The Police in Santiago de Cuba Will Fine Families Who Don’t Follow the ‘Teleclasses’

Since March 15, a “new grid” began in the programming of the Educational Channel, which includes the subjects that were not being taught until now. (Radio Rebelde)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Manuel Calvo, Santiago de Cuba, 5 May 2021 – Parents of students who do not transcribe the content of teleclasses that are taught on television due to the pandemic will face a fine of up to 2,500 pesos. “Teachers have the duty to go to the homes and review the notebooks. The family of the student who has not written the content will be reprimanded,” an official of the Ministry of Education in Santiago de Cuba confirms to 14ymedio.

The measure, which is already in force throughout the province, seeks to encourage greater discipline among students when it comes to attending and systematizing the knowledge that is taught through these television broadcasts. “We realized that many children were not following the classes, they were not doing the tasks they were directed to do, and all that with the consent of their parents,” explains the directive.

“At least once a week the teacher has to check that the student has copied the content, and he or she can do it by visiting the home or by asking for a photo of the pages of the notebook with the copied material,” he adds. “If the teacher sees delays or deficiencies, he or she must inform the school management so that the police can be notified.”

The information has been confirmed by several teachers who teach at the primary, secondary and pre-university levels in the province. “They brought us together to tell us that we should report on delinquent students who do not copy the classes, but I am a mother myself and I know the difficulties people are having at home to get children to pay attention to the television, so I warned every one of the parents of the new measure before reporting any of them,” says Maité, a Spanish teacher.

“I told them to catch up with the classes and that if they had to copy it themselves they should not stop doing it because the teachers are not the only ones who are going to supervise. Education methodologists and commissions created just for that who are above us they will also visit some homes,” she adds.

In the neighborhood of San Agustín, where the supervision process has already begun, Dayana Espinosa has updated the notebooks of her two children. “I had to do it on the run but luckily they warned me in advance in a WhatsApp thread where several mothers are,” she explains. “They even handed me all the texts that I had to transcribe before the inspectors arrived.”

“In the end, this is more workload for the family when we are already quite overwhelmed with the situation of the children at home all day, because many of those classes are boring and there is no way to make the kids spend all that time time in front of the screen taking notes. If we don’t write it ourselves, then the fine is a certainty.”

In Cuba, the first closure of schools was decreed at the end of March 2020 as a result of the arrival of the Covid pandemic that has now left 62,206 infections and 373 deaths. Since then, classes have been temporarily restored in several provinces, but with the current upsurge in the disease they have been suspended again. The authorities have developed a teaching program through television to alleviate the problem of closed schools.

“The teacher is irreplaceable,” Eugenio González Pérez, Vice Minister of Education, recently told the official press, insisting on the importance of watching teleclasses “as a complement.” However, the concern of parents increases as this alternative to school lengthens in time, especially due to how unattractive the students find it.

Since last March 15, a “new grid” began in the programming of the Educational Channel, which includes the subjects that were not being taught until now. The broadcasts are directed to all the provinces and municipalities in the phase of limited  transmission, except Pinar del Río, which has its own program.

Among the new subjects that are already being transmitted are Geography, sixth grade; English, from third to sixth; History, seventh and eighth; and Chemistry, Physics, and Biology, in twelfth grade.

“My son has the notebooks up to date but it is only to avoid the fine. Already a neighbor of ours was verbally admonished and warned that the next time she will have to pay 2,500 pesos, so I prefer not to get into trouble,” Espinosa tells 14ymedio. “Nobody wants to risk it.”

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Newspaper Reports Sancti Spiritus Residents Consume 3.5 Tons of Food a Month

After news of a crackdown early this year, many people lined up outside government offices to remove the names of relatives living overseas from ration card rolls.  (La Demajagua)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, May 3, 2021  — If figures from the Sancti Spíritus Wholesale Food Company are to be believed, the province’s residents consume about 3.5 tons of food a month. By failing to have their names removed from the ration card registry, as required by law, residents currently living overseas are “bleeding the economy dry” according an article published on Sunday in the Escambray, a state newspaper.

The local daily reported that 12,400 residents remained on the rolls, which are maintained by Oficoda, even though they are living abroad. A recent audit found that more than 460 households in the province were operating as though their relatives overseas were still living in Cuba

Jorge Luis Domínguez Sánchez, a commercial specialist with the Sancti Spíritus Wholesale Food Company, told Escambray that after an audit of the province’s ration rolls, figures indicated that “more than 65,800 tons of the food alloted to each family — rice, grains and cooking oil as well as raw and refined sugar — goes to 12,400 Spiritus citizens living abroad. Not included in this analysis are items such as yams, plantains, milk and meat which are set aside for medically prescribed diets.” The results of this audit indicate a level of rationed food consumption that is as spectacular as it is incredible. continue reading

The Escambray article points out that workers at Oficoda’s forty-one provincial offices have had to make a huge effort to update the rolls because all population tracking measures have failed. “Who knows if a neighbor on any given block is on an overseas mission, is incarcerated, or went to Russia for fifteen days and decided to spend the year travelling?” it asks.

At the beginning of March, the Central State Administration began demanding that people who leave the country for “work, study or cooperation for a period greater than three months” have their names removed from the rolls. Though this requirement has been in place since 1991 — it has normally applied to individuals who are incarcerated, in nursing homes or permanently hospitalized — the measure expressly exempts healthcare workers, athletes and other professionals on official missions overseas. While working abroad, they still are still entitled to their monthly quota of rationed, subsidized food and cleaning supplies.

The requirement that the names of emigrant family members be removed from ration card registry has largely been ignored. This means thousands of people throughout the island can still receive their relatives’ monthly quotas, which they are free to consume or resell. Now, with tighter controls, Cubans wonder if the surplus food will be redirected, and under what conditions, to the open market.

According to the article, updating the records is part of the ’Ordering Task’*, which includes the currency unification process. Rates of compliance with the regulation is highest when those being removed from the rolls are prison inmates, residents of elder care facilities, physically handicapped or in orphanages.

At the beginning of the year a wave of people were suddenly ready to tackle the paperwork necessary to remove their ineligible relatives from the rolls when it was revealed that there would be hefty fines for heads of households with emigrants listed on their ration books. Though no penalties have been imposed so far, at least not in a significant way, fear of being sanctioned has prompted thousands of people to take action that they have been postponing, sometimes for years.

