South African Medical Students in Cuba Barely Have Enough to Survive

The South African medical students were scheduled to travel home last year, but that did not happen. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 2 August 2021 — The Democratic Alliance (DA) party of South Africa, opposed to the Government, asked the South African Department of Health on Monday to take the necessary steps to return to their country 500 medical students stranded in Cuba in deplorable conditions.

The young people, who completed their fifth year of career on the island, barely survive on the bare minimumNews24 published.

The students were scheduled to travel back to South Africa last year, but that did not happen. In June, the local media reported on the critical situation of some young people, who in some cases even “had to sell their clothes to get money” because they did not receive the stipends that the government of their country was continue reading

supposed to send.
Medical studies in Cuba for South Africans last six years, including a preparatory year for Spanish language classes. During this period, they are allowed to go home twice on vacation.

The students told News24 that the Health Department refused to organize commercial flights and their departure was postponed until August 5.

The spokesman for the Department, Popo Maja, insisted that two charter flights had been guaranteed to take the young people back at the end of July, but that the flights were delayed “because the students demanded that they be paid their stipend before boarding the flight.”

“The stipend has not been paid due to challenges in the transfer of funds to Cuba, which are beyond the control of the department,” Maja excused himself, while assuring that the matter was “being addressed” with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and the Treasury.”

“The government’s argument is that international payments to students go through the financial systems of the United States and, as there is an embargo on Cuba, the money has been paid but has not reached the hands of the students,” Deputy DA Haseena Ismail said on Monday, calling what is happening government “mismanagement and planning”.

Ismail noted that “the Nelson Mandela-Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration Program was established to provide students from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to study in Cuba with full scholarships,” but that “it has been plagued with failures since its inception, leaving students stranded in a foreign country without sufficient stipends, poor quality accommodation and food, and limited access to essential items such as toiletries and sanitary napkins.”

The deputy asserted that the South African government cannot continue to send students to the island “just to leave them with the minimum necessary to survive.”

Already last March, the South African press had reflected the precarious situation of the scholarship recipients, reporting that government sources maintained that to say that the program was not working as planned was to put it mildly.

“The dream (…) has turned into a nightmare due to the doubling of food prices in the socialist country, terrible living conditions and lack of access to sanitary articles,” The South African said at the time.

The South African government had to take action and send food after initially telling families to send suitcases of food.

The medical exchange agreements between the Island and South Africa come from 1997 and include the sending of professionals to the African country, the purchase of medicines from BioCubaFarma and the training of health workers on the Island. It is estimated that as a result of these agreements more than 1,500 South Africans have graduated from Cuban universities.

Be that as it may, Cuban cooperation in South Africa has been a source of scandals for more than a year, the most serious of which is that the South African Armed Forces invested more than 17 million dollars in illegally importing interferon alfa-2b, alleging they feared the coronavirus could be germ warfare.

Last July, the South African teachers’ union complained that specialists from the island hired by the Department of Basic Education to train South African teachers earn 800,000 rand a year (almost $56,000), a figure much higher than the salary paid to local teachers.

The complaints joined those of local doctors and engineers, who were also underpaid relative to their Cuban colleagues, through controversial agreements. Engineers from that country denounced at the time the hiring of Cuban specialists who are not even authorized to assist the Department of Water and Sanitation.

The unions had access to the agreements, which reveal that Cuban engineers cost almost $22,000 more a year than local workers, who even have to supervised by them, especially in a country with unemployment of more than 30%.

Good relations between Cuba and South Africa began with the rise to power of Mandela, but have continued seamlessly with his successors, Thabo Mbeki (1999-2008), Jacob Zuma (2008-2018) and the current president, Cyril Ramaphosa.

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Second Class Citizens in Cuba

A government supported Rapid Response Group carries out an act of repudiation of the Ladies in White. (Cubasindical)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Karel J. Leyva, Montreal, 1 August 2021 — Citizenship is a condition of civic equality. It is a status of belonging to a political community in which all citizens have the possibility of establishing jointly and under equal conditions both the terms of social cooperation and the collective goods that derive from political association.

Citizenship requires a political framework in which all citizens are treated impartially, regardless of their ideological conceptions, economic situation or degree of social influence. To do this, citizens must be able to conceive themselves not only as equals to each other, but as belonging to the same State. They must also be treated as rationally autonomous beings, that is, endowed with a rational agency that enables them to publicly deliberate on their concerns and interests.

These conditions of citizenship are weakened from the moment a government defends a specific political doctrine and divides the population, giving preference to sectors that adhere to this doctrine. This is precisely what the Cuban government has been continue reading

doing for far too long now.

There is no civic equality when calling those who reject the demand to adhere unconditionally to the political ideology preferred by the State mercenaries. By treating its detractors as influenced, manipulated, confused or oriented from the outside, the Cuban Government not only delegitimizes the demands of freedom and democracy from broad sectors of the population, denying the very essence and the exercise of citizenship, but also denies the ability of the Cuban people to think for themselves.

The Government of Cuba has a moral duty to facilitate citizen participation in the political and social processes that determine the present and the future of the Cuban nation. Such participation would make it possible for citizens, without distinction of ideology, beliefs and interests, to shape the political and economic framework capable of defining the quality of life of the Cuban people.

Citizens, to understand themselves as such, must be able to openly debate the problems that affect them directly or indirectly on equitable terms. Instead of using dichotomous categories that establish artificial divisions between the revolutionary people and the counterrevolutionary ’little groups’, between patriots and traitors, between decent and vulgar people, between people who love and people who hate, the Government of Cuba has a moral obligation to respond to the concerns and interests of all Cubans.

The State does not belong to a specific group, nor should it be identified with a particular ideology or political conception that alienates a part of the population.

The way in which a state treats its people determines not only the perception that individuals have of themselves, but the perception that such individuals have of others. the very principle of citizenship will be seriously compromised as long as some citizens feel supported by the Government to publicly repudiate others; as long as a part of the citizenship considers that the ideology they defend authorizes them to exclude dissidents from political processes; and as long as some are socially stigmatized for dissenting and others applauded for agreeing.

Being citizens implies the right to have rights as members of a political community. Such rights — understood as legitimate claims that individuals can make both to others and to their Governments, with the purpose of being treated in accordance with certain standards of decency — must be inscribed in the very nature of social relations on a basis of respect and equality.

A government that puts wooden clubs in the hands of its supporters to repress those who defend their rights not only violates the latter; it violates the very nature of citizenship.

By legitimizing two categories of citizens established according to the degree of affiliation to the political ideology preferred by the State, the Cuban Government sends a message of exclusion and unequal treatment to the Cuban people.

This message clearly states that some people are not full members of the political community, that they cannot speak out publicly on an equal footing with others, and that their interests are not adequately represented by the political institutions of the nation.

In this way, the Cuban political regime treats a part of the population, those who disagree, as second-class citizens.

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Mathisa’s Brand New Plant in Cuba Cannot Distribute Half a Million ‘Intimates’

At the new Mathisa facilities, 72,000 packages of sanitary pads are manufactured per month, which, however, do not reach the users. (Escambray)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 August 2021 — The sanitary pad factory of the state monopoly Mathisa has “a luxurious reception, offices with the required comfort, impeccable bathrooms and lockers and a dining room that resemble the best of restaurants,” but in its warehouses there are 432,000 packages of “intimates” that do not reach Cuban women due to the lack of distribution.

On Sunday, the newspaper Escambray dedicated a report to The resurrection of Mathisa, a text accompanied by several photographs in which it spares no praise for the completion of the works begun in 2018 at the plant, located in Sancti Spíritus, which have allowed the renovation of its installations.

Seven paragraphs to explain what the facilities are like, the “modern machinery” and the new work organization which allows 72,000 packages of sanitary pads to be manufactured each month, which, however, do not reach the users.

“As long as they are not delivered to the customer, it will be impossible to continue the productive rhythm and, therefore, economic procedures are affected, such as the payment of debts to suppliers and the settlement of our accounts, continue reading

among others,” Mireya Gómez Saya, director of the plant, is quoted as saying at the end of the article.

The sanitary pads manufactured by Mathisa mainly supply, through the Medicines Marketing and Distribution Company (Emcomed), the pharmacies of Matanzas, Cienfuegos, Villa Clara, Sancti Spíritus, Ciego de Ávila and Camagüey; although sometimes they are sent to other areas of the Island.

