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Daily Archives: September 21, 2009

Juanes in Havana:`This is the power of music’

Posted on Sunday, 09.20.09JUANES CONCERT IN CUBAJuanes in Havana:`This is the power of music'Hundreds of thousands of revelers filled Havana's Plaza of the Revolution on Sunday for Juanes' historic mega-concert while in Miami, exiles watched on TV with mixed emotions.BY LYDIA MARTIN AND JORDAN [email protected]

As a sea of revelers jammed Havana's Plaza de la Revolución, Puerto Rico's Olga Tañon opened the controversial Peace without Borders concert Sunday with a sentiment that, despite all the debate on both sides of the Florida Straits, simply could not be disputed:

“Together, we are going to make history!'' she yelled. And the multitude, wearing white and hoisting colorful umbrellas that did little to alleviate the punishing heat, cheered. Then Tañon kicked off her performance with a merengue that, at least in Miami, seemed to carry a double meaning.

“Es mentiroso ese hombre,'' she sang. That man is a liar.

But whether she chose the lyrics as a dig to either or both of the Castro brothers seemed less relevant than the overall, palpable joy in the plaza.

Then, at the very end of the show, a major surprise from Colombian pop star Juanes, who was criticized by a segment of the exile community for organizing the concert because they believed it would lend support to the Castro regime. Juanes, who had insisted the concert had nothing to do with politics, made it political after all, to much approval from Miami's naysayers.

He moved away from the day's ambiguities and shouted a straightforward “Cuba libre! Cuba libre!'' (Free Cuba!) And then he chanted, “One Cuban family! One Cuban family!''

Reached by phone in Havana shortly after the concert ended, Juanes said the day was indeed about much more than music.

“There aren't words to talk about something so huge, something that's so beyond music,'' he said. “This is the power of art, the power of music. We're so happy because the people are happy, and that's what matters to us.''

The crowd, which Juanes said from the stage was estimated at 1.1 million, was mostly young people; many had arrived as early as 7 a.m. to stake out spots near the stage. Although several trucks around the perimeter dispensed cold water, many people in the middle of the crowd could not reach them. Dozens of concertgoers who had been in the sun for hours passed out.

Yonder, 25, and his girlfriend Yaima, 19, retreated from the front of the stage after Yaima fainted. She lost a shoe in the crowd. “She bent down to try to find it but wound up grabbing somebody else's shoes that were lost,'' Yonder said. “There is a lot of pushing and shoving. There are shoes and sunglasses all over the ground.''

(The couple did not want their last names printed.)

The likeness of communist hero Che Guevara towered over the plaza that has been the site of endless political harangues by over 50 years of dictatorship. But judging from the dancing, singing and arm-waving, what mattered most in Havana, at least for a few hours, was the partying inspired by this unprecedented mega-concert.


Toward the end of the show, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami) said in an interview with WLTV-Univisión 23 that the event had been a triumph for the Castro regime, because there was no mention from the stage about Cuba's human-rights violations or about the many political prisoners who were behind bars for opposing the government. But many others in Miami called it a good start in trying to bridge the divide between the island and the exile community.

Whatever the show's lasting effects, it was still historic. All of Havana seemed mesmerized; as one walked the city's streets every TV set seemed to be blasting the concert. Never had the plaza, where Pope John Paul II addressed the Cuban people in 1998, been used for a such a lighthearted purpose. Never had the Cuban people been treated to such a musical blowout by major foreign acts — something for which the island is always thirsty.

And never had Miami watched a live show from Havana. It was carried by local Spanish-language stations and by Channel 23 tagged it “Concert of Discord.''

As with most matters related to Cuba, the gray shades of debate clouded the days leading up to the concert, which featured 15 artists from six countries, including such big stars from the island as Los Van Van and Silvio Rodriguez, government-backed and government-backing performers. Some Miami exiles criticized Juanes for agreeing to share the stage with them.

Members of the Cuban American National Foundation, which seeks to bring democracy to the communist island, tuned in from the Kendall home of Francisco “Pepe'' Hernandez. They watched in awe as Juanes performed, his lyrics and short speeches flirting with political commentary.

“To go to that same plaza — where [Cubans] have been forced to listen to things they don't believe in — for music? It's great,'' Hernandez said. To him, the concert symbolized a sharp turn away from isolationist policies used by pro-democracy Cuban exile groups during the last 50 years.

“I hope that all of the young people in the United States, in Miami, everywhere, lose their fear and change hate for love,'' Juanes told the audience.

Although the performers had agreed to not make overt political statements, the possibilities of political interpretation seeped into many of their songs. “Down with the control. Down with those who manipulate you'' chanted a female rapper with X Alfonso, a Cuban rap and funk artist.

“We're all here together — for the dream of concord, for the dream of dialogue!'' said Spanish pop singer Miguel Bosé. He was joined by Cuban singer-songwriter Carlos for 's Muro (Wall), which Bosé has recorded, about longing for the outside world from Cuba's seawall.