*Translator’s note: The ‘Ordering Task’ [Tarea ordenamient0] is a collection of measures that includes eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and other measures related to the economy. 

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The Cuban Military and the Indian Chain MGM Muthu Will Open Three New Luxury Hotels

The site of the Gran Muthu Habana is located in Miramar, very close to the national aquarium. (Virtual image MGM Hotels)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 May 2021 —  Impassive in the face of the health crisis and the collapse of international tourism, the Cuban military consortium Gaviota is already preparing to open a new hotel with a shopping center in Havana with the participation of a large Indian chain based in Portugal, MGM Muthu Hotels. According to the corporate general director of the brand in Cuba, Rafael López, the Gran Muthu Habana, at 3rd and 70th streets in Havana, is the main project but it will not be the only one.

The opening of the Grand Muthu Almirante Beach, in the Guardalavaca resort, is also imminent, scheduled for July 1. This five-star hotel has 514 rooms and a lobby with ocean views.

The firm’s manager also told the official press that another tourist center is being planned in Holguín, in the Yuraguanal area, with some 480 rooms. continue reading

MGM Muthu Hotels has been on the Island for three years, the only destination in the Caribbean where it is present. The chain already has five hotels in Cuba, among which is the Grand Muthu Plaza in Havana, currently closed for repairs.

In addition, it has the Muthu Playa Varadero, in the popular resort of Matanzas and three more in Ciego de Ávila: Cayo Guillermo, Imperial and Rainbow. The latter two were included, in November 2019, on the blacklist of Cuban companies with which Americans are prohibited from doing business, because they are controlled by the military.

Greater Muthu Habana harbored a serious coronavirus outbreak in September last year, when 23 of the Indian workers who worked at the facility tested positive for Covid-19.

The Indian workers arrived in Cuba in 2016 hired by the French construction company Bouygues to work on the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski, in the Manzana de Gómez building, in Havana.

Although it was initially speculated that their arrival was due to the exception of the Foreign Investment Law, which authorizes “special regulations” for foreign workers in “special circumstances,” the situation was not confirmed and shortly after it was learned that they were working for Almest , a real estate arm of the Cuban military.

The official press then insisted that their work was of a very high quality and that they did “three or four times” the work a Cuban would. “Their presence is makes a high use of the working day, which results in greater productivity,” Juventud Rebelde said in a 2016 article.

According to the international press, the salary Bouygues paid to Indian workers was around 1,600 dollars a month, 53 times more than that paid to Cubans for the same work.

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Water Will Arrive Only Every Third Day in the Havana Neighborhoods of El Canal and La Vibora

In Cuba, according to official data, “47% of the population receives water daily or every other day.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 May 2021 — Disgusted and resigned, the residents of the Havana districts of El Canal (in the Cerro municipality) and La Víbora (in Diez de Octubre) are preparing to experience more cuts in the drinking water service.

The measure, according to a statement published this Thursday by the state monopoly Aguas de La Habana (Havana Waters), establishes that the service will begin to be provided every three days rather than on alternate days as has happened until now.

“In order to guarantee the supply of piped water to the users associated with these distributions, it is necessary to undertake a group of adjustments in the schedules and distribution cycles, which will allow a better distribution of the water that we have,” says the note. continue reading

The reason for the new supply design is due “to the intense drought that the country is going through,” says the state-owned company, which details that “the groundwater levels of the main supply sources that supply the city are very depressed.” For this reason, there are “effects due to lack of water and low pressure in some areas and distributions of the central system.”

In the case of El Canal, the new distribution design will begin this Saturday, and on Sunday in La Víbora.

The state company apologized to the affected users and stated that once “the water levels in the main supply sources have recovered, the distribution cycles will be reestablished in their normal hours.”

Residents in the El Canal neighborhood did not take the news well, as it is an area of the city with a high volume of overcrowding, tenements, and houses in a very precarious state, inhabited by many low-income families. In Cuba, according to official data, “47% of the population receives water daily or every other day.”

The service was subsidized, and according to a report published in Cubadebate, with 80% of the expenses of the State going to electricity.

The supply of drinking water is one of the services that, with the elimination of subsidies on January 1, increased considerably in price. In this case, from 1.75 pesos to 7 pesos per cubic meter (roughly 265 gallons).

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Venezuelan Oil Exports to Cuba Rise Despite a 19% Drop in Production

Oil production levels are recovering after the falls of the last year. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 May 2021 —  Oil production in Venezuela fell 19% in April compared to the same month of the previous year, which did not prevent exports from remaining stable at around 700,000 barrels per day (bpd).

In fact, in the case of Cuba, the quantities exported increased slightly, with about 55,000 barrels per day, compared to 51,290 in March. Shipments to the island seem to be recovering last year’s volume, when about 56,000 bpd were sent, which at the time marked historical lows.

However, earlier this year the numbers plummeted and Venezuela only sent its Island partner 29,000 bpd.

These data confirm that exports are recovering their usual volume. According to Reuters, the collapse of the previous year was mostly motivated by US measures to stop oil swaps which allowed the exchange of Venezuelan crude for imported fuel. continue reading

Asia and the Middle East once again take the majority of PDVSA’s (Venezuela Petroleum) exports, with three fourths of the total. Up to 25 shipments transported 688,533 bpd of crude oil and fuel to China, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates. A single consignment of 110,000 bpd was sent to Europe, compared to two or three in the previous months.

The British agency adds that PDVSA is preparing to restart two of its four upgraders, capable of converting more than 600,000 bpd of extra-heavy crude from the Orinoco Belt into exportable varieties.

This would make it possible to increase production in the country’s main producing region, and supply more quantities of the light product to national refineries to obtain motor fuel, which has been in short supply due to the lack of this light oil.

Imports, on the other hand, have also remained stable, at 30,000 bpd.

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Special Troops, Police Officers and Plainclothes Agents Surround Calixto Garcia Hospital

Police patrols and minibuses with special troops remain parked around the hospital center. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodriguez, Havana, 4 May 2021 — A strong security operation guards the entrances to the Calixto García hospital, in Havana, where the Cuban authorities have isolated artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara since he was forcibly taken from his home last Sunday to force him to suspend the hunger strike and thirst started a week before.

