The text below is a description of the wave of arrests and repression carried out by Cuban state security agencies, against freedom activists who tried to hold an event on December 31st, in which people could openly speak in Havana´s main Plaza for ONE MINUTE about their hopes for Cuba, if the US established relations with the dictatorial regime run by the Castro family since 1959.
I´m posting this because I¨m getting questions about travel to Cuba and what my reaction is to Obama´s initiative.
Below, at the very bottom, you can read a bit about what I wrote in an email to a prospective tourist. But first I want to quote from a newspaper to make sure you get an idea of what happened on December 30th in Havana which prompted Tania´s arrest and Yoani´s note.
This is from the LA Times:
Tania Bruguera speaks at Occupy Boston
Artist Tania Bruguera detained in Cuba before performance, family says
Cuban performance artist Tania Bruguera1 was detained by authorities in Havana before a controversial planned performance, according to the artist's sister. The piece was to consist of installing a podium and an open microphone in Havana's Revolution Square, allowing any interested individuals the opportunity to speak their minds for exactly one minute.
Deborah Bruguera, who lives in Italy and in the past has helped her sister manage her studio, issued a series of statements via her Facebook page stating that law enforcement officials were seen taking Tania Bruguera from their mother's home in Havana on Tuesday morning and that the artist had not been seen or heard from since.
"I'm making an urgent call to the national and international community to pressure the Cuban government to give us information on her location and condition," Deborah Bruguera wrote in one post.
Neither news agencies nor the Cuban authorities have confirmed the artist's arrest. But the arrest of three well-known dissidents in advance of the performance has been reported by various news outlets, including the New York Times, NPR and the Guardian.
"I was able to speak with my mother [in Cuba]," Deborah told me via telephone from her home in Italy on Tuesday evening. "Two policemen and one military officer started banging on the door at about five in the morning. They banged on the door for five hours, until Tania finally decided to open the door. That's when they took her. They said they were going to take her to chat for an hour, that they would be back soon. ... But it's been many hours and my mother is very worried."
Tania, a Cuban national who divides her time between Cuba, the U.S. and Europe, is an established performance artist whose politically minded actions and installations have been shown at the Venice Biennale and the Tate Modern in London. In 2011, in collaboration with the Queens Museum of Art in New York and the arts nonprofit Creative Time, she helped organize Immigrant Movement International, a long-term project intended to support immigrant communities around the world and examine some of the issues and challenges they face.
Here´s Yoani´s post about Tania´s and other arrests in Cuba:
On the eve of December 30 I talked with Tania Bruguera who, hoarse and exhausted, already felt the cage closing around her. All the signs pointed to their not allowing her to even reach the Plaza and the political police unleashing a wave of repression against those who wanted to accompany her. I ventured to describe three possible scenarios she might face: that they would not let her leave her home, or would arrest her; that they would let her get to the plaza which would be taken over by a last-minute popular festival with cheap beer, parades and loud music; that they would let her stage Tatlin’s Whisper, but fill the time at the microphone with voices shouting official slogans. There was no way to add to these variables one that would conclude with a chorus of plurality and tolerance making itself heard in front of the statue of José Martí.
In that conversation I told her that “The performance is already done; the artistic action achieved,” because with her project Bruguera had unveiled the framework of censorship, cultural cowardice and repression that immobilizes Cuban life. Many of her artist friends had declined to accompany her, some acquaintances had called on her to concede and move Tatlin’s Whisper to the interior some institution and others, more committed, had warned her that there was a plan to “abduct her from the Plaza.” From the early hours of the morning the macabre dance of arrests and intimidation began.
Ladies in White2, activists, journalists and dissidents were jailed or blocked from leaving their homes.
Ladies in White at a small protest in Havana
(these women suffer a lot of abuse and
indignities when they protest the arrest of their
relatives by the Castro family dictatorship)
Many communicators had their cellphones cut off, text messaging cancelled and access to the government-operated Nauta email system restricted. In a whisper, information about what was happening began to surface. The 14ymedio team suffered a hard blow, with two reporters and a contributing writer arrested and our press office under a police operation for hours. The list of the jailed was growing and as communications began to work again we started calling each other to keep ourselves up-to-date.
But the whisper turned into Tatlin’s cry. One that is now heard through the phone lines, on Twitter, outside the police stations, where family members demand to spend the last day of the year with their loved ones. There is no microphone, no white dove, no one minute of freedom, but rather long hours of suffering and uncertainty.
