Saturday, December 15, 2007

Literary Interlude: Home Thoughts by Carl Sandburg

How about a melancholy romantic poem for this week?  
Home Thoughts

The sea rocks have a green moss.
The pine rocks have red berries.
I have memories of you.
Speak to me of the drag on your heart,
The iron drag of the long days.

I know hours empty as a beggar's tin cup on a rainy day,
empty as a soldier's sleeve with an arm lost.

Speak to me...

Friday, December 14, 2007


This poster is making the rounds. Let's shame these fine specimens of humanity. A horse-whipping would not come amiss, either. For a readable version, click on the thumbnail, go to Babalublog or Cuba Watch.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Call to Unity by Dissidents

From Cubaencuentro, known dissident, Marta Beatriz Roque, has called for a "United Front" among dissident groups. According to the article, her reasoning is thus:

...the announcement [that the regime is going to sign to allow human rights monitoring in a year] is a change in "tactics" by which "the dictatorship is trying to stall for time, doing this or that to distract the world and using new methods of disinformation."

If they've changed their tactics, so should the dissidency, she posits. They should work to form a concerted internal opposition. She also asks for continued support from the exile and international community, the one constant in all opposition communications from the island.

The full text of the letter, co-authored with Antuñez, is accesible in Spanish through Penultimos Dias, one of my daily stops. It seems they advocate spending the next year informing the Cuban public and then trying to march en masse so as to avoid the goon squads.

What has to be a thought, not only for Roque but for others, is that for what seems to be the first time- in a context other than being arrested or rounded up- the opposition garnered international press coverage. I have to wonder how many more marchers would have tipped the balance, making them the lead-in in MSM coverage.

Then there's this on La Nueva Cuba. It seems the names we all know- Paya, Roque, Elizardo Sanchez, and more- were all in attendance at the US Interests Section Chief's home to commemorate Human Rights Day. The gathering seems to have taken place on the 12th(?). A name I did not note was Darsi Ferrer's. A significant omission, one would think.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


After the events in Havana on Monday, much armchair quarterbacking has been done. And rightly so. It would seem that too much was risked for too little gain. Dissidents did not seize the moment. Their only hope would have been in numbers. Alas, numbers they did not have. The fractured groups have not learned that in unity is strength. Because although we in the C/CA blogosphere followed the march, any number of small observances were held.

That written, I am not on the island. It is not my life and well-being in jeopardy. I have not lived my life gaming the system. I do not know what constitutes a victory. So I take my cue from them. If they feel some small measure of protection from international publicity, I will do what I can to make their plight known. They are in a position to know best.

Still, they may wish to rethink their strategy. What if, as someone suggested in a column, they had ambush demonstrations, a low tech flash mob? The locale could be a closely held secret until the last minute. Passersby and park goers could turn into marchers. They could infiltrate the mobs sent to harass them. In my dream scenario, they would ambush that one obnoxious specimen of humanity who appears in all the pictures. But I'm getting a bit physical here. Smaller gestures, safer, but more widespread could be an option. I suppose all sorts of variants are possible.

Credit Where Credit is Due

Take a look, these young ladies, mostly from Spain, who joined the ladies in white, are the heroines of this weekend, along with Manuel Benito del Valle Ruiz, a Spaniard who undertook the gauntlet/march with Dr. Ferrer on Monday. The true heroes are, of course, the Cuban men and women who take their lives into their own hands and face down a brutal regime. But for the first time I can remember, instead of reposing on their lounge chairs, sipping mojitos, or attempting to make a buck off the backs of the oppressed masses, foreign nationals have stood in solidarity with the Cuban people. Although the potential repercussions they faced were considerably less than those of the Cuban nationals involved, excepting the beating Manuel took, their actions took courage. And I applaud them for it.
A number of thoughts arise. Out of all of the millions around the world who have visited the island, these are the only tres gatos who gave a damn about the people? What if all those wonderful social justice types stopped serving as shills for the regime, what if the scales fell from their eyes? What if Pastors for Peace stood in solidarity with the Cuban people and not with their oppressors? Can you imagine if the do-good wing of activists were unleashed? Where were those who willingly served as human shields for Saddam? Why was there no cordon of well-meaning peace lovers interposing their bodies between the faux mob and Darsi?
*Pardon the line, but blogger is deconstructing itself as it periodically does.

State of the Union: Dismal

And I'm not talking politics here. I've posted before on my bete noire-the boomers- and the America they have wrought. This morning, I woke up to the news that smoking is banned on all Sarasota beaches. So now they will write $97.00 tickets to normally lawabiding citizens, while addressing none of the social ills in this town. You see, modern morality consists of not smoking, wearing your seat belts, and getting flu shots for your children. Any violation of the same is now pursued with the same zeal once reserved by the Puritan fathers for adulteresses.

