Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Danish cartoonist from a Cuban's perspective

My encounter with Kurt Westergaard was an unforgettable experience. Shaking his hand and spending over 3 hours with the man, was one of the greatest honors I have ever experienced. But for me, as a Cuban exile, it represented much more than meeting Westergaard. Through the man, I had the opportunity to materialize a 6 year old friendship with a whole country. This affair started in the streets of Toronto, Canada, with the “rally for Denmark”. Back in 2006 hell broke loose for this quiet nation when the core of liberty, freedom of speech, was duly exercised by depicting the prophet Mohammed. As Danish flags and embassies were being torched by mobs, and “Made in Denmark” products boycotted all around the Islamic world, for me and my friends at the Cuban Canadian Foundation, silence was not an option. All of a sudden Denmark was no longer that uneventful Scandinavian country, better known for its high taxes and the great storyteller Hans Christian Andersen. Denmark became the new Israel, targeted by many, supported by just a few and falling rapidly into the category of pariah state. Therefore we joined the downtown Toronto rally organized by the Canadian Coalition for Democracies to show Canada’s support. For weeks and up that point in time at the rally, the only way I found to contribute in counteracting the hit taken by Danish exports was by drinking exclusively Tuborg beer. So there we were a bunch of Quixotic Cubans in downtown Toronto, brandishing Cuban, Canadian and Danish flags, while listening to the short speeches by the rally organizers. In hindsight, we should have looked more than colourful to the TV crew covering the event, especially that news lady who approached me with a microphone and a camera. I was a bit frightened by her point-blank question: why is this important for you Cubans? I was speechless and a bit paranoid at first. Was she a Cuban intelligence agent sent to track us down? Funny as it is, we Cubans have a Pavlov like reflex developed after decades of repression and we all carry a dose of paranoia. So after a few seconds all I could basically answer was that since humanity is only one, there is only one freedom in the world. We are all less free every time an individual is coerced to make silence. That for me was so obvious and self-explanatory that I was puzzled by the simplicity of her question. And here I was now, 6 years after those events, having passed the rigorous security screening to meet the guy that triggered it all. Sporting a typical Cuban shirt (guayabera) and communicating impressively well in Spanish, Westergaard was showing us not just the kindness of Danish hospitality but also the great human being behind the cartoons. We talked about his past, his difficult present, the impact the cartoons had on the world and especially to the Danish society. But we also exchanged a few jokes. After all, jokes are all what is left for Cubans in Cuba to exert their freedom of speech and we are indeed good at making fun of ourselves. That is one of our favourite means of releasing the tension in an oppressive existence while asserting our humanity. Here is the irony: in Cuba the government throws people in jail for daring to speak their minds while most of the world either ignore it, or contributes to it by propping up the regime. Thousands have purged decades in Cuban prisons (some up to 30 years, many of which in solitary confinement), even executed for challenging the status quo. Meanwhile, this brave citizen of Denmark is protected by the law of his country and the government ensures his safety by all means. And that I guess explains the instant connexion established with Denmark by many Cubans. Nelson Taylor Sol, July 15, 2012

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Reemplazar al Cardenal Ortega. Replace Cadinal Ortega now

El desprestigio que este señor representa para el vaticano, excede los escándalos de perversión sexual que han perseguido a la iglesia católica por décadas. Su modo de tratar al pueblo de Cuba, al menos elitista, denota la misma displicencia que el régimen manifiesta hacia los opositores en particular y por extensión a todos los cubanos. Sirva esta petición para demandar la democión del Cardenal Ortega de su puesto. Que lo retiren o remplacen con cualquier otro sin tantas manchas, pues es una desgracia para Cuba y la Santa Sede contar con un vocero del régimen al frente de la iglesia en Cuba. The discredit this man poses for the Vatican exceeds the sexual scandals that have haunted the Catholic Church for decades. His way of treating common Cubans, elitist at the least, denotes an eerie resemblance with the disdain manifested by the regime towards the dissidents in particular and by extension to the rest of the Cuban population. May this petition serve to demand the demotion of Cardinal Ortega. He should be either sent for an early retirement or separated altogether from his post, as his presence represents a disgrace not only for Cuba but for the Holy See as well.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Wilmar Villar's murder

Honourable Members of Parliament,

Four days after the murder of Cuban prisoner of conscience Wilmar Villar, we would expect some kind of official statement coming from our government. Even though that would not change the fact that Canada remains the main business partner of the Castro’s clan, it would be nice to hear that the government of Canada cares about human rights and supports freedom.