Gómez Saya maintains that there have been specific problems in the supply of raw materials, but that this is not the greatest of the difficulties. His words now corroborate the version obtained by 14ymedio through a worker at the Pétalos factory who, last February,, attributed the shortage of “intimates” to distribution in Cuba: “They come here to collect them to distribute in pharmacies, and there is no problem in production. The problem is in transporting them, I believe they have no fuel,” she revealed to this newspaper.

The events were confirmed by an Emcomed worker, who maintained that there were “transport problems.”

The problems have accumulated since October, when pharmacies in Havana stopped receiving this staple product, which is sold through the rationed market. The situation was not unique to the capital. In Santiago, shortages were also pressing. “Women are making do with Pampers. The other day I saw a few buying diapers, which caught my attention, and then I learned that they were making sanitary pads from them,” a young woman told this newspaper.

In Cuba, each woman between the ages of 10 and 55 receives through the rationed market, for 1.20 pesos, a monthly package with 10 “intimates” of the Mariposa brand and manufactured by the state monopoly Mathisa. It is a product with a very bad image, not only because it does not reach the public but because of its quality. Among Cuban women, there is constant criticism of its low absorption capacity, its discomfort, and even the lack of glue to adhere to underwear.

In Cienfuegos and Ciego de Ávila there were the same cases of lack of distribution. In this last province, Cuban television even warned of the problems that were taking place, because even the 10 sanitary pads that the State presumably guarantees are insufficient according to the medical recommendations to change them every four hours.

Instead, the black market has a wide variety of products – from pads and tampons to menstrual cups – with prices that are double or triple those of even hard currency stores themselves.

Nothing has been resolved in the five months that have passed since the 14ymedio note on the subject, and nine months since the product began to be missing and the packages are still far from their consumers.

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Calls for More European Involvement in a Transition in Cuba

The CTDC has told the EU that the Cuban government must grant amnesty to all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 1, 2021 — In an open letter to the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, the Council for Democratic Transition in Cuba (CTDC) called upon the union to prepare an action plan to promote a peaceful democratic transition in Cuba. To keep this agreement in force, it also urged EU to call upon the Cuban government to grant amnesty to all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.

The letter acknowledges EU support in calling upon the Cuban government not only to free Cubans who peacefully expressed their points of view on July 11 but also to grant amnesty to political prisoners and adopt “political and economic reforms that would relieve the Cuban people of their suffering.”

Additionally, the council calls for “immediate and unconditional freedom, without charges, for all July 11 detainees,” as Josep Borrell, speaking on behalf of the EU, requested on July 29 when he urged the Cuban government to “listen to the voices of its citizens and engage in an inclusive dialogue about continue reading

their complaints.”

The same EU statement also noted that the July 11 protests reflect “popular grievances” over shortages of food, medicine, water and electricity, as well as the denial freedom of expression and of the press “in parallel with the Covid-19 situation.” It argues that these grievances have created “an increased demand for civil and political rights and democracy.”

The CTDC calls upon the government “to accept the creation of Commission for Investigation and Control which will allow the EU to to monitor the unrestricted and unconditional human rights compliance in accordance with the Control Clause in the Agreement of Political Dialogue and Cooperation signed between the European Union and Cuba in December 2016 and provisionally applied since November 1, 2017.” It also calls for “legitimizing an Observation and Scrutiny Committee of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement of civil society within Cuba.”

On Thursday Borell asked for a relaxation of current EU restrictions on sending foreign currency remittances to Cuba. EU countries have already considered lifting all restrictions on the amount of food and medicine travelers can take into Cuba, which Borell characterized as “a step in the right direction.”

In its letter to Borrell, the CTDC points out, “The Cuban government has flatly refused to accept the 2017 resolution in which the EU reaffirmed its position on democracy, universal human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is clear that, in light of recent events and the lack of will on the part of the Cuban government to respect its commitments, it is necessary to open a broad and updated discussion on the purposes, nature and validity of the agreement. ”

The Cuban government had its own response to the EU’s position. President Miguel Díaz-Canel and his foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, accused the European Union of lying, manipulation and slander after the organization on Thursday expressed support for Cuban demonstrators after the July 11 protests and called for the release of detainees.

Rodriguez vigorously rejected the statements by the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and, in a tweet, demanded Borrell “deal with the brutal police repression in the EU,” without providing further details.

In his written statement he also criticized Borrell for “not daring to mention by name the genocidal US blockade that violates European sovereignty and imposes on the Union its laws and courts.”

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Padura: ‘Cuba’s Problems Must be Resolved Among Cubans’

Padura at his home in Mantilla, the Havana neighborhood that saw him grow up, also as a writer. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Lorena Cantó, Havana, August 2, 2021 — The Cuban writer Leonardo Padura, winner of the 2015 Princess of Asturias Prize for Literature, considers his novels “some of the most radical documents that could have been written” about a Cuba today in turmoil, whose problems “must be resolved among Cubans.”

“I believe that my novels, that were written and many of them published in Cuba, such as The Man Who Loved Dogs, Heretics, and A Novel of my Life, are among the most radical documents that could have been written and said about this country. And that gives me much peace of mind,” says the author in an interview with EFE.

At his family home in the Havana neighborhood of Mantilla, three weeks after thousands of people took to the country’s streets to protest shortages and demand freedom, Padura reflects on the extreme polarization that the island is experiencing, which he hopes “can be resolved among Cubans,” including those in exile.

“I frequently receive attacks from one extreme or the other, because continue reading

I try to be fair and speak of truths about which there is a certain consensus. You already know that truth is not absolute; what is absolute is the lie. And in none of my texts, whether in my novels or my journalistic works, do I need the lie to talk about Cuba,” he says.

And it is also correct to say that “when someone wants to criticize Cuba they don’t have to exaggerate, they only have to tell the truth.”

“I’m at peace with myself. I can’t satisfy all points of view. I don’t want to place myself at any extreme; I’m very afraid of fundamentalisms and extremes because they start from the position that their argument is the only possible argument, and I think there is always more than one argument and you should have a dialogue between these arguments,” he says.

Padura was surprised by the protests while he was watching the Eurocup. “Suddenly they cut the transmission and the president (Miguel Díaz-Canel) spoke and I found out what was happening.”

A short time later, the authorities blocked access to the Internet, and the information that came in was confusing and “very distorted, very partial, very aggressive in some cases, and it was hard to find out what was happening,” he said.

His first feeling, which he described the week after the demonstrations in a text published on the La Joven Cuba platform, “was that a scream had come forth from the innermost parts of a society that demanded other ways of managing life in a general sense, and from there entering the economic, the social, the political …”

The unjustified delay in the economic reforms engendered “something that is apparent”: the growth of inequalities and poverty — reflected in the novel The Transparency of Time.

In this context Padura mentions very poor slums in Havana in which “you realize that this is not the country for which we have worked, for which we have dreamed, for which so many sacrifices have been made. We must find solutions for those people . . .”

The demonstrations, in his opinion, channeled the weariness of waiting for a prosperity that never comes, and evidenced the isolation of those in power from the feelings of the citizens.

“So much so that I think they were surprised by that demonstration, because it wasn’t just that people standing in a line started shouting something, it was that in many parts of the country people came out to demand things, to demand freedom for example, and it’s very serious when the people shout demanding freedom.”

The writer is concerned that this feeling “is not being understood and processed in the best way, because there is a social magma in which there are these intolerances and extremes that we spoke of at the beginning, which may be the ones that prevail, and that would be the worst.”

“The violent responses are simply not the cure the country needs; the country is not the same as it was up until 15 days ago. It’s a different country and you have to handle it in a different way,” he says.

He also points out that what happened was already in the making, as demonstrated by the gathering of young artists on November 27 in front of the Cuban Ministry of Culture.

“There they spoke of the need for a dialogue that in the end was met with a few words and very few solutions. And when people ask for freedom of expression, of thought, of opinion, they are asking for something that belongs to them, something that I believe cannot be denied them in any system in any country,” the author emphasizes.

Regarding all those young people who protested on July 11, Padura warns that the “less desirable” alternative is for them to be marginalized or “even imprisoned for their social or political viewpoint” and the prolonged “bleeding” suffered by the Island because many — among them the most educated — end up leaving.

The author, who in 1996 became the first “independent writer” in Cuba, believes that what is happening now will be reflected in his literature, although “maybe not directly.”

