Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Cuban graffiti artist (a.k.a., 'El Sexto) draws graffiti all over his passport in protest for the Castro regime's violation of the freedom of movement. Cuba is only a among the few repressive nations worldwide in which a citizen needs a special permission from his own government to travel abroad. El Sexto has been detained and harassed for his graffiti by the National Revolutionary Police  (PNR) of Cuba and the State Security Police. For more graffiti art, visit the Blog: 'El Sexto

"I will keep drawing graffiti until I find out why I keep doing it.
I do so because I feel the need - as I need to walk, dream.
Never stop dreaming because you can also change things.
El Sexto is the Cuban people.
I am merely the one who draws the graffiti.
All the Cuban people are heroes: from the child who wakes up in the morning and does not have breakfast to eat until the worker who shows up for work despite his meager salary."
Blog: 'El Sexto

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


The Chengguang or City Urban Administrative Law Enforcement Bureau was established in Beijing in 1997. It is a para-police agency in charge of enforcing non criminal urban administrative regulations. However, for the the Chinese people they have gained a reputation for excessive force and brutality. For some they are gang members, thugs in uniform who have gained a reputation for arbitrary behaviour and abuse. They allegedly enforce administrative laws but in their operations they are known to make illegal detentions, forceful confiscation of property, serious injury and even death. 

Multiple versions circulate around this photo. Some say it shows Chengguang police violently arresting a prostitute. The official version is that they are arresting a woman who tried to commit suicide. The reasonable doubt remains and readers can make their own conclusions. Source: China Hush
A photo of a what is seemingly suggested as a Chengguang squads attacking a police officer. Source: China Hush
Chengguang members in a street fight.Source: China Hush

For more information on the Chengguang, see a report by Human Rights Watch titled: "Beat Him, Take Everything Away" Abuses by China's Chengguang's Para-Police."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Carlos Fuentes, one of the most prolific Latin American writers associated with the Latin American Boom, a literary movement made up of young authors critical of the status quo and established traditions died at age 83 in a Mexico City hospital.

Candidate for the Nobel Prize, winner of the Cervantes Prize in 1987 among many other distinguished literary awards, Fuentes' wrote a wealth of novels, plays and essays as well as regularly commenting on political events in the Spanish newspaper El Pais. His most famous works were "The Death of Artemio Cruz" and "The Old Gringo."

On this day I would like to pay tribute to this important writer as he had the honesty and vision to compare populism in Latin America with Fascism. In particular I would like to recall his now historic words when Fuentes compared Hugo Chavez (the president of Venezuela) with Benito Mussolini:

Fuentes warned on 2007 that the Latin American hemisphere risks the emergence of governments that are not only populist but also fascists. Fuentes said this is the case with president "Chavez who rules a regime that in its organization, rhetoric, purposes, uniforms and balconies resembled a Venezuelan Benito Mussolini."
With all the gestures and political theater similar in all populist political system (either fascistic or socialist) this photo arrangement shows the choreographic aspects that has distinguished populism throughout history. The pop photo shows Benito Mussolini saluting followers from a balcony. The lower photo shows Hugo Chavez with a closed fist symbolic of Chavismo saluting followers from the presidential balcony) Photo arrangement/selection by Blog Salon de Talleyrand

For more information about 'populism' in the Latin American context I recommend "The Integralist Movement in Brazil"  

"Mexican author Carlos Fuentes Dies at 83" BBC News (May 16, 2012)
"Escritor Mexicano Carlos Fuentes muere a los 83 años por problemas cardiacos" NTN24/EFE (15 de Mayo del 2012)
"Como Fascista Tipico" Salón del Señor Talleyrand
"Carlos Fuentes llama "perturbado" al presidente de Venezuela" Asociación Mexicana de Derecho a la Información (13 de Noviembre del 2007)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


