A Worsening Economic Crisis in Cuba Raises Concerns in Miami

A long line in Havana to buy detergent, one of the products in short supply at retail stores. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 Feruary 2020 — Connected to Cuba by an umbilical chord of family relations and remittances, Cubans in Miami are following with concern the news of a resurgent economic crisis on the island, which has begun exhibiting itself in a shortage of basic goods.

Faced with a reduction in Venezuelan subsidies, the latest U.S. sanctions on Havana for its support of Nicolás Maduro and a sizable foreign debt, Cuba is now experiencing a liquidity crisis that has forced authorities to buy fuel on the international market that Venezuela had been providing at subsidized prices.

“(Cleaning products) have been in shortage supply during the month of January. We still will not have satisfied demand by February or March but we hope that, with the various measures that are being adopted, we will be able to stabilize production and provide these products to consumers,” said Betsy Diaz Velazquez, minister of Foreign Trade. continue reading

In Miami, the city with the largest Cuban population after Havana, news of a new period of austerity is being followed with concern. In an interview with El Nuevo Herald, Lazaro Alberto Dominguez, a Cuban living in Hialeah, said, “All of my family is in Cienfuegos. A week ago I had to send them a package with coffee, lentils, garbanzos and other things because the situation keeps getting worse.”

Dominguez reports that, in addition to the hundred dollars a month he sends to his mother in Cuba, he has to periodically send packages of food, medicine and clothing.

“There’s nothing in Cuba. Even if you have money, you can’t find things in the stores. The government lays all the blame on the blockade [American embargo] but hotels manage to get everything they need,” he observes.

The 34-year-old man arrived in the United States two years ago by way of the Mexican border after requesting political asylum. However, he is not active in any opposition group.

“I don’t plan on returning to Cuba. I download Otaloa but I have to send things to my family,” he adds.

Alex Otaola is a Cuban influencer who hosts a daily program on Youtube seen by more than 10,000 people and who has led campaigns against remittances, travel and shipments to the island.

Remittances constitute the Cuban economy’s second largest source of hard currency. According to the Havana Consulting Group, Cuba received about 6.6 billion dollars in 2018 in the form of cash remittances and consumer goods, with 90% of remittances coming from the United States.

In the battered Cuban economy, income from remittances is exceeded only by the export of services, which in recent years has averaged around ten billion dollars. The Trump administration has set a limit of $1,000 per quarter on remittances, which can only be sent to relatives, in an attempt to force Cuba to abandon its ally and benefactor, the government of Nicolás Maduro.

The Cuban government has said that, due to US sanctions, it has had to choose between “maintaining a stable food supply” or paying for cleaning products. And the Cuban economy is highly dependent on imports.

Among the products in short supply are coffee, grains, fuel, gas, detergent, soap and toothpaste. In recent month shortages of items such as vegetable oil, chicken, meat and flour, as well as all products made from them, have also been reported.

With its network of inefficient state-owned businesses, Cuba must spend more than a billion dollars to import food that could be produced domestically. Nevertheless, the government persists in prioritizing ideology over the market in spite the advice of its own economists.

Belkis Veitía has lived in Little Havana for more than fifteen years. The only members of her family left in Cuba are two cousins; she and her two brothers left the country aboard a speedboat, arriving at the southern coast of Florida. The trip cost them almost $30,000, money they obtained from family members and by selling all their belongings in Cuba.

“I can’t forget the people of Cuba. Those of us who have lived through this tragedy know that those who are left behind need our help,” she says.

Veitía helps the local Catholic Church collect donations that are later sent to Cáritas Cuba and other NGOs working on the island.

“We ship a lot of medication, clothing and food to Cuba. The situation is hardest on the elderly. Thanks to the Catholic Church a lot of them are guaranteed lunch or dinner. They get government pensions but they are little more than ten dollars a month,” she says.

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Participants of the Lynching Attempt in Santiago de Cuba Are Arrested

The events took place last Saturday, when the minor was attending a birthday party from where she was taken by the alleged aggressor, a friend of her parents’. (Facebook / Leonar Rente)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 14, 2020 — The many videos that have circulated on social networks about the attempted lynching of the person who raped a minor in Santiago de Cuba have had a double effect. Thanks to these images, the authorities have identified the citizens who intervened in the events and have begun to arrest and prosecute them.

“From the videos seized, we have begun to identify the people who attacked the Police and the arrests and prosecutions by the criminal investigation body of our province have started,” Lt. Col. José Luis announced on Thursday on Tele Turquino, the local TV channel of Santiago de Cuba.

“The people who assaulted the law enforcement officers taking advantage of this circumstance will be presented to the Prosecutor’s Office,” said Rolando Reyes Speck, a prosecutor in the Department of Criminal Justice. continue reading

The interviewee said in the broadcast that the minor remains hospitalized, however her condition is not life threatening; meanwhile, the alleged culprit has confessed his crime and “the full weight of the law will fall upon him”. According to the official statement, the alleged aggressor was identified by the residents of the area after committing the crime and “the moment of great sensibility was used by unscrupulous and opportunistic elements” to alter public order.

The officers insisted that the cause resulting from the investigation in this case of rape will have all the guarantees and that no one should take justice into their own hands as this process is in the Constitution “which every decent Cuban”, said Antomarchi, voted on last year.

The events occurred on February 8 when the victim, an 8-year-old girl, attended a birthday party and was taken by the detainee, an acquaintance of her parents, to rape her. The crime was immediately discovered by the neighbors, who went after the rapist to beat him and stone him, at which point the police had to intervene.

The authorities explained that the presence of the riot police was required when the agents were overpowered in their attempt to prevent a lynching. They explained that the law enforcement officers “never attacked the people” and simply tried to cool down the situation, but several individuals charged at the police and firefighters.

“The investigation and process shall be carried out applied equally to every accused person in our country,” said Reyes Speck, and assured that both the rapist and the protesters can count on the “legal guarantees that every defendant has.”

“For every person who commits a crime, however aberrant it may seem, the rule of law establishes procedural guarantees,” the prosecutor insisted.

Darina Ortega León, professor of Law at the Eastern University (Universidad de Oriente, Spanish name), participated in the program quoting Martí to defend the respect for the rule of law and privacy. In recent days, several images of the alleged aggressor, as well as some comments, many of them unconfirmed, have circulated on social networks and some media about the alleged health condition of the minor.

