Archive for the ‘Translator: Raul G.’ Category

The Smell of the Carob Tree

May 29, 2011 Leave a comment

David was found guilty of murder by the Camaguey tribunal after investigators from the Ministry of the Interior found traces of his scent on the trunk of a carob tree.

Laritza Diversent

In its sentence number 57 of March 30, 2007, the Camaguey Court sentenced Delvis David Pena Mainer to 40 years imprisonment for the assassination of a young 23-year-old man and his 17-year-old wife.  Delvis, 44 years old, declared himself innocent but the Camaguey court found him guilty through a “pile of existing proofs against him”.

According to the organ of justice, on January 27, 2005, David waited for his neighbor behind a carob tree.  When he arrived, he attacked him with brutal machete blows until he killed him.  The wife of the young man heard the desperate pleas and ran out to help him, but upon seeing the crime she turned back and ran.  Pena Mainer followed her and violently attacked her with his machete.  The young woman died of excessive loss of blood due to so many wounds.

The couple moved to the “New Times”, a locality of the municipality of the Vertientes in Camaguey.  There were rumors in the neighborhood that the young man had sexual relations with the daughter of his neighbor, David, and also with his wife.  Pena Mainer “decided to rid himself of the insult he was being subjected to, eliminating him physically”, affirmed the tribunal in their sentence.

David had undergone three operations on his spine after an accident which occurred in 1999.  In 2000, his injuries disqualified him from permanent work.  The tribunal determined that “he did not suffer from a certain illness that would impede his movement”, however, they did not comment on his ability to run after a young woman to attack her.

The body of the young man was 11 meters from the carob tree.  “The investigator shrewdly suggested that they take samples from the smell of the tree”, the court said.  David acknowledged having been there 15 days before and five days after the crime, but the tribunal said that the argument did not justify “the presence of his scent in that specific place”.

In the same fashion, the judges rejected the evidence for the defense, relating to “the canine technique applied”.  According to the court, the investigator confirmed that “the hound lost the trail” and the proof was not significant, without specifying when this was realized.

In their sentence, the court also did not expose any information about the measures which were taken to protect the scene of the crime against environmental contamination or the peoples’ curiosity.  The fact “provoked a grand commotion among the population”, according to the judge.

According to the court, the injuries found on both victims were carried out by a right-handed person, like Pena Mainer, who was also found with a sharp blade.  In the handle of the weapon there was some blood, “…although they were not able to determine to which species it corresponded”, the court added.

The judges accepted an experiment which was done on 4 different blades to prove the similarity between the chips seen by an unskilled artist, a neighbor of Pena Mainer, when he uncovered the suspected culprit days after the crime.  The witness noticed one which was broken against the head of a pig, according to expert Zurdo. The sentence does not explain with which objects the left ones were nicked.

After four years in prison, Delvis David seeks new elements to justify his innocence. He was hoping to compare blood samples found on the weapon, with DNA of the victims, but the judges ordered the blade to be delivered to the Union of Corrective Labour with Sabanilla internment  in Camagüey.

In reality, there is a low probability that his case will be reviewed by a superior court. Not after the judged from the province with the evidence ordered “the destruction and disposal” of various articles of clothing of the victims, some with “stains of hematic aspect”, spots of blood from the place of the events and two slides hanged in the carob tree where they were impregnated by its smell.

Translated by Raul G and Ivana Recmanová

May 8 2011

Freedom and Permission are not Synonymous

May 19, 2011 1 comment

The Communist Party Congress increases expectations, yet the changes announced do not imply more freedoms for Cubans.

Laritza Diversent

Cubans on and off the island are anxiously awaiting the announcement that certain prohibitions in regards to the buying and selling of houses and cars will be lifted.  However, there is an excessive amount of optimism.

According to some street commentaries, the new legislation which would allow the buying and selling of homes was already ready before the Congress, though no one dared to speak of it first, under the conditions that it would allow judicial acts, legally prohibited within the Cuban system.

