Havana Times Contributing Writer Arrested

November 10, 2017 |

Osmel Ramirez in his home with one of his tobacco leafs.

HAVANA TIMES – Today, our contributing writer from Mayari, Holguin, Osmel Ramirez Alvarez, was arrested, reported a family member. The agents also took with them Osmel’s laptop, hard drive and other belongings.

At this moment we do not know in what Police station or State Security facility the tobacco farmer and writer is being held, or the reason for his arrest.

Osmel had suffered in recent months threats from plainclothes security agents who advised him to stop writing his opinions.

On August 15 of this year Osmel wrote the following article warning of the threats that today were made effective.

My Reply to a Dangerous Threat

August 15, 2017

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

They love applause, criticisms aren’t welcome. Raul Castro, his first VP Miguel Diaz Canel and the Communist Party’s numbre two man, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura.

HAVANA TIMES — Every act in Cuba in favor of change, outside of the official framework, is considered an act of dissidence. It doesn’t matter whether you sympathize with Posada Carriles’ violent methods, with the Chicago school of economics or whether you are a democratic socialist like yours truly. The system doesn’t distinguish between them; anyone who doesn’t cheer and applaud is an enemy.

I received my first sign of intimidation from State Security, who were threatening to imprison me, via my family. According to them, I’m apparently not committing any crime, “but there is proof of my crimes in what I do and they can imprison me.”

It is worth highlighting the fact that my journalistic work and the dissemination of my democratic and reformist ideas within socialism have earned me great sympathies and support within my community. This despite backhanded efforts to ruin my reputation, labeling me an “opponent”, “dangerous” or “counter-revolutionary”, really derogatory words in Cuba that official propaganda uses.

At the Cooperative where I belong as a tobacco farmer, they have been insisting that I be president for years. But the ANAP (National Association of Small Farmers) is standing in the way of this, on Party or State Security orders. I was already a candidate back in 2013, after the ANAP had convinced me themselves, and then they mysteriously met with the abovementioned institutions and all of a sudden decided to suspend the vote. They placed a person who wasn’t very well-prepared for the position “provisionally”, pressuring farmers who were asking for me to be the president.

The much-awaited election was set to take place on December 17th 2014 and I was put forward by the overwhelming majority. It was really hard for me to refuse the position. But, the order was that I couldn’t take on any kind of leadership role or responsibility within the community. They arbitrarily took me off of the list, mentioning that I was an “opponent”. Without being on the candidate list, I still got six votes from farmers who took the initiative to write down my name and put an “x” next to it.

ANAP, the National Association of Small Farmers.

There would have been a great debate on that day about this aberrant behavior, but it coincided, by chance, with the simultaneous announcement that Obama and Raul were going to reestablish diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba. The most symbolic act of this was the return of the “three heroes” from the Cuban 5 and the news transformed the event into a great party and it was no longer the right time for this kind of dilemma.

The cooperative has serious problems with how it operates and its accounts are very shady, with serious suspicions of corruption. The ANAP, the PCC and the Government know this, but they don’t dare do anything because they are afraid that after exposing these problems, the majority of farmers will be able to impose my leadership. For them, this is something unthinkable. That’s why they do everything they can to keep this current disastrous situation.

They have even stopped the farmers from creating a monitoring committee so that they can revise their collective finances, for the simple reason that they don’t want me to be at the head of this body. Worse than that, now they are afraid, like they were in previous elections, that my neighbors will put me forward as a candidate for the People’s Power representative and are already tryng to stop that from happening, that’s what they talked about at a meeting of “revolutionary figures”, this weekend here. Now, the opposition are planning on taking part in the upcoming elections.

After the threat of being imprisoned, I thought it would be wise and appropriate to send a letter to the Communist Party’s First Secretary in Mayari, Estrella Maritza Segura, making my position clear. These are my most important ideas:

“I am a socialist who believes in direct democracy and in political pluralism. I don’t share the concept of one party meaning national unity, nor do I believe this to be socialist. (…) although our Govenment, like our laws, are based on this united one-party belief…”

“Like many other people in Cuba, and the majority in the rest of the world, I think differently. I have a right to have different ideas to official ideas as a Cuban citizen. I have a right to aspire even for our political system to be better and to work better. Unfortunately, there aren’t any clear or truly effective mechanisms in our laws or political system that allows people to offer new ideas, discuss them in public spaces and to reach a majority consensus.”

“… it isn’t in my hands to do anything, nor is it in the hands of our people. According to the Constitution, only the PCC and Parliament via their government bodies, which is the Party itself in the end and we all know this, because it’s the only party, only those at this level of government have sovereign power in Cuba and can decide what needs to be changed and when.”

“That’s why, in hoping for better times, when any citizen can raise their voice and try to promote their ideas about a better country without this being a crime, I can only be hopeful and try to be useful in the meantime.”

“My articles are an expression of our reality and my personal thoughts can also be found in them (…). They are my ideas, I write them down and I share them with whoever can read them and discuss them. The Internet is an open space and nobody can ban anything for political reasons. Sadly, I am unable to publish my articles on media platforms within the island, because they are controlled by the government and today’s politics dominate these communication spaces, which should be used for a diverse, critical and productive national debate.”

“Forgive me if I am writing inconveniences. It’s the minimum I can do; and giving this up would mean losing my dignity. I have a right to have ideas, to write them down and to share them. I am not breaking any law; I am just using one of my most fundamental rights as a human, after my right to life.”

“Of course, I am afraid of all the power that you have and if you want to, you could imprison me unjustly, by applying any arbitrary law to make me disappear off the map. You can do whatever you want to. But, I must run this risk and be honest, just like Marti, “I have faith in the human race improving itself and in future life,” I hope you don’t commit this silly madness.”

My battle of ideas works in your favor (…) Because a better Cuba has to be beneficial for everyone, not just for an exclusive political group.”

Many people believe that a letter like this one is useless, but I believe it to be productive.

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What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    Osmel is an avowed socialista and they still treat him like crap. This is proof positive that the Castros are not really interested in “perfecting socialism”. The only thing that they care about is staying in power.

    • N.J. Marti

      Socialism happy talk is just an opium to control the governed. It is all about staying in power now. It requires a strong belief system in socialist fairy tales because actual good and services will be lacking.

  • Gerard Matthews

    The wind of change will soon be sweeping through Cuba. Mr Castro had better start listening to the people, this event could open the floodgates of public then worldwide opinion. As a certain Mr Bob Dylan said several years ago ” The Times they are a changing”. Please listen Mr Castro, listen to your people.

    • Eden Wong

      “… this event could open the floodgates of public then worldwide opinion…”

      Unfortunately no one cares. Or at least no one who matters.

      • Gerard Matthews

        I care Eden and I matter. We all matter. The Castro brigade have got away with murder for years now and it has got to stop, and stop now. The worlds press must publish exactly what is taking place in Cuba, the people of Cuba deserve better. Together our voices will be heard!

        • Moses Patterson

          Unfortunately, Eden is right. You and I don’t matter. But, hopefully, someone who does matter will die or simply go away.