The hostess regretted that the videos of the lynching attempt presented a bad image of the citizens. “It is very unpleasant that the population of Santiago has been exposed in social networks in the way it was presented, because that goes against what we are defending as a social project.”

Ortega urged “not to follow the lead of these individuals that could damage the image of the people” and “encouraged the population to be very careful with things that are uploaded to the social networks (…). We have to avoid damaging, the image of our people in particular, who do not deserve it.”

The official media has taken several days to report this news and has only done it to accuse those who have informed the population and to proclaim that these events are isolated, that Cuba is a safe place and that this incident “responds to a campaign orchestrated from abroad”. The Tele Turquino hostess finished her presentation with a solemn phrase: “The truth is like the light, no matter how much you try to conceal it, it always blazes”.

 Francy Pérez Perdomo

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A Prime Minister with Doubtful Results as a Minister / Somos+

The photo of Manuel Marrero Cruz surrounded by officers in uniform at the time of announcing his appointment to the plenary perhaps explains this inexplicable designation.

SOMOS+, Germán M. González, 6 February 2020 — Reviewing the results of the tourism sector in the current year, we have the following outcome:

The arrival of visitors decreases, the official explanation is the restrictions the Trump Administration has put on Americans’ travel to Cuba, including stopping the cruise ships, but the truth is that destinations having little or nothing to do with the coercive measures of the US government are decreasing. Let’s look at this from January to October according to the National Bureau of Statistics and Information www.onei.cu:

Only the visitors from the community (larger every day) and from Russia are increasing, representing 3.5% of the total and those from Europe and the rest of the world are decreasing by -280 thousand visitors, 210 thousand more than the decrease of those from the USA (-70 thousand). In this issue, as in others, if there were no “blockade” (embargo actually) it would necessary to invent it. continue reading

These trends continued in November and from January to September, we noticed that stays per visitor were only 4.4 days and revenues 503 CUC, in both cases, below the total of 2018.

The average occupancy rate is 38%, 1.7 percentage points below the percentage accomplished in 2018 and the most serious problem: since the early 2017 there is no occupancy over 60% in any month of the year.

In general, both absolute and relative levels in the indicators of the rates in 2019, are lower not only than 2018 but also in 2017; that is to say that the alleged locomotive of the Cuban economy has been in recession for two years.

According to the Cuban News Agency (ACN, for its acronym in Spanish), the first Deputy Minister of Tourism (now Minister), Juan Carlos García, reported in the recently concluded session of the National Assembly of the People’s Power that there are 11,000 empty rooms due to “insufficient preventive maintenance, lack of priority to prevention, solution and control fulfillment of the designed plans.”

In general, he acknowledged important breaches in maintenance and remodeling issues and listed a series of deficiencies, such as a deficit of suitable investors, technical documentation and equipment completion; insufficient preparation of the construction works; changes in the original projects; failure to fulfill the executive schedules: deficit in the supplies of the national industry; failure to accomplish the import plan; lack of skilled labor force, fuel shortage.

There were also problems in the operation of the elevators in the hotels that were not a cause for shutting rooms down, but impacted the service quality.

The performance of the other sectors must have been really poor for the minister Manuel Marrero Cruz to be designated as Prime Minister! Or is it that they took into account — as it usually happens in the system copied from the Soviet Union — considerations outside the efficiency and effectiveness in management.

This promotion recalls those made in favor of Inés María Chapman and Roberto Morales Ojeda, both with lower results than the usual inefficiency. Or worse, J.R. Balaguer’s promotion from Health Minister to Secretary of International Relations of the Party when the death of over twenty patients of Mazorra Psychiatric Hospital (from cold and starvation) resulted into prison sentences for staff of that hospital.

And how is it possible to justify that the investment program for 2019 foretold a hotel capacity growth of more than 3,800 rooms and the restoration of another 5,000? Why, considering the 38% occupancy rate that only exceeds 50% during one month of the year?

If parliament members were not appointed based on their unconditional support for the leaders, as the President of the Assembly has just proclaimed, if they were representatives of the Nation, they would have asked these and many other questions instead of unanimously approving every document presented before them and the decisions taken of which they are, like the cuckold of the story, the last ones to find out.

Translated by Francy Perez Perdomo 

UN Asks Cuba to Release and Compensate Three Opponents

Iván Amaro Hidalgo, on the left, was arrested in August 2016 wearing a shirt with the motto Democracy YES! Dictatorship NO!

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 February 2020 — The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations Human Rights Council considers that jailed Cuban opponents Josiel Guia Piloto, Marbel Mendoza Reyes and Iván Amaro Hidalgo were convicted of vague crimes and without adequate legal defense.

After learning of the cases from the  Cuban Prisoners Defenders (CPD), an NGO, and evaluating the allegations of the Government of Cuba, the agency reached these conclusions and calls on Havana to grant the activists “immediate, full freedom” and grant them “the effective right to obtain compensation and other types of reparation, in accordance with international law.”

Josiel Guia Piloto, president of the Republican Party of Cuba (which is not legally recognized), was arrested 22 times between 2011 and 2014. In 2016 he was arrested and, a year later, was convicted of “contempt and public disorder.” The UN considers it proven that the police stopped him without justification in order to “generate an exchange of words” that resulted in his arrest and prosecution “from the fabrication of a suspicion by police.” continue reading

Marbel Mendoza Reyes, of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), was charged and sentenced to two and a half years in prison for social-pre-criminal dangerousness, a crime that the Cuban government uses very regularly. According to Cuban Prisoners Defender, there are 11,000 people imprisoned in the Island under this charge, which is applied to people the government believes are involved in activities contrary to “socialist morality.”

The CPD report also alleges that Mendoza’s sentence was extended six months for an alleged crime of contempt based on the complaint of a single official, something that is allowed by law in Cuba.

Iván Amaro Hidalgo, an activist with the Pedro Luis Boitel Party for Democracy (also illegal), is the third person referenced in the report. He was arrested in August 2016 wearing a shirt with the motto Democracy YES! Dictatorship NO! and Down You Know Who. In March 2017, he was sentenced to three years in prison in a closed-door trial in which the only witness was a police officer.

The report of the Working Group questions the criminal definitions of “contempt, disorder, danger and attack, contained in the Criminal Code, they are extremely vague and lack the requirement of sufficient accuracy to provide the population with legal certainty.”

