CubaBrief: Remembering Cuba’s ’13 de Marzo’ Tugboat Massacre. Celebrating the lives of Carlos Alberto Montaner, and Milan Kundera. Artnet news reports on jailed Cuban artist’s Op-Ed

This past week marked two historic dates that demonstrate the brutality of the communist dictatorship in Cuba against Cubans who want to live in freedom on their own terms.

Protester outside the White House with a poster of the 37 “13 de marzo” tugboat victims.

Two years ago on July 11, 2021 huge numbers of Cubans across the island went out into the streets demanding freedom and an end to dictatorship. The regime’s response was sending government agents into the street with baseball bats, 2x4s, and firearms to beat down and shoot nonviolent protesters.  An unknown number of Cubans were killed, and injured. There are over a thousand Cuban political prisoners imprisoned today.

Artnet news on July 12, 2023 published an article about one of them. Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, a Cuban performance artist and prisoner of conscience who penned an Op-Ed calling for support in the struggle for Cubans’ freedom.

“On behalf of the young Cubans locked up in the island’s horrible prisons, I appeal to people of conscience around the world to support our struggle to liberate ourselves and our country,” Otero Alcántara wrote in the missive, published this week in the Miami Herald. “All we did was demand the right to choose our political future and to speak our minds.” 

29 years ago on July 13, 1994 thirty seven Cubans, 11 of them children, were massacred by Cuban government agents when they tried to flee Cuba on board the “13 de marzo” tugboat.

The bodies of the victims were never recovered, and investigations into the incident indicate that it was a premeditated attack by regime agents. Babalu Blog on July 13, 1994 published an entry on the “13 de marzo” tugboat massacre.

Knowing they were caught, the escapees stopped the tugboat and announced their surrender. But the Cuban military was not interested in taking any prisoners. Without mercy or hesitation, they began ramming the tug boat while battering the men, women, and children on the deck with water cannons. The assault was relentless and did not end until the tugboat sank.

This past week also saw the lives of two men of letters highlighted in an important publication. Cuban writer and journalist Carlos Alberto Montaner passed away on June 30, 2023 and Czech writer Milan Kundera passed away on July 11, 2023 and Jay Nordlinger in National Review wrote a column celebrating both their lives on July 14h.

Montaner spent his exile largely in Spain. He wished for Cuba the kind of transition that Spain saw, after Franco — a transition to democracy. He joined the Liberal Club of Madrid. He became a vice president of Liberal International. He favored a free economy, a free society — freedom in general. In 2011, he said the following to the George W. Bush Presidential Center: “There is a secret family of victims of totalitarianism, which can be the families in Burma or the victims in North Korea or in Iran or in Cuba. We feel a special bond with them because we belong to the same family.”

Milan Kundera was born earlier than Montaner — 1929, in Brno. When the war ended, he was 16 and on the cusp of life. Like many others, he embraced communism. Like many others, he soon dis-embraced it, so to speak. He was a highly unusual writer, and a highly gifted one. His big hit came in 1984: The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Four years later, it was made into a movie, starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

Babalu Blog, July 13, 2023

Cuba’s ’13 de Marzo’ Tugboat Massacre: 37 men, women, and children murdered by the Castro dictatorship

July 13, 2023 by Alberto de la Cruz

It was 29 years ago today, in the early morning darkness of July 13, 1994, when 37 men, women, and children climbed aboard a ship unaware their lives would soon be ended by the communist regime they were trying to escape. They had just taken a tugboat named “13 de Marzo” with the plan to use it to escape oppression and reach freedom in America. It was a daring attempt and illegal in communist Cuba, but it was also one of the very few options they had to escape the tyranny and slavery of Cuba’s Castro dictatorship. They made it seven miles from the Cuban shore before the Cuban military intercepted them.

Knowing they were caught, the escapees stopped the tugboat and announced their surrender. But the Cuban military was not interested in taking any prisoners. Without mercy or hesitation, they began ramming the tug boat while battering the men, women, and children on the deck with water cannons. The assault was relentless and did not end until the tugboat sank.

It became obvious seven miles was not far enough from Cuba to free themselves from the oppression and misery they were trying to escape. However, it was far enough that the only ones who heard their screams of horror and pain before being swallowed up by the sea were their executioners and the few of them who miraculously survived.

Twenty-nine years later, the Castro regime continues its efforts to silence their screams. But hard as they may try, the screams of those ten children and 27 adults mercilessly and violently murdered by the Castro regime can still be heard today. And no matter what the Cuban regime does, those screams will continue to haunt the Castro dictatorship and the regime’s enablers day and night. Those voices of the dead will never cease accusing their executioners until the Castros are brought to justice.