"Revolution is to Change Everything that Needs to Be Changed"
"Mister Imperialists: We have absolutely no fear of you" Reference: TuAventura
"50th Anniversary of the Revolution's Triumph" Reference: Prensa de Frente
"We Work: What about you? (Not working in Cuba carries a criminal conviction. Currently there is a large percentage of the population who refuse to work for the state with average salaries of $25 dollars a month). Reference: Prensa de Frente
"We want them to be like Che" (in reference to pioneers) Reference: TuAventura
"Fatherland or Death" Reference: TuAventura
"Our Weapons: Conscience and Ideas" Reference: TuAventura

"We move forward victoriously" Reference: TuAventura

Cuba is a country of placards as long as they are pasted and sponsored by the government for purposes of propaganda. Pro democracy signs are immediately covered by the police and those responsible for their content could face long prison sentences if they are caught. This picture shows a police in Cuba covering a graffiti that reads "Down with  Fidel" Reference: Enrique de la Osa / EFE / El Nuevo Herald

Who posts placards in Cuba?
The Propaganda branch of the Cuban Communist Party 

What is their content? 
As any form of propaganda, it is based on repetition of the same phrases. In this sense they make the Nazi precept that a repeated lie becomes true come to life. Usually placards praise Fidel and Raúl Castro. The most repeated slogans are "United We Will Triumph" "Victory After Victory" "Our Main Duty is to Perfect Socialism."

What is their purpose?
Physiological influence over the people. To present an image to foreign visitors that in Cuba everyone shares a common "revolutionary fervor."It is also an excuse for political organizations to look well with their superiors. 

The above text is a translation taken from extracts of a larger article on placards in Cuba written by Eliecer Avila. For more information see Eliecer Avila, "El País de los Carteles" Diario de Cuba (15 de Mayo del 2012).


Sunday, May 13, 2012


According with Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch and other organizations that monitor human rights and freedoms worldwide, Eritrea, an extremely poor nation of the African continent in the neighborhood of Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia is considered to be the most repressive nation on earth. A tough and in my view a controversial selection considering competitors in the repressive category such as North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Belarus and other nations. Under the regime of president Isaias Afewerki, 25% of  Eritrea's population has fled over the past 20 years. The Afewerki regime  has turned the nation into a "giant prison" according with Human Rights Watch with over 314 detention centers. Some of the country's prisons are underground, buried 229 feet bellow sea level with temperatures reported to reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In those prisons there are  thousands of journalists, religious leaders and dissidents imprisoned, detained indefinitely and subjected to medieval tortures that include their feet shackled, tied to a cross or hung upside down and other forms of cruelty. Image from Edmund Sanders / TPN

For a complete report on jailed journalists see: Justin D. Martin, "Which Countries Jail the Most Journalists Per Capita? Taking the CPJ  Data One Step Further" Columbia Journalism Review (April 2, 2012)
For more information on Eritrea see Joel Brinkley, "Eritrea, the most repressive nation on Earth" SFGate (April 29, 2012)

Friday, May 4, 2012


Photo from Ng Han Guan/Associated Press/NYTimes
North Korea is the last Stalinist state on earth, and in 2006 it became the latest country to join the nuclear club. Over the past two decades, it has swung between confrontation and inch-by-inch conciliation with South Korea, its neighbor, and the United States, in an oscillation that seems to be driven both by its hard-to-fathom internal political strains and by an apparent belief in brinksmanship as the most effective form of diplomacy.

See complete article in the NYTimes. 
See also 'NORTH OF TOTALITARIANISM' with a compilation of photos from North Korea

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Cuba's Population: 11.3 millions.
Worldwide Ranking: Cuba has the fifth largest inmate population in the world with 531 prisoners for every 100,000 inhabitants. 
Latin American Ranking: Cuba is ranked as the second nation with the largest inmate population per inhabitants in Latin America and the Caribbean

Source Consulted:
For statistical information on the number of prisoners per inhabitants in Cuba and worldwide see Roy Walmsley, World Prison Population List, Eighth Edition (King College, London, December, 2009), 1 & 3. 

Cuba: The Prison Island
Map of Cuba's Prisons. Legend from top to bottom:
1. Maximum Security Prisons. (Yellow)
2. Minimum Security Prisons. (Red)
3. Correctional/Reform Prisons.(Blue)
Cuba's Largest Prison
Built in 1975. 
Hidden Camera inside El Combinado del Este Prison."En las Entrañas del Combinado del Este" by Dalvinder Singh Jagpal (inmate) and Dania Virgen García (independent journalist/reporter).