No one's songs were more emotionally loaded than those of Juanes, who took the stage to chants of his name. “I can't believe it. This is the most beautiful dream of peace and love,'' he said. “Whatever differences we have, at the end we are all brothers.'' He then launched into A Dios le pido (I'll Ask God), his huge hit that pleads for peace. Most of his statements, until his strong words at the end, were general but carried the possibly of much meaning.

“Youth of Cuba, of Latin America, the future is in your hands, guys!'' he said before singing No creo en el jamas (I Don't Believe in Never), which calls for hope against all odds. He turned the rocker Suenos (Dreams), about a kidnapping victim who longs for home, into a quiet ballad, telling the audience “this song is for everyone who is imprisoned unjustly and seeks liberty!''

“Juanes is so brave,'' said Gabriela, 14, who went to the show with her sister, mother and grandmother. “He didn't have to come here and confront all of those people who were against him. He did it because he wanted to sing for us. For Cuba.''

Many Cubans in Miami watched with conflicted feelings.

“This is supposed to be a concert for peace, but there is no peace without political discourse or democracy in Cuba,'' said paralegal Blanca Meneses, who lives in the Doral area. “But I feel for the people in Cuba, because, obviously, they are enjoying this from a musical perspective. The truth is, I thought nothing good could come of this concert. But I did think that when Juanes and Bosé were singing `, ,' that was a positive message to the people of Cuba.''

Herald staff writers Fabiola Santiago and Jose Pagliery contributed to this report.

Juanes in Havana:`This is the power of music' – Entertainment – (20 September 2009)

Bands try to unite Cuban diaspora with song

Bands try to unite Cuban diaspora with songJeff Franks, Reuters Published: Monday, September 21, 2009

HAVANA – Hundreds of thousands of people jammed Havana's Revolution Square yesterday for a concert by Colombian rocker Juanes and other international pop stars who hope music can do what politics has not — bring together Cubans here and in the U.S.

"Kids, we came to Cuba out of love … it's important to swap hate for love," Juanes told the crowd of hundreds of thousands. Organizers had expected at least half a million, but concert organizer Juanes said it topped one million people.

The much-hyped event was beamed live to an international television audience, including viewers in Miami, the heart of the Cuban exile community and centre of opposition to Cuba's communist-led government.

Many exiles had accused Juanes of helping to legitimize a government that they said denied its people basic and stifled dissent by throwing opponents in jail.

Playing before a swaying, dancing audience dressed in white — Cuban authorities asked people to come dressed in white as a symbol of peace – the 37-year-old singer responded to critics by saying music was above politics or ideological enmity.

"Music should like air, it should reach everywhere, whatever we think," said Juanes, winner of 17 Latin Grammy awards.

The audience, which endured soaring temperatures in the huge square, chanted "Cuba, Cuba, Cuba" and "Juanes, Juanes."

Citing the case of fellow Colombians kidnapped and held by guerrillas in the Colombian jungle, Juanes dedicated a song to "all those deprived of their , wherever they are."

Puerto Rican Olga Tanon, on the bill with 14 other musicians from six countries including Miguel Bose of and Jovanotti of Italy, kicked off the show by shouting its central message: "It's time to change."

In Miami, across the Florida Straits, a small group of anticommunist exiles staged a protest against the concert.

Bands try to unite Cuban diaspora with song (21 September 2009)

Cuba rocks to huge peace concert

Cuba rocks to huge peace concert

Havana has hosted the biggest open-air concert since the 1959 revolution, featuring some 15 top Latin American, Spanish and Cuban performers.

An estimated one million people – many wearing white – attended the free event in Revolution Square, Havana.

Colombian singer Juanes, who organised the Peace without Borders concert, received death threats from Miami-based critics of the Cuban regime.

But he had the support from 20 high-profile jailed dissidents inside Cuba.

The BBC's Michael Voss, who was at the five-and-a-half hour concert, said there was a mood of excitement as many residents of the isolated, music-loving island had never seen anything like it before.AT THE SCENEMichael Voss, BBC News, Revolution Square It's absolutely packed here. There's never been a free open-air concert like it ever before.

When Pope Jean Paul II celebrated his historic Mass in this same place just over 10 years ago, there were about 250,000 people here. We estimate there is double that number here now.

This is the centre of power here in Cuba. Normally when I come here, it is to cover the big May Day parades and there are red flags everywhere.

Now, everyone is wearing white. There are white flags, white shirts. That's the message – Peace without Borders.

He said people had travelled from across the island to attend.

But our reporter said heat was a problem, with many people being carried away on stretchers after fainting.

"We are here for the music and it is a message of peace and unity, not only for Cuba, but for the entire region," said Latin Grammy winner Juanes.

Among the other artists taking part on Sunday were 's Miguel Bose, Olga Tanon from Puerto Rico, the Cuban performers Silvio Rodriguez and Los Van Van.

"Together, we are going to make history," said Tanon, as she opened the concert with the love song, Es Mentiroso Ese Hombre (That Man is a Liar).

"It was really complicated to get here but I just couldn't miss it," a Havana resident, Maria Antonia, who was in a wheelchair, told BBC Mundo.