Neither the Castro family nor any other members of their murderous dictatorship have been brought to justice — let alone indicted in an international court — for this horrific crime. And for 29 long years the world continues standing idly by and pretending these innocent victims never existed, never breathed, never yearned for freedom, and never screamed for help.

Today we remember the victims of the “13 de Marzo” Tugboat Massacre. We will continue honoring these martyrs for generations, and long after their executioners are brought to justice, either in this world or the next.

(You can read more about the anniversary of the “13 de Marzo” Tugboat Massacre at Notes from the Cuban Exile.)

https://youtu.be/3PjNko5ytWg

The names of each an every child, woman, and man murdered on this day in 1994:

The Children Assassinated:

1- Hellen Martínez Enríquez. . .. . . . . . . … . . . 5 months old
2- Xicdy Rodríguez Fernández .. . . . . . . . …. . . . 2 years old
3- Angel René Abreu Ruiz . . . . . . . . . . . . .. .…. 3 years old
4- José Carlos Nicle Anaya . . .. . . . . . . .. . . .. . 3 years old
5- Giselle Borges Alvarez . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . 4 years old
6- Caridad Leyva Tacoronte . . . . . . .. . . . . . . .. . 5 years old
7- Juan Mario Gutiérrez García . . . . . . . . . . . . .10 years old
8- Yasser Perodín Almanza . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. .11 years old
9- Yousell Eugenio Pérez Tacoronte . .  . . . . . . 1.1 years old
10- Eliecer Suárez Plasencia .. . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 years old

The Young Men and Women Assassinated:

11- Mayulis Menéndez Tacoronte . .  . . . . . . . … 17 years old
12- Miladys Sanabria Cabrera . . .  . . . . . . . . . .. 19 years old
13 – Joel García Suárez . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . 20 years old
14-Odalys Muñoz García . . . . .. . . . . . . . . .  . . 21 years old
15- Yaltamira Anaya Carrasco . .  . . . . . . . . … . 22 years old
16- Yuliana Enríquez Carrazana . . … . . . . . .. . . 22 years old
17- Lissett María Alvarez Guerra . .. .  . . . . . .. . . 24 years old
18- Jorge Gregorio Balmaseda Castillo . . . . . . . . 24 years old
19- Ernesto Alfonso Loureiro .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 years old
20- María Miralis Fernández Rodríguez . . . . . . . . 27 years old
21- Jorge Arquímedes Levrígido Flores .. . . . . . . . 28 years old
22- Leonardo Notario Góngora . .. …. . . .. . . . . . . 28 years old
23- Pilar Almanza Romero . . . . . …. .  . . . . .. .. . 31 years old
24- Rigoberto Feu González . . ….. . . . . . . . .. . . 31 years old
25- Omar Rodríguez Suárez . . .. . . . . . . . . …. . . 33 years old
26- Lázaro Enrique Borges Briel  . . . . . . . . .. … . 34 years old
27- Martha Caridad Tacoronte Vega . …… . . . . … 35 years old
28- Julia Caridad Ruiz Blanco . . . …. . . . . . . . . ..35 years old

The Men and Women Assassinated:

29- Eduardo Suárez Esquivel . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . 38 years old
30- Martha M.Carrasco Sanabria . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 years old
31- Augusto Guillermo Guerra Martínez . . . . . . . 45 years old
32- Rosa María Alcal de Puig . . . … . . . . . . . . . 47 years old
33- Estrella Suárez Esquivel . … . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 years old
34- Reynaldo Joaquín Marrero Alamo … . .. . . . . .48 years old
35- Amado González Raíces . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . 50 years old
36- Fidencio Ramel Prieto Hernández . . . .  . . . . 51 years old
37- Manuel Cayol . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . 50 years old


https://babalublog.com/2023/07/13/cubas-13-de-marzo-tugboat-massacre-37-men-women-and-children-murdered-by-the-castro-dictatorship/#more-295075

National Review, July 14, 2023 6:30 AM

Impromptus

A pen for humanity, &c.

By Jay Nordlinger

On Carlos Alberto Montaner, Milan Kundera, and more

  • Carlos Alberto Montaner had to be a Cuban writer in exile, but he was a Cuban writer to the core — always letting readers know about the torments of his island, always defending the right of Cubans to live in freedom and democracy. At the same time, he wanted this for everybody. His values, he regarded as human and universal. Montaner has died at 80.

Let me quote from the obituary in the Wall Street Journal written by my friend José de Córdoba:

In Havana, independent journalist Yoani Sánchez, who publishes the website 14ymedio, recalled how Montaner’s books, banned in Cuba, were passed secretly from hand to hand by dissident writers, as were videotapes of his television conferences. “Cultured, calm, without histrionics and with his prodigious verbal skills, Carlos Alberto Montaner practiced an art that had been lost in national political life: to debate with respect and with arguments,” Sánchez wrote.

