In Camaguey Coppelia’s Neighbors Live with Ammonia Leaks / 14yMedio

The factory was built before 1959 and its owner placed it on the outskirts of the city, but over the years the neighborhoods grew and surrounded the facility. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ricardo Fernandez, 4 December 2017 — Five days after an ammonia leak that kept some people in the city of Camagüey in suspense, the neighbors of the Coppelia ice cream factory fear that the consequences of the spill will be more serious than what has been announced, and they are reproaching the authorities for not having given them a warming and evacuated the residents.

In the local media the leak was attributed to “a mistake by the shift operator in the engine room” and they timed the moment of the spill between 6:20 and 6:30 on Wednesday morning. At that time, most of the families residing in the Las Mercedes district were asleep or preparing to leave their houses.

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The strong smell of the chemical substance reached the Casino Campestre, about a mile from the place where the plant is located, according to witness statements collected by 14ymedio. “We began to fear that something had happened when we sensed an unpleasant and very strong smell,” says Dinora, a nurse and neighbor of the Coppelia plant.

Close to the historic center, the factory was built before 1959 and its owner located it on the outskirts of the city, but over the years the neighborhoods grew and surrounded the facility. Along one of its sides the railway line runs and the streets surrounding it are very busy.

Residents in the vicinity regret that on the day of the accident they did not evacuate the closest families, nor was there a broad dissemination of information about the incident to warn people of what had happened and avoid damaging their health.

Although firefighters and police arrived at the scene quickly, many thought it was a fire or other type of emergency inside the factory. Only when they sensed the strong smell did they realize that a chemical leak had happened.

“In high concentrations the gas irritates the throat, inflames the lungs, damages the respiratory tract and the eyes,” Dr. Alejandro Torres explained to this newspaper. “As the concentration increases, it can produce pulmonary edema.”

The doctor believes that the biggest risk in the escape of ammonia from Coppelia was to the “factory workers because they are exposed to higher concentrations of the chemical.” However, the authorities insist that the leak was insignificant and that there is no risk to the lives of the workers.

“It is not the first time that there has been an ammonia leak in the Coppelia factory,” Ivis Regueiro, a local resident told 14ymedio. “What did surprise me was the deployment of the police and firefighters, that had never happened before.”

Many families in the area have wells in the backyards of their homes, as a way to guarantee a water supply in a city that has been seriously affected by the problems created by the deteriorated hydraulic infrastructure and a long drought.

“No one has told us if we can continue taking water from our well or not,” laments a neighbor a few yards from where the leak occurred. “No one explains the harm to our health and if the spilled ammonia has contaminated the waters of the area,” she complains.”The news they have given us is that everything is controlled, but people do not believe it.”

Jesús Tejeda Jorge, production manager of the Dairy Products Company, assured the local press that the liquid ammonia used in the refrigeration process, once spilled, “instead of going to the atmosphere, is siphoned away through the drains.”

Tejeda acknowledged that the factory does not have every method of protection, despite having requested them from the Dairy Products Company. In the engine room where the ammonia leak occurred, “there is only one isothermal suit for the shift operator,” he explains.

The pipes with sewage from the factory are also joined to those that carry the sewage waters of the area and end up in the Hatibonico River, which is very polluted at present.

The environmental activist Inalkis Rodríguez has repeatedly denounced the government’s indolence in the face of the Hatibonico situation. In her Twitter account, three years ago she published an image accompanied by the following sentence: “All the rivers in the city of Camagüey are in these terrible states of contamination.” Since then the situation has worsened.

A study carried out by specialists of the Faculty of Chemistry of the University of Camagüey warned of the effects that wastewater discharges, without an effective treatment, were causing in the river. The Hatibonico is severely contaminated with organic matter, nutrients and heavy metals, the researchers say.

One of the academics who carried out the study spoke with this newspaper under anonymity to report that “contamination by ammonia will have a very negative impact on the Hatibonico River, […] which already had experienced deterioration in its basin, where part of the natural life has lost the battle against industries and sewage waters.”

“The accident was foreseeable because the factory is greatly deteriorated and workers must deal with many problems every day to keep the industry producing,” the engineer adds. “It’s a miracle that this does not happen more often and in more dangerous volumes.”