I’ve tried to practice my independence and my freedom for many years. I think that for any creator the need for freedom of expression and thought is fundamental,” although with limits regarding “homophobia, xenophobia, the attitudes that are in some way fascist.”

“In addition, life is too short for us to be limiting ourselves in as many things as we have to limit ourselves under the existing social contract,” he concludes.

Translated by Tomás A.

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Cuba: Nursing Student, with Covid After Being Vaccinated, Receives no Healthcare

The nursing student, Irasema Escobedo Herrera, is confined at home with her parents by Covid-19. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Irasema Escobedo Herrera, Cumanayagua, 1 August 2021 — My name is Irasema Escobedo Herrera, I am 19 years old, I study nursing and I am infected with Covid-19. I write this text in desperation because no medical personnel are following up with my family and we do not have access to medicines. I tried to post my words on the Facebook page of the Ministry of Public Health, but they censored me.

I have nothing to hide, so I accompany this testimony with my personal data and those of my parents. I live on Calle Orlando Gómez 25, between Calle Rafael Trejo and Artimes, in the municipality of Cumanayagua, in the province of Cienfuegos. When I woke up at home on the morning of July 20, I felt a fever and muscle aches.

I guessed that I was infected and went immediately to the Aracelio Rodríguez Castellón Polyclinic in Cumanayagua. But they had no antigen tests or molecular tests (also known as PCR), although there was a list of more than 400 people waiting. As of Sunday, July 18, these materials had not arrived.

To top it off, there was only one doctor treating people who arrived with respiratory symptoms. Only one for an entire municipality. They put me on a list and told me I could go home. The next day I called early to see if the tests had come but nothing yet. On Thursday I made another call and they finally had the tests.

I hurried over and arrived around 8:30 am, and there were already more than 300 people waiting, some having slept on the benches to continue reading

get a test. As the hours passed, many had to leave without taking the test because the wait was too long. That day there was also only a doctor and one nurse to attend to those suspected of being infected.

Looking at all this, I asked myself “Where are the doctors in my municipality? Where have those hundreds of professionals who graduate annually in my province from the medical and nursing faculties gone? I understood less and less.

Noon passed, three in the afternoon arrived, five o’clock and the line was barely moving forward. There were women with babies in their arms, small children and many old people. Finally at 5:40 pm they did my rapid antigen test. After me there were only 25 kits left and there were more than a hundred people waiting.

My result was positive and I was taken to a room with more than 30 people crowded together. There were several small children and elderly people, bedridden, and we had to wait to do the PCR test. I was finally able to get the test around 7:30 pm. They also filled out a form with my data and as there was no fuel for the buses or taxis, I had to walk back home.

On Saturday, July 24, the doctor from the medical office stopped by our house. When I asked him if I was going to receive any medicine or medical follow-up, he replied that people who are already vaccinated do not receive any treatment. As a nursing student, I have already received all three doses of Abdala, but my parents have not had access to any. That’s why I couldn’t help but ask the doctor what they were waiting for to give us some kind of assistance. AmI going to die? Is that why they sent me home? To die?

On Sunday, July 25, my PCR test was confirmed positive. They put a sign on the door of my house warning that our house had an infected person. My parents, Maité Herrera Peña, 48 years old; and Omar Escobedo del Sol, 50, began to show the first symptoms of the disease.

On Monday the 26th, the polyclinic was given tests again and a group of doctors arrived at our house looking for a certain “Lázara Escalante Herrera,” while my name is Irasema Escobedo Herrera. I do not understand how they can confuse the name of someone who is positive for Covid in that way. Something like this only shows the lack of the organizational level that exists in confronting this pandemic.

They put my parents on a bus and took them to the polyclinic to carry out the test. Upon arrival, the same image of days ago was repeated: more than 400 people waiting, three hours later the kits ran out and my parents had to return without having been tested. This is how they continue to this day, still not tested, and my father already has a cough and shortness of breath when he goes to bed.

The days have passed and they have not brought us any medicine, although the official media repeat all the time that Cuba is a medical power. What medical power do they speak of, when there is not even a pill to lower a child’s fever? What medical power do they talk about when it is not possible to X-ray a person with Covid-19 pneumonia?

I am studying for a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Medical Sciences of Cienfuegos and I am very disappointed in the whole system and the protocol that is being followed in this pandemic. They cancelled my school vacations and sent me out to investigate possible Covid-19 infections, but they do take care of me and my colleagues. Are we not a priority?

How can they tell me that they are not going to put me on medication because I am not serious yet? Do I need to be seriously ill to receive care? In other words, if I or a member of my family is not about to die, does the country do nothing for us?

On top of that, since we can’t leave the house, we have absolutely no opportunity to go out to buy food, but they haven’t brought us any food supplies either. We have had to survive with some food we have in reserve and the solidarity of neighbors and relatives who leave something for us to eat in the doorway, such as an avocado or a little chicken.

Honestly, I am very disappointed. I urgently need my parents to be given some medication to treat the symptoms. This can not go on like this. I have decided to write and publish this testimony because to help my family I would do the impossible and much more.

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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: In Defense of Political Dialogue / Dimas Castellano

Cuban protesters on July 11th.

Emerging civil society has to prepare to deal with the current power or the one that replaces it, and that articulation requires moving through the channels of dialogue.

Dimas Castellano, 13 July 2021 — The recent events of Sunday, July 11, confirm that the Cuban crisis is deepening, that popular discontent is growing and that the Government is unable to solve it. Despite the Cuban president’s discourse, which was literally a call to civil war, the Government will have to accept the participation of Cubans as active subjects, because it is a national demands as well as a demand of foreign institutions and governments.

Given the imminence of the event, the associations of the emerging civil society need coordination to interact with each other and prepare to deal with the current power or with the one that replaces it. Coordination that requires moving through the channels of dialogue.

In the face of social conflicts, the most frequently used solution, in the history of humanity and in Cuba, is the use of violence, which by not removing the causes makes the conflicts resurface, over and over again.

In dialogue, as an art of reconciling interests, the parties, on an equal footing, always have to compromise on something. Those who consider themselves to be in an advantageous position — which is the case of the Cuban government — reject, as it has done, the first calls, but given the worsening of the crisis, continuing to refuse may have a higher price than continue reading

sitting down to dialogue and negotiate.

Why dialogue?

Because it is a form of communication in which two or more interlocutors establish an exchange of information to reach an agreement, for which dialogue is the most viable, safe and positive way.

Dialogue means talking to expose your own points of view, listening to know the opinion of the other and exploring possible solutions to the conflict. Dialogue and flexibility in negotiation enable the disputing parties to gradually resolve differences at the lowest possible cost.

If war is the continuation of politics, as defined by Clausewitz, then politics is the art of conflict resolution through dialogue and negotiation, which does not mean resignation or surrender, but an opportunity for direct communication to clarify positions, policies and proposals for changes.

As a process, dialogue includes efforts prior to negotiation to create a climate of trust, while requiring patience, flexibility, weighing in on the magnitude of demands and their gradual nature. The transformation of any violent conflict towards dialogue requires establishing communication channels between the agents involved, including those who practice violence, whether physical, verbal or moral, as is happening in Cuba against the fighters for freedom of expression.

There are no methods, rather there is only one method for conflict resolution: dialogue and negotiation. In the case of Cuba, although until now it has not yielded the expected results, it retains its validity for relations between the emerging civil society associations, between these with the State-Government Party and between the two with countries or associations of countries, such as the United States and the European Union (EU) respectively.

To be effective, in the case of Cuba, the first demand must be the promotion of rights and freedoms that allow legalized civil society to participate as a protagonist of changes in Cuba. This based on an understanding of civil society as a range of independent and autonomous associations, institutions and resources, which have public spaces and various forms of ownership over the means of production and expression.

Three examples of dialogue and negotiation in Cuba

The Zanjón Pact: After ten years of war, thousands of deaths, suffering and considerable material damage, on February 10, 1878, the Zanjón Pact was signed between most of the insurgent forces in Cuba and the Government of Spain. In exchange for peace, Spain had to implement, in Cuba, the laws related to printing, assembly and association contained in the Spanish Constitution.

The liberation of the slaves who went to war was a death blow for the institution of slavery, and from the freedoms implanted Cuban civil society arose: organs of the press, economic, cultural, fraternal, educational, instructional and recreational associations, unions and the first political parties, all of which served to restart the struggle in 1895.