In addition, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has already asked for the elimination of the crime of pre-criminal-dangerousness from the Criminal Code, as have other NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

The document laments that it is not the first time that it has to deal with matters such as this and that “there have been no significant changes in the State justice system since the presentation of its initial report in 1997. In particular, it notes with concern the lack of independence with respect to the executive and legislative powers of both the judiciary and the role of lawyers,” it emphasizes.

The Working Group will refer these three cases to the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishments, and asks Cuba to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was signed by Cuba in 2008 but not ratified and put into practice, and to follow up on the case and the application of recommendations.

One of the requests made in the report to the authorities in Havana is “to disseminate the present opinion [in reference to the report] by all available means and as widely as possible,” although it does not seem likely that they will do so.

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Melia Group Faces Demand for 150 Million Dollars Compensation for Cuban Revolution Expropriations

The hotel Sol Río De Luna y Mares, of the Meliá chain, is advertised on a web platform. (tripadvisor)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 February 2020 — Andrés Rivero Mestre, the lawyer who defends several of the families that claiming compensation for the expropriation of their assets by the Cuban Government after the Revolution in the 1960s, calculates that the Meliá Mallorcan hotel chain should pay his clients more than 150 million dollars, as he has told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

Rivero, a Cuban of Spanish descent, is defending the interests of the Sánchez-Hill, Mata, López Regueiro and Echevarría families, among others, from his office in Florida.

“We claim, under the law, three times the value of the 39 hotels, which obviously now exceeds 150 million dollars,” he explained to El Mundo. The estimate is based on the calculation made by an expert who valued the hotel deemed to have the lowest value at about five million dollars. “If that is the least valuable, I estimate that the collection would exceed 150 million, but the truth is that I don’t know, I would be speculating if I gave an exact figure.” continue reading

The accounts have been using estimates of the room rates and occupancy levels of the hotel in recent years.

Rivero’s idea is to claim compensation from the Meliá chain and then extend that to the rest of the chains. The families he represents have claims on 15 of the 39 facilities that Meliá manages in Cuba, but the demands can be extended using a class action lawsuit that allows claims on behalf of all those affected.

At the moment, the prospects for success are not high. Earlier this year, a Florida judge removed the Mallorcan company from a case for claims because it was not within his competence to rule on land expropriations in other countries. In addition, the European Union has activated the blockade statute, a rule created in 1996 to protect against the Helms-Burton Act.

The US State Department, for its part, is in contact with Rivero’s office. “We have asked them to impose sanctions and do everything possible: remove visas, whatever, in order to support the actions of my clients,” he said

In early February it was confirmed that Gabriel Escarrer, vice president of Meliá, and other 13 executives are prohibited from entering the United States for this reason, but the hotel group is confident that the law protects them.

Rivero’s strategy, as he told El Mundo, is to focus the current process on the websites that sell hotel stays in Cuba, such as Expedia and Booking, and leave Meliá out at first, based on the fact that these platforms market rooms that can be reserved and paid for from Florida.

“If we win with Expedia and Booking we will have the entire foundation to include Meliá again,” since they can also market their rooms to Florida consumers from their website.

If the plan works, he will continue with Iberostar, Barceló and Blau Hotels and hotels in other countries, he announced.

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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.

Evo Morales Returns From Cuba to Prepare for the Election Campaign from Argentina

Morales was in Cuba, presumably for a health treatment that continues in Havana.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 February 2020 —  Evo Morales returned to Argentina on Sunday after a brief stay in Cuba, allegedly for medical reasons. Starting Monday, today, the former president will dedicate himself, from Buenos Aires, to preparing for the Bolivian elections of May 3 and will start a series of meetings, which include a meeting between the candidate from Bolivia’s Movement for Socialism (MAS), Luis Arce, and Argentine President Alberto Fernández.

“There will be el compañero Luis Arce Catacora, candidate for president, and then he has a meeting with Argentine President Alberto Fernández; it will be an important meeting between a candidate and a president,” Morales said in an interview this Sunday.

In addition, the former president who, in his statements, made it clear that he is leading the campaign, announced a meeting with departmental and national leaders of his party to plan the road to the elections. continue reading

“Tomorrow morning starting at 8:00 we will be gathered to listen and for them to listen to me, share campaign experiences, and an important issue that we are going to discuss is how we will deal with the post-election issue of May 3, how are we going to protect the vote of the people, from the polls, the constituencies, some proposal must be raised, hopefully we will approve it and in this way we will be prepared,” he said.

Before leaving the Island, Morales said in an interview that he is “in very good health.” Both the former leader and his party in Bolivia and even the Cuban Government, not generally given to discuss these cases, have spread that his presence in Havana was allegedly due to a medical treatment.

In March 2017, Morales was treated in Cuba for an alleged throat condition and a month later he was operated for a nodule on the vocal cords, also at the Surgical Medical Research Center (Cimeq).

On this occasion, on the other hand, although it has been emphasized that his passage through Cuba was due to a health issue, the issue itself has not been clarified, which arouses speculation about the real reasons for this trip.

The last voting survey, released on Sunday by Ciesmori, puts the MAS in first position with 31.6%, although it remains to be seen if the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) will approve the former president presenting himself as a candidate for senator.

The second option would be the one presented by the also former-president of the country Carlos Mesa, with the Citizen Community Party (CC), with 17.1%. In third place, with 16.5% is the candidacy of Jeanine Áñez, who is on the ballot with the Juntos alliance.

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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.

Cuba’s Taxi Drivers Will Remain Idle if Their Demands Are Not Met

Two woman get in a shared-taxi in Havana; the vehicles are known as almendrónes, after the “almond-shape” of the classic American cars generally used in this fixed-route service.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 February 2020 — The Cuban Association of Autonomous Carriers (ACTA) in Havana, Mayabeque and Artemis provinces, released a document on Thursdays with five demands of the Government which, if not satisfied, will lead them to maintain the work stoppage that began several days ago, after new regulations governing the sector went into effect.

The demands are: freedom of movement is authorized for private taxi drivers; the approval of a single passenger license; permission to work throughout the Island, including tourist areas; the ability to buy fuel based on consumption; and the end of ’capped’ fare prices.