The academic points out that every day thousands of pollutant residues end up in the river and that the responsible industries do not apply the waste treatment protocols called for in the reports of the University of Camagüey.

Camagüeyans not only have a polluted river converted into a narrow greywater stream for decades, but they have also had to learn to cope with frequent industrial discharges. What happened in the Coppelia factory is nothing new for them, although they see the publication by the official press of a type of incident that normally does not appear in the media as unprecedented.

The Tínima Beer Factory, on the northern beltway of the city, is a frequent scene of this type of accident. The incidence is so high that the students of the nearby Máximo Gómez Báez High School Vocational Institute of Exact Sciences have an emergency protocol that they must practice several times a year, as 14ymedio confirmed with numerous students.

In the nearby city of Nuevitas, the Ammonia Receptor Base is located, the only one of its kind in Cuba, whose frequent breaks sometimes result in gas spills. The inhabitants of the surroundings are protected only with cloths over their nose and mouth, or take refuge in the homes of relatives.

In September of this year, another ammonia spill occurred when the driver of a tank car for the Trucks Union of Cuba in Guantanamo did not correctly calculate the height when entering the warehouse of a meat company and the discharge pipe was broken when it hit a roof beam. For about 15 minutes there was a leak of ammonia in the form of gas.

In 2008, about 50 people received medical attention for respiratory and skin disorders of a mild nature, and between 4,000 and 5,000 were evacuated after a leak of ammonia in a refrigerator in the free zone of Berroa, in the outskirts of Havana.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Women in Cuba Can’t Take it Any More / Iván García

Photo: Taken from the report The inequities and female poverty in Cuba, published in IPS on December 16, 2016.

Ivan Garcia, 8 December 2017 — While the group of young people from a high school in La Víbora, south of Havana, were in a physical education class on a dirt track adjacent to the school, Andrés, 40, with a cardboard box on his legs, masturbated frantically sitting on the cement floor of the basketball court.

His relatives call him ’Andriaco the blanket’. He usually masturbates in cinemas and sports fields, using a large cardboard container that has an opening in the front to put his hand in and not attract attention. continue reading

Andrés is not demented or mentally retarded. Nor is he an exhibitionist like Manuel, a mulatto who likes to masturbate early in the morning or when night falls, in public, always showing his member. One afternoon in November, Manuel explained to Martí Noticias his way of operating.

“I have fixed places, like the medical school in El Cerro, in the back of the Covadonga, because the students don’t create problems. And some places where the chicks pass that are ’assimilators’.” In the slang of masturbators, shooters, jack-offs or jerk-offs, ’assimilators’ or ’comelonas’ are women who watch them while they masturbate and don’t shout at them or offend them.

Manuel has a wife and is the father of two children. “Every time I get an internal itch, I take out my dick and jack off in front of some girl. If they insult me, I get even more excited. There is an army of wankers throughout the island. If the police pick you up, they’ll give you a fine of 60 pesos. If you are a recidivist or you ’shoot’ in front of minors, they punish you with one year in prison on a farm. But I’ve never been imprisoned for masturbating on the street.”

Sheila, a psychologist, believes that the laws in Cuba are quite permissive with public masturbators and jamoneros or exhibitionists. “Likewise with sexual harassment and physical and verbal abuse of women. It is a tremendously macho society. Most street masturbators do not have any mental disorder. They need medical treatment, but their IQ is usually above average.”

The Havana psychologist believes that public masturbation and sexual harassment are crimes, because they invade the privacy of a woman without her consent. “And of course the abuse. In Cuba, the sanctions for physical aggressions against women are very soft. The laws condemn a government opponent or someone who kills a cow with a sentence of twenty years, however a man hits his wife or girlfriend, sometimes with injuries, and if they punish him, he serves only one year in jail. Even some policemen do not see it as a crime, but a matter between husband and wife. We Cubans should initiate a public awareness campaign to denounce sexual harassment and gender violence, among other phenomena that affect us.”

Recently, a crusade against sexual harassment began in the United States. The #MeToo Movement establishes a new threshold against the abuse of male power. More than thirty top executives and celebrities have fallen in the last two months, from artists like Kevin Spacey to the doctor for the women’s Olympic gymnastics team.

But in Cuba, masturbation on public streets, which is a form of sexual harassment, and beating wives and children is not an issue that the official media regularly address or encourage debate about among the population.