"We are going to stay as long as we have the strength," Cristina Rodriguez, a 43-year-old nurse who came with her teenage son, Felix, told AP.


While critics have complained that Juanes is endorsing the island's communist system, the dissidents say the concert is an opportunity for reconciliation.

Juanes said the show was about peace and tolerance, not politics, telling the audience that "the important thing is to swap hate for love".

But at the end of the show, he caused some surprise by shouting "Cuba libre!" (Free Cuba!) and "One Cuban family", slogans associated with the Cuban exile community.

In Miami, where the concert was broadcast by Spanish language TV stations, there were protests among some Cuban-Americans, with one group crushing Juanes CDs using a small steamroller.

"There has been a lot of blood spilled in Cuba and people executed by firing squad," said 77-year-old Hernan Gonzalez, who said he spent six years in a Cuban for his opposition to in the 1960s.

"He [Juanes] is singing over dead bodies."

Ninoska Perez, spokeswoman for the Cuban Liberty Council, told BBC Mundo: "It's a farce… that overlooks Cuban reality by conveniently describing it as 'an apolitical concert'."

The location of the Havana concert was highly symbolic.

The headquarters of the communist party is in Revolution Square, along with a giant metal sculpture of Che Guevara's head.

The square was used by Fidel Castro to give five-hour speeches, and is also where Pope John Paul II celebrate a historic open air Mass in 1998.

Speaking in an interview broadcast on Sunday, US Barack Obama said he understood Juanes to be a "terrific musician", but he was cautious about the impact of the concert.

"I certainly don't think it hurts US-Cuban relations," he said.

"These kinds of cultural exchanges – I wouldn't overstate the degree that it helps."Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/09/21 08:32:52 GMTBBC NEWS | World | Americas | Cuba rocks to huge peace concert (21 September 2009)

Direct mail talks with Cuba ‘positive,’ US says

Direct mail talks with Cuba 'positive,' US saysPublished on Monday, September 21, 2009

WASHINGTON, USA (AFP) — The first round of talks on restoring direct mail service between long-time foes Cuba and the United States were "positive," the US State Department said.

"The United States considers this first round of talks to have been positive," State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said in a statement.

During the one-day meeting in Havana on Thursday, "a variety of issues related to the transportation, quality and security of mail service between our countries were discussed," he added.

The US delegation was led by Bisa Williams, the deputy assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs — the administration's pointwoman on Cuba.

The first senior State Department representative to visit the communist island since 2002, she was accompanied by officials from the US Postal Service.

The Cuban delegation offered US officials a tour of a mail processing center and post office, while the US delegation offered to reciprocate with a visit to an international processing center in the United States.

Both sides agreed to meet again, Crowley said.

Direct postal links between the two countries have been suspended since 1963, with mail being sent via third countries, including Mexico.

Thursday's talks are the latest in a series of tentative steps the two countries have taken towards improved relations since US Barack Obama came to office.

"Establishing direct mail service between our two countries supports President Obama's goals, as announced April 13, of bridging the gap among divided Cuban families and promoting the free flow of information to the Cuban people," said Crowley.

"We will be reviewing the results of our discussions to determine how best to move forward on this issue."

Obama has lifted and money transfer restrictions on Cuban-Americans with relatives in Cuba.

But his administration has insisted that Cuba release political prisoners and improve political freedoms before it is readmitted to regional bodies like the Organization of American States.

The president also raised the ire of the Cuban government by choosing to renew last week the Trading with the Enemy Act, which provided the original basis for the US on Cuba.

Caribbean Net News: Direct mail talks with Cuba 'positive,' US says (21 September 2009)–5-5–.html

Surviving in Castro’s Communist Cuba: Fritz Sprandel Finally Publishes the Story of His Remarkable Journey to Cuba and His Imprisonment Under False Charges of Espionage

Surviving in Castro's Communist Cuba: Fritz Sprandel Finally Publishes the Story of His Remarkable Journey to Cuba and His Imprisonment Under False Charges of Espionage

ALLENTOWN, Pa., Sept. 21, 2009 — On June 11, 1971, an article appeared in the Allentown Morning Call describing how a local man, Fritz Sprandel, had been captured and was being held as a pawn in a political game of chess between the United States and Cuba.

Sprandel had set out on a dare in a wood canvas canoe on a trip from New York to Los Angeles via the Panama Canal. Sprandel drifted off course and onto the shores of Cuba. 's severe communist government charged Sprandel with espionage and he was given a revolutionary trial.

Sprandel credits his luck and his faith for his survival. Many people who were tried by the revolutionaries did not live to tell the tale.

However, Sprandel is telling his personal story in his first published book – "Adventure on a DARE." He writes about the people that he met and his experiences during his voyage, which helped to form the man that he is today.

Sprandel believes that "what you do today is harder than yesterday, but easier than tomorrow." His struggle in Cuba did not deter him from further adventures, but rather inspired him to push himself to new limits.

