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Summary 2016

People of the Year: DIARIO DE CUBA names the most noteworthy figures of the year

Camila Cabello, singer


Camila Cabello, singer

Born in Cojímar in 1997, she appeared this year on Time magazine's list of the 25 most influential teenagers in the world, a choice that underscored her artistic work in the pop group Fifth Harmony, as well as her autobiographical essay "PopSugar" about the migration experience to the United States, and her opposition to the concept of a border wall in the US.

In the middle of the month Cabello left Fifth Harmony to undertake a solo career. She is also a songwriter, her songs having gone gold and platinum.

Eduardo Cardet, dissident

The National Coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (CLM), last May he managed to deliver to Cuba’s National Assembly of Popular Power 10,000 new signatures for the Varela Project. The initiative seeks, in Cardet's words: “to secure rights that Cuba still lacks,” like the “freedom of association, the press, free choice, to create companies, and for political prisoners. In short ... opportunities for citizens’ participation.”

He was arrested and severely beaten last November 30 after statements made following the death of Fidel Castro, and his advocacy for the "One Cuban, One Vote" initiative.

He remains detained in Holguin, accused of the crime of "undermining authority," which his wife calls “contrived” by State Security, and could face a sentence of up to three years in prison.

Oscar Casanella and Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, scientists

Casanella, a biochemical researcher at the National Oncology and Radiobiology Institute (INOR), and Ruiz Urquiola, a biologist at the Maritime Research Center at the University of Havana, lost their jobs after disputes with officials at these entities: the former, for his friendship with dissidents; the latter, after numerous obstacles were placed to impede her work, featuring results that are inconvenient for Cuba’s leaders.

Both carried out a long struggle for their jobs, during which they denounced and reported a range of abuses, pressure placed on them, union helplessness and illegalities.

Veronica Cervera, blogger

She was named one of the 10 Latin bloggers to be "closely watched" this year, according to NBC News, which also highlighted the publication of her cookbook La cocina de Vero (Anaya, Madrid, 2015), sharing the same name as her blog, as followers encouraged her to publish in one work 100 recipes and her experiences with some of them.

Cubalex Legal Information Center

The independent attorneys staffing this autonomous legal advice project were the victims of one of the most serious repressive episodes of the year when regime forces raided their headquarters, seizing equipment and case documents.

Cubalex drafts reports on abuses in the Island that expose the regime's behavior before international human rights bodies. It has also backed attempts to legalize certain civil society organizations, and fought to defend itself before the Ministry of Justice.

One of the main individuals responsible for these efforts, Julio Alfredo Ferrer Tamayo, ended up in prison, where he currently remains, for the alleged crime of “forging documents,” which he has dismissed as “trumped up.”

Cuban Americans on Trump's transition team Trump, politicians

Four Cuban-Americans are members of the transition team of US President-elect Donald Trump.

They are Mauricio Claver-Carone, Executive Director of the US-Democracy PAC, the most active proembargo lobbying group in Washington; Carlos E. Díaz-Rosillo, a professor at Harvard University specialized in executive authority, who will work on policy implementation; Yleem Poblete, an expert on Foreign Policy and National Security who has served on the Congress's Foreign Affairs Committee for almost two decades, and has been assigned to the transition team for the National Security Council; and John Barsa, who has advised other politicians on issues related to Defense and Security, and has been assigned by Trump to his Homeland Security team.

Manuel Cuesta Morúa, dissident

He received the Ion Ratiu Award from the Woodrow Wilson International Center, given to scholars who defend democratic ideas.

As the leader of the Partido Arco Progresista he works with the Democratic Action Board (MUAD) and has been an active promoter of initiatives through the #Otro18 public platform, which seeks electoral reform on the Island, for which he has suffered harassment by the regime.

Cuesta Morúa presented the initiative in Havana and at various international forums, including Spain, and participated in the Oslo Freedom Forum. He was part of the contingent representing independent civil society that met with US President Barack Obama during his official visit to the Island in March.

Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) and #TodosMarchamos (WeAllMarch), dissident groups

Sunday after Sunday, the women's group has seen the regime alter its strategies to stymy their activities. At the end of the year many were routinely besieged in their homes, and most were not even allowed to attend mass.

They have frequently been victims of acts of repudiation, physical violence and other abuses, but have not given up their protests as part of the #TodosMarchamos campaign to defend their right to public protest and to denounce the plight of political prisoners.

Omara Durand, athlete

At the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games the runner Omara Durand took gold in the 100, 200 and 400 meters in the T12 class (severe visual impairment), with a world record of 11.4 in the 100 meters and the best Olympic performance with a time of 23.05 in the 200, just two hundredths of a second off the world record, which she also holds, set at the World Championships in Doha in 2015.