Adriana, a former basketball player, narrates personal experiences. “Already, as a young woman, it was common that the little girl that the coach had his eye on, he went to bed with her in exchange for selecting her for a provincial or national team. Touching your buttocks, breasts, undressing you with his eyes or masturbating in front of you, was so common that I came to think it was normal. In sports schools and in others with scholarship students, sexual harassment escalates to groping against your will. As far as I know, those behaviors are not reported and those affected are afraid to denounce it.”

Leyanis, 24, recently graduated in telecommunications engineering, says that “the things that women suffer in Cuba have become normal. We have to arm ourselves with a shield if we want to get ahead. We are legally forsaken. From the moment I get up I have to endure the invasion of other people,” and she details:

“At five in the morning, when I’m ironing my work uniform in my living room, a guy stands in the window and starts masturbating. Similarly, on the way to work, there’s another batch of pajusos. And at work, from your boss to your colleagues, they make rude innuendo or touch you, pretending that it was unintentional. And when you’re riding a bus, don’t even talk about it: you get hit with the whole package shamelessly. It is an intolerable, demeaning epidemic.”

Nidia, architect, believes, “that the harassment in Cuba is so normal that in a video that I saw, where several generals appear, one of them spanks a uniformed girl who passes by his side. If that is done by those who govern the country, what can be expected from the rest of the Cubans? Impunity is almost absolute.”

“If there is touching and harassment in military life, the situation is unbearable in more liberal sectors, such as the artistic, which has always had a bad reputation. Or in workplaces that have rooms and beds, such as hospitals and hotels where you work 24 hours,” says a retired food service employee who had to endure all kinds of pressure from her superiors to have sex during working hours.

Silvia, a pharmacist, thinks that “the authorities should do something, because at any moment you go out into the street and a man might club you and take you home, like in the Stone Age. When I’m on duty in the early morning at the pharmacy, they harass me on the phone, telling me all kinds of filth or they stop at the door, jacking off. I’ve called the police and they never come, they say they’re busy with more important issues.”

Although the state press has more or less addressed the issue of street masturbation and mistreatment of women, the issue of harassment remains taboo. “We have to organize and create a movement like in the United States and publicly denounce all that we are suffering,” says Adriana, the former basketball player harassed in her youth.

But it so happens that in Cuba, collective denunciations, however spontaneous and apolitical they may be, are always suspicious for a State that oversees and controls society with an iron fist. Creating a movement against sexual harassment, passing more severe laws that curb physical and psychological violence against females of any age and trying to eliminate or reduce public masturbation, is not among the priorities of the olive-green autocracy.

In a macho and predominantly masculine society, where its leaders see sexual harassment as fun, having a lover or girlfriends is a tradition, giving your partner a slap and spreading songs with vulgar and offensive texts towards women is normal, and leaves the Cuban women in a position of absolute helplessness.

As if it weren’t enough to have to endure daily rudeness, discrimination and violence, most of the women on the island come home from work to cook, clean, wash, iron and care for their children, while the husband watches television.

This is one of the ’achievements’ that the revolution has left us.

Cuban Government Focused Repression Against Independent Candidates / 14yMedio

Aimara Peña, an activist from Sancti Spiritus who presented herself as an independent candidate for the elections. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 December 2017 — In November, the Cuban authorities carried out 302 temporary arbitrary detentions, a figure that according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) is the second lowest since the beginning of 2017. The organization attributes this decrease to the fact that, during the past municipal elections, the Government “displayed its entire repressive muscle” and so was able to make “the least possible number of arrests.”

The Commission notes in its monthly report that the actions of the police forces prevented the nomination of every independent candidate for the position of delegate in the elections through temporary detentions, house arrest, summons and threats. continue reading

Along with the number of arbitrary arrests of dissidents for political reasons, the CCDHRN also verified that in November there were 7 cases of physical aggression and another 25 cases of harassment against dissenters. “Actions carried out, in all cases, by the secret political police,” said the note.

In its report, the Commission pays special attention to the case of Daniel Llorente Miranda, the man who, during the last May Day parade, raised the American flag in the Plaza of the Revolution and who, after being detained by State Security, was interned in Havana’s Mazorra psychiatric hospital where he has apparently been the object of “psychiatric abuses.”