“The entrances are guarded as if (President) Miguel Díaz-Canel were there, the consultations are probably suspended, I imagine that within the operation is brutal,” a neighbor of the area explained to 14ymedio.

Police patrols and minibuses with special troops remain parked around the hospital, while “restless young people” dressed in civilian clothes guard the pedestrian access points. continue reading

“The place is full of police and black berets, also many in civilian clothes. They have the university stadium as a base, there are many,” said another neighbor who lives a few yards from the hospital.

The members of the security apparatus are also stationed at the corners and everyone who approaches the entrance of the health center is carefully observed, as this newspaper was able to verify. Several groups of men in civilian clothes and with walkie-talkies are posted from the traffic lights on Calle G and Avenida Universidad. The scene is also repeated in the nearby streets leading to the hospital.

“They have the base of operations in the university stadium,” a worker who guards the vehicles parked in the area explains to this newspaper. “They have been going in and out of the stadium for more than two days, that’s where they come from to monitor this entire area.”

A source from the Calixto García hospital told 14ymedio that the patients and health personnel were moved out of the Internal Surgery floor and it is occupied by State Security agents. “Nobody enters that floor, only the military.”

Otero Alcántara went on a hunger and thirst strike on April 24 to demand that the Government end the police siege of his home and compensate him for the works of art that State Security stole from his house and destroyed without showing an order to do so, and without drawing up a record of the seizure. A week later, the political police broke into the artist’s home, in Old Havana, and took him to the Calixto García hospital.

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New Images of Otero Alcantara at Calixto Garcia Hospital Come to Light

 

n the images the artist can be seen at least for a moment placing his index fingers and thumb in an “L” shape, for “Libertad” (Freedom). (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 May 2021 — Two new videos released this Friday show the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara in the Calixto García hospital in Havana, where he has been admitted since last Sunday. In the images, the activist appears in the area outside a pavilion and at one point makes an “L” with his hand, a very common sign for ‘Libertad’ (Freedom) among Cuban opponents.

Internet user Rodrigo Huaimachi, director and founder of the Cubapaladar (Cuba Private Restaurants) website, shared one of the videos of less than a minute on the Facebook group Blogueros Revolucionario (Revolutionary Bloggers). The entrepreneur referred ironically to the scene of the artist standing and outside the buildings.

“Didn’t they say that he was handcuffed and imprisoned?” Huaimachi questioned, referring to several complaints that have circulated on social networks and independent media that Otero Alcántara was allegedly handcuffed to a hospital bed and with a strict police guard around his room. continue reading

In the images, there is at least one moment when the artist can be seen placing his index fingers and thumb in an “L” shape, and at another moment it is observed that he is looking directly at the camera, as if he knew about the filming.

In the recordings, which also circulate on Telegram, it is seen that Otero Alcántara is accompanied by Dr. Ifrán Martinez Gálvez, who appeared earlier this week as head of the medical team that cares for the patient. The images show that the health worker talking with the artist and showing him some areas of the medical center.

According to an internal hospital source, the recordings were made outside the burn unit, where Otero Alcántara, the most visible face of the San Isidro Movement (MSI), is being held. “That area is generally full of people but they limited access before filming,” adds the Calixto García employee who preferred anonymity.

Last Tuesday, the first video of the artist after he was hospitalized was posted on Facebook. The images, broadcast on the profile of Dr. Martinez Gálvez, were interpreted as a clear response to the demands of proof of life that the artist’s friends demanded of the Cuban Government.

The healthcare worker affirmed that his telephone number had “received numerous calls and messages” where they accused him of being a repressor and a policeman, which, he insisted, “is uncertain”, and because of which he asked Otero Alcántara “to film this video as a whole, with the help of our nurse Dorita, to show reality.”

Alcántara was arrested eight times during the month of April by the political police to prevent him from leaving his home on Damas Street, in Old Havana. After a raid on his house, also the headquarters of the San Isidro Movement (MSI), State Security confiscated his works of art and destroyed part of them.

On April 25, the artist began a hunger and thirst strike to protest the repression. In November, Alcántara had already used this method together with other members of the MSI. On that occasion, the Police also broke into the headquarters of the group to forcibly take the strikers to a hospital, also arguing that there was a risk due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since the early hours of Sunday, when Otero Alcántara was taken from his home against his will and taken to a hospital, he has not had communication with his colleagues at the MSI and the concern for his health and well-being increases with each day that passes.

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The Habanos Company is Doing Well, While Cuban Tobacco Producers are Broke

It is not the first time that the authorities use the US embargo as the cause of the decline in production. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio biggerThe Spanish-Cuban company Habanos made $507 million in profits last year, 4% less than in 2019. The figure was provided by the company this Tuesday, at the inauguration of the virtual event Habanos World Days, which replaces the Festival del Habano, whose twenty-third edition was canceled due to the Covid 19 pandemic.  The official press is upset about the cancellation.

For the State media, the company “consolidated its international leadership in premium cigars (made entirely by hand)” and the 2020 revenues are quite an achievement “despite the circumstances of the pandemic and the ban on selling its products in the United States due to the laws of the economic blockade”.

It is not the first time that the authorities use the US embargo as the cause for the decline in production. They already did it a few days ago, at a time when dire forecasts were starting to be heard for the 2020-2021 tobacco operations, which began last October. continue reading

The 2020 revenues are an achievement “despite the circumstances of the pandemic and the ban on selling their products in the United States due to the laws of the economic blockade”

José Liván Font Bravo, first vice president of the Tabacuba Business Group, declared then that a portion of the plantations will not receive fertilizer “due to the brakes imposed by the ‘roadblock’,” in clear reference to the embargo.

However, far from the focal point of the propaganda provided by the festival, in which the State media declared that more than 5,000 companies from more than 120 countries around the world participate, and the justifications of the authorities, the peasants are clear that the main problems of tobacco production are rather the consequence of economic “mismanagement” and the implementation of the so-called Ordering Task*.

So thinks Nestor Pérez, from the Plantation La Isleña, founded at the end of the 19th century in San Juan y Martínez, in Vueltabajo** (Pinar del Río).

In a conversation with 14ymedio, Pérez explains that they have not had problems with fertilizer in his territory, and that the doses they have bought have allowed them and many producers to “develop the operation.” But in addition, the producer, who is 37 years old and has been working in the fields since he was 15, details: “The United States is not the supplier of fertilizer.” In his farm, for example, they use fertilizers from other countries, such as China or the Netherlands.