AuthorHouse is the premier book publisher for emerging, self-published authors. For more information, please visit

EDITORS: For review copies or interview requests, contact:

Lindsey LandisAuthor SolutionsTel: 812-207-7973Fax: 812-961-3133Email: (When requesting a review copy, please provide a street address.)

Surviving in Castro's Communist Cuba: Fritz Sprandel Finally Publishes the Story of His Remarkable Journey to Cuba and His Imprisonment Under False Charges of Espionage – Press Release (21 September 2009

Obama: Cuban mega-concert doesn’t hurt US outreach

Posted on Sunday, 09.20.09Obama: Cuban mega-concert doesn't hurt US outreachThe Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama says cultural diplomacy with Cuba can be helpful to a point.

But he says the effect of performances such as the concert set for Sunday in Havana by Colombian singer Juanes should not be overstated.

Obama tells Univision's "Al Punto" show that Juanes' concert carries no U.S. stamp of approval.

The pop singer met with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ahead of the concert, which was to take place under a huge image of revolutionary leader Che Guevara.

Obama says the United States is not a concert promoter.

He also says he hopes Cuba's communist government will respond to his overtures, such as opening up some restrictions.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama says cultural diplomacy with Cuba can be helpful to a point.

But he says the effect of performances such as the concert set for Sunday in Havana by Colombian singer Juanes should not be overstated.

Obama tells Univision's "Al Punto" show that Juanes' concert carries no U.S. stamp of approval.

The pop singer met with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ahead of the concert, which was to take place under a huge banner of revolutionary leader Che Guevara.

Obama says the United States is not a concert promoter.

He also says he hopes Cuba's communist government will respond to his overtures, such as opening up some travel restrictions.

Obama: Cuban mega-concert doesn't hurt US outreach – Politics AP – (20 September 2009)

Cubans flock to iconic plaza for ‘peace concert’

Posted on Monday, 09.21.09Cubans flock to iconic plaza for 'peace concert'By PAUL HAVENAssociated Press Writer

HAVANA — Hundreds of thousands of Cubans flocked to sprawling Revolution Plaza on Sunday for an open-air "peace concert" headlined by Colombian rocker Juanes, an event criticized by some Cuban-Americans who say the performers were lending support to the island's communist government simply by showing up.

Miguel Bose of , one of the other singers in the 5 1/2-hour concert, announced the crowd size at 1.15 million – which would be one of every 10 Cubans. It was impossible to independently verify that number, but Juanes' visit to Cuba was clearly the biggest by an outsider since Pope John Paul II's 1998 tour.

Hundreds of public buses ferried young and old to the concert site, and the government laid on even more transportation, hoping for a large turnout.

Most concertgoers wore white – to symbolize peace – and some held up signs reading "Peace on Earth" and "We Love You Juanes."

Puerto Rican singer Olga Tanon opened the concert with a loud shout-out to the crowd, packed under a broiling Havana sun.

"Together, we are going to make history," she said as the plaza erupted in cheers.

Juanes came on stage three hours into the show, gazing out at the multitudes in evident disbelief. "I can't believe what I am seeing with my own eyes," he said.

"We came to Cuba for love. We have overcome fear to be with you and we hope that you too can overcome it," Juanes said. "All the young people in the region, from Miami in the United States and in all the cities … should understand the importance of turning hate into love."

He repeated that theme after the concert ended.

"For me, to see more than a million people experiencing happiness, love and peace is incredibly powerful, because what happens in politics is people become divided," Juanes told AP Television News. "With music we are all the same … music is for everybody."

Before the show started, colorful umbrellas sprouted like flowers across the vast square as revelers shaded themselves from the unrelenting sun. Ambulances set up behind the stage treated those felled by dehydration and other ailments, many before a single note was played.

"We are going to stay as long as we have the strength," said Cristina Rodriguez, a 43-year-old nurse accompanied by her teenage son, Felix. They and thousands of others arrived hours before the concert to get a good spot, ignoring government warnings not to turn up until noon.

"We've been here since three in the morning waiting for everyone, waiting for Juanes and for Olga Tanon," said Luisa Maria Canales, an 18-year-old engineering student. "I'm a little tired, but I am more excited."

That excitement did not extend to some across the Florida Straits, where Juanes had endured death threats, CD smashing protests and boycotts since announcing his plan for the "Peace Without Borders" concert in Havana.

in Key Biscayne, Florida, said they were are keeping watch over the homes of both the rocker and his manager, Fernan Martinez Maecha.

Still, the criticism from Florida was far from universal. Spanish-language stations covered the event and several exile groups voiced support, describing it as a rare chance for Cubans to get a glimpse of the outside world.

Some Cuban officials used the opportunity to deride U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba, and the 47-year trade in particular. But Juanes insisted the concert was about music, not politics.

"It is one more grain of sand for improving relations through art," the singer said upon arriving in Havana late Friday.

Of the threats from Miami, he said only: "It is a city that I love."

Juanes met recently with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the concert even prompted comment from Barack Obama, who told the Spanish-language Univision network that the event probably wouldn't have much effect on U.S.-Cuban relations.