Tania, among all the scenarios we projected, we missed this one. You in jail and from there, dressed in the gray uniform of an inmate, you performed the most devastating and unforgettable of all your artistic actions. The Plaza is today in each one of us.
And my closing thoughts, on tourist travel to Cuba:
The prisoner exchange was fine, so is opening diplomatic relations. But, AT THIS TIME, I don´t think it makes sense for Obama to propose changes to the ECONOMIC SANCTIONS (which the dictatorship calls "BLOQUEO")….
But what do we know at this time? The dictatorship seems to be moving into a mix of North Korea and China. They are grooming Alejandro Castro, Raul´s son, who is the coordinator of the State Security Services and a senior level military type, to replace Raul. He would become the THIRD Castro to rule Cuba with an iron hand in almost six decades. What we are facing is an hereditary neo fascist communistoid dictatorship with the potential to abuse people for a century.
To cover up what´s going on Raul Castro put an engineer with a technocrat background, Diaz Canel, as "Vice President", but he´s more of an executor of day to day management (sort of like a glorified city manager).
The real decisions are made by an ALL MILITARY, ALL MALE Junta which includes Alejandro Castro, Raul Castro, Ramiro Valdes (who used to be Minister of Interior and headed state security, and later became the Cuban Viceroy in Caracas), and other generals or former generals.
So, what the Cuban dictatorship aims at is to morph into something like China, with an hereditary dictatorship like North Korea.
Here´s an overview of the dictatorship´s past, so you have the background and understand where it is coming from
So, let´s say you go to Cuba. You can take the "I´m a left winger coming to see your wonderful accomplishments". Or you can go for the sexual tourism (Cuban girls are so desperate they will prostitute themselves for $5 to $10 a pop, they are called ¨jineteras¨). Or you can try to go to meet some of the people who are trying to have changes made, say Yoani herself if you are willing to risk it.
And that could land you in jail like Alan Gross. And the dictatorship knows how to run a jail which makes Guantanamo look like Club Med.
In conclusion, I don´t think a trip is worth it unless you plan to get close to people in the opposition, and this can put you in trouble. If you go to enjoy the whores and the beach then you are putting cash into an economy run by nazi like thugs. It´s your choice.
Myself, I´m advocating that Congress do NOTHING about Obama´s proposals unless the Cuban DICTATORSHIP agrees to sign up to and include in Cuban law the UN Declaration of Human Rights, linked here
I realize there are many countries violating this convention and doing deals with the USA and the European Union. And I know economic sanctions by the USA alone aren´t working very well, because Cuba can deal with the European Union, Canada, Latin America, and of course China and Russia. So maybe the key is to get the European Unions and Canada to join forces with the USA, rather than give in and pander to the Castro family and the military oligarchs who make up that ugly regime. But to pander to that monstrosity run by the Castro family is immoral, and I´ve had enough abuse by that group of gangsters which rules Havana to change my mind about their nature, or try to give them a break.
Cuba as the dictatorship wants you to see it
Why my particular focus on Cuba? Because I was born there, and I know first hand what went on and goes on. And I have had the opportunity to see what the Castro´s poster boys in Venezuela have done to that country. What they are doing to Venezuela is almost like a genocide, and nobody seems to notice, care, or do much about it. And if we allow that Cuban dictatorship to thrive they could go on and do it to more countries. They are a goddam cancer.
If everyone of us focuses on something to fight mother f········s everywhere, maybe we can get the planet cleaned up a little bit. But I´m not about to support looking the other way and applaud people who go lay in the sun on a Cuban beach, giving aid and support to something I know deserves to disappear from the face of this planet. And let´s face it, if you think, like Obama, that visits to a tourist resort in Cuba will somehow help get rid of the dictatorship, then you got a problem.
Stephen Purvi3, a UK citizen who spent 18 months
in Cuba´s famous Villa Marista jail, accused of spying
See below for more information about this case
1…Tania Bruguera (born 1968 in Havana, Cuba) is a Cuban installation and performance artist. Bruguera studied at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana and then earned an M.F.A. in performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Bruguera lives and works between Chicago and Havana. She is the founder and director of Arte de Conducta (behavior art), the first performance studies program in Latin America, which is hosted by Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana.
2…The Ladies in White, a protest movement made up of the wives and other female relatives and friends of jailed Cuban dissidents, was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament in 2005, but the group was barred by the Cuban government from leaving the country to accept it until recently.
The Stephen Purvis Case