There is only one premise: in 50 years of revolution, and despite the errors, the historic leadership has not resigned control.  If we try to answer some questions we will reach the conclusion that under the “Socialist Revolution” there will always be restrictions, or better said, prohibitions.

Will a Cuban be able to be the owner of his own home? Will the state resign its power of preferential acquisition?  Will those who leave the country be able to sell their goods? Will they eliminate the legal system’s administrative confiscation?

To think that the socialist State will grant the freedom to sell homes and cars is pure ingenuity.  We should only remember that in the guidelines approved by the Party they warned that they would not allow the concentration of property in the hands of private owners.

Although they may sell it as a reform, it is inevitable to see the permission to sell cars and homes as a new form of business which will eventually be controlled by the prices of the black market.  The strategy is not new.  They test it out with gradually removing products from the ration book, which are now sold at informal prices.

The economic valuation or appraisal of vehicles and houses are currently overvalued in the black market and depreciated by the State.  If the government tolerates the prices of the informal market, the taxes will increase for the transfer of property.  Without a doubt there will be earnings with the transactions which, despite the prohibitions, had been done illegally.

Meanwhile, I do not believe that the new legislative modification will repeal Law 989/61 which implements the “measures to be taken on real estate or personal property, or on any other class of value, etc. for those who abandon national territory with unforgivable disdain”.

Similarly, it’s not very likley that the National Assembly or the State Council will repeal the norms which allow the administration to judge acts which are supposedly criminal and to apply proceedings of confiscation guided by the principal of presumption of culpability and responsibility for the actions of others.

They will talk about reforms, but real changes will be very little, which is to say none at all.  There are no guarantees while the government continues to have the right to administratively confiscate and the proprietors do not have the possibility of demanding justice before the courts.  There is far too much optimism towards the announced changes made by the PCC.  Freedom and permission are not synonymous.

Translate by Raul G.

May 16 2011

The Trap of Socialist Democracy

May 19, 2011 1 comment

I attempted to keep my mouth shut during the celebration of the Congress and to analyze the event with a positive mind, but I could not do it.  I can’t stand it when communists talk about democracy, where a single party exists as does the unity of power.

Theoretically the explanation of these principles is very dull, but in practice it has a very simple demonstration.  It’s enough to refer to the official reports published in the press organ of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), where the State Council, a constitutional organ which is subordinate to the Parliament, acts according to the Party’s Political Bureau.

Apparently, at the time of making decisions, multiple organs intervene.  However, with the new election of the Political Bureau, 10 of their 15 members make up the State Council.  That is called concentration of power, but communists like to call it “democratic centralism”.

Despite the fact that, in his 3 years of rule, Raul Castro dismissed political figures which were named by his older brother, 20 of the 31 members of the State Council make up the PCC’s Central Committee, and 72% of those members of the partisan body are delegates.

In fact, it is predicted that the level of agreement will increase with the next mandate of the Parliament which will begin in 2013.  In January 2012 they will celebrate the PCC’s National Conference, which aims to restructure the composition of the Party and where pre-candidates will be chosen for the next general elections to fill the State positions.

Regardless, by law, the members of parliament must approve the guidelines assigned to them by the Party through their Political Bureau.  The Constitution of 1976 acknowledges that the PCC is the “leading superior force of Cuban society and the State”.  That same acknowledgment is also found in the first article of regulations of the National Assembly.

The most worrying thing about this is the priority which the concerns of those who elect them occupy in the agendas of the rulers.  For example, Raul Castro is Chief of State and Government, while also First Secretary of the Political Bureau of the PCC’s Central Committee.  Will he have enough time to worry about the problems of the Second Front municipality in Santiago de Cuba which he represents?

Esteban Lazo was elected by Arroyo Naranjo.  Besides being a member of the State Council he is also a member of the Political Bureau and the Secretariat of the PCC’s Central Committee.  I wonder if this man knows that the territory from which he was elected is the poorest of the capital and the one with the highest rate of violence.