"My understanding is that he's a terrific musician. He puts on a very good concert," Obama said in the interview broadcast Sunday. "I certainly don't think it hurts U.S.-Cuban relations. These kinds of cultural exchanges – I wouldn't overstate the degree that it helps."

The show also featured Cuban folk legend Silvio Rodriguez and salsa stars Los Van Van, as well as performers from Spain, Ecuador, Italy and elsewhere.

The festivities took place below a giant likeness of revolutionary icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara and near the heavily guarded offices of Fidel and .

Juanes, who has won 17 Latin Grammy awards, more than any other artist, is known for his social activism. His first "Peace Without Borders" concert in 2008 drew tens of thousands to the border between and Colombia when tensions were high over a Colombian commando raid into neighboring Ecuador that killed a leading Colombian rebel commander.

Cubans flock to iconic plaza for 'peace concert' – Music AP – (21 September 2009)


Publicado el lunes, 09.21.09PanfiloBy MIRTA OJITO

Habrá sido por la canción? Jama y . y , canturrea Boris Larramendi. El compositor cubano radicado en Madrid escribió la pegajosa melodía para la campaña por la libertad de Pánfilo, encarcelado el mes pasado en Cuba después que en estado de ebriedad declaró en un video de YouTube que en la isla hay hambre.

Pánfilo fue excarcelado el jueves por la noche y enviado a un programa de rehabilitación por 21 días. Después, según el gobierno, podrá irse a su casa, que no es lo mismo que estar libre.

Veteranos activistas de han sostenido desde hace tiempo que la publicidad y la presión funcionan, incluso en Cuba, uno de los pocos lugares del mundo donde un hombre puede ir a la cárcel por anunciar en un video de YouTube de 81 segundos que tiene hambre.

El 26 de agosto, unas tres semanas después de su arresto, un grupo de exiliados cubanos sin experiencia como activistas de derechos humanos iniciaron una campaña por la libertad de Pánfilo,

Más de 3,000 personas –desde París hasta La Habana y desde Nueva Jersey hasta – firmaron una carta exhortando al gobierno cubano a poner en libertad a Pánfilo y a respetar el derecho a las libertades fundamentales de todos sus ciudadanos. La carta fue entregada el jueves en Miami a un representante de Juanes, el cantante colombiano que hoy da un concierto por la paz en La Habana.

¿Habrá sido por Juanes? No estaría bien tener a una estrella latinoamericana cantando en la Plaza de la Revolución, mientras Pánfilo se encontraba en una celda y la campaña internacional cobraba fuerza.

Quizá nunca sepamos por qué soltaron a Pánfilo. Lo que ahora es evidente es que el gobierno cubano ha rectificado un deplorable error con una rapidez inusitada. Eso es, si el gobierno cumple lo anunciado y trata a Pánfilo como a un alcohólico y no como a un paciente con trastornos mentales.

“Todo esto tiene que haber tomado al gobierno por sorpresa'', dijo Enrique Del Risco, escritor y profesor en Nueva York y uno de los organizadores de la campaña. “La campaña pegó mucho, muy rápido y la gente se entusiasmó mucho. Hubo gente que me preguntó: '¿Y por qué Pánfilo?' Y mi respuesta fue: '¿Y por qué no Pánfilo?''

Juan Carlos González Marco, de 48 años de edad, más conocido como Pánfilo, se convirtió en una sensación de YouTube a fines de la primavera, cuando se paró frente a una cámara para declarar una verdad sencilla pero fundamental: lo que necesitamos es comida, sólo que dijo “jama'', en el lenguaje callejero cubano.

De arquetipo del borracho de pueblo, Pánfilo pasó a ser rápidamente un símbolo de los males que aquejan al pueblo cubano. En junio, en un segundo video, Pánfilo, sobrio, pide que lo dejen tranquilo. Si para algunos fue posible reírse con el primer video, fue imposible no conmoverse con el segundo. No se podía ignorar el miedo en los ojos de Pánfilo. Era un hombre temeroso del poder del Estado.

Y luego está el tercer video. La espontaneidad del primer video había desaparecido, y también la sobriedad del segundo. En su lugar hay una grotesca actuación de un borracho sin camisa anunciando una vez que tiene hambre y que lo más seguro es que termine en la cárcel.

Días después de que el tercer video apareciera en YouTube, el 28 de julio, Pánfilo fue arrestado y acusado de “'', un concepto draconiano que significa que tiene la posibilidad de cometer un delito, pero que aún no lo ha cometido. Lo sentenciaron a dos años de cárcel, una pena cruel, miope y que demuestra un desconecto total y absurdo con el mundo moderno.

Desde hace años, el gobierno cubano reacciona a las presiones del exterior liberando a presos políticos. Presidentes europeos, congresistas norteamericanos, escritores famosos han intercedido por prisioneros políticos como Armando Valladares, Ernesto Díaz Rodríguez y Angel Cuadra, de quienes tuvieron conocimiento gracias a campañas organizadas por un puñado de activistas por los derechos humanos. Pero pasaron décadas antes de que la mayoría quedara en libertad.

