Archive for the ‘Translator: Rick Schwag’ Category

Cuba Also Has Anti-immigrant Laws

December 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Not infrequently, the Cuban government has spoken out against anti-immigrant laws in developed countries. However, nobody could imagine that there are legal regulations on the island similar to SB 1070, which was passed by U.S. state of Arizona on April 23 and which authorizes state police to arrest people suspected of being an illegal immigrant.

In 2008 the National Assembly expressed its rejection of the Return Directive approved by the European Parliament, calling it a blatant and shameful violation of human rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and various international regulations. However, it lets the government punish a citizen who stays in the nation’s capital without permission.

The only difference between the U.S. state and Cuba is that, the former adopted a single legal standard, and on the island there are several: Decree 217 “Internal Immigration Regulations for Havana” of 1997, Decree No. 248, “System of Identification and Registration of Voters” and its rules, and Resolution No. 6 / 07 of the Interior Ministry, both from 2007.

The last two make it illegal for a citizen to live in a new home for more than 30 days without submitting a change of address and his entry in the Registry of Addresses. In addition they require that Cubans over the age of 16 must carry and show identification to the authorities and their agents, whenever requested.

Since 1971, the Cuban government controls the movement of citizens within the national territory, through the Population Registry and Registry of Addresses. These institutions are run by the Ministry of the Interior, a State body responsible for controlling the country’s internal and external migration, complemented by the record books kept by the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution.

For its part, Decree 217 prevents people from other provinces from residing in Havana, the capital of the country, without prior government authorization.

The regulation issued by the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers establishes a system of personal offenses punishable by fines ranging from 200 pesos to 1000 pesos in national currency, for those who violate its provisions. In every case it requires the offenders to return immediately to their place of origin

The application of this provision also violates personal freedom because the law enforcement agencies are authorized to detain, arrest and deport to their places of origin, people suspected of being an illegal in the capital. However, no criminal regulation criminalizes the stay in the capital as a crime.

There is no doubt about the hypocritical attitude of a government that defines itself as a defender of human rights and criticizes the European Union and the United States for their anti-immigrant policies, when it severely restricts its own nationals from freedom of movement within the island.

Translated by Rick Schwag

December 27 2010

Cuban Laws Destroy the Principle of Innocence

December 23, 2010 Leave a comment

“One accused is presumed innocent, as long as he has not been convicted.” The principle is regulated internationally in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but for the Cuban state it is irrelevant, despite having pledged in 1948 to respect the rights contained in it.

When it comes time to legislate, ignoring the most basic respect for the law, what matters is to apply “drastic measures and make an example of” those who dare to take advantage of the conquests of the “Socialist Revolution.” Nor do they take time to reflect on the guarantees that the constitution of the state is obliged offer.

In 2003 the Council of State, chaired by the ailing Fidel Castro, enacted Decree 232 which imposes confiscation or loss of rights, by administrative authority, on the owners of private houses or locales where acts of corruption, prostitution, pimping, human trafficking, pornography, corruption of minors, etc. occur. It also applies to owners who lease their property without legal authorization.

The application of this provision assumes that “citizens’ ownership of housing and land is the result of revolutionary work for the benefit of working people. ” It declares it unacceptable that unscrupulous people take advantage of the socialist spoils for profit and personal enrichment.

As can be seen, in these cases the Council of State authorized the Provincial Housing Department to confiscate personally owned real estate. The procedure is simple. The Prosecutor or the Ministry of the Interior is required to submit the criminal investigations to the administrative body which, after 7 days, gives the order to confiscate.

I do not question the need to “combat with major rigor and energy” these evils. However, it is unacceptable that in the suppression of this conduct they should violate human guarantees, such as the presumption of innocence. Decree 233 is applicable regardless of what is determined by a court in a criminal proceeding.

If those prosecuted under this provision are found guilty by the courts, they are doubly penalized. They lose their freedom and their possessions. If found innocent, they are punished for no reason.