The producer concedes that Covid 19 and the weather had “adverse effects” on the operation. “In Río Seco, which is part of the tobacco chain that was quarantined for a long time,” he says, “entire plantations were lost.” Also, in November, “there was heavy rainfall” when the seeds were planted. However, these were not the primary pitfalls.

“There are a growing number of cooperatives in Vueltabajo that have been incurring debts from past periods, due to their mismanagement or company demands, something that affects the running of the same cooperatives with their resources and supplies,” he explains to this publication.

Added to the debts, he says, “is the deficient management of the seedbeds by the State,” a task that, though the producers are taking it on, “is still in the hands of the State, for the most part.”

In the midst of all this, he continues, comes the ‘Ordering Task’, which, for him, “is the most important point.” He says, “For the farmers, the so-called Day Zero was not Day Zero; we had not gotten a price ready, and a price was decreed without having the token cost” — that is the model where the data necessary to calculate the planned unit cost of a product or service provision is collected.

“For the farmers, the so-called Day Zero was not Day Zero; we had not gotten a price ready, and a price was decreed without having the token cost”

Pérez says that they were assured that prices would be established in about two months, but in January and February, when the peak of the harvest occurs, they were hit with them “without a token cost, without an extension of credit.” The main consequence was that the producers could not pay the workers “because they did not have the credit extension until the beginning of April.”

When they finally had the cost card, they saw that the credits were increased, but that the dry tobacco prices doubled, from 2,560 to 5,700 per metric quintal [one metric quintal is about 220 pounds].

The generalized increase in prices from the Ordering Task, he insists, was of great importance for the farmers. “There are the inputs, which increased 10 and 15 times their value and that cost was like a shock for the producers. They [the company] said they were going to make a new price proposal, but still nothing, it continues the same as they established at the beginning of the year,” he complains.

“In my opinion and that of many in this area,” he summarizes, the Ordering Task has been “disastrous” and “catastrophic,” since “it has led us to face the peak of the operation with credit based on previous prices, and 70% deficient.” He concludes that, as a result, “People were left without money, that is the biggest obstacle, not the blockade [US embargo].”

Translator’s notes:

*The so-called ‘Ordering Task’ (Tarea ordenamiento), is a collection of measures that includes eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and other actions. 

*Vueltabajo: Literally, the downward curve. Geographically situated at the westernmost end of Cuba, in the Pinar del Río province, it is the most important and best known of the five tobacco producing regions in Cuba.

Translated by Norma Whiting
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Cuban Authorities Exhibit Otero Alcantara in a Video as Proof of Life

The video was posted on Ifrán Martínez’s Facebook profile. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 May 2021 — Dr. Ifrán Martinez Gálvez, who presents himself as head of the medical team that cares for the artist Luis Manuel Otero Acántara at the Calixto García hospital, in Havana, has published a video on his Facebook profile this Tuesday, in clear response to the demands for a proof of life from the artist’s friends demanded to the Cuban Government.

“The medical staff has been spectacular, beyond the fact that I am going to continue demanding my rights as an artist, but we cannot say that the treatment has been bad, you have to know how to differentiate the profession of doctor and other occupations such as that of the State Security,” Otero Alcántara is heard saying in the recording.

The doctor said, “We have a relationship of professional respect for the patient, (…) we will continue to fight for the recovery of our patient and our friend.” continue reading

Martínez presents himself as a first-degree specialist in Angiology and Vascular Surgery and surgical vice director at the Calixto García Hospital. “Since May 2, I have been in charge of the team of specialists that cares for the patient Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who was admitted three days ago for voluntary starvation.”

He affirmed that his phone “has received numerous calls and messages accusing me of being a repressor, a policeman and a Brazilian doctor,” which, he insists, “is uncertain,” and as a result of which he asked Otero Alcántara “to film this video together, with the help of our nurse Dorita, to show the reality. “

This Tuesday, relatives of Otero Alcántara told 14ymedio that they are taking turns taking care of him at the medical center. According to an aunt, “they are hydrating him, he is drinking milk and juices but he is not eating anything solid.” She also said that she did not know if the artist had abandoned the hunger strike, stating that “you can hardly talk to him.”

Alcántara was arrested eight times during the month of April by the political police to prevent him from leaving his home on Damas Street, in Old Havana. After a raid on his house, also the headquarters of the San Isidro Movement (MSI), State Security confiscated his works of art and destroyed part of them.

On April 24, the artist began a hunger and thirst strike to protest the repression. In November, Alcántara had already used this method together with other members of the MSI. On that occasion, the Police also broke into the headquarters of the group to forcibly take the strikers to a hospital, also arguing that there was a risk due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The Chair of the Represser

Seeing on the lower floors of my building today, May 3rd, the chair of the State Security agent who prohibits me from going out every day, leaves a message that could not be clearer: she will return. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 3 May 2021 — There is a rickety and dirty wooden chair. It would only be a deteriorated object at the entrance of my building in Havana, if it weren’t for the fact that it represents power. It is a bulwark, the vantage point from which they frequently watch me to prevent me from leaving my home to practice journalism. On this World Press Freedom Day, that threadbare seat is a declaration of war.

When the State Security agent who watches over my building said to me this Sunday “Luz, you can’t go out” I already knew that another day of restrictions was going to be repeated to prevent me from putting the daily life of this Island in writing. “They don’t fear me, they fear reality”, I said to myself to avoid getting overheated by the repressor, a simple instrument of something greater.

In the long hours that these political police officers wait on the ground floor of my house, I have never seen them read a newspaper, review a magazine, scrutinize a book. Only, from time to time, they immerse themselves in their mobile phones and their screens reveal that they are absorbed in social networks, the same ones that their bosses assure them are “instruments of the empire to end the Revolution”.

When the State Security agent who watches over my building told me this Sunday “Luz, you can’t go out”, I already knew that another day of restrictions was going to be repeated.

But they don’t read the press, or so it seems. Down there, below, they serve as a barrier so that a reporter does not leave her house to walk the streets and look for news, but they don’t have a good informative argument with which to respond. They are orphans of a free press but they don’t even know it, they see the journalist as an enemy without really understanding what we are doing.