The Platt Amendment: At the opening of the Constituent Convention, Military Governor Leonardo Wood told the delegates: “It will be your duty, first of all, to draft and adopt a Constitution for Cuba and, once it is finished, to formulate what should be, your judgment, the relations between Cuba and the United States.”

The commission designated for the formulation of relations, after exhausting all attempts to prevent the inclusion of the Platt Amendment, agreed to add it to the Constitution by 16 votes to 11 . The Platt Amendment endorsed the right of another country, the United States, to intervene in Cuba, omitted the Isle of Pines from the limits of the national territory and imposed the sale or lease of land for foreign naval bases.

The delegates had two options: violence or negotiation. The first, which meant suicide, implied indefinite occupation and the need to declare war on the United States. Cuba was now without the party of José Martí, who had died in combat, the Liberation Army had been demobilized, the economy was dependent on others and the island had not crystallized as a nation. In short, the country was plunged into desolation and ruin, and national self-esteemed had been weakened by years of military occupation.

The second option, negotiation, meant that, once signed, the Army of occupation withdrew, and the Republic was founded. Not the one we want, but the possible one. Sovereignty over the Isle of Pines was recovered; Civil society developed and the Platt Amendment was repealed.

The Constitutional Convention of 1940: Between 1902, together with the advances in the economic sphere, the country was immersed in conflicts over re-elections, which caused the Guerrita of 1906 and the uprising known as La Chambelona, in 1917; the massacre of thousands of black and mulatto members of the Partido Independientes de Color in 1912; and the reform of the 1901 Constitution to extend the power of President Gerardo Machado, which opened the period of struggle that led to the Revolution of 1930.

Those almost 30 years of political instability were followed by another seven until, in 1936, during the presidency of Colonel Federico Laredo Bru, a period of dialogue and negotiation was inaugurated that led to the Constitutional Assembly, where the capacity for dialogue and negotiation between communists, liberals, conservatives and social democrats was demonstrated. Together, they tackled the controversies and the result was the most advanced constitution in the region at that time, which offers a lesson in the value of negotiation for the destinies of nations.

Force is used to win, dialogue and negotiation to solve what is impossible through force, which obliges us to strengthen it as a starting point, as an essential concept, as a guiding principle and as a permanent strategy.

The Change in Cuba Has No Turning Back

Cuban musician Pavel Urkiza. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yaiza Santos, Madrid, July 31, 2021 — The singer, composer and music producer Pavel Urkiza was born in Kiev (Ukraine), but right away, when he was three months old, he was taken to Havana where he grew up. His parents, both engineers, were part of the first Cuban student brigade in the Soviet Union. You glimpse the pain when he says that he met his mother when he was five years old: his mother’s family took over caring for the child and sent the woman back to the USSR, to “fulfill the mission of the Revolution.” Urkiza, over time, learned to forgive her: “She melted down, she had a mental disorder.”

This conversation reached his familial twists and turns unintentionally, because what 14ymedio wanted to talk about with Urkiza – a complete musician, founder of Gema and Pavel, the cult duo that put to music the harsh early 90s in Cuba with its opposites of the New Trova and the slogans – was his latest song release, Todo Por Ti (Everything for You), which he sings along with Daymé Arocena and which extols the historic July 11 demonstrations.

Yaiza Santos:  Did you have any of “Todo Por Ti” composed before July 11, or did it come to you at that moment?

Pavel Urkiza: I composed it the following day. I had already done two things in November: the first, “A Drop of Truth,” in homage to the San Isidro Movement and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara; and the second, “The National Whistle,” as a result of the call they sent out to whistle every day at nine at night. This was inspired by a film of Fernando Pérez titled “Life is to Whistle” (1998), in which, curiously, a character decrees the happiness of all Cubans for 2020. And that is very strong, because things really did begin to move a little more in 2020, with people like Luis Manuel Otero and Maykel Osorbo, people for whom, as Carlos Manuel Álvarez says, the Revolution was made and whom the Revolution abandoned, relegated, and marginalized.

On July 12 I spoke with Eliécer Jiménez-Almeida, a tremendously talented brother, and we said “we have to do something.” I composed the song and decided to write to Daymé Arocena, who lives in Toronto now, and she answered me almost crying, very emotional. Her husband, Pablo Dewin, also a visual artist, filmed Daymé, and Eliécer did the editing. He had the idea of doing it in a square format, so that it would be easier to watch on cell phones. The mixing and mastering of the song was done by my Madrid brother Javier Monteverde in the studio where I worked when I lived in Spain. And that’s how the theme arose. On July 21st at 7 in the morning it was already launched on the social networks.

Yaiza Santos:  And it was immediately answered by Abel Prieto . . .

Pavel Urkiza: More than that, he posted it on Casa de las Américas. That’s strong! That means it hurt. He begins like this [reads]: “Yesterday the song Todo Por Ti by Pavel Urquiza and Daymé Arocena was released on YouTube. Insignificant as a work of art, they want it to work as political propaganda. They used images of ’the people’ for the video clip when they attack a patrol car and policemen who, most of the time, retreat from aggressions by the people.” The guy is lost, he is ridiculous. I read it and continue reading

decided to reply to him on Facebook as well.
Yaiza Santos: If something exposes these reactions in the regime, it’s because the music has made them very nervous …

Pavel Urkiza: From Patria y Vida [Homeland and Life]. That was the first and it is an indisputable theme. It simply changed the motto, and showed that “homeland or death” has become obsolete and forgotten . . . Later many things have come out, but they seem to me rude, very aggressive — “Díaz-Canel singao” [motherfucker] and such. And the message that I want is another, more sophisticated one, you understand? In addition, Daymé Arocena right now is one of the Cuban artists with the most reach — young, with light, but she also comes from that place that Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Osorbo come from, persons of the people who will no longer give more. That’s also why it hurt them, because this song is on another level.

If you read Abel Prieto’s reasoning, everything is with questions. In my answer I say to him: “I find it curious that you — I am treating you as ’usted’ [using the formal ’you’ in Spanish] — question the song with questions. Do you doubt its arguments?” Yotuel Romero has been called “hustler” and “mercenary,” but Abel Prieto knows that he can’t say “mercenary” or “hustler” to me, because I know very well how the leaders in Cuba live. So I tell him: “I know that you go to Cimeq [the Surgical Medical Research Center], to the 43 clinic [the Kohly Clinic, only for high-ranking State officials] . . . I’ll tell you about things I know, because I come from a powerful family in Cuba, my mother’s family.”

My uncle replaced Che Guevara when he stepped down as Minister of Industry, my other uncle was head of Fidel Castro’s bodyguard at the beginning of the Revolution, my aunt was a colonel in the Ministry of the Interior . . . People I have nothing in common with and they stayed at my house in Cuba, anyway . . . Abel Prieto knew my grandmother well, the actress Raquel Revuelta, who became Vice Minister of Culture.

Yaiza Santos: Music is such an important factor in the change in Cuba, and nobody saw it coming.

Pavel Urkiza: As I said in my message to Abel Prieto, freedom also conquers with the cutting edge of ideas, and that is what the songs are doing.

Yaiza Santos: You’ve brought up your family history.

Pavel Urkiza: I come from privilege. My maternal family was from the old communists. My maternal grandmother, the one who raised me, was born in 1903 and did not baptize her children. And my grandfather, Fidel Domenech, who did not know the Revolution, was also an old communist [from the Communist Party of Cuba, founded in 1925]. Many of them were linked to the Revolution, but they came into conflict with the process, and there are many communists whom Fidel himself removed from political life.

Yaiza Santos:  When did you become aware and how did you decide to say: “I don’t want this, I’m leaving Cuba”?

Pavel Urkiza: At 17 years old, when the Mariel thing happened, I had already begun to question many things. The acts of repudiation that were carried out in Cuba against those who wanted to leave . . . People died there, it was a fascist thing. But I didn’t know the world, I hadn’t gone out. The first time I left Cuba was in 1985, to Czechoslovakia. Later, when you enter university [he studied Industrial Economics in Havana], you begin to see another world, to have a more critical sense.

My own grandmother Raquel was a very critical person, and she had a great communist friend, with whom she had many conversations that I listened to. They said they were corrupt, that this was not socialism. In fact, in 1987 my grandmother directed a play, Public Opinion, written by a Romanian [Aurel Baranga], which was a complete questioning of the socialist system. She was a highly respected woman in Cuba and she could do it. When homosexuals were persecuted, she took many out of UMAP [the labor camps called Military Production Aid Units] and put them in her theater group. I owe a lot to her in the sense of looking at reality with a critical eye and with an artistic eye as well.