Wouldn't it be great if our federal government finally take some meaningful steps to be a moral leader in the Americas? On the other hand, what good does it make for Canadian taxpayers to fund a ministry of foreign affairs packed with analysts and all sorts of experts, if these can't even persuade our leaders to publicly identify tyrants by name?

No matter how long it takes, Cuba will eventually be free. Whenever that moment comes, with it will go Cubans gratitude to those who, in faraway corners of the earth like Poland, Lithuania, Czech Republic or Hungary didn't mince words to stand up for freedom on behalf of the people of Cuba. Likewise, shame will come upon those who, despite having all the resources and opportunities, chose to remain silent.

Among the Key Objectives of Canada's Foreign Policy is the projection of Canadian values and culture in the world by promoting universal respect for human rights, the development of participatory government and stable institutions, the rule of law...Therefore, we all know how essential it is to count with strong and unequivocal voices of support when they are really needed. The time for Canada to support a free Cuba is long overdue.


Nelson Taylor Sol

Monday, March 28, 2011

Canada’s dilemma on Cuba

To be published on The Epoch Times and Canada Free Press

The recent release of Dr. Oscar Biscet and the two remaining prisoners of conscience from Cuban jails could mark a turning point in the recent history of Cuba.

Detained during the “Black Spring” of March 2003, Dr. Biscet and 74 other members of the opposition movement, were considered as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, drawing international condemnations, including a common European Union stance against Castro’s regime.

Carefully planned to decapitate Cuba’s growing opposition movement, at a time when the world’s attention was diverted to the outset of the Iraq war, the now infamous crackdown saw dozens of journalists, librarians and human rights activists rounded up, summarily tried and sentenced for up to 28 years in jail.

In Cuba, as is always the case in communist countries, the flow of information is totally controlled by the government. That is more or less the case for locally based foreign media, aware that whatever is reported to their home countries, is closely scrutinized by Cuban censors. However, this time around, the charges of “agents of the USA” on which Dr. Biscet and the rest of the activists were sentenced, somehow didn’t find the usual indifference that the cause of freedom in Cuba normally faces.

Dr. Biscet, a 49-year old medical doctor, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Prime Minister of Hungary, members of the United States Congress, members of the European Parliament, members of the British House of Lords and members of the Parliament of Canada. Their open letters to the Norwegian Committee (Canadian MP’s requested that their identities not be publicized) outlined the importance of honouring Dr. Biscet, a human rights defender of universal stature, as a way of recognizing his selfless struggle for human dignity.
Dr. Biscet’s story of opposition started earlier in the 80’s, but it wasn’t until 1997 that he really got in the nerves of the government (see for further reference) by conducting a clandestine ten month research study at the Hijas de Galicia Hospital documenting unofficial statistical data on abortion techniques. During this study, many Cuban mothers testified that their newborn babies were killed right after birth, a common practice in hospitals throughout the island. The research study "Rivanol: A Method to Destroy Life," was officially delivered to the Cuban government in June 9, 1998, along with a letter addressed to Fidel Castro accusing the Cuban National Health System of genocide. Needless to say, that was the end not only of his medical career, but also his wife’s as a nurse.
His mere nomination pulverizes the ostracism in which the regime tries to subjugate Cuban dissidents. Further from the regular beatings and the subhuman conditions suffered by Cuban prisoners of conscience, the psychological tortures inflicted upon these men and women include prolonged periods of solitary confinement, the prohibition of literature within the cells and forced separation from their families. The main goal of these tortures is breaking their spirit, and a frequent script used by interrogators and jailers goes: “while you rot in here, life continues outside; and the fact is that in the so called free world, nobody cares whether you live or die.”

By recognizing Dr. Biscet’s struggle, the opposition movement gains the legitimacy that most in the free world have exclusively granted to the regime. Through Dr. Biscet, an embrace of solidarity goes to a whole nation that up to now was accustomed to a world audience mesmerized by the charms of a despot.