I hope that freedom of the press reaches all the media currently censored in Cuba and that my daughters can one day go to the corner shop to buy whatever newspaper they think best. I also want for whoever watches me to know at least what freedom to decide to read one piece of information or another is about. Or better yet, for no one to be sitting in that chair, rickety and dirty, which today, for me, represents a gag.

Translated by Norma Whiting
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When Anger is Not Enough / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 14 April 2021 — The controversy is useful: there are recent high-octane videos circulating in the social network where we can hear certain activists, or rather another chorus of Habaneros (people from Havana), who rant and rave in the street, hurling insults at the police and at (Cuban president) Diaz-Canel himself, and every day we come across more YouTubers reaching a crescendo in spraying around comments featuring our extensive vocabulary of swear-words. Resulting from the commotion generated in the media, Estado de SATS (Cuban discussion forum, supposedly named after Scandanavian expression meaning the moment just before the curtain rises), has proposed a debate on “Civility versus vulgarity”, and the controversy is increasingly heating up between contributors about the validity of this kind of protest.

Trying to define my position in this matter, my memory drags up the diva of Neo-Castrism, Humberto Lopez, when, in the Cubavision National News, he vented his rage against one Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara who posed nude in front of the cameras recently installed by the political police a few metres from his balcony. It was very shocking to see this sourpuss clown of officialdom asking millions of Cubans if “that is the way the opposition want to debate”, when everybody knows that for decades the cowardly government has evaded all direct confrontation with the opposition and has never dared to expose itself to public debate.

It’s surreal to see how the heartless bastards who disrespect my people, in an olympic outpouring of cynicism, try to make out they are the defenders of decency. But, in defence of little Humberto, it has to be said that in many cases we made it very easy, although at the very least it served to confirm one more time the old Castrista killer tactic: delegitimise and slag off whatever message of vindication by alluding to the “vulgarity” of the messenger. continue reading

From this, we need to draw an intelligent lesson: Castroism, like an old sea-dog,  knowing a lot about the ocean of possibilities of manipulation, will always make us pay for any error and with vicious impunity will go for the jugular every time we try to take a shot.

While we are on this point, I would like to clarify something: everything I write here is from the point of view of conciliation of all parties, if I can. More than 60 years of outrage have caused still-bleeding wounds and left tracks in the psyche of my people, and so, in this controversy, whatever stinging reaction comes up is understandable.

I understand that in the face of this despotism there is an accumulation of  feelings of impotence and frustration which would make even Teresa de Calcutta lose it, but, just the same, I hope my position is understood to be valid and urgent because this is a big deal for our nation. If, with my tone, I offend against any sensibility, I excuse myself in advance, above all if my humble apology touches the heart of any brother passing sleepless nights over the liberty of my people.

Our political situation got more complex with the deepening of the irreversible social and economic crisis of the Cuban regime. Right now, there are visible and invisible factors interacting because of the eruption of the social media, adding their new dynamic. In this context it is clear that some people consider protesting is valid and that  the more insults you throw in per second the more patriotic you are.

This is a troubled world we are dealing with, where there is an absence of any civic proposals and where almost never does anyone propose a concrete way out of the crisis we are living through. In fact, either they avoid expressing themselves in political terms, or, alternating between naiveté and “prudence”, they end up claiming they don’t consider themselves to be the opposition, and they are only bursting with rage from their position of common indignation, as if that made any sense in a totalitarianism like Cuba.

Those who praise such spontaneous and visceral outbursts – no doubt sincerely – where all that can be heard is barren and boring, and therefore useless, rather than argument which is disruptive and coherent – thats to say, politically useful – supported by “traditional” Cuban opposition, whom they oppose, are opting for a path which is sterile and gets us nowhere. Doing this is just a marginalisation, which is seen as an end in itself, but simply shows ourselves to the world as naive, superficial and grotesque – remember, my friends, that, for good or ill, time rushes by, and all that is happening is that we are handing ourselves over on a silver platter, because that is the image of all the Cuban opposition as a whole which the opportunist government ideologues are trying to construct in the collective public imagination.

These ideologues, don’t forget, have their next congress in a few days and have made it known that they will, with the worst of intentions, review government policies regarding use of the internet. No-one should be in any doubt that they have noted and will refer to these eloquent examples, to clothe with legitimacy the escalation of censorship, and strengthening of the legislation against the “offences” associated with the “inappropriate” use of social networks.

History has shown us that wars – and this one is no exception – are not won by the just, but by the smart. Courage is not enough; the fight for the freedom of a people cannot be reduced to a matter of bravado, no matter how much frustration or rage is weighing down on our backs. There is evidence that marginalisation never opens the way forward for any people, but rather, totally cynically, the common enemy of our liberty uses this point of weakness to conceal its dagger, and we have to put up with them perfuming their guarantee of public spirit, which is an insult to us, and so the equation doesn’t stack up, and that is when we will recognise the sad reality: that we will have placed in their hands a formidable weapon which will be mercilessly turned against us, which is an inexcusable aggravation, an act of self-harm lacking any logic in the context of this rigorously ideological war.

It’s not just me saying that, but history has demonstrated it. We recall not only the exemplary struggles of Ghandi, and Mandela, Luther King and Walesa, but also poking around in our own rich patriotic ideology with its roots down with the precepts of Padre Valera, and way up to the heights of Jose Marti, as well as dispersed throughout many thinkers, creators and activists throughout the 20th century; don’t forget that the pen sleeps alongside the machete, because in the beginning is the idea, and that is what calls us. It is essential that we make no concessions in this epic struggle, so we don’t get wrecked because we didn’t avoid trivialising our fight with pointless and directionless shouting.

Although shouting is always better than keeping quiet, and with everybody fighting against the Castroist absolutism every grain of sand counts, I could never imagine Jose Julian Martí naked against the Spanish courts during his exile in protest against colonialism; and I really have not seen, nor can I recall one example of a world-class hero in the last hundred years who achieved civil rights, set people free or defeated empires throwing boxes of pineapples. What has freed people up to now  – without exception – has always been the energetic flow of ideas fermented groups of thoughtful people which then clearly pointed the way to go so that the people could rush forward.