Yaiza Santos:  What about the rest of your relatives, did you question them?

Pavel Urkiza: With my aunt the colonel, above all, that she raised me and that she was blind. One day I went out to the street naked and began to write on the wall “down with the dictatorship,” and my aunt, imagine this, followed after me, erasing what I had written . . . In the 80s I also began to read Milan Kundera, for example, covered with brown paper, hidden, and when perestroika came, they got out of hand. Those Novedades de Moscow and Sputnik magazines, which nobody was interested in because they were the same crap, continued to arrive in Cuba and with perestroika we began to read them and we began to understand, to question a pile of things and to realize that what we were experiencing was a total failure.

I also had an episode of repression. One day I went with the pianist Omar Sosa to a hotel to visit a musician who played, and the police arrived, put us in a patrol car and locked us in a cell. That’s nothing, of course. There are people who have suffered really deep, really harsh repression, like María Elena Cruz Varela. As I say, I’ve been privileged; I was gradually realizing through my friends, through people who were visiting their homes, seeing how they lived, and I began to really ask myself whether this revolution was a great sham. By ’92 I was already ’green’.

Yaiza Santos:  In that year, you left for Spain — also thanks to your grandmother Raquel — not to return.

Pavel Urkiza: I went out with the group Teatro Estudio de Cuba, to the celebrations of the fifth centennial of the discovery of America. The theater group also helpd me a lot, because artists tend to be more critical of reality and have access to certain reading and other types of music, things that begin to open your mind to realize that you’re living in a bubble, deceived by a system that makes you believe that this is the best thing in the world. And I came to the Spain of ’92, which was great.

Yaiza Santos:  What impression did the Spanish opinion of Cuba make on you at that time?

Pavel Urkiza: They were super defenders of the Revolution, and we somehow tried to make them see what the reality was like. In fact, I think that many began to see it differently, decided to travel to Cuba and realized that there really is something wrong there. Many were disappointed and others were not, among them great friends of mine. But that’s fine with me, everything is tolerable. That’s the great thing about a democracy: you can think what you want and so can I and we can debate and respect each other. All well and good, and the one more people vote for wins the election, that’s the way it is. As the U.S. Constitution says, “We the people,” we are the ones who tell the Government what to do, the Government doesn’t tell us.

Yaiza Santos:  And why did you go to the United States?

Pavel Urkiza: Well, I married an American, a love story that didn’t work out in the end, but here I stayed. After living in Washington, I came to Miami because it has social capital and it has a good climate. It’s a place where we Cubans feel at home, and it is really a very cosmopolitan city. The world’s view of Miami is quite stigmatized: the mafia thing and all that is something that belongs to the past. In fact, in the city of Miami the Democrats win.

I think the United States in general is a stigmatized country. Even living in Spain you despise it a little. Because you grow up with that! When you start to live the experience, you say, “Wait, I have to think for myself.” And I believe that the United States has many virtues. It is a country of laws, there is greatness here.

And I’ll tell you something: I always had leftist tendencies, obviously, and when I was in Spain I already began to say that I was a humanist, but now I feel that I’m an anarchist-humanist-libertarian. The left has disappointed me a lot. There is a whole strategy there that has nothing to do with real desire to change for the good of the people. I already wrote a song about it in La Ruta de las almas (The Route of Souls) — Resurrection – which says “free me from everything I have learned, return me to the point of nothingness, to the total absence of accumulated life.” I’ve had to rebuild myself, but from my own vision, not from the one they put in me there.

Yaiza Santos:  How do you see Cuba from now on, after July 11? Is change coming?

Pavel Urkiza: This has no turning back, it has no turning back. It may take another five years, but it will come about. People are not going to stay calm anymore. As that woman said in one of the videos of the protests, that she is also an old woman, do you think that this old woman is a criminal? This is how I will remember July 11 all my life: the moment when the people of Cuba took off the cloak of silence.

Translated by Tomás A.

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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 Protests: The Curse of Fear Has Been Broken, the Final Collapse of the System Has Begun / Dimas Castellano

Dimas Castellano, el Blog de Dimas, 13 July 2021 — “It is the ultimate breakdown of the system. It had been coming for months. The curse has irreparably been broken. The Cuban people were tired of the state acting with impunity. It has been sixty-years of abuse and humiliation. This is not an economic crisis; this is a systemic crisis.” This is how the economist Emilio Morales summed up for Diario de Cuba what happened in Cuba on Sunday, when thousands of citizens across the island took to the streets to protest, shouting “Freedom!”

After the protests Diario de Cuba interviewed Morales, political scientists Juan Antonio Blanco and Dimas Castellanos, and activist Boris Gonzalez Arenas about what happened and what it could mean for Cubans in near future and for the regime.

“In addition to being unpopular, the government’s latest economic measures have had profound adverse effects on the economy. First of all, the economy was partially dollarized without meaningful structural changes or reforms to unleash productive capacity. Then there was currency unification, whose stated objective was the elimination of the dual currency system, something that in practice has not happened. Quite the opposite,” says Morales.

This has led to “an increase in inflation, shortages in the retail sector, increased loss of purchasing power and growth in public frustration, as reflected in the protests.”

He also alludes to “the financial massacre of forcing people continue reading

to deposit dollars they have been keeping under their mattresses.”

“Adding to this is the impact of the pandemic. Covid-19 has obliterated the vaunted myth of Cuban medical prowess in the blink of an eye. The epidemiological situation in the country is very serious and highly explosive socially. The increase in the number of infections and deaths has been growing rapidly for days while at the same time public frustration is growing over the lack of governmental response,” he says.

He adds, “In the midst of this brutal humanitarian crisis, the regime has refused to accept help from the Cuban diaspora, which has tested the patience of citizens who lack medicine and food.”

For Morales, all these events “have produced a great rebellion” in which “Cubans have used their voices and social networks as weapons.”

He believes that “these events are a stern warning to the political leadership and the military that impunity has come to an end.”

“Senior career military officials without links to the mafia chieftains running the country, and whose hands are not stained with blood, are taking note of the situation. They will not part in any massacre that the puppet Diaz-Canel might order,” he says.

The economist believes, “This situation could lead to a fracture within the armed forces.”

“Most high, medium and low-ranking officers are experiencing the same hardships as ordinary Cubans: lack of food, medicine, blackouts, inflation, the humiliation of having to pay for basic necessities with dollars when their salaries are in pesos,” he says.

“It would not be the first time a dictatorship in Cuba has fallen. It would not be an an exception. There are already rumors that the families of Raul Castro and Lopez-Callejas have begun sending their relatives out of the country. If this turns out to be true, it would not come as a surprise. Large sums of money have been ferried out of the country for years. The generals and colonels commanding the troops are not going to bloody their hands repressing the people, nor are they going to lend themselves to the farce of watching that these crooks flea the country with their families,” he adds.

In regards to the government’s options for responding to what has happened, Morales believes that those in power “have run out of resources, have nothing to say and nothing to offer.”

“All they can offer is slavery, barbarity, hunger, submission and obedience. An economy in ruins, a country that exports practically nothing, that does not allow its citizens to generate wealth, that exports them as slaves and steals their wages, a government that steals the remittances from exiles and hides them in bank accounts in a third country or invests them in luxury hotels on the island while the public suffers from shortages of medicine and food, and the onslaught of a pandemic that has gotten out of control,” he laments.

What would Emilio Morales advise the Cuban government at this point? “The only possible recommendation would be to urge them to hold free, transparent elections with international supervision. Allow Cubans to generate wealth, end one-party hegemony, allow freedom of thought and association, and end political exclusion. Liberate the economy, the market, prices and put an end to parasitic centralization once and for all. Allow Cubans who live outside and inside the country to invest unhindered and with full legal guarantees. Allow citizens to save the country,” he urges.

Not that he expects the government to do any of this.

“It will try to buy time. It will not acknowledge the crisis. It will say that the thousands of Cubans who took to the streets are criminals, are mercenaries being bankrolled by imperialists. It will say that what they want is annexation and will repeat all those arguments and rhetorical idiocies they have been using for six decades to subdue the masses and justify their acts of violence.”