Canada’s role

Canada has consistently been a major facilitator of Cuba’ regime survival ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. When it comes to liquidity contribution via trade, investment and tourism, Canada leads the world by providing the cash that the Castro family desperately needs to stay in power. This is the pattern regardless of which party gathers most of the seats in Parliament Hill.

The apparent secret covenant between Canada and the regime, which is common knowledge among human rights activists in Cuba, has also damaged Canada’s reputation internationally. A Toronto Star article published on December 17, 2010, refers that “Canada is one of several countries that has stopped pressuring Cuba on human rights to gain business favours from Havana, according to confidential U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks”.

With critical events unfolding sooner rather than later, perhaps is about time to realize that turning the back on the people of Cuba and failing to openly denounce this human tragedy will eventually backfire. Canadians should question the risks of dealing with the worst tyranny ever to take hold on the western hemisphere for two reasons:
· Its practicality if the explosive socio-economic context is considered
· The long-term moral consequence of wittingly contributing to prop up a criminal regime in the heart of the Americas.

By Nelson Taylor Sol

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cuentos de Rafael Sol Moreno (Popo)

Era aproximadamente entre las 12 y la 1 de la madrugada. Estábamos Mario Guerra, Guillermo Funes y yo arreglando una máquina propiedad de Chacho y Castillo; en eso llegó El Guardián (Argelio Domínguez), como siempre cómico y dicharachero sin saber que yo le había hecho una broma, cagándome en la puerta de su casa.

Sin saber aun lo que le esperaba nos saludó: “La gente de Titigua”, yo le contesté: “La gente del marañón”, y prosiguió: “Vengo de ver a mi novia, y me he comido allá tremendo arroz con pollo. Qué maravilla!!

Yo me dije: “te vas a cagar en tu madre cuando llegues a la casa”. Cuando fue a entrar y tropezó con la mierda se puso mulo bufando. Le dije “Marañón, qué te pasa” y me dijo: ¡que se han cagao en mi puerta y me he cubierto los pies de mierda; pero a ese cabrón lo voy a vigilar y le voy a cortar el culo con mi chaveta (él era zapatero)
Al día siguiente se me ocurrió escribir los siguientes versos:

“El Guardián y el Mojón”:
el Guardián llegó contento
y enfadado se acostó
porque un poco de excremento
en la puerta se encontró.

Cogió la escoba y furioso
ni una huella dejó
salió con rabia buscando
el culo que allí cagó.

Me voy a poner a velar
desde en casa del vecino
que si este vuelve a cagar
Oiga; le corto el fonino.

Cuando la poesía del Guardián fue leída en un acto cultural, esta provocó una ovación en el público. Un señor llamado Cecilio Salinas que tenía una venduta en el barrio, y en cuya casa las paredes de la cocina eran de saco de yute pintados con lechada de cal, me pidió que le regalara los versos para ponerlos en su venduta. Pero ya al regreso del acto cultural había hablado con el Guardián que se le había pasado la bronca, y le confesé: fui yo quien se cagó, y aquí tienes la poesía. “So cabrón yo sabía que el jodedor había sido de cerca. Pero regálamela para ponerla en la zapatería”.Es tuya, le dije, y se la entregué.
A Don Cecilio le dije que le haría una para su venduta y me inspiré:
Cecilio Salinas tiene
Una tienda, y hay tabacos
Y allá en su casa tiene
Una cocina de sacos.

En la cocina de sacos
Del gran Cecilio Salinas
Se tiran peos los gatos
Y se mean las gallinas
¿Y saben lo que pasó?: el viejo me corrió detrás con una escoba para pegarme y no paraba de insultarme. Yo era entonces un niño, y él murió de viejo peleado conmigo, jamás me perdonó.

Cuentos de Santa Rita

Por Gladys Sol Moreno.