Eso fue antes de la . Lo de Pánfilo es otra historia. Es posible que la Internet lo haya condenado y a la vez lo haya salvado. Su video en YouTube lo vio más de medio millón de personas.

Pero también por Internet se supo rápidamente de la noticia de su sentencia y su encarcelamiento y, aún más importante, se divulgó una campaña veloz que utilizó lo mejor de la tecnología.

Bastaron unos días para recoger más de 3,000 firmas a favor de Pánfilo. En los años 60 y en los 70, e incluso en los 80, cuando activistas como Frank Calzón, ahora en el Centro por una Cuba Libre, hacían campañas por la libertad de presos políticos, las comunicaciones entre Cuba y Washington podían tardar meses.

“Primero teníamos que enterarnos del caso cuando alguien nos lo presentaba'', dijo Calzón. “A Pánfilo lo conocieron en todo el mundo antes de que lo encarcelaran''.

También es posible que Pánfilo fuera la víctima perfecta. Pánfilo no era un activista por los derechos humanos, un ni un intelectual. Era sencillamente un hombre. Un hombre negro, que tiene hambre y bebe demasiado. He ahí donde radica su poder y su debilidad.

El gobierno siempre ha sido intolerante con la disensión, pero es más cruel cuando el que disiente es negro. Los ejecutados más recientemente en Cuba fueron tres jóvenes negros que intentaron robarse una lancha para huir de la isla, hace seis años.

Pánfilo ha logrado escapar a ese destino. Nunca ha dicho que desea irse de Cuba. Lo que quiere es comida. Lo que necesita es comida, rehabilitación y libertad. Pero cuando salga de la rehabilitación, Pánfilo todavía no tendrá comida. Ni libertad.

Profesora de la de Periodismo para Estudiantes de Posgrado de la de Columbia, en Nueva York.

MIRTA OJITO: Panfilo – Columnas de Opinión sobre Cuba – El Nuevo Herald (21 September 2009)

Concierto no cambia la situación de los cubanos

Publicado el lunes, 09.21.09Concierto no cambia la situación de los cubanosPor RUI FERREIRAEspecial para El Nuevo Herald

Las poco más de cinco horas y media que duró el concierto de ayer en la capital cubana, además de sacar a relucir una diferencia generacional, parecen no haber aportado grandes soluciones a un cambio político en la isla, más allá de declaraciones de buena voluntad entre canción y canción de 15 artistas.

Por el contrario, tanto dentro como fuera de la isla varias voces señalaron que el concierto terminó siendo apenas una herramienta de propaganda del gobierno sin que, posiblemente, los mismos artistas se hayan percatado.

"No hubo ningún mensaje de esperanza para el pueblo de Cuba. Se ha comparado este concierto con el viaje del Papa Juan Pablo II [en 1998], pero lo cierto es que, por lo menos, el de su Santidad dejó un mensaje de impacto mundial'', consideró el cubano Elizardo Sánchez Santacruz.

En su opinión, "la realidad indica que el gobierno va a apuntarlo como un reconocimiento público al régimen, y poco más que eso'', añadió Santacruz desde la capital cubana por teléfono.

Según Daniel Alvarez, profesor de la Internacional de la Florida, independientemente "de la calidad de los artistas'' y "algunas horas de entretenimiento'', el concierto "intensificó aún más la polarización'' en el exilio cubano.

"Ahora los dos lados creen, aún más, que la razón está de su lado. Unos lo van a ver como un momento de manipulación política y otros como un instante de apertura del régimen'', enfatizó Alvarez.

Pero lo cierto es que "en Cuba todo es político, la gente no fue allí, ni asistió al concierto, por amor al arte. Habrá que ver ahora qué dice Juanes a su regreso a Miami'', añadió el analista.

Para Alvarez, el problema de este tipo de iniciativas es que levantan muchas expectativas que, casi siempre, no se cumplen. Y recordó el viaje del Papa a La Habana. "Después que [el Papa] se fue, pues sencillamente no pasó nada'', dijo.

"El único resultado que este concierto tuvo, en lo inmediato, es un buen momento de relaciones públicas para el gobierno cubano, porque el contacto de los artistas con el pueblo es bastante escaso'', subrayó Alvarez.

Ahora, "del lado de acá, algunos en el exilio tampoco ayudan mucho, destrozando discos frente al Versailles'', agregó.

Más o menos lo mismo piensa Sánchez Santacruz. "Este concierto es únicamente comparable con los que celebró el año pasado Silvio Rodríguez en las cárceles. Cantó, pero no pidió que soltaran a los presos'', dijo el disidente cubano.

"Todo lo que aquí se ha hecho ha sido para atacar al concierto. Desde el inicio aquí no se ha levantado un voz con autoridad a decir que es una vergüenza traer una aplanadora para destrozar discos. Pues bien, ahí lo tienen. La respuesta a esa aplanadora ha sido un millón de personas asistiendo al concierto'', consideró el de Alianza Martiana, Max Lesnik.