Let me quote a little more from José’s obit:

In the hothouse world of Cuban exile society and politics, known for its sometimes violent rhetoric and extreme views loudly expressed, Montaner stood out for the equanimity of his voice and for his trenchant analysis.

“Carlos Alberto created a space to analyze and discuss Cuba in a rational and calm manner,” said Pedro Freyre, a Miami-based lawyer active in Cuban affairs. “He was an example of moderation, intelligence and cordiality.”

He was feared by the Castro regime as perhaps its most dangerous intellectual adversary.

Oh, yes.

Bear in mind what Yoani Sánchez and Pedro Freyre have said about Montaner’s manner — because another obit leaves the impression that he was extreme and coarse. I will address this further on.

Carlos Alberto Montaner Suris was born on April 3, 1943, meaning that he was 15 when Castro’s revolution triumphed — on New Year’s Day 1959. Like many Cubans, he welcomed Castro’s triumph, happy to be rid of the dictatorship. And like many Cubans, he quickly turned against Castro, realizing that Cubans were faced with another dictatorship.

He joined an anti-Castro rebel group. He was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He managed to escape from a detention camp. He fled to the Honduran embassy, where he was afforded refuge. Then, on September 8, 1961, he was able to go to Miami.

“I sang the national anthem,” Montaner recalled many years later, “and was sure that I would quickly return to a free Cuba.”

The young man had experienced something like a lifetime of drama and dislocation while he was still 18.

Montaner spent his exile largely in Spain. He wished for Cuba the kind of transition that Spain saw, after Franco — a transition to democracy. He joined the Liberal Club of Madrid. He became a vice president of Liberal International. He favored a free economy, a free society — freedom in general.

In 2011, he said the following to the George W. Bush Presidential Center: “There is a secret family of victims of totalitarianism, which can be the families in Burma or the victims in North Korea or in Iran or in Cuba. We feel a special bond with them because we belong to the same family.”

The obituary of Montaner in the Washington Post ends as follows:

In 2014, an interviewer in Cuba asked Mr. Montaner by phone if he would like to return to Cuba.

“Yes, I would,” he said. “I am nothing other than Cuban.”

“Do you think that will be possible?” the interviewer asked about a visit to Havana.

“No,” he said. “I think I will die without returning to Cuba.”

I am glad to have the information supplied in the Post obit. But I would like to spend a moment on the tone of that obit. In its first sentence, the obit says that Montaner was “a fierce opponent of the island’s communist ruler.”

Yes, I suppose Montaner was a “fierce” opponent of Fidel Castro. A fierce opponent of dictatorship, of totalitarianism. What is an un-fierce one? Someone who objects to dictatorship only mildly?

The first sentence also says that Montaner was “a polarizing figure across Latin America with harsh critiques of politics and culture.”

He was polarizing, I suppose. Dictatorships have detractors and defenders, both. Anyone who takes a stand will “polarize,” you could say. And “harsh critiques”? I would say those critiques were truthful.

Let me ask: Were critiques of apartheid South Africa harsh? They were, and rightly.

The Post’s obit says, “Nearly all Mr. Montaner’s works blasted Cuba’s regime and predicted its demise.” “Blasted”? Okay. I suppose I blast dictatorships in Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, North Korea, and elsewhere every day.

Another sentence: “He often struck a hectoring tone that resonated with hard-line Cuban exiles but drew criticism from others as stuck in Cold War-era simplicity.”

“A hectoring tone.” It’s as though Montaner had scolded neighbors for playing their music too loud. “Cold War-era simplicity.” Would that be the conviction that one-party police states are bad and democracies good?

Let me ask again: Were critics of apartheid South Africa hectoring? Also, were they stuck in simplicity? Equal rights and all that kindergarten stuff?

“In 1999’s ‘Viaje al Corazón de Cuba,’” the Post’s obit says, “Mr. Montaner tried to delve into the mind of his arch-nemesis. Castro is portrayed as a narcissistic overlord who cares for nothing but power.”

Sounds like an accurate portrayal to me. But focus on “arch-nemesis.” That sounds like something out of a comic book — unserious. Castro spent a career imprisoning, torturing, and killing his opponents. He caused millions to seek exile. His forces often shot people in the water as they tried to escape, on rafts and anything else that would float.

“Arch-nemesis”?

Was Stalin the “arch-nemesis” of Anna Akhmatova? Hell, was Hitler the “arch-nemesis” of the White Rose? Would anyone ever put it that way?

The Post quotes a review of Viaje al corazón de Cuba (“Journey to the Heart of Cuba”): “Montaner’s unequivocal approval of capitalism . . . his categorical attack on communism (undifferentiated from Castroism) and his failure to acknowledge his own justifiable subjectivity call into question his overall perspicacity and reliability.”