In either case there is a violation of fundamental rights. The victims of this provision do not have an effective remedy before national courts for protection from administrative acts that violate their rights recognized by the State Constitution of the island, which “guarantees the ownership of housing to those who possess a fair title.”

Those affected by Decree 232 have only 3 days after the notice of the confiscation order to challenge it — through a review before the President of the National Housing Institute — but this challenge does not disrupt the exercise of the confiscation.

The Civil Procedure, Administrative and Labor Law anticipates an administrative dispute process against acts and decisions of agencies of the State Central State that violate citizens’ rights. However, the provision issued by the Council of State does not permit the appeal of the decision of the Director of the National Housing Institute, neither administratively or judicially.

The exercise of human rights in Cuba is restricted and violated by the law. Decree 232 is an example. In its application, it destroys the presumption of innocence and places the citizen in a defenseless position.

Translated by Rick Schwag

December 23 2010

Formula for Perpetuity

April 30, 2010 Leave a comment

The brothers Fidel and Raul Castro

One of the common elements that traditionally defines the concept of “a Republic” is regular turn over in the elected positions. In Cuba there are periodic elections for all positions in the State bodies. However, the “maximum leaders” of the communist and revolutionary leadership have remained in power for more than 51 years.

The Head of State is called the President of the Republic, not to be confused with the position of Prime Minister, or President of the Government. However, the Head of State could be at the same time the Head of Government. This type of Republic is said to have a system of presidential government.  This is the case in the U.S. and Chile.

In the constitutional model of the Cuban government the position of president of the Republic does not exist.  Nevertheless, as in the systems of Presidential government there is a Head of State who is, at the same time, the Head of the Government; responsibilities assumed by the President of the Councils of State and of the Ministers.

His election is the responsibility of the National Assembly of People’s Power, and is of an indirect type. Parliament, upon establishing itself as a new legislature, elects from among its deputies the members of the State Council and its leader.

The term of office of the Cuban Head of State and Government is the same as the State Council entrusted by parliament. It expires every five years when the new body takes office, following periodic elections and turnover of the National Assembly of People’s Power.

The Cuban Constitution of 1976 provides that there is a regular term of office for the position of Head of State and Government. However, in its 34 years, and six changes of the legislature, the office has been occupied by only two people. The brothers Fidel and Raul Castro.

Fidel Castro was in charge of the country’s leadership from 1959 when he came into power with the victory of the socialist revolution until July 31, 2006, when, due to an intestinal hemorrhage, he delegated provisionally power to his brother Raul, who holds power to this day.

This is because the Cuban Constitution does not limit the number of re-elections that may occur for the Cuban Head of State and Government, after completing his first term. An omission very convenient to perpetuate themselves in power.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by ricote

Corruption, Impunity and Injustice

April 7, 2010 Leave a comment

According to the most recent speech of the President of the Councils of State and of Ministers, crime and corruption in Cuba are attacking the essence of socialism. How amusing that he would say that, as he himself proposed to the Council of State that they release Juan Aníbal Escalona Reguera from his duties as Attorney General of the Republic, while rumors circulate on the street that he is involved in a corruption scandal.

No one wants to generate suspicion, but the rumors coincided with two terse official notices issued by the Council of State and published in the daily newspaper Granma, with 15 days between one and the other as if not to link them.

In the first, General Rogelio Asevedo Gonzales was removed from his position as President of The Institute of Civil Aeronautics of Cuba. The letter was cold. It did not give any reason, and simply stated that the dismissed would be assigned other work.

The notice of the removal of Escalona, also a Brigadier General and National Deputy from the Province of Pinar del Rio, was different. It explained the motives: health problems, and it also recognized his meritorious service.

On the street they say that the inequality in the treatment of the two dismissed men is due to the fact that the former Attorney General of the Republic was one of the trusted colleagues of the present Head of State and of Government.  Is he owed favors?

I was only a child, but from what is said, Escalona was the key figure for the Castro brothers to dispose of the only witness who could link them to drug smuggling: General Ochoa, shot in 1989.