Esteban Hernández González, coordinator for the western region of the Self-Employed Coalition of Cuba, explained to Radio Martí that between 70% and 80% of drivers are supporting the strike to try to get the government to negotiate. “So far there has been no response to the demands,” he said. continue reading

In the interview, Hernández added that private carriers move around 80% of passengers, which encourages them to think they will be heard. “The Ministry of Transportation has no capacity [to carry that number]. There is no equipment, no means,” he confirms.

However, he also admits that his associates cannot remain unemployed for much longer and are considering other forms of follow-up, such as working on alternate days.

On February 1, new measures for private transport entered into force, including those affecting rates. The boteros, as taxi drivers are called — the word means “boatmen” — should charge a maximum of 10 CUP per passenger in vehicles with up to 14 seats, and 5 CUP per passengers in trucks and vans converted for passenger use.

Hernández explained that the authorities, in any case, are not strictly applying the regulations. “The position of the authorities has been to let it go: there are practically no inspectors on the streets today and the police are not stopping the cars, as they did at the beginning, because they know that the situation is beyond their control,” he says.

In recent years, the Government has tried to impose distinct regulations on private passenger transport, but the amount of changes in the regulation suggests that they have not yet found a working formula.

The problems of public transport in Cuba, very specifically in the capital, where the concentration of residents is very high, make it impossible to move the population without resorting to private transport, either through state taxis or the private boteros. But the former, by themselves, are also insufficient, which ups the negotiating capacity for private parties.

One of the most notable stoppages of private transport in recent years in Cuba began on December 7, 2018, when for 48 hours the most populous city in the country was the scene of what was popularly known as El Trancón (The Great Traffic Jam). The protest was trying to reverse a package of regulations that imposed strict controls on the sector and although the measures were finally approved in part, the authorities delayed or canceled others.

See also: Set of related articles.

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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.

In the Streets of Bogota, Thousands of Venezuelans Barely Survive

Many Venezuelans walk hundreds and thousands of kilometers, carrying their children, to get to Bogotá in search of work and economic relief. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Bogota, 15 February 2020 – There are three of them and they are sitting on a wall in front of a restaurant in the Chapinero neighborhood. The girl is restless and the mother tries to keep her from walking into the busy avenue. Meanwhile, the father asks for money. He is about 20 years old and all the bones of his face are visible. “We come from Caracas, we arrived here last week,” says the young Venezuelan, who identifies himself as Andrés.

I start a conversation and just listening to my accent he pulls back, on guard. The few syllables I pronounce act as a threat to his ears. “Relax, I’m Cuban, I’m not a Castro supporter,” I say, to calm him, but the fear is in his eyes, opened wider than a second ago, in his nervous stutter, and in his grabbing of his belongings.

I sit down next to him to allay his suspicion and tell him it’s my fault, a heavy weight that I carry on my shoulders. “I understand what you are living through, we are responsible in some way,” I say. I keep talking and it eases the tension and he talks. “We left with what we had on, madre, our feet are still destroyed by the journey,” and he shows me his shoes with holes big enough to put his little finger through. continue reading

It’s noon and the Bogota street is a swarm of people leaving their offices for lunch. For most of those who pass by, these three Venezuelans are virtually invisible. The city is full of them, at every corner, at every traffic light and in every neighborhood. According to figures published by Migration Colombia last August, at that time there were 1,408,055 of these migrants in the country, an increase of 11% compared to the first quarter of 2019.

However, the numbers may be far from the reality because many migrants are in the country irregularly, or are in the process of legalizing their status. It is enough to travel the streets of the Colombian capital, approach the border towns or spend a few hours in some office where the paperwork is prepared to get an identity card, to realize the impressive scale of this exodus.

Scrubbing windshields, performing as “living statues” or asking for alms, Bogotá is overflowing with displaced Venezuelans. (14ymedio)

Outside a Carulla supermarket, Elmer, 16, sells empanadas and arepas. For two thousand Colombian pesos (about 60¢ US), he offers his merchandise warm and wrapped in napkins. “I came with my grandmother, my mother and my two sisters, but I am the only one in the family who can work now,” he says. “In Venezuela we left my other two brothers and my grandfather, so we have to send them money.”

Elmer dropped out of school more than three years ago, when the economic situation in his nation hit bottom. “All my friends left and in the end it was my turn,” he explains. He has the look of an old man who has seen the ups and downs of life, he speaks without hope and, every so often, checks the coins he has earned, polishes them and collects them in a small pile.

“On a bad day I make 50,000 Colombian pesos in this corner,” he says. That’s less than 15 dollars, a small fortune in his country, where shortages and inflation have turned money into a balloon that goes up and up to the stratosphere. But in Bogotá, Elmer and his family can barely survive with that, after the remittances they have to send home and the rent of a tiny apartment.

The family entered the country through the border city of Cúcuta. Elmer does not like to talk about his time in that border region, but only says “there, my older sister and my mother took charge.” It is not necessary to add anything else, the prostitution of Venezuelan women in that area has skyrocketed in recent years and in the brothels doctors, nurses, engineers and teachers take turns, due to the economic despair that has led them to sell their bodies.

A customer heading into the Carulla approaches Elmer to buy some empanadas. “Two meat and one cheese,” he specifies, and the young man’s hands, wrapped in plastic gloves, dip into a small pot. He is also wearing a facemask, which in these times of the coronavirus implies another meaning. “No, it’s that customers don’t like us to breathe on the merchandise,” he says.

Elmer’s younger sister is called Cinthia; she is a girl of about eight who appears past noon bringing more empanadas. She was born in March 2013, shortly before Hugo Chavez died, and of her country all she has left are some of her brother’s photos, some of the flavors still served in her family’s kitchen, and nostalgia. She already has some Colombian friends she met in public school.

When Elmer was born, Cuba was living high on the hog, supported by the Venezuelan subsidy. Those were the years when the Battle of Ideas, the Energy Revolution and all the ideological excesses that Havana could afford were at their peak expression. Home appliances were distributed at preferential prices, public acts of revolutionary vindication were organized every week and ideological propaganda reached amazing levels.

So Elmer’s drama is partly a consequence of our waste and folly. On an island that has always had continental aspirations, this propensity to suck the resources of great powers became an official practice in the last half century. Some even point to Cuba as among the causes of the Soviet Union’s implosion, but what does seems certain is that we are one of the great reasons for the Venezuelan debacle.