“In reality, what they will do is increase the repression and persecution of activists. The country will be increasingly militarized to discourage people from returning to the streets. In practice this will be unsustainable and will be very difficult to avoid,” he adds.

“It’s just a question of time. The dictatorship is demoralized. This is the last round and only a united Cuban people can overturn it. They already took the first step by going out into the streets. The curse of fear is already broken. There’s no going back. It does not matter if the internet is shut down or the phone lines are cut. The flame of freedom has already been ignited in the hearts of all Cubans and that cannot be extinguished by any dictatorship, no matter how violent and malevolent it may be. The beginning of the end has finally come,” concludes Morales.

A national rebellion

This is what political scientist Juan Antonio Blanco believes has clearly occurred.

“The regime has already lost two of its three supporting pillars. One was its ability to co-opt the public through subsidized employment, healthcare, and other policies. Investing in those things requires financial capital and political will, neither of which this government has.”

“The other pillar was ideological domination, its ability to present itself as a power allegedly legitimized by history, the voice of the downtrodden. It was their symbolic capital. The San Isidro and 27N movements ripped that apart,” states Blanco.

“The third pillar was fear of the the state’s capacity for repression. Sunday’s protests demonstrated that this fear is not insurmountable. The biggest gain of July 11 is the people suddenly discovering their own power,” he says.

“This system of domination is in crisis and getting worse.” The regime’s leadership, he believes, has no choice but to “leave or repress.” He is reluctant to give any suggestions. “I trust in its capacity for self-destruction,” he says.

Blanco believes the regime’s ruling elite will close ranks with those who have a stake in the system of repression.

“On Sunday there were police and rapid response brigades who refused calls for mobilization. We will see where their criminal foolhardiness leads them,” he says.

As for President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s ongoing denial of the seriousness of the crisis, Blanco believes it is “abject stupidity to say that the US government is so bothered by Cuba’s political system that it has manufactured all these protests.”

“It is an insult to Cubans’ intelligence. The assumption is that people are living happily so they must have been manipulated by another country that wants to put an end to this reign of harmony. The scarcity is due to an outdated system that seeks to create wealth rather than prevent the growth of poverty. After sixty-two years of experience, it is not a theoretical discussion as to whether or not the system in Cuba, and other Asian and European countries, has failed,” he says.

As for the Cuban president’s call for government supporters to confront demonstrators expressing their desire for freedom and to walk over their corpses, Blanco describes it as “an irresponsible, criminal statement which will have future legal consequences for this mediocre wimp from the ruling elite.”

Cuban political scientist Dimas Castellanos believes what has happened is “clearly a manifestation of exhaustion, hopelessness and despair.”

“It had been building and on Sunday it took a qualitative leap. I would not yet describe it as a national rebellion but it is a prelude,” he tells Diario de Cuba.

“The causes for this are not external. They are fundamentally internal, measures the government has refused to take. It has been delaying them and that is what has led us to this point. If there were the political will and an average level of intelligence, the situation could be turned around immediately,” he says.

“But that is not what they are signaling. As for the causes of the blackouts, for the pandemic, they claim everything is the fault of the United States and the embargo. There is no acknowledgement that the totalitarian system does not work, that it has failed,” he states.

Castellanos believes the basic reason for the protests “is the absence of liberties: civil, political, economic, every kind.”

“My advice would be to take measures they have been putting off: grant freedom to small producers, allow the creation of small and medium-sized businesses, do not try to save state-owned companies. Give Cubans total freedom to be active participants of their economy, with the ability to trade freely rather than having to go through an intermediaries like Acopio or state import/export monopolies,” he suggests.

In Castellos’ opinion, “the situation will not change from one day to the next but it will begin to change. The US would then have no rationale for maintaining the embargo.”

“They are trying to make excuses for their ignorance, for leaders who are confused, by claiming there is a foreign plot to overthrow the government. That is not the solution. You have to start by asking a simple question: Are Cubans free to participate as active agents in solving the problems of their country? No, they are not,” he concludes.

“Castroism will be subjected to ever greater social and international ridicule in the coming months.”

Independent journalist Boris Gonzalez Arenas, spokesperson for Council for a Democratic Transition in Cuba, notes, “Without a doubt, Sunday’s events were a spontaneous national rebellion.”

“As for the regime’s argument that it was all planned, what has happened is simply the classic, spontaneous manifestation of a people who have had enough. 2021 is no different from 1789 and the French Revolution. Desperate, hungry people, without medicine, without food, in the midst of a health crisis that the Covid has made worse,” he says.

“They have come out against Castroism, against the dictatorship, with information provided by social networks.”

Gonzalez believes “what this event most closely resembles is the crisis in Venezuela.”

“They are brutally repressing a hungry nation. Whether communism ends tomorrow or not, Castroism will be subjected to ever greater social and international ridicule in the coming months. If this degenerate conduct continues, Diaz-Canel will be another Maduro,”

The Cuban government’s first step must be to start abiding by the 2019 constitution, which it has crudely trampled on since its inception. The second is to recognize social diversity and then establish a process for political reform that will lead to a transitional system. I don’t know when, but there is no long-term possibility that communism will retain power the way it has up till now,” he says.

He denounces “what they have done in shutting down mobile phone networks. That is characteristic of communist tyrannies.”

“A tyranny as shameful as the one we have experienced in Cuba is only possible because of the denial of two basic freedoms: freedom of assembly and mobilization, and freedom of the press and expression. So, of course, the first thing they do is shut down the internet so that we cannot express ourselves,” he notes.

He is  also critical of the security forces’ repressive actions during the protests. “When shots are fired in Cuba, they are against unarmed individuals. This is a crime, state sanctioned murder, a crime against humanity,” he maintains.

By calling for acts of mass violence, Arenas contends Diaz-Canel himself has already signaled what the regime’s next step will be. “Depending on how things play out, Diaz-Canel could emerge strengthened in the eyes of Cuba’s old guard and gain the respect of powerful factions who now dismiss him.” But what will his lasting legacy be?

Che Guevara Goes from Defeat to Defeat

The defaced mural is located in the National University of Comahue, in the province of Neuquén, Argentina. (Agustin Antonetti / Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 30, 2021 – “They tremble, freedom advances.” The phrase appeared this Friday on the face of Ernesto “Che” Guevara painted on a mural at the National University of Comahue, in the province of Neuquén, Argentina. The young human rights activist Agustin Antonetti shared on his Twitter account an image of the graffiti, which also contained the word “Genocide” and the phrase “More Hayek, less Marx.”

The Argentine, who studies International Relations at the Inter-American Open University of Rosario and frequently criticizes the human rights violations committed by the Cuban regime, wanted to record in his publication the meaning of what happened: “A great change is taking place in young people and it shows.”

“We are seeing a gigantic change in the mentality of young people in Latin America, although in many universities they are pressured by professors not to speak; now is the time for us to accompany them and promote them. A change has already begun and there will be no turning back,” Antonetti, who is also coordinator of the Youth Group of the Freedom Foundation, added in the Twitter thread.

Antonetti is one of the human rights activists who has most echoed continue reading

the denunciations of the repression carried out by the Cuban regime against the July 11 protesters. On the same social network, he has shared the many reactions of Cubans both inside and outside the island, of governments and organizations, and in addition he has issued alerts about the hundreds of detainees and “disappeared” after the protests.

Also in Argentina, a group of young people from the group “Alternative” that belongs to the Faculty of Political Sciences of the National University of Rosario, is promoting an initiative to revoke the title of “illustrious citizen of Rosario” to Che Guevara. “Out with the dictator,” they argue via the citizengo.org platform and also affirm that they support “the fight of the Cuban people for freedom.”

The promoters of the initiative note that while in Cuba “there is no free expression, basic goods are scarce, and 51% of the population lives in poverty, in Argentina the authoritarian leaders who plunged Cuba into this chaos are honored and worshiped.”

Meanwhile in Spain, the Zaragoza city council approved this week, in an extraordinary session, that “Che Guevara” Street be renamed after Ana María Suárez (a Zaragozan victim of the 2017 jihadist attack in Catalonia), and that “Guevara” Park take the name of the Paralympic athlete Teresa Perales.

The announcement was made during the debate on a motion of the Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos (Cs), in charge of the municipal government, to condemn the Cuban regime’s repression against civil society demonstrations and to defend a transition towards democracy on the island.