“Mi abuelo Fengue, su sinsonte y el gato”
El era comerciante, tenía, entre otros negocios una bodega frente a la casa. A las doce en punto cerraba para almorzar.
Abuelita ponía la mesa para toda la familia, porque a esa hora mis tíos llegaban de la finca para almorzar todos juntos. Era como un ritual; hasta que abuelo no presidía la mesa nadie se sentaba.
Lo primero que él hacía diariamente era alimentar al sinsonte con unas bolitas de papa y huevos duros, todo mezclado con cierta consistencia. Mientras le introducía las bolitas le iba chiflando el Himno Nacional. Estaba orgulloso porque el pajarito ya lo cantaba hasta la primera estrofa.
Ese día abuelo llegó y lo primero que hizo fue, como siempre, ir por la comida del pájaro. Nadie hablaba, abuelita, también muda. No había ni huevos ni papas. Él no había entendido nada.
Se encaminó hacia la jaula y estaba abierta. Miró inquisitivamente a su alrededor, pero nadie se atrevía a decir ni hostias.
En eso, pasó el gato relamiéndose y con huellas de plumas en la boca.
Abuelo agarró el machete que siempre tenía afilado para sus faenas esporádicas de la finca.
Parecía que el diablo se le había metido en el cuerpo. Con una agilidad increíble a sus años, comenzó a torear (¿gatear?), hasta que agarro al felino y lo dividió en dos con el machete.

Arístides y las cucharas: (Primo hermano de mamá)
Arístides Domínguez, tenía a su esposa Nohelia Funes parida; ellos vivían en una casa muy bonita en el centro del pueblo. Había un patio central, y en el mismo medio de dicho patio estaba ubicado el pozo del cual se abastecían de agua para todo en la casa.
Como era obvio, Nohelia necesitaba mucha agua para los trajines de una recién parida: Lavar pañales, higienizar la casa, cocinar…pero en su estado, necesitaba que su esposo la ayudara sacando el líquido con el cubo y la soga halando con la rondana.
Desde bien temprano ella comenzó: “Arístides, no tengo agua”, él le contestaba con su habitual calma:”ya voy mujer”.
La misma demanda se repitió varias veces, obteniendo ella la misma respuesta.
Al medio día él se encontraba enfrascado en sus asuntos, y ella repetía sin cesar su petición.
Era de todos conocido que el señor se mandaba tremendo genio, ella mejor que nadie lo sabía, pero no tenía alternativa.
Por enésima vez le suplicó: ¿cuándo me vas a cargar el agua?
Arístides agarró el cubo, lo metió en el pozo, con otro cubo comenzó a llenar cuanta vasija Nohelia tenía en la casa. Cuando hubo de llenarlas todas, hasta las tacitas de café, agarro todas las cucharas, las puso boca arriba y las fue llenando una a una. Entre tanto. Nohelia le suplicaba llorando: “por favor, ya no empapes más la casa”.
Él sólo decía: ¿“no quieres agua?. Pues toma, hasta en las cucharas, para que no te
quejes más.

“Victoria y el boniato”
Ese día mamá había cocinado un sabroso pescado en salsa, acompañado de boniatos hervidos.
Como éramos once, ella servía directamente en cada plato una ración lo más pareja posible de la proteína, para que nadie le diera la mala a quien tuviera al lado.
Toya comenzó a atragantarse el pescado sin esperar que le sirvieran el resto. Inmediatamente los ojos se le agrandaron y por señas se hacía entender: tenía una espina clavada en el gaznate.
Mamá corrió y le daba trozos de boniato. Ella tragaba, pero la espina seguía ahí.
Cuando mi hermano Chichito vio que la fuente de viandas bajaba y…nada, le dijo a mamá con mucha exigencia:
“Pero mamá, hasta cuándo, se van a acabar los boniatos”.
Mi madre tuvo que llevar a Toya al médico, pero antes le propinó tremendo cuerazo a Chichito.

“Chichito robando…”
A mi hermano Chichito lo enloquecían los boniatos en cualquier modo que mamá los cocinara: asados fritos, hervidos, en dulce…, para él no había tregua cuando de esa dulce vianda se trataba.
Un día mamá cocinó una gran cazuela, los sacó para que se enfriaran y los puso en una gran fuente a la orilla del fogón de leña, que se encontraba ubicado cerca de una pared hecha de yaguas. Chichito pasó y le echó el ojo al bulto, se le hizo la boca agua. Acto seguido fue por detrás de la pared, abrió un hueco entre las yaguas y poco a poco se iba robando los trozos. Cuando mi madre fue a bajar de la candela el resto del almuerzo…, ya casi se habían extinguido los susodichos boniatos.
Me acuerdo como si lo estuviera viviendo. Estábamos sentados en la gran mesa de la cocina, ella se demoraba para servirnos, estaba como absorta en un pensamiento, y nosotros esperando.
De pronto unos gritos y ella restregando algo entre las brazas.
Había agarrado la mano del ladrón.
Así era como ella educaba en cuestiones de principio éticos. Después le curó la quemadura sin decirle ni esta boca es mía. Y nosotros aguantando la risa. Él, que yo recuerde, nunca más robó comida.

