Auto Determination…

In the midnight hours of this past 18th of March, the common prisoner Alexander Orrelis Soto ended his own life, according to sources close to the deceased. The sources also added that the suicide occured in Detachment 1 of the provincial prison of Canaleta in Ciego de Avila. Orrelis Soto wrote an abundance of letters to his family members before slicing his own veins and choking himself, assuring himself that it was out of pure personal determination, excluding any relative from responsibility. It became known that Orrelis Soto had been in captivity for many years residing in the northern municipality of Moron.

As soon as news of the suicide spread, high ranking soldiers from the Ministry of the Interior of Ciego de Avila and penal officers began to show up at the scene of the self-mutilation. In conclusion, the exact reasons for the victim to take his own life are still unknown.

On the other hand, I must point out that during this past January the blind prisoner, Raudel Gonzalez Prieto, also comitted suicide, as well as two other prisoners, Miguel Chaviano Rodriguez and Eduardo Luna Baez, whom in less than a year took the same path of auto determination to put an end to their personal problems.


We All Have the Obligation to Respond to Cuba

“My daughter has a Yuma”, says one prisoner to another. Phrases such as this one began to be heard throughout the Largest of the Antilles after the collapse of the socialist camp in Eastern Europe. The authorities never foresaw the historic reality of a system that excludes by nature. The minds of the creators of socialism and/or communism, or however one may call it, were filled with the desire to perpetuate themselves in power even if that meant sacrificing fundamental human freedoms.

The former Soviet Union disintegrated and, over night, ceased being a world power and became a cardboard tiger. Even the most minimal breeze managed to dissipate the hopes of those inconditional dreamers of Moscow. This situation of a new geo-political world brought irreversible consequences for Cuban society. Being accustomed to receive goods from nearly all the countries belonging to CAME (Council of Mutual Economic Assistance) Cubans now lived, what I considered, a true special period.

Now, as I analyze the recent events, I can’t assure that the times of socialist bonanza are back. Also, I don’t consider the past two decades of “special period”, like the authorities of Havana have stigmatized this time around. The result of what we now have is the rostrum of a governmental system that is incapable of providing the everyday Cuban with what they need.

Our society has lost values that are difficult to recuperate. It’s no secret that young people would rather marry a foreigner than receive an ID admitting them into the Union of Young Communists. Incredibly, in the same light, the youth would rather risk death in the turbulent waters in the Florida Straits aboard a raft or a sophisticated life-boat, ready for the dangerous and degrading human treatment, upon confronting the political aparatus with their mind-police, like a colleague and brother in cause of mine, Miguel Galvan Gutierrez, says.

It is certain that with the advent of the new millenium, Cuban society has become conscient of its cruel reality. Many Cubans have lost their fear, and through pain, little by little, have joined the dissidence. Even though the numbers of independent journalists, independent librarians, and human rights activists are still inferior to those of the soldiers inside the Cuban Communist Party, but when it comes time to analyze the situation, even the most mediocre of human beings can comprehend the urgent necessity of changing the current situation for a more viable style of life during these current times.

I am a believer that the problem of Cuba belongs to us and we should be the ones to resolve them, but we can’t forget the famous and sad South Africa of Nelson Mandela. Thanks to the international community that apartheid is nothing more than a cadaver of history.

The worse and saddest part of today is the status quo of political prisoners. We live under extremely difficult conditions. The recent death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo due to a prolonged hunger strike, strongly calls the attention of the world. But even sadder has been the government’s attitude of trying to rob political prisoners of their merits. The Cuban Minister of Exterior Relations, Bruno Rodriguez Parrila, gave a rhetorical discourse in the Council of Human Rights in the United Nations where he tried to make the international community believe that twisted diatribe towards those political prisoners and the dissidence in general.

During these very moments, in addition to the ‘free’ independent journalist Guillermo Farinas (whom has been on hunger strike for many days, demanding the release of critically ill prisoners), there are various political prisoners on hunger strike.

The European Union and the United States are awaiting a gesture of good-will on behalf of that nomenclature that is in power, but Havana remains immovable towards its political adversaries, ignoring that all of us, each and every single one of us, have the obligation to respond to Cuba despite any diverging view-points.

Pablo Pacheco Avila, prisoner of conscience

Baseball and Electricity

The current Cuban National Baseball series will go down in history due to its peculiar development and surprising performances on behalf of teams like Cienfuegos and Guantanamo who, thanks to the results, made it into the post-series season. The authorities of “balls and strikes” decided to carry out all games during daytime hours, with only one match taking place at night with the purpose of conserving energy, in a country where the people can never imagine what the next sacrifice demanded by those in power will be.