A week earlier, in Galicia, more than fifty people gathered in front of the statue of Che Guevara located in a roundabout in Oleiros to demand the removal of this figure, and freedom for Cuba. The attendees, assembled by the Patria y Vida platform, where the Association of Victims of Castroism is located, exhibited Cuban, Spanish, and Venezuelan flags, as well as banners that read SOS Cuba, and also chanted slogans such as Viva Cuba libre, We want freedom! and Homeland and Life.

In Mexico, after the 11J (11 July) protests, several politicians resumed the debate to remove the sculpture in the capital that portrays Fidel Castro and Che Guevara seated together.

“It must be withdrawn. Last year the PAN (National Action Party) presented a resolution to withdraw it because the two characters were human rights violators, and are responsible for the misery in which the Cuban people find themselves. They are dictators that led a people to be prisoners of the elite that controls power and the economy,” said the deputy of the Congress of Mexico City, América Rangel.

Another member of PAN, Diego Garrido, spoke with Rangel, and agreed, according to Sé Uno, that the Cuban regime is repressive and that it violates the human rights of its own people. “They’ve kept their people in extreme poverty, in conditions of misery. Hundreds of people flee the island every year, so it is absurd that they have statues to commemorate these characters.”

Translated by Tomás A.

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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.

Cigarettes Return to the Rationed Market in All Cuban Provinces

On the informal market a pack of the Criollos brand can cost up to 50 pesos each. (Mercado Libre)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 29, 2021 – What was announced last June as an exceptional measure just for the capital, became the norm for the entire country this past Thursday: the sale of cigarettes will be rationed. This was reported by Tribuna de La Habana, which said that it has gotten to this point “due to problems with the availability of raw material.”

This shortage caused the Tabacuba Group to deliver “24 million fewer packs of cigarettes for one month,” according to information from the Ministry of Internal Trade.

The Minister of Commerce, Betsy Díaz Velázquez, explained to the official press that, although this is not a product that is part of the regulated family basket, its sale will be controlled due to “a monthly supply deficit of 37 million packs” in order to “prevent hoarding.”

The minister asserted that there are families, none of whose members smoke, who nevertheless continue reading

buy cigarettes, which “affects” those who do smoke. Just like, though a bottle of wine is not a regulated product, the wine shops ask whether the buyer is the consumer of that product or not. Díaz insisted that as production from the factories and from Brascuba [the Brazilian/Cuban joint venture] decreased, prices in the market rose “due to speculation and hoarding;” so it was decided to regulate the sale of this product “as a containment measure.”

In the informal market a pack of the Criollos brand can cost up to 50 pesos each.

Díaz pointed out that though cigarettes are covered by the ration book “this does not mean that this is a product of the regulated family basket.”

The General Director of Merchandise Sales of the Ministry of Internal Trade, Francisco Silva Herrera, reiterated that the “interruptions in production” are due to difficulties “with the arrival of raw materials in Cuba.” He explained that for that reason the volume of cigarettes available for sale doesn’t meet 100% of the country’s demand, and pointed out that so far this month they have received only 34% of what the plan called for.

Silva Herrera said that, depending on the available supply in some provinces, they are going to limit sales to “a tiny amount” of packs per person, sometimes limiting them to people over age 19, or by family.

For months, Cubans have faced the dilemma of acquiring packs of cigarettes on the black market or buying them in stores which only take payment in foreign currencies (MLC). In the capital’s state-owned shops and cafes, the shortage gets worse every day and huge lines form.

“I buy in quantity. I pay 750 pesos for the H. Upmann wheel, which gives you 10 packs, otherwise it’s impossible to always have it on hand, because there are days when no matter how far you walk, you won’t find cigarettes of any kind for sale on the street,” Leonardo Felipe, a 26-year-old man told 14ymedio.

Added to the dilemma of not finding the desired cigarettes is the complaint of many smokers about the poor quality of the product. The flavors have changed, and sometimes the cigarettes come incompletely filled, or with little glue, so the filter separates from the rest.

Translated by Tomás A.

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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.

To Calm Cubans, Discontent, Distribution of International Aid Donations to Begin Tomorrow

The minister of Domestic Commerce stressed that the state would pick up the costs of aid distribution.  (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana 29 July 2021 — Tons of aid that partner nations are sending to the island will be distributed to Cuban families starting Friday. The process will begin in Havana, epicenter of the July 11 protests. It will continue in other provinces with large populations and where demonstrations were significant — Matanzas, Ciego de Avila, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin, Guantanamo and Isla de La Juventud — before extending throughout the country.

The minister of Domestic Commerce, Betsy Diaz Velazquez, said the aid will be distributed “for free,” Normally a shipment of humanitarian aid would not require such an unnecessary clarification but there is widespread fear in Cuba that aid from Russia, Mexico and Nicaragua will end up for sale on the rationed market or, even worse, in hard currency stores.

The minister stressed that the costs associated with distributing the aid — which will consist largely of rice, grains, cooking oil, tuna, canned meat, past and sugar — will be covered by the state.

Diaz explained that each province will also receive extra shipments of certain products. For example, the city of Pinar del Rio will receive canned meat as well as flour to be used in the production of bread and cookies.

Each household in Cienfuegos will receive a liter of cooking oil, Sancti Spiritus residents will get flour for cookies, families in the eastern provinces will get tuna while Villa Clara, Camaguey, Mayabeque y Las Tunas will get dried beans. Havana will get continue reading

flour for bread and cookies as well as milk, with priority for the latter be given to seniors over the age of sixty. This generated critical comments on government media outlets from people who considered this unfair and demanded that the milk go to entire households instead.

The minister thanked “friendly nations” for their contribution of aid to the Cuban people during the pandemic and once again laid all blame for the current economic crisis on the US embargo despite the fact that the country is the island’s main food supplier.

In recent days Cuba has received tons of humanitarian aid from its main partners. On Sunday two Russian planes carrying ninety tons of humanitarian aid touched down in Havana. The cargo consisted mainly of wheat flour, canned meats and sunflower oil as well as a million surgical masks. (Domestically produced masks, which were expected to available for sale by the end of June, have yet to appear in stores.)

Two ships have arrived from Mexico with deliveries of fuel, food and medicine. Among the main foodstuffs are powdered milk, dried beans, flour, canned tuna and cooking oil.

On Wednesday Nicaraguan First Lady and Vice-President Rosario Murillo announced the pending arrival of a shipment from Nicaragua, though she did not provide details. Murillo stated, “Very soon our people, our government, will be sending… a boat with Nicaraguan food supplies to Cuba to contribute [to relief efforts] in these pandemic times, which include a pandemic, the Yankee plague, which we are battling.”

In the words of Madrid-based Cuban economist Elias Amor, the aid is “a treatment for pain more intense than the nation is experiencing.” In a post about the planned aid distribution, which also discussed the 60-year-old basket of rationed foodstuffs that that has long curtailed people’s freedom of choice, Amor warns that this new humanitarian aid is “bread for today but hunger for tomorrow.”

Although the aid’s arrival could mollify those who took part in the July 11 protests out of desperation and weariness, Amor believes further outbreaks could occur once supplies run out.

“If the regime wanted to use this aid to buy time in order to implement structural reforms, that would make sense. But many of us fear the necessary 180-degree turn towards the economic freedom that Cuba needs is not part of their plans.”

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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 Cuba, the Number of Those Vaccinated is More Than 50% Higher Than Those Infected, Well Above the World Average

CECMED (Center for State Control of Drugs, Equipment and Medical Devices) noted that Abdala (a COVID-19 vaccine developed by CIGB, the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Cuba) presented “an adequate safety profile.” (ACN)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, July 29, 2021 – “One underestimates this about Covid. I walk stumbling like this, with short steps, falling on both sides.” Caridad, a resident of Centro Habana, fell ill with Covid-19 just after receiving her first dose of Abdala, the only Cuban vaccine candidate approved for emergency use by CECMED.

Its developer, the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) established its effectiveness at 100% “in the face of severe disease and death,” but insisted that the vaccine did not stop contagion and it was essential to maintain prevention measures, such as is being done in the rest of the world. Despite that warning, the data is worse than expected.

According to the Ministry of Public Health, to date 3,484,672 people have received at least one dose “of one of the Cuban vaccine candidates” (the official reports do not specify whether Soberana 02 or Abdala), of which 2,954,759 have also received the second and 2,460,919, the third. That is, 20% of the population has received the complete vaccination schedule.