“Some detained opponents are sentenced to maximum security prison on charges that seek to cover up the obvious political motivations,” the report also warns.

The CCDHRN also notes that the Government continues to repress the movement of any citizen within the country and prevents the exit of civil society activists abroad, citing the cases of Human Rights defender Wendis Castillo and journalist Augusto César Manrique Martín.

Meanwhile, on Monday the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH) warned in a statement of the “broad scope” of the repressive strategy of the Cuban government, which according to the organization based in Madrid is able to monitor “the cracks of the incipient Cuban civil society and interfere in citizen privacy.”

In its monthly assessment, the organization claims that last November there were a total of 306 arbitrary arrests, and draws attention to the high number of arrests of women, which stood at 221 as opposed to 85 executed against men. Of the total arrests 11 of them were violent and in the case of another 35, the detentions lasted more than 24 hours.

The OCDH report denounces that there have been 4,665 arbitrary detentions in Cuba since the beginning of the year and that the Government persists in its “repressive dynamic” characterized by arbitrary detentions of short or long duration, the confiscation of personal property or means of work, the siege of activists in their own homes and the charging of government opponents with manufactured common criminal offenses, among other techniques.

According to the report, among the victims of these repressive practices exercised by the Government are the journalist Osmel Ramírez Álvarez, contributor to Diario de Cuba and Havana Times; the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara; the director of the Center for Local Development Studies, César Mendoza Regal; and Karina Gálvez, economist and member of the Coexistence Studies Center, whose sentence for tax evasion was ratified at the beginning of last month. Gálvez has also been prohibited from practicing her profession.

The violation of human rights not only persists on the island according to the OCDH, but the organization also warns that it is “gaining ground in Venezuela thanks to the apathy and lack of commitment of more than a few democrats and institutions,” in direct reference to the United Nations Human Rights Council, of which Cuba and Venezuela are members.
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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Life in Numbers

The tomatoes make the shape of a five and the tiny peppers used to season the beans come together to form a scandalous 16. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 7 December 2017 – She pauses to think in front of a stand at the market. My mother is not evaluating the size of the tomatoes or the quality of the garlic, but making calculations. A mathematical operation where subtraction and division are the stars. With a pension of 250 Cuban pesos a month (roughly $10 US), she can’t lose sight of a single centavo and is an expert in daily calculations.

For the majority of Cuban retirees, the cost of living, that concept that connects the value of goods and services to the material quality of one’s existence, is an equation that yields a higher figure every day. Those who come out worst with these price increases are those who do not receive help or remittances or – because of their health – cannot engage in any informal work, such as selling cigarettes at retail.

In stores and markets they are known by their gaze. They are those who pause, attentively observing the price lists, while only a few coins appear in their hands. They usually wear clothes more than two decades old, the same amount of time that has passed since the smile was erased from their faces and they wait for evening to fall so they can “catch” the products at reduced prices.

Throughout the day they calculate their accounts, living surrounded by digits and breathing sums. When they unpack the contents of their shopping bags, the 14 Cuban pesos for a pound of chili peppers appears between their eyes and the merchandise. Tomatoes make the shape of a five, and the littlest peppers used to season the beans come together to form a scandalous 16.

In just one visit to the market, retirees like my mother spend a seventh part of their pension. The numbers do not lie and they are there, on the table, to remind them.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Castro Regime’s Biggest “Electoral” Farce / Miriam Celaya

Counting the votes at the Cuban election

cubanet square logo

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 7 December 2017 — In recent days, “political analyst” Daisy Gómez – one of the faithful among the most faithful deans of the Castro press – offered a commentary on the primetime Cuban television news program, questioning the legitimacy of the results of the controversial Honduran elections, based on suspicions that “in that country there is no separation of powers,” and that this was the reason the current president, Luis Orlando Hernández, was able to manipulate the final figures of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE).

Such a cynical statement was made with the enviable composure of one who has trained for decades in this complicated exercise of (dis) informational prestidigitation, by virtue of which it is assumed that what is bad for other countries -in this case, the lack of separation of powers – constitutes a strength in the case of Cuba, since it demonstrates the solid unity between the government and the governed. continue reading

Therefore, and in spite of that fact that in Cuba the separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches doesn’t exist either – because these are concentrated in the most holy trinity Government-State-Party, legal representative of that ambiguous and intangible body that has been called “the people” – Cubans should not have any reason to question the electoral results that the National Electoral Commission reports, however surprising the figures may seem.