Además, "después de esto no creo que vayan a parar las posiciones intransigentes y así no se va a ningún lado'', agregó.

Al final del concierto, en la Calle Ocho, la diferencia generacional salió a flote cuando un grupo de jóvenes se manifestó frente a otro de exiliados de mayor edad, abogando por Juanes y la realización del concierto.

Según Alvarez, esa diferencia de opiniones, y generacional, es una excelente oportunidad, ''para que surja en el exilio una izquierda que, consecuente con la historia reciente del país, hablara también de la existencia de presos políticos, porque felicitar a Juanes por haber ido a Cuba no es suficiente''.

Para el economista Antonio Jorge, de la Academia de la Historia Cubana, el concierto no promueven ningún tipo de cambio porque no es de interés del gobierno cubano, por lo tanto "nada hay que esperar en ese sentido''.

"Seamos objetivos. En estos 50 años el régimen nunca ha demostrado su voluntad de continuidad. No se sabe cuántas veces Fidel y Raúl Castro lo han reiterado. Allí el Partido Comunista es el único rector del Estado, la economía sigue colectivizada y cada vez más centralizada en manos del Ejército'', agregó.

Por ello, "si el régimen tuviera interés de cambio lo manifestaría por sí mismo, no a través de un concierto del señor Juanes. Allí la intelectualidad y la cultura no son un ente independiente, sino un instrumento del Estado. Como en la difunta Unión Soviética'', subrayó Jorge.

Concierto no cambia la situación de los cubanos – Ultimas noticias – El Nuevo Herald (21 September 2009)

Obama: concierto de Juanes en La Habana no perjudica política de EEUU a Cuba

Obama: concierto de Juanes en La Habana no perjudica política de EEUU a Cuba20/09/2009 12:08 PM

EFE. Washington. El de EE.UU., Barack Obama, aseguró que el megaconcierto que ofrece el cantante colombiano Juanes hoy en La Habana no tiene la "bendición" de Washington, pero no "perjudica" las relaciones su país y Cuba.

"Yo en sí no creo que perjudica a las relaciones estadounidenses y cubanas este tipo de intercambios culturales", dijo Obama en entrevista con el programa "Al Punto" de Univisión, una de cinco trasmitidas hoy en programas dominicales.

En la entrevista, grabada el viernes en la Casa Blanca, Obama abordó principalmente la polémica en torno a la reforma de , una de sus prioridades legislativas, pero también habló del concierto de Juanes en la Plaza de la Revolución.

Preguntado sobre si el concierto tuvo la "bendición" de Washington, Obama fue contundente: "déjame ser bien claro. El Gobierno estadounidense no es un promotor de conciertos".

"Yo no creo que se trata de que nosotros le demos nuestra bendición o no. Tengo entendido que él es un gran músico y que presenta un gran concierto", observó.

El mandatario señaló que su Gobierno ha flexibilizado las restricciones de viajes y remesas a Cuba y que lo importante es que, antes esas señales, Cuba "comience a demostrar que quiere alejarse de algunas de las prácticas antidemocráticas del pasado".

Diario La Verdad (20 September 2009)

Primero el ritmo, luego la política

Primero el ritmo, luego la políticaMás música que consignas en el concierto organizado por Juanes en La HabanaMAURICIO VICENT – La Habana – 21/09/2009

Un rugido descomunal del público y el merengue endemoniado de la puertorriqueña Olga Tañón abrieron ayer el histórico concierto Paz sin Fronteras en la plaza de la Revolución de La Habana. Eran las dos de la tarde (ocho de la tarde en la Península), y atrás quedaban meses de tensiones y desgastadoras batallas extramusicales. Frente al escenario blanco, montado en el mismo lugar donde hace 11 años el papa Juan Pablo II pidió "que Cuba se abra al mundo y el mundo se abra a Cuba", una masa de un millón de cubanos, según cálculos oficiales, parecía un único y gigantesco animal hambriento de espectáculo.

Tremendo. Salió Olga Tañón del brazo de Miguel Bosé y el cantante colombiano Juanes, y en nombre de los 15 participantes en el concierto leyó una pequeña presentación: "It's time to change" (es hora de cambiar), dijo. Mencionó también con todas sus letras al exilio. Algo absolutamente excepcional. Uf… La plaza tembló cuando empezó el ritmo violento de El mentiroso. Se palpaba la energía y la emoción. Era algo que los cubanos necesitaban desde hace mucho tiempo.

Nada más sonar el primer bongó, Yoraidis, una estudiante situada en primera fila que llevaba horas de espera, espetó a este corresponsal: "Chico, no seas pesao: mejor mover el culo que hablar de política". Buen resumen de la situación nada más comenzar…

Para Juanes y los participantes en el concierto la iniciativa pretendía ser un puente de paz, un grito de tolerancia y por la reconciliación entre los cubanos. Según el exilio duro de Miami, Paz sin Fronteras era sobre todo "un regalo al régimen dictatorial de los hermanos Castro". Para Yoraidis y la mayoría de los cubanos que se reunieron ayer en la plaza, el macroconcierto -de cinco horas de duración- era simplemente la oportunidad de escuchar en directo a artistas de fama mundial, en un país excluido de los circuitos comerciales de la música internacional.