Aerial view of Combinado del Este
This picture of a prison cell known as "La Gaveta/The Drawer" corresponds to the Prison of Manzanillo, but a similar one exists at Combinado del Este. As a form of torture prison officials confine up to 15 political and non political prisoners for prolonged periods of time. It has been reported that prisoners are kept here for 8-10 months.  The small dimensions of the cell force prisoners to lie down all the time. Prisoners have to defecate and urinate in an extremely limited space and cannot stand up as the ceiling is very low.
Punishment cell or 'La Gaveta'

Isolation cells or 'Las Tapiadas/Blocked Cells in Combinado del Este Prison.
Replica of the confinement cell "Solitario" where opposition leader Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet was imprisoned at the Combinado del Este Prison  for nearly 8 years. Photo from Dr. Biscet's Blog
This torture is commonly known by prison guards in Cuba as 'La Shakira' A prisoner's hands and feet are tied down to his back. The prisoner is then thrown in a rodent infected cell and left there for 48 hours. The name of this torture uses the name of the Colombian singer as a form of mockery and denigration to the dignity of the prisoner who is forced to move his hips desperately in response to the painful position he is in.

Drawing of Dr. Biscet's cell at Combinado del Este. Photo from Dr. Biscet's Blog

Whereabouts of the Combinado del Este Prison: Kilometro 13 y medio y Carretera Monumental. Ciudad Habana, Cuba

Prison Layout: 3 Buildings known as 1, 2 and 3 with 4 floors (height) each. 

Political Prisoners: Political prisoners are confined within  a section of 'Building 1' 

Demographics: An estimate of 5,000 prisoners (Common and Political Prisoners).  

Food:  Unfit for human consumption:  30 grams of rice, 5 grams of a mixture from flour and soy ground beef, a watered/insipid pea soup. Every 15 days prisoners receive a small piece of chicken. 
Jail Cells: 3 meters in width, 6 meters in length, 2 meters in height. Usually in 1 cell there are 8 prisoners. 3 single-persons bed separated by 50 centimeters from each other. 

 Hygiene: Absence of the most basic hygiene is prevalent. Cells are infested with roaches, rats and mosquitoes. Roofs sealed with nylon on top to prevent bathroom residues from falling down. Water is scarce and not drinkable. Prison authorities do not provide disinfectants and prohibit prisoners' families from bringing them when they visit.

Overall:  Inhuman conditions as it has been reported and denounced by reports from political prisoners. 

Sources consulted:
Roy Walmsley, World Prison Population List, Eighth Edition (King College, London, December, 2009)
Reynol Vicente Sanchez, "Open Letter to Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo"
Juan O. Tamayo, "Cuban Inmates Complain of Poor Conditions" El Nuevo Herald (March 14, 2012)
Photos from 'El Combinado del Este Prison' extracted from section 'Carceles de Cuba' in forum Secretos de Cuba and Google Search 

Available Online Resources on Combinado del Este Prison:
Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd, "Cuban Prisoners said to Make Videos Exposing Prison Conditions" CNN (March 16, 2012) 
CBS4, Inside Cuba's Prison Walls (March 16, 2012)Reynol 
Oscar Elias Biscet,  To the New York Academy of Sciences (September 11, 2008). At the time Dr. Biscet wrote this letter he was confined to cell 1232, Building 1, Hall 2S at Combinado del Este Prison where he was imprisoned for 8 years.
Vicente Sanchez, "Open Letter to Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo"
Yamil Dominguez, Combinado del Este
Yoanis Sanchez, "A Visit to Cuba's Largest Prison" The Huffington Post (June 27, 2011)
Hiram Abí Cobas Nuñez, Combinado del Este: Una Carcel Pequeña Tras Otra Grande (Of Human Rights, 1991)
Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, Inter-American Yearbook on Human Rights, 1988
Armando Valladares, Against All Hopes: the Prison Memoirs of Armando Valladares (Ballantine Books, 1987)