So it is with real appreciation, I've come across conservative columnists who are feeling the same thing about a world gone horribly astray. Each has a different perspective and a different aim in writing. But read all three, and you will pick up the sense of wrongness that pervades all.

Last week, I came across Dennis Prager's column in which he feels the boomers owe the succeeding generations an apology for the world they've created. Then a week or so ago, I ran into this column by Michael Medved, which comments on the mechanism that helped create this mess, namely, the Vietnam War, and its societal consequences. Although Medved is a lot more optimistic than I am, he also sees the civic decay.

I also read this column about the problem of "selling morality to an amoral public." Here the author discusses the political ramifications of a culture where vulgarity is the norm. The columnist begins her recent experiences with current entertainment. She reminds me of a situation that came up with my mother. Recently, my mother has taken up reading again. I get her Spanish language books from the library. Not knowing any but literary types, I rely on well-know authors. Time after time, she tells me she is shocked by the frequency, graphic detail, and, shall we say, unusual nature of sex acts. And she is no prude.

In the end, although repulsed, I will not be tainted. But what will happen to the children?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Quote of the Day

In honor of election season. Here's a quote from a former CIA man:

To my dismay, I would find that the tentacles of big oil stretch from the Caspian Sea to the White House. And to my anger, indeed to my rage, I would see how money, not lives or national security, skews so much of what takes place in the very places most charged with protecting us all.
from See No Evil by Robert Baer

You think it's the Bush White House, huh? Nope. Try the Clintons.

They've Done it Again!

As far as I can tell, there are only two things at which the regime in Havana has excelled: oppression and propaganda. Both were in evidence yesterday. The first we have been witnessing for weeks. And yesterday's pictures tell that story. Their other strong suit is reflected in the reports filed by the MSM reporters.

Weeks ago we heard of the arrangements the Capos in the capital were making to counter the march. One stratagem involved staging their own newsworthy item at the same time as the march. How successful were they? Here are some headlines. You be the judge.

The New York Times: Cuba: U.N. Rights Pacts to Be Signed
BBC News: Cuba makes human rights promise
Newsday: Cuba says it will sign civil rights accord
Reuters: Cuba to allow U.N. human rights monitoring

Each of these articles makes reference to the march. I suspect the Michael Corleone moment was impossible to ignore. Even as they made the announcement, thugs were manhandling and hectoring the protestors. The headlines, however, went to the regime.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Faces of Oppression: More from Today

top two images from Los Miquis de Miami. The last from Henry Gomez at Babalublog.

The Faces of Oppression: Today

Pictures from Penultimos Dias. Some appear in other sources.

The Faces of Oppression: Yesterday

Top: from Babalublog, Cuban soldier citing Darsi to military headquarters. Taken a few days ago.

Middle: from Babalublog, two security operatives maintaining surveillance at the Ferrer home.

Bottom: Reuters photo of group assailing the Ladies in White at their demonstration yesterday.

The Faces of Oppression

Much as we like to blame leaders like the Castros, systematic governmental oppression is impossible without the active cooperation of legions of ordinary folk. It is these armies of the night that terrorize their fellow man. For them, there is no excuse, and they will have to answer to their maker if no one else.

It is my editorial policy to refrain from using other people's pictures. In this instance I am making an exception in the interest of our shared goals. I will try to give credit where it is due.

Updated: News of the Moment

Update: Henry, who has been doing a yeoman's job of getting the word out, at Babalu has posted the phone conversation with Darsi in Spanish. Darsi hints that many others were taken up before they could reach the park. He also says that press and diplomatic representatives witnessed the events. Let's see if we hear more from that. Here for the recording.

Here is what I have been able to piece together from various sources. More as the information becomes available.

Their campaign of pre-emptive intimidation having proven successful as usual, a mere dozen or so dissidents made it to the park in Havana this morning. They were accosted and were advised that they would be killed if they entered. A Spaniard who was with Darsi Ferrer and the demonstrators was encouraged to leave and later whisked away. Word has reached the states that they were then beaten by a group of 200 or so armed with clubs and crow bars. This is the ugly face of tyranny. The next post will include more of these.

Read accounts in English at The Real Cuba here.
And in Spanish at Penultimos Dias here.
Babalublog is working on getting audio from Dr. Ferrer. Check here.

From The Real Cuba

A quote from Dr. Darsi Ferrer in a post on The Real Cuba today:

"My home is surrounded by state security security forces. The entire neighborhood has been under siege since Saturday.

Our neighbors, who sympathize with the cause of a free Cuba and are concerned for out safety, have helped identify several of the officer who are participating in this operation.
The headquarter for the state security officers has been set up about three blocks from our house. There are abut 4 dozen officers in there.

Neighbors have also reported that they have seen trucks carrying troops of the so called "special forces" wearing camouflage uniforms and others with soldiers wearing civilian clothes.