"Que vengan todos, Ricardo Arjona, Willy Chirino, todos", decía casi llorando Leslie Morales, una habanera de 25 años que decía estar "soñando". Tañón, llamada por los cubanos Olga Cañón, garantizó un comienzo movido, con más caderas que mensaje. Si insistías en preguntar al público cosas profundas, las ideas más repetidas eran que ojalá la iniciativa de Juanes sirviera para "tender puentes" entre Cuba y Estados Unidos y "abrir caminos" que puedan transitar otros artistas famosos. Pocos, o casi ningún discurso acartonado. La gente hablaba y vibraba de corazón.

Los artistas también estaban nerviosos por las expectativas creadas. Antes del concierto hubo tensiones por el excesivo control. Una anécdota. Cuatro horas antes del concierto, Víctor Manuel, de anónimo y vistiendo una camiseta negra, se quiso dar un paseo por los alrededores de la plaza de la Revolución. En un cordón policial, a medio kilómetro del escenario, fue detenido:

-No puede pasar. No lleva ropa blanca…

-Oiga, que eso es para la gente, no para los artistas.

-Lo siento, son órdenes…

-Mire, yo soy Víctor Manuel, uno de los cantantes, sólo vengo a dar una vuelta…

-Ya, y yo soy Napoleón.

El exceso de celo del uniformado se sumó a otras cositas y derivó después en un enfrentamiento más serio. Juanes y Miguel Bosé se quejaron airadamente a la contraparte cubana por el control, además de por haberse colocado vallas en la plaza separando una zona vip, pegada al escenario. Al final, después de las protestas -hubo un encuentro de última hora con el ministro de Cultura, Abel Prieto- desaparecieron las vallas y nada pasó.

Ajenos a estos intríngulis, y aunque el calor era una salvajada -35 grados de Cuba-, en la plaza de la Revolución el público bailó y disfrutó de lo lindo. Desmayados hubo cientos, pero mereció la pena… Las palabras irresponsables anteriores al evento fueron barridas por la música.

El concierto blanco de Juanes (sobre el que Cuatro prepara un documental) sirvió de catarsis colectiva a cientos de miles de cubanos ansiosos de buen arte. Era lo que se pretendía. Primero el movimiento, después la política, como decía Yareidis, saturada de tanta ideología. La intransigencia burda del otro lado -en Miami destrozaron discos de Juanes con martillos y cachiporras- también fue derrotada por la cinturita cubana.

Después de Olga Tañón vinieron otros sin tanta cadera pero con mensaje, todos vestidos de blanco. La larga lista de artistas (X Alfonso, Silvio Rodríguez, Jovanotti, Carlos , Amaury Pérez, Luis Eduardo Aute, Víctor Manuel…) llegó al clímax con Juanes que cantó sus principales éxitos, y por supuesto A Dios le pido y La camisa negra. Pero antes, otra apoteosis: el grupo de rap cubano Orishas, emigrado hace tiempo -llevaba diez años sin actuar en la isla-. Luego, la orquesta Van Van: todo el mundo a menearse. Ése era el verdadero puente: disfrutar, cero política, más nada. Mientras, en Miami un loco había sacado a la calle una apisonadora de dos toneladas a destrozar la música de los participantes.

Primero el ritmo, luego la política · ELPAÍ (21 September 2009)

Cuba Democracia Ya rectifica y ve positivo para la isla concierto de Juanes

Cuba Democracia Ya rectifica y ve positivo para la isla concierto de JuanesEFEMadrid

El colectivo Cuba Democracia Ya ha rectificado hoy su posición de rechazo al concierto organizado por el cantante colombiano Juanes junto con otros artistas en La Habana y ha afirmado que el acto celebrado ayer, domingo, es "un aporte a la transición pacífica" en la isla.

Cuba Democracia Ya, en un comunicado, ha elogiado el "honesto comportamiento" que tuvo Juanes durante el concierto "Paz sin Fronteras" y en su rueda de prensa previa.

El portavoz del colectivo, Rigoberto Carceller, ha alabado también la actitud que tuvieron otros artistas como Miguel Bosé a favor de "la paz, la y la fraternidad entre cubanos".

Carceller añade que a pesar de la "utilización" que el régimen castrista "hará del concierto" y de "los pronunciamientos desacertados de algunos de los artistas", el acto favorece las aspiraciones democráticas de Cuba.

"Ahora nos toca a los cubanos seguir empujando para lograr la libertad que deseamos", añade la nota.

El concierto "Paz sin Fronteras" que Juanes y otros catorce artistas dieron en La Habana atrajo, según los organizadores, a más de un millón de personas.

Política – Cuba Democracia Ya rectifica y ve positivo para la isla concierto de Juanes – (21 September 2009)

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