That’s heavy. It doesn’t seem strange to me to try to protect him, at least we know who is grateful. Unlike his brother, who in an instant turns the canons and aims at anyone who tries to damage his image.

Nevertheless, it is unacceptable that the citizens, the same ones who chose him as their political representative, might comment that Escalona had illegal dealings with foreign firms and properties in Chile, and nothing is clarified. In Cuba we define silence with a wise proverb: silence gives consent.

Never mind that the comments are sufficient cause to investigate and in his case to initiate a process, according to the law of forfeiture of public office, for engaging in acts which are unworthy of public opinion, and displaying conduct incompatible with the honor of being a representative of the people in an organ of the People’s Power.

But in the end, in their capacity of historic leadership, they don’t need to prove anything, nor be held accountable for their actions.  Similarly, the Council of State has the power to decide whether or not to initiate a recall process against a political representative of the Cuban parliament.

Raúl Castro insists that the governed reject “the crimes and diverse manifestations of corruption,” when he, protected by his status as maximum representative of the government, protects from prosecution the members of his cabinet who enriched themselves with impunity at the expense of the sweat of the majority.  Is that not, perhaps, a double standard?

Translated by: Ricote

A Ride on the P Line

April 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Solidarity is a term which is commonly used to describe the Cuban people.  However, that perception is lost when you climb aboard a public transport bus.  Yes, a Metrobus from P-1 to P-16, including the P-C.  One does not have to be a deep observer to notice that sensitivity and manners have been lost.

The first thing you’ll notice is an overwhelming mass of people trying to get on or off the bus without paying attention to the pregnant or the elderly.   A man looks through the window to the opposite side of the street in order to avoid making eye contact with a woman who is standing next to him with a child in her arms.

A father tells his adolescent son to hurry and sit down in a vacant seat where an old lady is about to sit.  Someone gets bothered when a handicapped person asks if they would be so kind to give up their seat.

The driver accelerates while taking a curve as if he were transporting livestock.  This causes an argument among the passengers because someone did not hold on well enough and fell on top of someone else.  Fights also usually arise as result of someone stepping on someone else’s toes, or pushing.

Sometimes the driver intervenes in these fights.  Often, the bus stops away from the bus stop. Beastly blows above the doors is the immediate response. Other times there are even challenges, between aggressive behavior and actual threats of a fist fight.

On the P line, as these new mass transit buses are called, you must carefully guard your wallets, bags, chains, wristbands, or watches.  It is very probable that you will not even notice if you lose them.

If you are a woman and find yourself in the middle of this tumult,  make sure you don’t get bothered if you feel the touch of “something.”  The situation is bad, they will quickly tell you to go take a taxi.  In sum, a ride aboard the P line is just like watching a Saturday movie: adult language, violence, and sex.

But be careful!  Don’t make any snap judgments.   It is logical that, pretending or truthfully, a profound sleep will overcome you after waking up at 6 in the morning.  Making the trip of an hour while standing the whole way and all cramped up among so many people, or even having to take various “P’s” just to make it to work.

You get frustrated when they step on a callous on your foot, while you are thinking that you have nothing to cook at home, or if there is no soap to shower.  It really puts you in a bad mood, knowing that you do not have enough money to replace your child’s broken shoes so he could go to school.

The sea of problems that Cubans confront in their daily lives slowly leads them to a state of decadence.  It is an irony that citizens of this country, which does more for the poor of the world, a country free of illiteracy, must itself return to barbarism.   It’s like going from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by Raul G with a little tinkering by ricote and Hank

Russian Roulette

April 3, 2010 Leave a comment

It is Mayra’s first day in the streets.  All of her family is home.  There is much joy, but the atmosphere is different.  She looks at her parents, and now they no longer get upset when their 11-year-old son attempts to make her laugh with jokes that make fun of the invincible commander and his “glorious Socialist Revolution.”  She is surprised; her mother, with her back to her, laughs at the jokes of her kid.