The year that Elmer’s younger sister Cinthia arrived in this world, the bubble had begun to burst. Chávez was ill, his popularity in a tailspin, the Plaza of the Revolution increasingly mentioned as the cause of a good part of Venezuela’s problems and life in Caracas was very uncertain, dangerous and difficult. In Cuba, most of us did not even realize the drama we had caused in one of the richest nations in Latin America.

Some Venezuelans can only survive thanks to public charity. (14ymedio)

It is tremendously hot in Bogotá. I look at both siblings, buy an empanada and eat it near the steaming pot, along with a low-sugar lemonade Elmer, who is almost ten years younger than my son, has prepared for me himself.

Uber was kicked out of Colombia on January 31, so when I can’t wait for public transportation I must appeal to Beat, a mobile application that has partly replaced the American giant. I enter the address, request a car and Joaquín arrives, a Colombian with a good-natured smile who splashes the conversation throughout the trip with jargon like huevón (“bro” and also “dickhead”), marica (faggot) ​​and gonorrea. I do not flinch, I know that in Bogotá these are phrases almost of love.

Joaquin works more than twelve hours every day. I get into the vehicle by the door next to the driver, because they prefer it for safety reasons, and then he starts complaining about the extremes of the weather, ranging from 1 degree Celsius in the morning to more than 25 at noon. “You have to be like an onion and take off your clothes as the day progresses,” he explains. The vehicle moves with a desperate slowness, about 10 or 15 kilometers per hour because of the trancones (traffic jams). The red light catches us and a young man throws himself on the windshield and announces, with a Venezuelan accent, his services before starting to spray a liquid on the glass.

“Some come here to work but others do not,” Joaquin tells me while pointing to the young man. Then start he starts enumerating the issues against migrants that could be heard anywhere in the world. That “they work for less and displace local workers”; that “they are not like the people here and do not know how to behave”; that “they are everywhere and this is already unbearable”; that “we are not prepared for the arrival of so many people”… I listen in silence and when he pauses, I take advantage of it and say:” Nobody leaves their country with a smile.”

Joaquin looks at me as if he had just discovered me. He inspects my face and takes the opportunity to add: “All emigration is full of pain.” The young man finishes drying the windshield, the traffic light turns green and Joaquin leaves him some coins before stepping on the accelerator and heading down 70th Street. “And where are you from, who knows so much about this?” he asks me. “I’m from the place where part of the problem began,” I say and shut up.

“Take care, little lady,” says Joaquin, as I get out of the car. “Not everyone is good in this city, watch out for the venocos, he says, in an allusion to Venezuelans, and in that last sentence I notice – underneath it – a certain Argentine accent.  Joaquin who seemed more Colombian than the poet José Asunción Silva – whose face is on the 5,000-peso bill – turns out not to be from here either and has come from another place, like me, like Elmer and Cinthia… like Andrés.

I’m at the Colombian Migration office on 100th Street. The line starts early. There is everything: Europeans, Americans, South Americans, but especially many Venezuelans. A guard at the entrance listens to each case and indicates which line to follow once inside the place. In front of a machine with a touch screen, several migrants gather.

Some will be redirected to the top floor, to a ticket office on the right hand side, or rejected because they still do not have all the requirements to request an identity card. The Venezuelan Marcia and her two children manage to move to the upper floor where they take fingerprints, take some photos and tell them that, in about a week their identification card will be ready. Outside, some friends who are waiting for them hug them as if they have been born again.

Nostalgia, memories of how they lived in their country and a dream of returning in the future, are feelings shared by these Venezuelan migrants. (14ymedio)

“In silence I have suffered so many sorrows / because my soul is so good and I cannot control it,” sings Vanessa on the corner; another Venezuelan, 22. She comes from the state of Zulia. Every morning she goes out to raise some money with her cousin Juan Carlos. They carry a huge wireless speaker and stand on a corner of Bogotá’s Carrera 11*. “If I have never given motives / I don’t know selfishness / and I do no one any wrong,” the speaker roars.

The vehicles stop with the red light, Vanessa steps up her singing, which mimics the interpretation of Reynaldo de Armas, also known by the nickname Cardinal Sabanero. The heat tops 80 degrees and the young woman wears leather pants and wields a microphone with the mastery of someone who is on a glamorous stage. Some coins fall into the hat under her feet.

“If this is the life / the one that marks our way / the way we must travel / for bad or for good / I must take this route / and we are going to follow it / even if we lose, she sings, and after her emotional performance she pauses. I approach her and introduce myself, but I try to imitate the local accent because I don’t want to scare her. “Cuban, right?” she snaps as soon as she hears me. I just shake my head, what else can I do.

What could I say to her? That she is on that corner repeating the same song hundreds of times, to a large extent because my country swallowed up the resources of hers, because we exported a failed model to them, one that has condemned our Island to begging and Venezuela, practically, to dismemberment. But Vanessa is not interested in my apologies. “I’m still not resigned / let me keep fighting / my desire is to win,” she begins to sing as soon as she sees the traffic light change color.

*Translator’s note: In Bogota’s street system calles run east-west and carreras run north-south.

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Arbitrary Detention in Cuba of Somos+ Coordinator for Uruguay, Lidier Hernadez Sotolongo / Somos+

Lidier Hernández Sotolongo

SOMOS+, 16 February 2020 — Lidier Hernández Sotolongo, coordinator of Somos+ (We Are More) in Uruguay and a human rights activist, was arrested today in Cuba when he was going to fly back to Uruguay (Lidier’s current country of residence).

Lidier has already been released and is at his relatives’ house; however, he was served an official subpoena for Monday from MININT (Ministry of the Interior) in addition to being denied his return to Uruguay.

It is important to highlight the active work of Lidier within our movement as well as other groups, such as Actions for Democracy; and his strong political work in Uruguay, where he has actively participated in several protests despite the hostile position and harassment of communist groups.

Somos+ demands the immediate release of our coordinator, and once again reports the intolerance of the Cuban dictatorship.

Executive Board
Somos+

Translated by Francy Perez Perdomo

Evo Morales Goes to Cuba

Evo Morales was in Cuba two months ago, presumably for the same medical reasons (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE / 14ymedio, Buenos Aires, February 10th, 2020 – the Head of State of Argentina, Alberto Fernandez, stated that Evo Morales, ex-president of Bolivia, left Buenos Aires Monday morning, to go to Cuba.

“As I understand it, he was undergoing certain medical treatment, and had to go. He spoke to me a few days ago and made the comment when he was on his way”, Fernandez said to Radio Continental when asked about Morales’ trip to Havana.