Friday, March 5, 2010

All these years, where has Canada been?

The immolation for the freedom of Cuba by the prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata reveals, once again, the intrinsic evil of the Castro dictatorship. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children have encountered their deaths at the hands of the regime’s repressive apparatus throughout 5 decades of communist nightmare. Several generations of Cubans have never enjoyed the most basic rights and freedoms. Nevertheless, the utter contempt toward human life by the Castro brothers has not been able to silence the voices of those who, like Orlando, prefer the physical death to the spiritual death.

The world must know that the expressions of affliction by Raúl Castro are false. In fact, the only thing that he may laments is that the tragic outcome of Orlando’s hunger strike arrived while he hosted Brazilian president Lula. So he had no choice but to face the entourage of journalists that normally accompany democratically elected presidents during foreign trips. Equally ridiculous was the image of this power usurper, mingling and shaking hands with legitimate presidents at the Summit of the Grupo de Rio, held in Mexico. By representing Cuba, Castro mocked not only the entire Cuban nation, but also the good spirit and seriousness of a summit that is pleased to welcome a satrap as one of theirs.

What Cubans want, and the world must unequivocally support, is freedom. To what extent are condolences and demands of change by Canada’s head of foreign affairs of any practical use for the oppressed Cuban people? Actually, they do not serve much when our trade, investments, tourism and political ties are one of the main factors allowing the continuation of this prolonged tragedy. The rationale behind the principled stand against the military junta in Burma versus the complicity toward the Castro brothers tyranny in the heart of the Americas, points to a twisted sense of independence associated with the decision to oppose the American policy of embargo.

A false nationalism expressed in an anti-American foreign policy, undermined the good character of Canada when it decided to accept the Cuban revolution in the first place. Today, 51 years later, Cuba’s civil society and members of the opposition movement find it hard to look up to Canada as a friend. Admittedly, the reason why many Canadians enjoy vacationing on the island of Cuba is because “ there are no Americans down there”.

It’s high time for Canada to fulfill the protagonist role it is supposed to play. Our government and the politicians who represent to us, are in the obligation to ally themselves with the people of Cuba and to take distance from the oppressive dictatorship. What’s the point in having so many “experts” in Latin American studies and publicly funded institutions focused on hemispheric affairs, when our parliamentarians are not able to publicly mention the names (let alone expressing solidarity) of so many prisoners of conscience? At this very hour, brave men and women write pages of honour that inspire not only fellow Cubans, but also the best of humankind.

How much cynicism enclosed in associations such as Canada-Cuba Parliamentary Friendship Group! Will it be possible that those members of the Canadian parliament do not understand that, in their anti-Yankee paroxysm, they are calling themselves “friends” of a Cuba that cannot choose its representatives? They have to understand at once that their actions don’t make them friends, but enemies of Cuba. Because it is pure hallucination and self-deception to believe that a bunch of criminals who usurped power 51 years ago, could ever represent the aspirations of 11 million Cubans stranded in Cuba and over a million who managed to make it into exile.

The day will come in which, in a free Cuba, future generations will know of the dignity of the Czechs and the solidarity of the Poles when it was needed the most. In an event without precedents in recent parliamentary history, 90 Polish legislators, affiliated to the two main political parties, put their differences aside to adopt, symbolically, 90 Cuban political prisoners. Those are indeed the friends of Cuba and their gesture will not be forgotten.

Over a century ago, Cuban national hero José Martí, as Orlando Zapata now, gave his life for Cuba’s freedom at the age of 42. He very well expressed:
“There are men who live contented though they live without decorum. Others suffer as if in agony when they see around them people living without decorum. There must be a certain amount of decorum in the world, just as there must be a certain amount of light. When there are many men without decorum, there are always others who themselves possess the decorum of many men. These are the ones who rebel with terrible strength against those who rob nations of their liberty, which is to rob men of their decorum. Embodied in those men are thousands of men, a whole people, human dignity.”

Our eternal gratitude goes today to the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for the freedom of Cuba.

Nelson Taylor Sol
March 3, 2010