This is the situation we are facing. We are determined to exercise our rights no matter what happens.

May God bless our nation. Dr. Darsi Ferrer"

Latest Info from Cuba

10 Dissidents picked up yesterday, including Antuñez, who released earlier this year from 17 years in prison has continued his activities and has been hauled in on a number of occasions- including Dec.6 when he was beaten, held for 8 hours, and released. This time he was arrested as he was leaving the demonstration held by the ladies in white.

Speaking of the ladies in white. They were joined yesterday by about 15 young European women, mainly Spanish tourists. Today, word comes that immigration officials were waiting for them when they arrived back at their hotel. They were taken away and could be deported today. For the story, including why the ladies in white march, read here.

In addition to preemptive arrests, the figure has to approach a hundred if not surpass it, word is that the homes of known dissidents have been surrounded by groups of as many as 50 thugs to prevent them from attending the march.

More as I come across it.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


AP article via The Baltimore Sun. They're at it again. This gushing article about the largesse of Cuban authorities in including American films, a number of "experimental" films and a couple of films by Hollywood types, in their film festival has to be deliberately cynical. The two films highlighted in the article are the Man of Two Havanas about Max Lesnick and Redacted. For the uninitiated, Lesnick has been much vilified in the exile community and a film about him would be a natural fit for the regime types. And Redacted, which casts American soldiers as rapists and murderers, well, I'm not going to get started on that one.

In the "I can't believe they could be this disingenuous" department, the article would have us believe that it is the US that limits films going to Cuba.

But the U.S. government makes it difficult for American directors to present their work on the island.

Sure it does, since the Cuban government doesn't limit all forms of media access. Gee, so that's why Andy Garcia's The Lost City hasn't played in Cuba! It's those Americans again.

Tell Everyone You Know and Update X's 2

IMPORTANT: Reminder, if you are going to send to anyone involved in any way in any country in opposition to the Cuban regime, make sure to use the blind copy feature in your e-mail. Otherwise everyone's address will appear.

Update: It works. I'm already getting positive responses back.

Below is a copy of an email I sent to everyone in my address book. I would ask that my readers do the same, as far as they feel comfortable doing, that is. I get untold bad jokes and cutesy articles daily in my inbox. Let's give them something else to read. Copy mine or write your own. I think it is particularly important to get the word out to our American friends.

Tomorrow, December 10, 2007, dissidents in Cuba will attempt a peaceful march to commemorate the anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights and protest silently the apartheid system under which they live. I use the term "attempt" because the regime has released a wave of intimidation to forestall the march since November 21. Dr. Darsi Ferrer, who has called for the protest, has been threatened with death by an official of the state. When the threat failed to intimidate him, he was summoned to military headquarters an hour before the event. The regime has also put in place measures to make sure that no one can reach the venue.
I ask your prayers for those who will attempt it. I also ask that you spread the word among your acquaintances. The greatest protection dissidents have is notice of the international community.

Sunday Snippets: Odds of Ends

Memoirs of a Geisha? Reuters article on the disappearing world of the Geisha feautres Kokin, the world's oldest at 98, who reminisces about the glory days and laments the passing of her world. Geishas, it seems have fallen on hard times, forced lift their exclusivity and (shudder) perform for tourists. Karaoke?

The Name of the Continent. Library of Congress is displaying the 1507 Waldseemuller map that labeled the continent America. Seems a later version of the same map, omitted the name. In another map by the same monk, created in 1516, North America is labeled "Terra de Cuba."
Read it here.

Pride and Prejudice. The New York Times got around to reviewing The Boys from Dolores by Patrick Symmes. Guy Martin gets it right in the main about the tome, although the heavy insistence on privilege is a bit superfluous. And we weren't "gallegos," as he maintains, despite having been descended from them. Remember, you read about it here first! Now you can read about it there.

Gone with the Beards. A write-up of the "Masterpieces of Cuban Painting" exhibit in Daytona. Laura Stewart's take seems to be that its scale, both physical and emotional- she uses the word bombastic to describe a painting- conveys a "mythic" Cuba. Of course, that means I'll probably like it just fine. She makes me want to undertake the five hour car ride to see it.
Read it here.

Oh, and here are this morning's headlines about Cuba:

"Cuba allows foreign firms to pay in hard currency" from Reuters. Isn't that nice? The regime is now going to allow Cubans to get paid in something other than the near worthless currency the rest of Cuba has to use. Before you get all weepy at their munificence, they are doing it so they can tax the earnings. No word on whether the employees can now be paid directly or whether the powers that be are still going to absorb 80% or so of the same salaries.

"Cuba apologizes for police raid on Catholic church," another entry from Reuters. They said they were sorry to the church. Still awaiting an apology are the twenty plus, not seven as the report indicates, dissidents who were pepper sprayed, beaten, and hauled off.