It is worth remembering, in advance, that it is Law 72 (the electoral law) itself, which, when establishing the functions of the National Electoral Commission (CEN), certifies the subordination of the latter to the Council of State inasmuch as it determines that it is to “it” – and not to the “people” – that it must report the results of the national polls in the referendums and the corresponding computations, as well as rendering a “detailed report of the unfolding of each electoral process” (Chapter II, Article 22, paragraphs k and m) .

Thus, the possibility remains that the totalitarian power might be (as it is, in fact) the one that ultimately determines the electoral results and, eventually, manipulates the figures, according to its own interests.

A very peculiar feature of the Cuban electoral law that allows for tricks by the governing class is the number of registered voters, never known publicly in advance of the referendums, even though every Cuban citizen since birth is rigorously registered in the Management Registers of each municipality where he or she resides on the Island. Perhaps the only efficient ministry in Cuba, the Ministry of the Interior, controls the Registry, which in turn appears, duplicated, in each Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, so it should be relatively simple to monitor the voter’s location and update the electoral roll whenever it is required.

Thus, the updating of the register should result in an almost automatic task, since Article 5 of the Electoral Law establishes that the right to vote belong to all Cubans “who have reached the age of sixteen (16), who are in full enjoyment of their political rights “…; while Article 6 specifies the requirements that must be fulfilled in order to exercise the right to active suffrage, among which is “to be recorded in the Register of Voters of the Municipality and in the the electoral district corresponding to the voter’s established place of residence…”

For this reason, there is no logical explanation how it is possible that, after the voter registries have been updated in each constituency and after having had a “successful dynamic test” on Sunday, November 19th, prior to the elections, when it was supposedly demonstrated that “everything was ready and arranged for a triumphant electoral day,” the CEN has “updated” for the first time the national electoral register precisely on the day of the elections. And it is even more incomprehensible that in the five days following the elections, the final numbers of this registry have varied, not by a few tens of thousands, but by hundreds of thousands of voters.

Let’s review the facts: in the press conference behind closed doors, offered by the president of the CEN, Alina Balseiro, on the afternoon of Monday, November 27th, to provide information about the “preliminary results” of the elections, this official stated that the voter registration update had yielded a total of 8.8 million voters. This implies a colossal increase in relation to the 8.4 that, according to official data disclosed at that occasion – was the initial estimate.

As if by magic, in just the two and a half years that had elapsed since the last elections, 410,158 new voters appeared, almost half a million more, in the national register. This, in spite of the waves of emigration abroad realized by tens of thousands of Cubans, most of them of voting age, in the same period – and in frank challenge to the many desertions, deaths, dissidences and other adverse factors. Who would have imagined it!

Such an exaggerated number allowed the authorities, in just 24 hours, to increase to 85.9% the embarrassing 82% registered at the polls just one hour before the official closing of the polling stations, but also to declare that the attendance of the electorate had surpassed that of the elections held in April 2015.

The impressing avatars of the electoral numbers of the registry did not stop there, however. Because not even that surprising and already fat attendance at the polls satisfied the inflated official expectations. No matter what anybody says, public opinion tends to internalize percentage figures more easily than the numbers of voters, so the collective memory would have archived 85.9% of voters: a result lower than the 88.30% reached in 2015. The authorities were not going to allow such an unacceptable blunder, because the so-called “Fidel’s Elections” had to be, at least, superior to the previous ones. Those were the orders and they had to be carried out.

And this is how the CEN reapplied its twisted sense of mathematics and worked the new “miracle” of inflating to an impressive 89.02% the number of people attending the polls, with a total of 7,610,183 voters. Thus, the final “compatibilization” of the results with the Register of Voters was published last Friday, December 1st by the official press.

How did they achieve this new phenomenon? Easy, with the impudence of those who believed to be above punishment, the scribes of the geriatric palace returned to “update” the voter registry, and, as a result, it contracted again, this time by almost a quarter of a million voters. More nonsense, whose sole purpose was to allow the percentile result. If they couldn’t bring it up to the ideal number, at least they would bring it up to reach a higher number than on previous elections. And so, what appears to be the most unquestionable fraud in the 40 years of Castro’s electoral practices to date, was achieved.