The partisan structure and integration coincides and confuses itself with the state level.  Under those conditions, it is not strange that the political decisions of the partisan minority, made up of nearly 800 thousand members, will be unanimously approved in the National Assembly, that organ which represent and expresses the will of more than 11 million Cubans.  It is there where the trap of socialist democracy lies.

Translated by Raul G.

May 18 2011

Cuban Press Defames; the Government Assures Impunity

May 9, 2011 1 comment

The official communication media enjoy press freedom to defend the system, to violate the rights of citizens, and to defame, because its owner — the Socialist State — offers them total impunity.

Laritza Diversent

In the period from February 26th to April 4th of this year, Cuban TV premiered 5 chapters of the “accusation series named ‘The Reasons of Cuba'”, in which analysts from State Security participated and vilified the use of new information technologies.

In an attempt to “unmask the mercenary character of the provocations caused by small groups through important testimonies and revelations”, they unmasked 6 infiltrators which were gently referred to as undercover security agents.

The Granma newspaper also played its part.  On the day following each transmission, they published reports which complemented the programs.  Both massive media outlets employed harsh classifications towards the members of civil society who use the internet as a means of expression.

The television, as much as the press, tried to justify the existence of a conflict with the North-American nation in order to keep a constant climate of threat and war which has accompanied the Cuban people for more than 50 years.

In their attempt, perhaps they did not consider the consequences.  Perhaps they did.  The terms used imply grave accusations including calling the dissidents mercenaries and terrorists. Both activities, regulated in the penal legislation, constitute crimes against State Security, with sentences which range from 5 to 20 years in prison.

For example, “Mercenary”, which is a more widely used term, can be punished by the death penalty, a practice which was supposed to be suspended as of April 28, 2008 by the Cuban government during the VI Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.

Raul Castro, in the conclusion of the partisan event, assured that the agreement from the State Council did not represent the “suppression of the capital punishment” of the penal legislation.  He also acknowledged that it was one of the weapons he had stored for use against the “true mercenary terrorists who are at the service of the empire”.

The official media used “…in accordance with the goals of the socialist society” one of the recognized rights provided by the Cuban Constitution — freedom of press and speech.  However, their directors committed various penal infractions upon allowing dissidents to be considered mercenaries and sponsors of terrorism.  Something which is extremely far from the truth.

“…No one should be subjected to degrading treatment”, as declared by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  These, and other rights like honor and personal freedom and security were violated by the official media, in their desire to discredit all actors of Cuban civil society.  In fact, these rights are protected by Cuban penal laws.

According to the Penal Code, whoever acts with a dishonorable conduct can damage their reputation through public opinion.  It also classifies as coercion those who illegitimately impede others from doing what is not prohibited by the law, or from exercising their rights.

According to the Cuban Constitution, “All citizens enjoy the same rights and are subject to the same duties”, however Cubans who suffer such attacks within the island are unprotected.

They are exposed to slander, threats, and ignorance on behalf of the authorities which supposedly should defend the socialist institution and its legality.  In fact, it is them who turn to the media to carry out arbitrary actions in exchange for total impunity.

Translated by Raul G.

May 4 2011

Old Tricks and Strategies

May 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Between the 1st and 8th of April we Cubans marked the 8th anniversary of the “Black Spring”, this time with much more emphasis because the Cuban government seeks a justification for a new wave of sentences.  The alarm went off with the 5 chapters of the documentary series “The Reasons of Cuba”, which was transmitted by Cuban TV throughout these past months.

There are some who think that it is very unlikely that the government will unleash another wave of repressive actions after it “freed” 115 political prisoners. In fact, many interpret such actions as being risky due to the international landscape. However, in the midst of insecurity and uncertainty it cannot be ruled out.

The law, their main weapon, is in full force with all its repressive power.  The authorities do not need to turn to extrajudicial procedures. Judicial orders give them the freedom to act however they wish, and their legal norms are sufficiently wide enough to be interpreted and applied towards any case.