Emily Estefan, composer

In Miami she won the La Musa Prize for top new songwriter of the year, thereby entering the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame. The daughter of Gloria and Emilio Estefan, she began her singing career in 2014, performing at the Hollywood Bowl. She is also a music producer.

Juan de la Caridad García, archbishop

He took over as the new metropolitan archbishop of Havana last May, succeeding Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino. At his ordainment ceremony he mentioned his intention to assist as "special beneficiaries of his mission" the poor, the elderly, prisoners, and those separated from the flock,” and conveyed to the Government his desire to continue with Church-State dialogue.

The leader recently called for socialism, not capitalism, to progress in Cuba. In other statements he condemned abortion as "the first violation of human rights," and reiterated some traditional appeals of the Catholic Church before the State, such as access to education and the country's prisons, and its continuous presence in the media.

Rodrigo García Ameneiro, pianist

At the age of just 17 he won one of the prizes at the Certamen Vivo International Music Competition, becoming the youngest Cuban musician ever to perform on the prestigious stage of Carnegie Hall in New York. He is continuing his musical studies at a Havana conservatory, and is the son of singer Rochy Ameneiro.

Gente de Zona, musicians

A reggaeton duo honored at the Latin Grammies in the Best Tropical Fusion Album category, for their release Visualízate. The album includes smash hits like "La Gozadera" and "Traidora" by the Puerto Rican singer Marc Anthony.

Yadam González, composer

He won a Latin Grammy in the Best Tropical Song category for "Vine a buscarte," in collaboration with Panamanian Omar Alfanno and Colombia's Fonseca. Composer, bassist and producer, he has worked with the hip-hop group Outlandish, and produced the tour and latest album by Spain's Pitingo.

Sabrina González Pasterski, physicist

At the age of just 22, this Cuban-American born in Chicago is considered one of the most brilliant minds at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a rising star in Physics in the US. Paterski González has caught the attention of some headhunters at NASA; and Jeff Bezos, founder of, who has offered him a job.

Arturo O'Farrill, musician

His work as the leader of The Chico O'Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra earned him a Best Latin Jazz Album at the Latin Grammies for Cuba: The Conversation Continues. Arturo O'Farrill, born in Mexico in 1960 and a US resident, is the son of jazz trumpeter and Cuban composer Chico O'Farrill. The winning album was recorded in Havana 48 hours after Barack Obama declared that diplomatic talks were underway between Cuba and the US.

Orlando Ortega, athlete

He had a stellar year in his professional career in Track and Field. Not without controversy, he became the Cuban who gave Spain the silver medal in the 110 meter hurdles at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, celebrating his victory wrapped in the flag of the country he represented. For this he was dismissed as an "ex-Cuban" by Government journalist Randy Alonso, and was the subject of criticism by pro-Castro figures like Willy Toledo.

Nine days after winning the silver metal at the event in Brazil, he defeated the Olympic champion Omar McLeod at a race in Lausanne, Switzerland, which put the Cuban in the lead in the Diamond League.

This year he won the Diamond League, in Rome and in Monaco, and set a record in Spain in his specialty.

Island medalists at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro

The Cuban contingent won five gold medals at the Olympics in Brazil: two in wrestling and three in boxing.

In Greco-Roman wrestling, Ismael Borrero won the first gold for Cuba in the 59 kg category, after outscoring Japan's Shinobu Ota 8-0.

Mijail López won his third consecutive Olympic gold medal and became the seventh three-time Olympian in wrestling history, defeating Turkey's Riza Kayaalp 6-0 in the final of the 130 kg category.

Julio César La Cruz beat Kazakh Adibek Niyazymbetov in the 81 kg class, and won the first gold medal for Cuban boxing in Rio.

He was followed by Cienfuego's Robeisy Ramírez, who won the gold in the final in the 56 kg class, and Guantanamo's Arlen López , who won in the 75 kg category.

Cubans expatriates winning medals for other countries

During the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro several Cuban expatriates won medals for the countries where they currently reside.

Cuban-American Danell Leyva won the silver on the parallel bars in gymnastics, with a total of 15,900 points, beating out Russian David Belyavskiy, who took the bronze.

For Turkey, Cuban hurdler Yasmani Copello won the bronze in the 400 meters.

Former Cuban boxer Lorenzo Sotomayor won a silver for Azerbaijan, when he beat Germany's Artem Harutyunyan in the 64 kg category.

Another Cuban national who competed for Italy, volleyball player Osmany Juantorena was a standout during the game that gave his team the silver.

Frank Chamizo, meanwhile, a Cuban-born Italian, won a bronze in wrestling in Rio after beating the USA's Frank Aniello Molinaro.

Narciso Alejandro Medina, dancer

He won First Place in the Advanced or Senior Category at the Youth American Gran Prix in New York, considered the largest international competitive event for Dance students and a showcase to exhibit the potential of rising stars in the discipline worldwide. Medina is just 17 years old and trains at the Fernando Alonso National Dance School in Havana.