Finally, the CEN certified that the final electoral roll for these newly held elections was 8,548,608 voters, which means a whopping 251,392 fewer than those reported in the preliminary results.

With so much inflating and deflating the registry and the polls over decades, the abundance of many flabby cheeks among the lords of Power are justified. However, all this overwhelming saga of numbers and implausible percentage figures undoubtedly point the finger at a gross manipulation of the election results, although we have no chance to prove it, which is another trick which the conspirators counted on.

Nothing new, of course, only that on this occasion the Cuban authorities have shown a rampant disregard for national and international public opinion. Not coincidentally, the journalistic note that reports the “official results” of the Cuban democratic party appears, not on the cover, but just on the third page of Granma, the most official of the official newspapers. They know that they need to lower the profile of even the biggest lies, otherwise, it is way too big a pill to swallow.

Interestingly, as an additional fact, these meticulous back-and-forth “compatibilizations” that favored the regime so much did nothing for the 4.12% of blank ballots or the 4.07% of canceled ones, so that we must accept – because this is what the CEN and its leaders, who (no sarcasm) are the only ones who know the truth – that in a few days the number of voters that swelled the ranks of those who went to the polls to exercise their right to vote, but additionally, their ballots became valid.

And since in Cuba the decisions “from above” cannot be appealed, the olive-green gerontocracy and its conga lines, with their proverbial triumphalism, will have scored this burlesque farce, not as the desperate play that it actually was, but as another “victory.” If so, it will be them and not us who are truly deceived.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Eduardo Cardet, a Year in Prison for "Political Reasons"

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 5 December 2017 — Dissident Eduardo Cardet received a visit from his wife Yaimaris Vecino on Monday, in the Holguin prison where has already served a year, after a trial that his family believes was manipulated by Cuban State Security.

Cardet, a doctor by profession and national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), was sentenced on 20 March to three years in prison for a crime of assault on the authority, but he had been in prison since 30 November 2016 while awaiting trial.

After being violently arrested in front of his children at the entrance of his house in the town of Velasco in Holgin province, his appeal for bail was denied three times. continue reading

The opponent has suffered from a respiratory infection since his imprisonment, caused by his condition as a chronic asthmatic, and does not receive adequate medication despite the fact that prison officials assured his wife that treatment was guaranteed.

“My husband told me that this is not true because it is difficult for prisoners to access medications,” Vecino tells 14ymedio.

A neighbor says she saw her husband in a good mood, but uneasy about being away from home while his family has recently gone through difficult times. “He regrets not being able to help us and take care of us.”

“When I ask about his transfer [to another prison] they tell me that I will only know when it is carried out,” explains his wife.

Several international human rights organizations have denounced the Cardet case. At the end of last January, Amnesty International called for his “immediate and unconditional” release, saying that the national coordinator of the MLC was “imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.”

It also considers him a prisoner of conscience and states that he was violently arrested a few days after the death of Fidel Castro.

Cardet was a key figure in the Varela Project, promoted by opposition leader Oswaldo Payá. After the death of Payá, Cardet continued his work and in 2014 he was appointed national coordinator of the MLC.

Last Thursday, the movement announced a manifesto signed by international personalities to ask the Government of Cuba for the freedom of prisoners of conscience and in particular that of Eduardo Cardet.

“His arrest a year ago was very wicked, because he was arrested and beaten in front of his children,” said the document, which also claims that it has been a long process “controlled at all times by State Security” and originated “for political reasons.”

The announcement criticizes that Cardet is being subjected to “a severe regime in open violation of the penitentiary laws themselves” in force on the island.

Among the signatories are a former mayor of Madrid, José María Álvarez del Manzano, the President of the Peace and Cooperation Foundation, Joaquín Antuña, and the former president of the European Parliament, Enrique Barón Crespo, among others.