Victories were never achieved by producing vulgarities, no matter how much empathy we have for the pain felt by the dispossessed. We have no reason to accept vulgarity, or to suppose that living in an era in which victimisation is fashionable it is best to sign up to the “humble” faction to go with the flow, just because “that’s the way we Cubans talk”, because its easier, or because we lack character, and get to the point of being the negation of the firmness of principle or spiritual elevation, to the point of accusing the “other opposition” of frivolity, when their capital sin is nothing other than defending with steely tenacity coherent proposals for opposing a ruthless common enemy  – an opposition which, let us not forget, has sacrificed all in the trenches.

The war cry of Osorbo (Cuban rapper) is not more authentic just because it is spontaneous of visceral, or because he he came from a modest home in San Isidro, than that of Antonio Rodiles (Cuban political activist) just because he comes over as more thoughtful in Estado de Sats (forum for debate on social, cultural, and political issues in Cuba) from a “chic” location in Miramar. It would be counterproductive to try to parameterise, when both messages have the same intention – expressed in different frequencies but on the same dial as far as all our sufferings are concerned – and when both are, in their different ways, authentic war cries.

Any confrontation within the Cuban opposition which does not end in an embrace against the common enemy is senseless and is music to the ears of the dictatorship. But, look, it isn’t that both authentic cries have equal range. The main point here is not asking ourselves whether both are sincere claims – I don’t doubt that at all – but which of these two ways of understanding civic responsibility – different only in form, not content – is the more strategically useful in fighting against a dictatorship which has clung on through 60 years of terror. Which of them is realistically destined to help us reach our longed-for achievement of a Rule of Law? That, and nothing else, is the question.

To close these reflections, above all for those who are not yet convinced, I will just put one question: why is it that a propaganda machine as efficient as the Cuban Communist Party’s has never dared to publish a page or a fragment or any article or to transmit even 30 seconds of video of any criticism or civic proposal out of the mouth of Eduardo Payá or his daughter Rosa María Payá, or Antonio Rodiles, Coco Fariñas, Dagoberto Valdéz, José Daniel Ferrer, Reinaldo Escobar or Yoani Sánchez – from whom you have definitely never heard a bad word – but if any member of this new wave hurls any swear words, they rush to put out lengthy reports in the national chain which take up a good part of their news about whichever is the latest flunky mouthing off?

The answer is very simple: Castroism knows that its mortal enemy, with the potential to wipe it out, is a long-term proposition that avoids the ghettos and the tribalisms, and which advances arguments like punches in firmly denouncing at the right time so as to dissect and analyse the regime in all its cruelty and greed. The fight against the most  treacherous  dictatorship which we are living with is not a task for sprinters, but a long-distance race in which it is not worth wasting energy in senseless outbursts, because it is constancy, firmness and clarity of purpose, and nothing else, that finally define the guidelines for victory. Here the thoughtless guttural scream, no matter how emotionally justified, is born condemned to be extinguished, without ever having seen off the despot oppressing us.

True people are made from men who are the way they actually are, not the way they ought to be. These are the oxen who have to pull the plough; these are our drills and with them we will build the house, and a war cry emitted from the throat of a patriot will always be a good cry to shake up the tyrants, whether uttered from Miramar or San Isidro, but we have to keep in mind that to succeed in our main objective, and to work for our liberty, anger is not enough.

Translated by GH

Cuba: The Two Blockades and the Awakening of the People

According to many of those who criticized Obama’s policy towards the island, he made concessions without getting the same reciprocity from the Cuban government. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 3 May 2021 — Cuban government officials lament that the current president of the United States, Joe Biden, does not want to return to the open policy towards Cuba of former President Obama, in effect at a time when Biden was vice president. Cuban officials forget that it was they who closed the process of rapprochement between the two countries after the then retired Commander-in-Chief (Fidel Castro) published his critical reflection El Hermano Obama (Brother Obama) and that, in general, the Party “toughs”  stopped that process and reversed many of the changes in recent years.

Now this whining reminds me of the laments of the last sultan of Spain at the loss of Granada which earned him this deserved reproach from his mother: “You do well to cry like a woman what you failed to defend like a man!”

The question that should be asked, then, is why they were frightened when, according to many of those who criticized Obama’s policy, he made concessions without having the same reciprocity on the part of the Cuban government. Or could it be that the Commander and the Party toughs were more insightful than the toughs on the opposite shore in realizing that this policy of rapprochement was more dangerous for them than a policy of tensions? continue reading

The crux of the question was probably not whether or not the Cuban regime made the concessions, but the impact that approach could have on the population. The fact that Obama was able to speak without restriction before the entire Cuban people and the cheers and other euphoric reactions of the population towards him, possibly was an alarm bell for them. It seems that now, with the rope around their necks, they are reconsidering the matter.

But the chances that Biden will return to that policy of rapprochement in the immediate term seem nil, not only because of his statements that Cuba is not a matter of immediate interest for his foreign policy, but because it is very likely that he wants to win back the Florida voters who denied him their votes in the last elections if he wants to win a second term. He knows that the decisive weight in that defeat was Cubans and, although he managed to win the White House, Florida continues to be of vital importance. A policy change could only be made after the next presidential elections. But it is evident that the Cuban situation cannot wait four more years.

The hard-line opponents, therefore, clap their hands, because they, especially those in exile, always bet on the policy of the pressure cooker: tighten and tighten the embargo and reduce travel and remittances as much as possible, until the people, out of desperation, take to the streets.

It is not very decorous, by the way, to encourage calamities from afar so that others are the ones to launch themselves into the fire. The writer never advocated that policy, not only so that no one, from within, would tell him: “Come and go hungry yourself, suffer calamities, and then take to the streets,” but because it seemed an unwise strategy to me. The reasons are many and in another era I enumerated them. But in case you have forgotten them, I repeat now the most important ones:

1. Because the regime justifies the disastrous effects of its internal economic policy by blaming the external enemy. Still many of the fanatics and opportunists who continue to support the regime continue to use the rhetoric about “imperialism.” If the embargo imposed by the United States did not exist, the regime would be completely unmasked before all the people and before the world.

2. Because it achieves the solidarity of international public opinion by diverting attention from internal contradictions with the myth of the heroic island resisting the siege of a voracious empire. Year after year, at the United Nations, the United States is condemned almost unanimously, with very few exceptions, for maintaining the embargo against Cuba.