One does not need to search through history to find examples.  Recently, the North-American, Alan Gross, was accused of committing crimes against territorial independence and integrity, just for introducing satellite connection systems into the country, and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.  Eight years ago, 57% of the group of the 75 Cuban dissidents were sentenced for the same crime the US subcontractor was accused of.

What’s certain is that the circumstances have changed, but so have the arguments.  The security apparatus, in addition to vilifying the use of new information technologies, found a new battlefield on the internet — a confrontation point with the eternal enemy of the Cuban Revolution, and another generation of dissidents — the bloggers.

In 2003, the courts claimed that the dissidents were agents of North-American politics who simply sought to sanction Cuba in the Human Rights Commission or carrying out a “humanitarian intervention, which is nothing else than an armed invasion”, by a foreign power in national territory, as recently occurred in Libya.

“There is a form of cyberwar being waged against Cuba and other countries considered to be enemies of the United States.  They are encouraging a blogosphere which, despite its claim of being ‘independent’, is totally subordinate to the interests of Washington DC”, asserted Granma, the official newspaper of the island’s Communist Party, in a special report which complimented “The Reasons of Cuba” TV series.

According to the official media, the “Cyberwar” is a “military conflict” related to the use of the internet.  “Undoubtedly, the conservative Yankee wing has started to formulate new confrontation pretexts and scenes to slander the Cuban revolution and to start an eventual military aggression”, the newspaper reassured.

The qualifying of all sort of dissent as subversive and financed by the United States, along with the vilification of all communication equipment, creates the suspicion that the government may be preparing itself to carry out a new wave of aggression against the new sector of civil society which uses these means to voice their critical posture against the system.

Behind all of this: the trial of Gross and the reports contained in “The Reasons of Cuba”, along with the Cuban security apparatus, are going after their prey — the cyberdissidents.  In their desperate attempt, they are turning to old tricks and strategies to justify not only their arbitrariness but also all that cannot be justified.

Translated by Raul G.

May 2 2011

Cuban Justice Does Not Even Trust Its Own Shadow

May 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Rafael has been sentenced to spend two years of his life in jail for the crime of rape despite the fact two DNA tests that proved his innocence. 

Laritza Diversent

Although accused of a rape crime, all the way from the prison he is being kept in, Rafael Ramos Utra proclaims his innocence after the Popular Provincial Tribunal of Las Tunas sentenced him to 20 years of prison in their Sentence No. 13 on January of 2006.

According to the sentence, Ramos Utra sexually attacked a 6-year-old minor inside her own house.  The child normally visited the family, for she was receiving dance classes from Rafael’s step-daughters, while her mother worked as a cashier in a small grocery shop nearby the house.

According to the tribunal, on March 25, 2005 in the home of Ramos Utra, the minor was tied and muzzled with two pantyhose socks by Utra, and later raped.  Rafael, 51, denies that he was alone with the girl, and even further denies that he even touched her.

Two DNA tests, carried out by the Central Criminal Laboratory of Cuba on samples of semen remaining in the young girls’ underwear, proved that he was not the culprit.  The results of the first exam showed that “there is no relation between the semen present in the child’s underwear or the blood samples taken” and the suspect Rafael Ramos Utra”.

The second test stated that “the yellowing stain on the underwear” of the minor coincided with “her own menstrual blood.” And that, “It was not possible to establish a genetic profile in the underwear because the seminal material was used up,” the second report said, prepared two months after the first.

According to the experts, the probability of finding another individual with the same genetic information is a 1 out of 15 million chance, discarding the possibility that it may belong to Rafael Ramos Utra.

Both of these exams were the first of its kind to ever be performed in the province of Las Tunas with the purpose of trying to identify a criminal.  However, the tribunal rejected both results, based on a declaration made by one of the lab experts.

They declared Ramo Utra guilty and they ordered the incineration of the underwear, which was the only available proof.  The defense sustained his innocence, based on the results submitted by the Central Criminology Laboratory of Cuba, which asserted that the underwear had semen that did not correspond to the defendant.