But what is more worrying is continue reading

the number of people who have already been vaccinated. At the national level, the authorities give assurances that “work is being done” to “establish how many of the sick people have been vaccinated with all three doses in order to be able to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine,” but they have only provided figures from Havana.

This Saturday, Emilio Delgado Iznaga, provincial director of Health, announced that of the documented infections “96% were symptomatic and 73% were already vaccinated.” This supposes an increase compared to the previous day, when the Havana Tribune calculated that of the total confirmed, 71.7% “appear vaccinated” (although it was around 56% vaccinated with the three doses).

Cuban immunologist Eduardo López-Collazo, director of the Research Institute of Hospital La Paz, in Madrid, hypothesizes that those who have received a dose have become confident and relaxed their safety measures for avoiding contagion. “As we already know, none of the vaccines is completely sterilizing, that is, they do not completely cut the contagion, but rather reduce the possibility of suffering from the disease,” he recalls.

However, after studying the “few data” that the authorities provide, he raises another possibility: that the vaccines are not effective against the new variants.

This would be consistent with the fact that the trajectory of the island’s case curve has skyrocketed at the same time that the Beta and Delta variants of the virus have expanded (the Delta is considered more contagious and aggressive).

Delta has come to complicate the situation of the pandemic even in areas with the highest vaccination rates, as the authorities discussed ten days ago during a Roundtable program on Cuban TV aimed at analyzing the usefulness of Soberana 02 and Abdala in the face of new variants.

Although investigations are ongoing, Dr. Verena Muzio González, director of Clinical Research at CIGB, said that correct immunity is achieved only with the complete regimen (three doses in Cuba) and that you have to wait at least two weeks for the immune system to generate the appropriate antibodies to defend itself against the most serious forms of the disease.

The data are comparable to other countries, but it is difficult to find similar examples in which the percentage of infected is so high among those vaccinated. In Spain, where more than half of the population (26 million people) are already immunized, only 5.5% of those infected were fully vaccinated (11.4% among those who received a single dose). In addition, although the country is experiencing a fifth wave that is beginning to cause worry, most infections occur among young people (who are not yet vaccinated) and the average age of those hospitalized has dropped dramatically to below 50.

In the United States, where immunization has lagged and the most contagious variants are spreading, “more than 97% of people hospitalized for COVID-19 are not vaccinated,” according to a New York Times report.

The closest case to the Cuban situation is that of the United Kingdom, where according to an investigation conducted by the Financial Times, the number of positive cases among those vaccinated with a complete schedule has shot up to almost half in recent weeks. However, the director of the study, Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at Kings College, clarified to the local press, “although the figures seem worrying, it is important to note that vaccines have greatly reduced severe infections and that Covid for the post-vaccinated is a much milder illness for most people. ”

Spector did not go into assessing whether the rise in the contagious vaccinated has to do with the expansion of the Delta variant. British health authorities worry that good weather, and the lifting of the latest restrictions on July 19, may shoot up the number of cases in the summer.

Several reports have come to this newspaper, of people who have contracted the disease while being vaccinated with one or two doses of the compound. On case is that of Yoel, from the Havana neighborhood of Nuevo Vedado, who lost the sense of smell and taste after his second dose with Abdala, the second week of July, and is still awaiting the results of a PCR Covid test.

Although some are beginning to fear that it was the vaccine itself that caused the disease, this is scientifically impossible in the case of protein subunit vaccines, which this vaccine is.

“It is not possible for this vaccine to cause the disease because it is made with a harmless protein from the virus; they are not injecting an attenuated virus or anything like that,” explains Dr. López-Collazo.

Last week, a team from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO / WHO) office in Cuba visited the National Center for Scientific Research (CNIC) to learn more about the efficacy results of the Cuban vaccine candidates.

That day, Vicente Vérez, the director of the Finlay Vaccination Institute, was optimistic about next month, since at the end of August, 14 days will have passed since the application of the last dose to the general population of Havana, which will allow knowing more data.

As he explained, the British medical journal The Lancet is reviewing a study by Soberana that would shed some light on the opaque and controversial Cuban vaccines. So far, there are no public results of clinical trials of Cuban vaccine candidates, nor are there any articles in scientific journals, except for two on Soberana 02 about a preclinical trial on mice.

Translated by Tomás A.

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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.

Cubans Can Now Import Solar Panels Without Paying Duty

The new provision will allow electric self-sufficiency to Cubans who can install a solar panel on their homes. (wikimedia.org)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 29, 2021 — In the midst of a pressing electricity shortage, the Cuban government has taken a step demanded by the population to authorize the duty-free import of photovoltaic systems, including parts and pieces of panels that generate energy by direct transformation of sunlight into electricity.

The resolution, published this Wednesday in the Official Gazette, allows the populace to purchase these products abroad as long as the purposes are not commercial. That is, Cubans who generate electricity must dump the surplus of their personal consumption into the National Electric System so that it may be distributed among the rest of users.

The document specifies that the panels, the inverter, the support structures, the electric boards, the cabinets for parts, and the grounding system are considered essential parts and pieces, therefore they are exempt from customs payment. continue reading

The rest of the components — direct and alternating current buffers, batteries for energy storage, electric conduit, battery charge regulator, and system components and electrical accessories for assembly — are considered common use and are subject to the usual tax rates.

The Gazette establishes that the person who acquires the panel will be responsible for the system and its maintenance, in addition to re-contracting the service to the Electric Utility, which must certify that the requirements for installation are met and verify the meter for energy measurement.

The tax exemptions have been approved, argues the text, “with the aim of increasing participation of renewable energy sources on the electric power generation grid.”

In 2019, through Decree Law 345, the sale of surplus electricity generated by private producers from this type of source was authorized, but the provision did not modify the state monopoly of the Electricity Union, the only one authorized to buy, distribute, and commercialize energy of private origin.

The Cuban Electricity Union (UNE) specified that an average household on the island needs around 185 kWh per month. To cover these needs, 5 solar panels of 260 watts are necessary.

The importation of tax-free solar panels was in high demand by those who are eager to supply their own electricity, an increasingly precarious good on the Island. Depending on the power, the rates (before the Tarea Ordenamiento* [Ordering Task] took effect) ranged from 200 to 1,000 pesos for panels generating from 900 watts to 15 kilowatts.

In March, the authorities began to pitch the idea of bonuses or exemptions for those who wanted to import panels. But the blackouts, which have increased this summer, when municipalities throughout the Island have seen their number of hours of electricity regulated, and the historical protests in more than 40 cities on the island, may have accelerated the decision.

To date, the panels available in Cuba were sold through the state virtual store Bazar Virtual, where 270-watt installations could be found, at a cost of $2,549.

Most of the solar panels on the Island, due to the high cost involved, are in the hands of the State and have been donated by China. The announcements by two companies — Spanish and German — that wanted to install these devices in several Cuban provinces, came to nothing, and the telephone number of one of them is no longer in service.

Solar energy is one of the government’s biggest bets for taking advantage of a natural resource that Cuba has in abundance, but the main problem continues to be the investment necessary to build a solar park.

Before the pandemic, the Island had planned to build 65 facilities of this type, and another 15 were under development, in order to increase the currently installed power by 42 gigawatts, which accounts for barely 1.15% of national consumption.

*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 others. 

Translated by Tomás A.

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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.

The Spanish Consulate in Cuba Suspends August 2 Passport Appointments

The Consulate of Spain issued the information through a tweet, without explaining the reason for the suspension of its computer system nor answering questions from users. (exterior.gob.es)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 30, 2020 — The Consulate General of Spain in Havana warned this Thursday that its computer system will not be operational on August 2 and asked all those who have appointments for that day to reschedule “through the new centers” to renew a passport or obtain one for the first time.

The diplomatic office issued the information through a tweet, without explaining the reason for the suspension of its computer system or answering questions from users. For example, one of them asked if the appointments to sign up in the Consular Registry have also been canceled, and another, “when do they plan to activate the appointments for those registered in 2021 for their first passport?”

Last spring, the Spanish Consulate suspended its services for a few days due to an employee’s close contact with someone who was Covid-19 positive.

Cuba has the third-largest community of Spaniards living abroad–about 200,000 according to the 2019 census–after Argentina and Venezuela, due in part to the passage of the Historical Memory Law in 2007 by the Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The law allowed the nationalization of at least 80,000 Cubans of Spanish descent.

Translated by Tomás A.

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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.