3. Because it justifies the internal repression of critics and dissidents by accusing them of being agents of the powerful external enemy and, therefore, traitors to the homeland. When in 1996 it was clearly seen that the Helms-Burton Act, which would strengthen the embargo, was going to be defeated in the United States Congress, the Cuban government decided to assassinate four peaceful opponents in exile by shooting down two civilian planes, and as a result the law was passed. Hence, many called it, ironically, the “Helms-Burton-Castro Law,” because with that excuse, it allowed the regime to openly muzzle all internal dissent, dissolve a legal institution with reformist projects such as the Center for American Studies (CEA ) and imprison 75 leaders of the dissent.

4. Because the people in Cuba, pressed solve their immediate economic problems such as, for example, a mother who has nothing to put on her children’s plates, do not have the time or mindset to think about holding demonstrations in the streets, but only to wear out their shoe leather looking for food.

5. Because a policy is required that, on the contrary, strengthens the victims by making them economically independent from the State, and prevents the latter from exercising economic coercion ever them, which is why it is preferable to facilitate travel and remittances. When Manuel Moreno Fraginals, author of El Ingenio, already in exile, was asked why the Cuban people, who had previously been so heroic, did not rebel against the dictatorship, he replied: “Because the middle class, the main protagonist of those struggles, was totally suppressed.”

However, the deep crisis facing the country has not really depended on what the Government of any other country has dictated, no matter how powerful it may be. The insubordination of the people in the streets is not due to an external blockade but to the Cuban leadership’s own internal policy stubbornly maintained despite so many setbacks, and above all, to an awakening of the collective conscience. Today they regret that the powerful neighbor to the North does not advance towards a process that ends the external blockade, but they themselves insist on continuing to maintain an internal blockade against their own people.

They could get the country out of this crisis by allowing farmers to sell freely to whom they wish at market prices, lowering the cost of self-employment licenses, as well as abusive taxes, allowing investments by Cubans from abroad as well as aid to their relatives in Cuba so that they can freely promote new small businesses, among other economic measures, and allow artists and intellectuals in the country to express themselves freely to contribute their ideas in the search for a solution that can only come from the consensus of the whole nation in all its diversity.

But they do not, simply because their current policy allows them to maintain absolute power and continue a life of privilege, turning their backs on the growing precariousness of the population, with a blindness only comparable to that of Queen Marie Antoinette of France shortly before the outbreak of the French Revolution, who responded when told that the people were starving: “Let them eat cake.”

But that absolute power has begun to break down, and they must be aware that they can also absolutely lose it if they do not realize in time that the true revolutionary process is not the one they stubbornly claim to be leading, a revolution that ended already more than half a century ago, but the one that is already beginning in the streets and neighborhoods of man Cuban cities.

The people have already woken up, they have stopped believing the lies with which they have been deceived for more than six decades and have become aware of their rights, and since no one governs without the consent of the governed, if they do not obey, the governor leaves the government.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuban State Security Breaks into Otero Alcantara’s House and Takes Him to the Hospital

Otero Alcántara was transferred to the Calixto García Hospital, in El Vedado. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 May 2021 — Cuban State Security broke into the home of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, in Old Havana, at dawn this Sunday, and transferred him to the Calixto García Hospital, in El Vedado. An official statement confirmed that the artist was taken from his home, a week after starting a hunger and thirst strike.

The artist’s uncle, Enix Berrio, explained to 14ymedio that they did not notify any family member of the transfer to the hospital. He also stated: “I don’t tell lies, I know how I saw it, it was wrong.” Berrio says that Otero Alcántara’s sister arrived this Sunday morning at number 955 Damas Street “with a friend who is a doctor” and without knowing anything about what happened at dawn. “A new padlock was found on the door and a bar,” he said.

The information about the transfer of Otero Alcántara to a hospital, of which there was only conjecture on social networks during the first hours of May 2nd, was released through the poet Katherine Bisquet, who, despite being surrounded by State Security in her home, maintains contact with residents of Damas Street in Old Havana. continue reading

The activist wrote that she was able to confirm with the neighbors of Alcántara that State Security took the artist around 5:00 in the morning. “The neighbors found the door locked from the outside with another type of lock,” although the details of how the artist was taken from his home are still unknown.

A note published this Sunday signed by the management of the Calixto García hospital, said that he arrived at the health center “in medical transport, in a conscious state, and walking without difficulty.” The text explains that the patient’s diagnosis was “voluntary starvation.”

“The physical examination did not reveal signs of malnutrition, with the presence of normal clinical and biochemical parameters,” the note adds. “As established in the medical care protocol for Covid-19, an antigen test was performed, with a negative result, and PCR samples were taken, pending the result.”

According to the hospital authorities, “since his arrival at the institution, and throughout the process he has remained cooperative with the health personnel who attend him.” The note also explains that “the patient maintains a stable evolution. The corresponding medical actions are continued by the group of specialists.”

However, the statement does not specify if the artist has received any type of serum or supplement to recover from dehydration after seven days without drinking water or other liquids. “He is kept under observation based on the aforementioned reasons that resulted in his arrival at the institution,” concludes the brief note.

As of 10:00 am this Sunday morning, the patient had not communicated by phone with family or friends since he was transferred to the hospital.

Otero Alcántara went on a hunger and thirst strike last Sunday to demand that the Government end the police siege of his home and compensate him for the works of art that State Security stole from his house without showing a search warrant and without drawing up the legally required record of seizure.

The break in this Sunday at the house of Otero Alcántara is the third illegal entry carried out by the political police. The first occurred last November when a group of artists was violently evicted from the headquarters of the San Isidro Movement where they were on a hunger strike to demand the freedom of Denis Solís.

The second raid took place on 14 April. Several State Security agents arrested the artist along with rapper Yenisleidys Borroto AfrikReina BV. In the operation they destroyed some of Otero Alcántara’s works of art.

These violent acts almost always occur at night and are accompanied by interruptions of Internet services on the island, with the aim of preventing the images and denunciations of the arbitrariness committed by the regime being disseminated on social networks. In addition, dozens of artists, journalists and activists have been arrested, or are being kept under surveillance and confined to their homes to silence their support for Otero Alcántara.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Dozens of Activists Demonstrate in Old Havana, Shouting “Patria y Vida” (Homeland and Life)

Demonstration this Friday in Old Havana in protest of the repression of and in solidarity with Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 30 April 2021 — Dozens of activists were repressed in a protest in the park on the corner of Obispo and Aguacate, in Old Havana. The protesters were trying to reach the home of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, only a few blocks away. The artist is on his sixth day of a hunger and thirst strike to end the siege to which he’s been subjected by State Security.

