’s late games, the United States and Canada took wins via different routes.

Luke Williams and Jarren Duran combined for six hits out of the top two spots in the order, and Mark Kolosvery homered, as the U.S. defeated Nicaragua 7-1 in Port St. Lucie. The U.S. had 14 hits before a crowd of 3,500, setting up a matchup with Monday’s other Group A winner, the Dominican Republic, on Tuesday in West Palm Beach.

In West Palm Beach, Andrew Albers tossed seven no-hit innings and two relievers followed to complete a no-hitter as Canada defeated Colombia 7-0. Albers, a 35-year-old from North Battleford, Saskatchewan, stuck out seven, including five in a row during a stretch that spanned the third, fourth and fifth innings.

The two early games marked the first international baseball competition in a year and a half due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Back in West Palm Beach, the protesters numbered in the hundreds and transcended class, gender and age. But the diverse group consolidated its message into a simple but poignant phrase: “patria y vida”

“This means homeland and life,” Jimenez said. “The Castro regime used another phrase: homeland or death. But life is so much more, life is humbling, with people that think like you and people that don’t.”

The slogan was popularized by Cuban singer Yotuel Romero earlier this year, and “patria y vida” found its way into the ballpark through signs, t-shirts and a loud second-inning chant.

Demonstrators displayed anti-communist symbols, advocated for the freedom of Cuban political prisoners and called for the overthrow of the Castro and Chavez regimes that currently rule Cuba and Venezuela, respectively.

While a majority of the fans were Cuban, a number of Venezuelan fans took part in the protests and many signs and banners suggested a common struggle for the two counties. 

“Venezuelans and Cubans are fighting for the same thing, for freedom, Jimenez said. “The hunger, the oppression, the restrictions on the press, they went through the same thing Cuba went through 60 years ago.”

Palm Beach County maintained a limited capacity due to COVID-19 protocols, but fans continued to protest in and outside of the stadium throughout the game. Chants of “libertidad” and “patria y vida” rang inside and outside the stadium. 

Cuban baseball made political headlines last week when infielder Cèsar Prieto defected from the team after his arrival in the United States. Prieto increased his chance of joining an MLB organization by leaving his home country, and many protestors supported Prieto’s decision.

“We’re fighting for liberty and I support the liberty of the players,” said Luis Esperon, manager of the “Make Cuba Great Again” clothing line. “I want freedom for Cuba and my community so I have to support him.”

Fellow Cuban defector and former Marlins pitching great Livan Hernandez strode to the mound to hurl the ceremonial first pitch, drawing raucous applause from the socially distanced crowd. Hernandez’s pedigree didn’t linger on the mound, however, as Cuba allowed three runs in an erratic first inning. 

Erisbel Arruebarrbuena halved Cuba’s deficit with a two-run blast into deep left field, but Venezuela sealed its opening-round victory with a pair of solo shots from Hernan Perez and Robinson Chirinos. 

The mass of Cuban demonstrators were escorted away from the ballpark toward the end of the eighth inning, still chanting in full voice against the Castro regime. 

While the protestors meandered back to the parking lot, Cuban outfielder Lisban Correa just about reached them with a two-run moonshot that landed on the left field promenade. Correa’s ninth inning homer set up a dramatic finish, but the Venezuelan bullpen did just enough to hold on for the victory. 

“We really thought we were going to win it there in the ninth, Cuban manager Armando Fetter said. But we’re still learning and we’ve learned from this, so we believe that we will take the next game.”

Each team has two more pool play games on Tuesday and Wednesday before the semifinal round begins on Friday. The teams move north to Clover Park in Port St. Lucie Tuesday when Venezuela plays Columbia at 1 p.m., and Cuba plays Canada at 7 p.m.

https://www.palmbeachpost.com/story/sports/olympics/2021/05/31/cuban-venezuela-protest-communism-olympic-baseball-qualifier/5285106001/

Globe Live Media, June 1, 2021

Who is the young woman who jumped onto the baseball field to demand a “Free Cuba”?

By Melissa Galbraith

Screen Shot 2021-06-02 at 11.38.57 AM.png

This Monday the young Kiele Alessandra Cabrera paralyzed the game between Cuba and Venezuela, during the Pre-Olympic Tournament of the Americas. She jumped onto the field with a poster that summed up the feelings of an entire country: “Free Cuba.”

Kiele Alessandra is Cuban-American and 23 years old. She is a graduate of Florida State University and from exile supports the fight against the dictatorship on the island. Yesterday she paralyzed both shores with her forceful message.

On conversation with reporter Javier Díaz, from Univision 23, the activist commented that a few days ago she remembered the game between the Cuba team and the Baltimore Orioles in 1999, where something similar to what she starred in happened, and she understood that that was the only way to really capture attention.

“I saw that someone was going for a ball and something in my mind said, ‘Now is the time, go run.’ And I started running. I kept going and I didn’t look back”, she confessed about how she found the occasion to enter the baseball field.

“I was very nervous, but I was not afraid, because I know it was a very necessary thing… In this free country (USA) they arrest me and then I have the possibility to defend myself; here in this country there is justice, so no, I was not afraid”, she assured.

Regarding the reaction of the Cuban and Venezuelan players, she assured that she saw them surprised. She was prepared for someone to physically attack her, but “they gave me a face that they were accepting what I was doing. There were two Venezuelan players who were excited and I know they were with me and with the message that I was giving to the public.”

Kiele Alessandra Cabrera was taken away by the authorities at the scene, but until the moment of the interview she had not filed charges against her. According to her, they only prohibited her from returning to the stadium.

The young woman left this message for Cuba: “Do not be afraid, because you have nothing but one life and we have to live with courage and honesty, and we have to speak the truth about what is happening in our country.”

During the match between Cuba and Venezuela there were many demonstrations against the Castro dictatorship and its designated president, Miguel Díaz-Canel. Posters of “Homeland and Life” were everywhere.

Florida Police also detained the defender of the Castro regime Edmundo García. He was received at the stadium with loud boos from Cubans living abroad.

The Cuban Baseball Federation sent a letter to the World Baseball and Softball Confederation to demand action against the “provocations” that occurred this Monday.

The FCB “considers it unacceptable that characters contrary to the spirit of a sporting event attempt against the concentration of the team that represents us in the pre-Olympic tournament based in Florida, United States.”

https://globelivemedia.com/latest/who-is-the-young-woman-who-jumped-onto-the-baseball-field-to-demand-a-free-cuba/