There are many things to say about this passage. I will say only this: It would be interesting to hear the writer try to differentiate between communism and “Castroism.”

Enough — except to say, God bless Carlos Alberto Montaner. And viva Cuba libre.

• Milan Kundera was born earlier than Montaner — 1929, in Brno. When the war ended, he was 16 and on the cusp of life. Like many others, he embraced communism. Like many others, he soon dis-embraced it, so to speak. He was a highly unusual writer, and a highly gifted one. His big hit came in 1984: The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Four years later, it was made into a movie, starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

Kundera has a signature statement: “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” In 1979, he published a novel called “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.” Also associated with Kundera is that word “laughter.”

In 1967, he wrote a novel called “The Joke.” Two years later, he came out with a short-story collection titled “Laughable Loves.”

He said that he treated the most serious of subjects with “utmost lightness of form.” Any of his novels, he said, could have been titled “The Joke,” “Laughable Loves,” or “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”

Was he loved by all of his fellow Czechoslovakians, or his fellow Czechs? No. He emigrated to France in 1975. By contrast, another writer, Václav Havel, stayed. And endured prison, and became president.

But listen: People make their choices, and these choices can be exceptionally difficult in a police state. Also, people have their own natures, their own inclinations — their own destinies, if you will. Milan Kundera was not only a splendid writer. He alerted people around the world to the oppressiveness of the system that he got free of.

Milan Kundera died this week in Paris at 94.

https://www.nationalreview.com/2023/07/a-pen-for-humanity-c/

artnet news, July 12, 2023

Politics

Jailed Artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara Has Penned an Op-Ed Calling for Support in the ‘Just’ Fight Against the Cuban Government

Otero Alcántara is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for using “insulting symbols of the homeland” in his work.  

Taylor Dafoe,

July 12, 2023

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara in September 2019. Courtesy of the artist’s Instagram.

The imprisoned Cuban artist and activist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has penned a new op-ed pleading for international support in the grassroots fight against his homeland’s communist government.  

“On behalf of the young Cubans locked up in the island’s horrible prisons, I appeal to people of conscience around the world to support our struggle to liberate ourselves and our country,” Otero Alcántara wrote in the missive, published this week in the Miami Herald. “All we did was demand the right to choose our political future and to speak our minds.” 

“No one should have to give up their youth for such a just cause,” he concluded. 

Otero Alcántara, 34, was arrested on his way to a protest in Havana on July 11, 2021. He was held in jail until his hearing in June 2022, when he was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of contempt, public disorder, and promoting “insulting symbols of the homeland,” according to a statement released by the Cuban Attorney General’s office at the time. The announcement alluded to Otero Alcántara’s use of the Cuban flag during artistic performances. 

The same day, Grammy Award-winning rapper Maykel Castillo was slapped with a nine-year sentence for similar offenses. Both men are leading members of Cuba’s San Isidro Movement activist group. 

Among fellow artists and human rights activists, the punishments were widely seen as excessive and an example of the state’s increasing efforts to silence dissidents. Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, called the sentences a “shameful example of the human rights crisis caused by the Cuban government’s decades-long policy of repression.”

For Otero Alcántara, the sentence capped a multi-year string of punitive actions levied against him by the government.  

“They have been harassing me for years, arresting me 50 times between 2017 and 2021 and also through defamation, violation of privacy, threats, and police beatings,” he wrote. “But it wasn’t until the historic protest of 2021 that the regime decided to lock me up for a longer period of time so I could no longer communicate with my people.” 

The artist went on to describe the conditions of his imprisonment at Guanajay, a maximum-security penitentiary southwest of Havana. He said that he has been separated from other political prisoners and only allowed to go outside occasionally. “I’ve lost weight because of the scarcity of food and poor quality of meals,” he added. 

Spurred by shortages of food and medicine and the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 protests were the largest seen on the island of Cuba in nearly 20 years. Though exact figures remain unknown, human rights groups have reported that more than 1,400 demonstrators were arrested, and that at least half of them remain behind bars. (In his op-ed, Otero Alcántara puts the number of arrests at over 1,800. “Of these, 897 have been tried, and 777 remain in prison,” he wrote. “Many are minors. Some have been sentenced to up to 30 years for sedition.”) 

“Today, every young Cuban is a political prisoner. A censored artist. An exile inside and outside Cuba,” Otero Alcántara’s op-ed continued. “Even if you’re an accomplice of the system, you will inevitably be crushed like the others, because to be young is to be daring and reckless, eager to bring change to the world. It means fighting for love, dreams and utopia. But these qualities are considered crimes in Cuba, and that condemns us all to martyrdom.” 

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/luis-manuel-otero-alcantara-op-ed-2335950