In a broadcast by Mary Karla Ares, some activists, such as Thais Mailén Franco Benítez and ADN Cuba collaborator Esteban Rodríguez are seen sitting together demanding to see Otero Alcántara. Some of them were handcuffed and violently detained in front of dozens of people who were filming with their cell phones, and others showing support.

The complete list of those arrested in the protest, compiled by Cubalex, is, as of now: Mary Karla Ares González, Thais Mailén Franco Benítez, Esteban Lázaro Rodríguez López, Leonardo Romero Negrín, Félix Modesto Valdés Díaz and Douglas Batista Savigne.

Moment when the repressive forces try to take some of the activists into custody. (Capture)

Carolina Barrero, Joeluis Cerutti Torres and Maykel Castillo Pérez were arrested as they left their homes when they tried to get to Old Havana. continue reading

“Homeland and life”, “down with the dictatorship”, “Luis Manuel is dying”, “there are no medicines”, “there is no food”, were some of the demands that Franco Benítez shouted, to which a whole chorus responded “Homeland and life! Homeland and life!”, the title of the song by Yotuel Romero, Gente de Zona, Descemer Bueno, Maykel Castillo and El Funky, which has become the motto of the opposition inside and outside Cuba. 

The police, unlike during other occasions where they acted by beating activists, were visibly fearful of executing the arrest operation with violence in front of the cell phones that were recording

The activists also shouted “down with repression” and “down with communism”, while the police and State Security agents became increasingly violent against the activists while trying to take them away. The protesters’ demands were chanted by dozens of Cubans who gathered around them.

The well-known repressor who calls himself “Lieutenant Colonel Camilo.” (Collage)

During Ares’s live broadcast, the moment when the activists held each other’s arms, to avoid being taken away, was recorded.

The police, unlike during other occasions where they acted by beating activists, were visibly fearful of executing the arrest operation with violence that cell phones were recording and transmitting live.

Neither were there rapid response brigades in the crowd, shouting slogans in favor of the Government, and only one woman exclaimed: “Viva Canel!”, a shout that was extinguished by the chorus of “Patria y Vida”.

People were able to recognize “Lieutenant Colonel Camilo”, a well-known repressor who led an operation against Yoani Sánchez and Reinaldo Escobar a decade ago and has been singled out by activists, such as the Ladies in White. He had been absent for a few years.

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, the most visible face of the San Isidro Movement (MSI), is still surrounded by a police cordon, preventing his friends and some religious authorities who have tried to enter from getting through.

This Friday morning, he told 14ymedio that he was unable to speak. “I’m exhausted, I don’t even have the strength to talk,” he texted to this newspaper via SMS.

Poet Amaury Pacheco, a member of the MSI, stated on his Facebook wall that Otero Alcántara’s uncle, Enix Berrio Sarda, was able to visit the artist in Old Havana and report on his health. “He can no longer stand up, his skin and mouth are cracked, he no longer urinates and cannot speak, his throat is swollen,” said Berrio. He further said that he “is maintaining his demands and will continue his hunger strike until the end”.

“He can no longer stand up, his skin and mouth are cracked, he no longer urinates and does not speak, his throat is swollen”

According to a report this Friday afternoon by journalist José Raúl Gallego, a resident of Mexico, several people, including members of the Catholic Church, are gathered in front of the Infanta and Manglar police station, in the El Cerro neighborhood, to get news of the detainees during the protest.

The Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) expressed disapproval of “the repression by the Government of Miguel Díaz-Canel and General Luis Alberto Lopez-Calleja” against protesters, and it pointed at them as responsible for the “physical integrity of the detainees”.

“We urgently call on the European Union and Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights, to condemn the repressive escalation, and to abandon their complacency with the Cuban Communist Party, which not only represses those who exercise their rights, but has also plunged the entire Cuban people in misery”, added the OCDH.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cooking Oil Donated by the World Food Program Being Sold in Cuba

Photos of the bottles posted on Facebook drew strong criticism. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, May 1, 2021 — Cuba’s Ministry of Domestic Commerce responded on Thursday to the complaints about the sale of vegetable oil donated by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). The product will “be replaced” in stores selling rationed goods when the disruptions in domestic production are resolved, the ministry said in a statement.

The response came after images were posted online of one-liter bottles of Russian-made cooking oil with a label sale indicating their sale was prohibited. The bottles were part of a lot donated by the WFP.

Photos of the bottles posted on Facebook drew strong criticism and calls for the United Nations to issue a statement on the sale of a food intended to be distributed free of charge, regardless of the ministry’s statement that the sale was justified due to technical problems at Cuban factories. continue reading

According to the ministry’s statement, packaged goods intended for sale in the rationed market “suffered disruptions” and, faced with the prospect of not being able to provide these items for the so-called “basic basket” of essential goods, “devised alternatives that will allow deliveries to be made.”

The statement adds that the one-liter sized bottles of oil had come from the World Food Program’s stockpiles in the country, adding they will be “replaced” once domestic production has been restored.

During the months of May and June, the oil will be sold in Cotorro, Arroyo Naranjo, Boyeros, Guanabacoa, San Miguel del Padrón and East Havana.

The ministry did not indicate when the WFP made its donation nor the reason the product has not been distributed to the public until now.

At the end of April the Russian government donated to Cuba, through the WFP, several tons of food valued at more than a million dollars. The event was marked by a ceremony attended by the Russian ambassador to Cuba, Andrei Guskov, along with several government officials.

It is not the first time accusations like this have come to light. After Hurricane Irma slammed the island in 2017, several foreign governments, non-governmental organization and UN agencies sent donations to alleviate shortages of food, medicine, water and construction materials. Several flood victims later complained that the state had charged them for mattresses, stoves and even coal.

In response to the criticism, the government passed a law stipulating that any disaster relief from overseas is to be provided to the Cuban population free of charge. However, recipients will still have to pay for distribution and transportation costs according to Resolution 645, adopted by the Ministry of Finance and Pricing.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.