The ex-president had arrived in Argentina mid-December, where  he sought refuge, after having been given asylum for a month in Mexico, following his resignation, under duress by the armed forces, on November 10th.

Fernandez emphasised that “as a political refugee, there was nothing to stop him going to Cuba”.

Morales was already on the island at the beginning of December for a medical appointment, when he was in asylum in Mexico, the first country that accepted him when he left Bolivia, and before he left for Argentina. Morales’ departure for Havana was timed some hours after the Bolivian Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced that it had concerns about his candidacy to be a senator for Cochabamba, representing his Socialism Movement (MAS) Party.

Additionally, there was concern about the candidacy for president of Luis Arce, from MAS, who had not complied with certain requirements for participation in the elections the following May 3rd.

Translated by GH

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Diaz-Canel, Ortega and Maduro Are Not Invited to Inauguration of the President of Uruguay

Miguel Díaz-Canel was not invited to the inauguration of President Lacalle Pou in Uruguay, scheduled for this March 1. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 February 2020 — The presidents of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are not invited to the inauguration of the newly elected president of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle Pou, a gesture that marks the distance between the new executive and the leftist governments of the region.

Uruguayan media report that the decision to exclude the leaders of the so-called 21st Century Socialism countries is based on the lack of democratic standards in their nations.

The appointed Foreign Minister, Ernesto Talvi, said that the exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua was made on the basis of Article 1 of the Inter-American Charter of Human Rights.

“The peoples of the Americas have the right to democracy and their governments have the obligation to promote and defend it. Democracy is essential for the social, political and economic development of the peoples of the Americas,” says the charter, which has not been signed by Cuba.

One of the invitations that is still under consideration is that of Bolivia, where a transitional government is in place after the resignation of former president Evo Morales, who is now a refugee in Argentina.

The inauguration of President Lacalle Pou is scheduled for March 1. His government is expected to recognize Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela and leave the so-called Montevideo Mechanism, a group convened by the governments of Uruguay and Mexico to support a consensual exit to the Venezuelan crisis by way of negotiations with the regime of Nicolás Maduro.

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Cuba Justifies Construction of More Hotel Rooms as a Long-Term Tourism Strategy

In the center of Havana, hotels continue to be built while the housing stock continues to deteriorate. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 12 February 2020 — Cuba will continue to build hotels as a long-term strategy despite the decline in tourism. The Minister of Tourism, Juan Carlos García, answered the question that many ask themselves, one that, without a doubt, he wanted to answer, since it was asked this Tuesday during his appearance on the Roundtable program on Cuban Television.

The Cuban official who heads up the activity said that Cuba would never received more than four million tourists if, in the 90s, Fidel Castro and his brother Raul had not decided to develop the sector with a program that included, in addition to Havana and Varadero, Holguin and the Cuban Keys.

Thus, even though the latest figures for the last year showed a 9.3% drop in foreign visitors, the Government will continue to focus on increasing the capacity of hotels and related services. continue reading

“In the beginning the country was marketed as a sun and beach destination, and the investment efforts were focused on this type of tourism. But today the expectations of the tourists go beyond that, they want to enjoy the hospitality of the Cuban people, their culture” said Garcia.

“For the growth of tourism in the capital, a more up-to-date hotel infrastructure was required. The hotels we build today are high-tech, coinciding with what the country needs. We work with solar panels, saving lighting, even when we are in a highly automated process,” he added.

In addition, competition in the region, according to the minister, is very strong, so investments will continue.

For this year, tourism authorities have set a goal of 4.5 million international visitors this year and hope to reverse the decline suffered in 2019 with the growth of the market in Russia and the recovery of traditional numbers from European countries.

“It is not the first time that tourism has declined in Cuba. That happened earlier in 2001, 2007 and 2008, but we have had the possibility of recovering. We are sure that we are going to reverse this situation,” he said.

Garcia recalled that this decline came after the strengthening of the economic embargo measures applied by the United States Government, such as the suspension of cruises from that country, as well as things like the bankruptcy of tour operators such as the British Thomas Cook.

The Russian market went from tenth to fourth place at the end of 2019, during which it grew by 30%, sending a record 178,000 travelers to Cuba; and this year the Cuban Tourism Fair will be dedicated precisely to the Eurasian nation as a guest of honor.

The highest authority of the sector outlined other measures to recover the growth of previous years and rescue of tourism, including from events and looking at traditional markets such as Spain, Germany, France, Italy and Great Britain, along with the incorporation of new markets and continuing the investment in hotel rooms and facilities.

Other lines of growth to which the Cuban market aspires are the increase in the share of tourism by Cubans, which the authorities are focused on. In 2019, 600,000 more Cuban clients were accommodated compared to the previous year and the chains are making special offers that so that these visits will continue to rise. In Varadero, the minister argued, there were more than 7,000 national customers at the end of the year.

“We are engaged in the north of Holguin, in a project that includes eight campsites, four of which will be inaugurated in 2020, always taking advantage of the natural beauty of the environment,” he said.

Other strategies cited were the increase in internal connections in the country, seeking the Chinese market as a potential large source of tourists, and offsetting the embargo with a package of unspecified measures.

In addition, the minister announced that the cruise sector is not being ignored, despite the fact that the main market — cruiseships from the US — is now prohibited.

Although in 2019 the bar was set at the reception of 5.1 million foreign visitors, that official forecast was revised downwards, first to 4.7 and finally to 4.3 million.

But at the end of 2019 the registered figure was 4.27 million tourists.

Tourism is Cuba’s third source of income behind remittances and the sale of professional services abroad, contributing 10% to gross domestic product (GDP) and generating approximately half a million jobs, according to official
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Looking for Water at Compostela and Obrapia Streets

In recent days Havana’s water shortage has worsened. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 February 2020 — Since dawn, in many of the capital city’s neighborhoods, the question is when the water will come. The supply has been zero for weeks in some areas and in others the cycles have lengthened and 10 days can pass without the liquid running through the pipes.

“In this block there hasn’t been water for more than a week, not a drop. It is incredible, because you can go around the corner and there’s water, and there’s none here,” says Raquel while rushing with her bucket in hand to try to fill it from a tanker truck that just arrived.