I dedicate this commentary to the baseball fans of Detachment 3, Galley 43, in the provincial prison of Canaleta in Ciego de Avila, especially to a fan who from the very commencement of the play-offs has defiantly announced that his favorite team, the Industrials, would defeat the best team of all season: Sancti Spiritus. Rene Valle Ibarra, or Bimbo as he is commonly referred to, is an Industrial man by excellence and has never doubted the blue-ness of the capital, demonstrating that despite injuries, deceptions, and desertations, the team continues being the favorite within the courtyard.

Perhaps the passion for the game has removed me from the original idea. Fans of this national sport ask themselves, time and time again, how is it possible that the Giants of El Cerro could not offer a single evening game with the excuse of having lighting problems? In reality, I perceive more human misery than any other desires to conserve energy. We must remember that Latin-America has been the venue for many international events, from Central America to other corners of the world. Only some Olympic games have ceased happening here for obvious reasons.

In Cuba, to talk about the Giant of the capital, saving the distances, of course, is like talking about Yankee stadium in New York, Santiago Bernabeo of Madrid, or the Brazilian Maracana. I don’t doubt that it is possible that the next baseball season will result in being frustrating for fans, and I’m not referring to the team with most wins, but to the obligated gesture of the authorities the country towards the game which we consider our national sport. We wish to delight ourselves with an evening match between the blue ones and those difficult ones from Santiago.

While I write these lines, those from the capital and their neighbors in Havana await the outcomes of the latest classifications for the Western zones. Ciego de Avila repeats last year’s performance as they dispute over the pennant of Oriente. During these days, Cuba practically freezes and we all anxiously await the new baseball champion. As always and respecting the concept of impartiality, I wish the best would win, exhorting the government to resolve the electricity conflict that plagues our Latin America.

Pablo Pacheco Avila, prisoner of conscience

Damn, Lula, I Think You Got a Little Out of Hand

The Cuban apostle Jose Marti wrote a letter to Jose Arturo Ulla on September 6, 1883, which stated: “political differences amongst courteous and loyal men do not give them the right to invent, indiscreetly administer, and/or voluntarily publish false news”. With any kind of paternalism aside, I consider Marti to have been one of the greatest thinkers in all America, for his political vision  transcended all eras.

I have chatted with my friend and brother in the cause Oscar Espinosa Chepe. As always, he has kept me up-to-date with the latest news regarding Cuba and the world. For emotional reasons, I felt that my blood pressure skyrocketed to dangerous levels, but thanks to Captopril my body returned to its normal state.

My pressure shot up when he read me the latest statements made by the Brazilian president Luis Ignacio “Lula” da Silva. In all honesty, I consider him to be one of the most talented politicians in all America — a born optimist, and aware of all the responsibility his country has deposited in him.

Damn, Lula, I think you got a little out of hand! The fact that you admire and support a system that enslaves even its own supporters is normal, you have the right to formulate your own opinions without judgment, but we must remember that “it is not the same to play it on a guitar as on a violin”. I have never protested the fact that Lula visit Havana and even that he refuses to meet, because of evident pressures, with members of the peaceful opposition. The truth is that he has the right to choose his own method of carrying out his work. But now, a question without judgment: What motive has an indissoluble part of Cuban society given that he has compared us to the jailed bandits that reside in Sao Paolo?

It is crucial that Lula understand that the crime committed by us, the political prisoners of conscience, has been to love our country above and beyond any form of ideology or governing system. I am convinced that after analyzing this precept the South American giant would also be considered a criminal.

The hollow words spoken by the dignitary are very lamentable; it’s like discrediting the values of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a martyr only 42 years of age, or those of Guillermo Farinas Hernandez, an independent journalist who is currently on hunger strike demanding freedom for all the prisoners of conscience, especially those who are in critical health conditions. Besides, their state of health is precarious.

Some friends have commented to me that other men have decided to go on hunger strikes of their own, following in the steps of Guillermo Farinas Hernandez, if he ends up dying. In fact, it is very possible that we, those jailed for 7 years since the Black Spring of 2003, will also join in the hunger strikes. I also don’t doubt that the nomenklatura that is in power will let us all die.

Today I have learned a lesson: power erodes the human conscience, to the point of humans becoming slaves to their own ideologies. Others end up worse, for they end up being orphans from themselves. I respect Lula for what he represents although I am now distant from believing in him as I once did, especially when it came to the matters of external politics. But it doesn’t matter, Jesus Christ also suffered deceptions. And I cannot finalize this entry without once again making reference to words written by Jose Marti: “Even in slander there is some sort of beauty and it is that of martyrdom of the noble man determined to fight for the good of his country upon challenging it.”

Pablo Pacheco Avila, prisoner of conscience.