Ramos Utra protested for an annulment because the expert who participated in the trial was not consulted by any of the officials and the and the board of judges refused him the right to a professional test.  The defender proposed the declaration of 2 experts.  One of them carried out the first DNA test which proved that his client was innocent in regards to the sexual assault.

The Supreme Court ruled his attempt at an annulment as void and classified there being “solid proof for pressing charges”, that proof which supposedly “affirms aspects of credibility and give reason to sufficient enough knowledge to attribute penal responsibility to the accused”.

“It is not necessary to delay the process to hear the statement of another criminal expert who would change nothing in the conviction determined by the trial court, obtained from the logical and rational deduction from the abundant remainder of the evidentiary material and from which neither a state of lack of defense nor injustice was created, that would be repaired on appeal,” according to the supreme organ of justice in Cuba.

The defendant has addressed different State institutions in writing, demanding justice and his release. Despite the results of the DNA Tests, he has received more than a dozen responses, all asserting his guilt. Cuban justice dies not trust its own shadow, much less the most reliable proof that exists in the modern world, for the presumption of innocence of a person.

Translated by Raul G.

April 8 2011

Cuba: Selective and Controlled Internet Access

April 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Yordanka uses the internet to look for friends and to find ways of escaping the island.  However, she believes the arrival of the fiberoptic cable will not improve her possibility of freely accessing the web.

Laritza Diversent

“I don’t think that the cable connection will improve internet access for Cubans, and I also don’t believe that it represents more freedom in Cuba”, assures Yordanka Rodriguez.  The young 23 year old navigates the web at midnight by using her house phone line and logging in through one of the accounts belonging to a state institution.  In the online world, she tries to make new friends.

“In the internet I look for invitations or weddings.  I want to live like a person, without having to think that I’m going to get in trouble every 5 minutes.  To live like that, I have to leave here,” Rodriguez confesses.

In 1996, Cuba officially connected to the internet, and the government declared that “access to information networks with global reach will be selective and will be regulated”.  In 2000, the government established a single access point to the international network in order to control the connections of national users.

According to the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC), international software “raises the service costs and reduces reliability”.

“I have to use proxy software to access certain pages, none of which are made up of political content, because if that’s the case then I will seriously get myself in trouble,” affirms Yordanka.

One of the constant worries of the government is that the information found on the internet must be “worthy” and that all of the information which is actually allowed be “in correspondence with ethical principles and that it will not affect the interests or the security of the country”.

In 2000, the government also regulated the access of entities onto the internet as well, in order to avoid any compromise of official information.  From the very beginning, the government’s policies have been aimed at prioritizing only those “connections, lawful people, and institutions of superior relevance for life and development of the country”.

For more than a decade now, the directors of the State Central Administration Agency (OACE) ask, by way of a letter to the Ministry, authorization for certain workers to access the internet from their homes.

“Web access is solely for those who are politically committed to the system and for those who have enough money to pay all the expenses associated with it,” the young woman says.  In her own case, for the monthly payment of 150 convertible pesos (CUC), the Internet Administrator of a specific work center provides her with internet access.

“The account I use belongs to a business, which, in other words, is something illegal.  It is dial-up services, so I have to find ways that they cannot find my telephone number,” Yordanka explains.

The government also authorized the Telecommunications Company of Cuba S.A (ETECSA) to use all the necessary technological means to impede phone lines which operate with national non-convertible currency from accessing navigation systems.

These measures intend to prevent password theft, “intentional degradations, and fraudulent and unauthorized means of accessing this service”.  This was not applied, however, to the authorized phone numbers of the OACE chiefs, meaning that they can access the internet.

Despite the restrictions and the excessive control, the islanders view the internet as a means of broadening their horizons — starting from anything like leaving the country, to the promotion of certain services, and or merchandise.  “Internet offers Cubans a new life, and that’s why access to it will continue to be selective and tightly controlled”, concludes Yordanka.

Translated by Raul G.

April 30 2011