“Look, sometimes you lose patience, it is not easy not to have water for the basics. The other day, in front of the fire station, the neighbors closed the street to get attention. It is not the first time they’ve done it. When you see that nobody cares what we are going through, it is understood that these things will happen,” says Raquel.

“I do this voluntarily. I came to fill the hotel cisterns when it closed and I was surplus. I came for people to get them at least a little water, because I know the situation well,” said the driver of the water truck. “I know what this is like because I was born and raised here, in the heart of Old Havana.”

Women, men and children go from one place to another with their containers. It is a scene that is repeated every day.

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"Now You Will See What Legality Really Is" / Somos+

Adalberto R. Mes Duarte

Part I

SOMOS+,  Adalberto R. Mes Duarte, LLB, 7 November 2018

Now you will see what legality really is … And these were the exact words of the Head of the Municipal Unit of the National Revolutionary Police in the City of Cienfuegos, Captain (I don’t even know his name), when he showed up in my house, at exactly 06:55 hours in the morning, accompanied by more than twelve policemen, three patrol cars, a Jeep and two motorcycles, handcuffing me and indicating, without a probable cause, my arrest and driving me heavily escorted, in front of my family and neighbors, like an extremely aggressive and dangerous criminal.

WHAT VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE CONCEPT OF LEGALITY WERE COMMITTED?

I was arrested (again, without previous explanations) at 06:55 hours on October 26, 2018, at my front door, in the presence of my family, by a dozen uniformed men and several vehicles of the above-mentioned institution. However, due to strange, and so far, unknown reasons, my detention appears registered on that same day, but at 09:50, that is THREE HOURS AFTER the scandalous and public police operation.

In this case, I hope that nobody comes up with the stupid idea of altering, or forging the document that I signed the first day of my arrest, and to which I had access on the seventh day of my confinement through the Chief Prosecutor of Criminal Procedures of the Provincial Prosecutor of Cienfuegos, who, above all, gives the impression of being a serious person. continue reading

For about an hour and a half, of the THREE DARK HOURS in which I remained NOT OFFICIALLY DETAINED but indeed, “LEGALLY DISAPPEARED” I endured PHYSICAL TORTURE, as some of my captors tightened the cuffs so strongly, that the metal penetrated in my skin and created injuries that left scars that I still have today.

If you ask yourselves: Why this bad blood? Well, the policemen who were in the place where I was held captive, approached me from behind and looked forward to a complaint or a groan of pain, which of course, would never happen.

Then, a policewoman came in and ordered them to take off the cuffs from me, and to take me out of there. All this was in the presence of the Police officer in the charge who remained unaffected, as if nothing illegal was happening around him. I showed him my hands totally swollen, bruised and furrowed by the metal and blackened as well, and told him: this is a reflection of what you commit every day to the defenseless citizens! … In response I only received silence, total silence.

This very same officer did not allow me to use my eyeglasses to read the statements that irrationally and incoherently made up around what was already seen as an absurd manipulation of the Judicial System by the Ministry of the Interior. According to this same officer, I knew that I stood accused of being “alleged perpetrator of crimes of Slander and Disobedience” (I will talk about this in the second part of this document)

The Police officer in charge himself,a young man seriously affected by his poor grammar and spelling knowledge of the beautiful Spanish language, refused at all times to grant me the right to phone my relatives so they would know in which police station I was.

I was denied the right to have access to the Experts of the provincial Department of Legal Medicine so that, prior to the body examination, they could certify the physical injuries that I presented in my hands.

From the moment the officer in charge made my detention official and made me sign an Arrest Certificate, without clearly stating the crime or crimes for which they kept me under arrest, besides the fact that I was detained after 09:50 hours, therefore leaving almost three hours in which I do not physically exist as detained anywhere, I declared myself on a HUNGER STRIKE until my rights are restored and I strictly demand the presence of a Prosecutor to whom I could inform on all the physical and mental mistreatment that I was enduring so far.

At approximately 10:20 hours on October 26, 2018, I was transferred from the Municipal Station to the Station of Region No. 1 for Criminal Prosecution, where I remained for twenty-four (24) hours. And according to Lieutenant Colonel Franklin, the reason why I was there is because one of my brothers was under custody in the Municipal Station and we could not “be together”; furthermore, I had to give up my Hunger Strike so that I could be granted all the rights I was claiming.

 In the afternoon of October 27, the Police officer in charge appears (I do not know his name because he did not say it) and notifies me that there is a court order for  “Preventive Custody” imposed against me by the Municipal Prosecutor, Aimara Almeida, and that later in the afternoon I would be transferred to the Provincial Unit of Criminal Procedure, where the perpetrators of the most serious crimes committed in the jurisdictional area of the province remain detained. I want to make clear that this is the most rigorous military institution of imprisonment and prosecution in Cienfuegos, even higher than the Provincial Prison in terms of the regimen.

 In this military unit, I was confined to Cell No. 12, alone, isolated, incommunicado and identified as inmate No. 494. A completely sealed place, with artificial (electric) light twenty-four hours a day, two steps and a half wide by three steps long, where it is not allowed to speak or shout under penalty of punishment.

Here the damage or torture is psychological. Although there were never complaints of my behavior, from the moment I entered that place, I declared my political position against the government, as well as my only demand: “to restore my freedom and my rights.”

I would be lying, if I said that I was physically or verbally abused there. The health and security staff kept an eye on my condition, and constantly asked me if I wanted to eat any kind of food, or if I wanted to drink water, something that I emphatically refused. Many of them expressed their knowledge that my stay there was totally unjustified, but that they were only following their superiors’ orders.

Once my demands were known, the Head of the Criminal Prosecution Unit, informed me in an interview that he can only agree to bring me a Legal Physician to certify the bodily injuries that I presented, but he would keep the Certificate that the expert would issue, meaning that he was not going to deliver it to me, and that there was no other guarantee he could offer me since: “I WOULD NOT HAVE ANY RIGHTS FOR AS LONG AS I AM ON A HUNGER STRIKE, FURTHERMORE, IF SOMETHING HAPPENED TO ME, I WOULD BE THE ONLY ONE RESPONSIBLE; THEREFORE, I WAS TO REMAIN IN SOLIDARITY CONFINEMENT AND WITHOUT RIGHTS FOR AS LONG AS I KEEP MYSELF IN VOLUNTARY INANITION, WHICH WHAT THEY CALLED THE POSITION I HAD ASSUMED.”