Julio Mora, inventor

An Engineering Student in Holguin, this young man won the the II International Applied Technology Award honor, sponsored by Carlos III University in Madrid, Spain, for the design, construction and implementation of a hybrid solar heater at a doctor's office.

Eduardo J. Padrón, pedagogue

The President of Miami Dade College (MDC) in November Barack Obama bestowed on him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor awarded to a civilian in the US.

Padrón is the third Cuban to receive it, after the musician Arturo Sandoval and former prisoner of conscience Oscar Elías Biscet.

The academic has been one of the most effective national proponents of access to and inclusion in higher education. He holds 15 honorary doctorates from universities, such as Princeton and Brown.

Young Vanguardia journalists and José Ramírez Pantoja

Young journalists with the official newspaper Vanguardia, in Villa Clara, starred in an unusual incident when they presented the publication's leadership with a document in which they denounced censorship, low wages, and political persecution, and defended their collaborations with alternative publications.

Another journalist, José Ramírez Pantoja, went to court to try to keep his job at Radio Holguín, after being ousted for publishing controversial statements about the deputy editor of Granma on his blog.

Ramírez Pantoja also faced a sort of lynching at the hands of the vice-president of the UPEC, Aixa Hevia, who questioned his ethics.

These cases evidenced the discontent of Government journalists with the pressure under which they work, as well as the regime's efforts to maintain its control over the press.

Baseball players

Six names stood out above the rest this year. The first is obvious. José Fernandez not only had a great year (with 12 wins and 6 losses, an excellent ERA of 2.86, and a season strikeout record for a Marlin, with 253), but his death shocked the baseball world like few have, and, beyond it, the entire Cuban community in Florida. Although the Island's official press barely mentioned his tragic and untimely passing, Fernández already forms part of the history of our national sport, representing a true legend.

Another who shone in 2016 was St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz, who hails Villaclara. A childhood friend of Fernández, his performance - a 300 batting average, 17 home runs and 65 RBIs - made him a real star. Despite missing a month with a broken finger, Díaz still finished second among rookies in the National League in runs, and third in RBIs. And he was one of only two rookies who, with over 100 games played, batted 300.

The other four players could be summed up in one word: power. Yoenis Céspedes, Kendrys Morales and José Abreu together smashed 86 homers and drove in 279 runs. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile,  won the World Series with the Chicago Cubs, after season stats that have become routine, despite being astronomical: 1.55 ERA, 90 strikeouts in 58 innings, and 36 saves.

Both Chapman and Céspedes just signed new contracts with the New York Yankees and Mets. In the Bronx and Queens they signed for 86 and 110 million, respectively.

Jorge Perugorría, actor

In June he became a member of the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the issuers of the famous "Oscars."

And in September he was given the City of Huelva's Latin American Film Festival Award in recognition of his career and versatility.

Roberto Polo, Art patron

In June he received the Capital Prize for Art in the category of International Patronage for his donations to the Louvre and the Metropolitan in New York.

The Cuban-American of Spanish origin ceded his art collection to Spain, consisting of 7,000 works, by the likes of Oskar Schlemmer, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Kurt Schwitters. It will be open to the public in a historic building.

Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, US senators

The two Cuban-American politicians competed with Donald Trump for the Republican nomination for the White House. Marco Rubio (Florida) abandoned the race in March, after being defeated by the tycoon in his own state. Ted Cruz (Texas) stayed in until May.

Both later threw their support to the winner. Rubio was re-elected to his seat in the Senate in November. Cruz will run again in 2018.

Danilo Maldonado, "El Sexto," dissenting artist

He was arrested several times over the course of the year for his protest activities. Incarcerated since November 26, representing his longest detention, he was detained after he wrote "Se Fue" in graffiti hours after Fidel Castro's death.

Organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have covered the case and demanded his release. Kimberley Motley, an American who wanted to serve the artist as a pro bono lawyer, was arrested in Havana and expelled from the country when she tried to gather information on Maldonado's arrest.

Earlier this year the graffiti artist had the opportunity to present his work in Miami for the first time, where he seized the opportunity to depict two pigs by the name of Fidel and Raúl, for which he was imprisoned for 10 months in 2015.

Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), dissidents

The organization headed up by José Daniel Ferrer ended the year with 48 members as political prisoners, the highest number among internal opposition groups. This is the regime's reaction to its constant protest actions in the streets, social initiatives and outreach work.

Dozens of members’ homes were raided during the year to make arrests and seize equipment, prompting a hunger strike by the organization’s young leader, Carlos Oliva Amel, and other activists.

In December, the regime broke its own repressive records when it responded to the UNPACU's appeal for solidarity with political prisoners and the Ladies in White, as more than 120 activists were arrested.

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