Now she was sure; something had changed.  Previously, they constantly watched over their vocabulary.  Under no circumstances would they let him bad mouth the Revolution.  Annoyed, they explained to him why he should be eternally grateful to the Revolution:  “Thanks to it you have a home, you study, you don’t have to pay anything when you’re sick.”  An echo that still resonates within her ears.

Sitting in her backyard, she breathes fresh air.  She closes her eyes and returns to her cell: Walled up windows, humid air, and the strong stench of excrement.  She rapidly blinks and feels relieved.  Yes, things have changed.  She has her parents in front of her, and now they complain, almost in a whisper, about how bad things are.  They count, one by one, the pennies in a freely convertible currency to see if they have enough to buy a 16 oz. bottle of oil.

Mom, 65-years-old, is much fatter.  She no longer fits in the chair that she has in front of the sewing machine.  She now dedicates herself to mending and sewing clothing for people on the street.  Dad is very bony and four inches shorter than he was 5 years ago.  In only two days he will turn 70.  He is retired from the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR).  He has a pension of 320 pesos [about $12] and also works as an evening watchman in a company that is located very near the house.  Every once in a while he cleans his neighbors’ yard and makes some extra money.

I see them like that and I can’t picture them supporting the Revolution, euphoric in the plaza, dreaming of a paradise in which social inequities don’t exist, nor the exploitation of man by man, believing in everything stated in the preamble of the Republic’s Constitution.  The one that they made me read a thousand times because it made us all equal.

The fanatics lost their spirit when the Special Period began.  I remember that at that time they would tell me to speak quietly when, infuriated,  I cursed the mothers of the planners of the power outages, and the planner-in-chief.   Now, they pretend to be deaf when my son tells them he is going to be a baseball player, not with the purpose of being the best, like ordinary athletes,  but in order to travel and be able to stay in any other part of the world.

This was the same dream that led me to “Doña Delicia,” a correctional facility for women.  Fifth avenue, police guards, official warnings, social dangerousness, and then 5 years in prison.  Everything happened so fast…and for being dumb! “I will not tolerate a person of such low ethics.”  If I would have given those police what they wanted to make themselves blind to what was happening, but I did not give in and I got screwed over.  Who would have imagined that I would complicate things to this extent?  Thanks to that son of a bitch woman who tried to kiss me.  Disgusting!  And by force!  No, I don’t regret it, If I were faced with the same situation again I would do exactly the same.  After all, life is a Russian Roulette.

I remember my dad’s face during the trial, the same face he wore when my mother pleaded for him to make peace with his brother, a 1980’s “Marielito.” We were dying of hunger, but my father, not even by force, would give up his pride.  That is until mom became sick, diagnosed with optical neuritis and we almost lost her.  Now, with much pleasure, he receives aid that comes from the exterior, from Miami, “the nest of the worms”.  How funny!  When I left, he was president of the Committee of Defense of the Revolution (CDR), and just a few days ago he resigned.  And now the letter of invitation to visit his family in the belly of the beast has arrived.

Life turns and turns.  I ask myself what would have become of me if I hadn’t become a prostitute.  Perhaps I would have become a drunkard.  Either way, I learned that it doesn’t matter which path you take, if you’re after an unlikely dream.  I only wanted to break away from all this shit, and look at me here, submerged to the depths in all of it.  That’s why I understand my parents, their silence, their sadness.

It’s not easy to recognize after so many sacrifices: the harvest of the 10 millions, the voluntary work, standing guard, having to pay for the cost of the Territorial Militia Troops (MTT), the CDR, the Cuban Women’s Federation (FMC), acts, meetings, marches, slogans, statistics about the lives and labor of others; we are worse off now than when everything began in 1959.  It’s not easy to accept that after 51 years of socialism, the things that were promised – the perfect place to raise your kids – has been less than an unreachable dream, it has been a lie.

Mayra closes her eyes once more, her loose hair tickles as it dances in the wind.  She softly passes her hand by the back of her neck and she feels the star tattooed on her neck, she sighs and looks around to see if someone is looking at her.  She dries her eyes, she has no other choice, she is the hostess, she must attend to her family.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by Raul G. with a little tinkering by ricote