On October 31, I cannot specify what time it was, they took me to one of the interrogation rooms, and finally: “What I assumed from the first day appeared, that was the engine that was moving all the threads for my detention, permanence and status there.”

The Department of State Security showed up in the person of one who called himself First Lieutenant Daryl, a decent individual, very temperate and interested in my demand, but with the double intention clearly visible, to tell me that I could be convinced that he was there on behalf of the prosecutor that I was demanding so insistently. That the complaints for which I was being prosecuted were already in court, and that he had the ability to have access to them and destroy them, as well as the power to solve the situation of my brother and the rest of my relatives.

After about an hour or more, of fruitless discussion, the conversation ended up in these two points, by the Department of State Security:

a)  I would immediately suspend the Hunger Strike and commit myself that once released, I would not make any new complaints against the National Police;

b)  The Department of State Security promised to immediately release my relatives and impose administrative fines (they did not define amounts).

On November 1, 2018, in the afternoon, I was taken to one of the interrogation rooms where the Chief Prosecutor of Criminal Proceedings of the Province of Cienfuegos awaited. He confirmed to me that my brother had only been detained for 48 hours, and the rest of my relatives had not been arrested. My IMMEDIATE FREEDOM was decided, and this official is the one who assured me that my official detention had started at 09:50 hours on October 26, and not from 06:55 when it actually happened.

To get an idea: I am 1.85 m (6’ 1″) tall. At the time of my arrest, I was in perfect physical and mental shape. I entered the police criminal detention and prosecution system, with 115.0 kilograms (253 pounds) in weight. I only suffer from high blood pressure (controlled), Bronchial Asthma and Chronic Allergy. When my IMMEDIATE FREEDOM was decreed, after only SEVEN DAYS, according to the daily weighing and the vital parameters measured by the Ministry of the Interior (MININT, for its acronym in english) Medical Service experts, I barely reached 104.0 kilograms (229 pounds).

I left that place suffering from a strong flu, provoked by the conditions of permanent humidity inside the cell in which I was held, which is why I am now under antibiotics treatment. I am suffering from sleep disturbances, as well as severe abdominal pain, and persistent dizziness. From these, I am still recovering today.

To be continued…

End of Part I

 Translated by: Francy Perez Perdomo

Cuba’s Complicated Shortages of Cleaning Products

A long line in Havana to buy detergent, one of the products that has been missing from the markets. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 February 2020 — The authorities of the Ministry of Internal Trade have not stopped insisting in recent days that cleaning products will not disappear in February and March while recognizing their scarcity and announcing the availability of these products in April. This Monday, Francisco Silva, general director of Sales of Merchandise of the ministry, indicated that the sales of soaps will grow 40% and those of toothpaste 35%, compared to the previous year.

According to the official Communist Party newspaper Granma, several executives of the Ministry of Internal Trade anticipate the improvement in the supply for April, as its head, Betsy Díaz Velázquez, said last Tuesday. The state and independent press then echoed the words of the official, who admitted that these products had been missing in January. “We are not going to have the demand satisfied in February or March, but we hope that with several measures that are being adopted, we can stabilize, by April, the production of cleaning products by the industry and with it the availability to the population,” she said.

The minister’s words provoked a reaction of fear, especially in Miami, where relatives of emigrants fear that the aggravation of the crisis on the Island will require them to meet more of their relatives’ needs than usual.

On Saturday, the Ministry of Internal Trade issued a statement to indicate that the products are available, although scarce, and accused “unscrupulous and traitorous persons” of misrepresenting the information. “What is true is that until March the demand and stability will not be satisfied, since the total amounts needed to meet it are not available and that the products must be stabilized at appropriate levels from April,” according to the statement.

“Once again the lackeys of imperialism manipulate information to damage the image of the Revolution, which they will not achieve, as they will not be able to undermine the unity of the people,” they emphasized.

Two days later, the person in charge of emphasizing the message was Silva, who added the customary attribution of blame to the United States in the clarification of information on the products.

The manager attributed the shortage to the lack of timely arrival of raw materials from different countries that do not escape “the harassment to which Cuba is subjected, because of the economic blockade of the United States Government,” the note said. “Given this scenario, the industry has had to look for alternatives, which means not only financial resources, but also to new sources of supply. All these actions must be reflected in a higher level of stability from the second quarter,” Silva said.

Silva has referred to more commodities with problems, one of which is cooking oil, which, according to the official, is being produced normally in the three factories that deal with it, located in Havana, Camaguey and Santiago de Cuba.

“In 2019, 15,586 more tons were sold than in 2018, and for this year there must be stability in the assurances,” she said, adding that crude and refined oil is available, in addition to the imported oil included in the plan.

As for grains, another of the products that suffers shortages, Silva indicated that black beans or peas have been delivered this February “according to the availability in each province” and noted that beans are being imported to meet the needs. Last week, officialdom admitted that the production of this staple food has collapsed. “About 25,000 tons were planned, which represents less than 50% of the previous period,” said Yojan García Rodas, head of the Department of Various Crops of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Silva said that in February and March the products of the standardized family basic basket, such as coffee and pasta, are guaranteed to the territories to which they are entitled, in each month’s deliveries. And with regards of coffee and bulk milk powder, solutions are being sought to be able to package them.

The official said that the year just ended, more meat products were sold than in 2018 and the same is expected for 2020, although in the Cuban pantries it was not especially noticed. Chicken was one of the products that suffered frequent shortages and only sausages or turkey hash were available in a stable supply.

But the statements of the officials calling for calm have failed to calm the anxiety of consumers who form long lines outside the stores that carry products such as soap, detergent and dishwasher. Families especially look for small bags of detergent, cheaper and harder to find right now.

Others, in the face of the shortages, return to the practices that spread throughout the country during the Special Period: melt small bars of soap to make a bigger one, or prepare it at home with animal tallow, caustic soda and other aromatic ingredients.

In Artemisa, the Martínez family, which has been selling milk, cheese and yogurt in the informal market for more than two decades, has also, in the last month, included manufactured soaps that they produce in their own patio. “There is a lot of demand and it is used primarily for washing because it is hard soap and it is used slowly,” says one of the vendors.

Others appeal to their relatives abroad to send a package with detergent or to buy the product from the online classified sites that deliver on the Island. On those websites, about 200 grams of detergent costs more than $2.50 (USD), while a package with 34 washing capsules exceeds $42.00 (USD).

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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.