The manifesto asks that the Spanish authorities, “in keeping with the principles of defense of human rights and democracy, do whatever steps are in your power for the quickest release of Eduardo Cardet and other prisoners of conscience in Cuba.” ___________________

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

With Yailin and Yoerky, ‘Generation Y’ Arrives at the Head of ‘Granma’ and ‘Juventud Rebelde’

Yoerky Sánchez Cuéllar, new director of ‘Juventud Rebelde’ and Yailin Orta Rivera, new director of ‘Granma’. (CC)

Both directors were born during the years of the Soviet presence on the Island, grew during the Special Period and have lived much of their lives under the dual currency system

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 December 2017 — After several weeks without someone formally in charge, the job of director of Granma, official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), was entrusted on Tuesday to Yailin Orta Rivera, who held the same position on the newspaper Juventud Rebelde.

The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the PCC issued a brief press release in which it states that Orta graduated in 2006 with a degree in Journalism from the University of Havana and began her work as an editor. At 34, the young woman’s career was on an upward trajectory within Juventud Rebelde, where she “was promoted successively to head of department, assistant director and director.”

Orta is a member of the PCC and a member of the National Committee of the Young Communists Union. Her name and photo still do not appear in the Who are we? section on Granma’s digital site. As of Wednesday, the section still includes the fired director Pelayo Terry Cuervo, even though he was removed from office almost a month ago. The reasons for his sudden removal were not stated, then or now, though speculation abounds.

Orta has been replaced at Juventud Rebelde  by Yoerky Sánchez Cuéllar, a 2007 journalism graduate from the Central University of Las Villas, who started his career as an editor for the Vanguardia newspaper in Villa Clara.

Sánchez, also 34 years old, formerly directed Alma Mater magazine, is a member of the Central Committee of the PCC and a deputy in the National Assembly. In several parliamentary sessions in which he has participated he has recited décimas – sonnet-like poems – dedicated to Fidel Castro, José Martí and socialism.

With the arrival of Orta and Sánchez, the two main newspapers of the country are now led by members of Generation Y, young people in Cuba who were born during the years of the Soviet presence on the Island, grew up during the Special Period, and have lived a good part of their lives under the dual currency system. The name of the generation comes from the tendency of at that time to give their children names beginning with “Y.”

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Manipulation in Santa Efigenia Cemetery / Fernando Dámaso

Going forward, the remains of Céspedes and Grajales will be next to those of Fidel Castro and José Martí (Christian Pirkl – Eigenes Werk/Flickr)

Fernando Damaso, 23 October 2017 — The moving of the remains and mausoleums of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, the Father of the Nation, and Mariana Grajales, the mother of Maceo, from their original locations to the area near the mausoleum of José Martí, whom we Cubans call the Apostle, and the monolith of the “historical leader” (Fidel Castro), continues to be a topic of discussion among Cubans.

If this transfer had been made before placing the anachronistic monolith in place, when the area belonged mainly to José Martí and other heroes, it might have been acceptable, although this idea of relocating remains, according to the political conveniences of the moment is reprehensible and carries overtones of outdated totalitarianism and socialism. continue reading

It recalls the game with the remains of Stalin in Moscow’s Red Square, which were first located next to Lenin inside the latter’s mausoleum and, years later, when the dark side of Stalin’s character was publicly revealed, they were removed and buried near the entrance, with a simple pedestal without a bust.

This move now, whatever they say about it, reflects deep manipulation, perhaps with the aim of attracting visitors to the site and, therefore, as a collateral gain, towards the monolith.

And as if the manipulation was not enough, Dona Mariana is also supposed to be granted the title of “Mother of the Nation,” something that no Mambí (fighter for Cuban independence) gave her nor did any of the veterans of the War of Independence, as if it happened with Carlos Manuel de Cespedes. The greatest title of Doña Mariana’s is that of being the mother of the Maceo, and that of having accompanied them in the first independence struggle: she does not need another.

They justify this by saying that when she died José Martí sent a wreath of flowers in whose ribbon said “Mother,” is too farfetched like something from the Historian of Havana, who,for a long time. became the historical oracle of the authorities. It would be good to remind him of an opinion from our Apostle: “There is no spectacle, in truth, more odious, than that of servile talents.” (Volume 13, page 158 of his Complete Works).

Although, according to what we were told then, the “historical leader” asked that his name not be given to any public establishment, institution, avenue, street, etc., what is being done now is worse: they are trying to place it, in importance, next to Céspedes and Martí. The Fathers of the Homeland deserve respect.

As if that were not enough, a white stone coffin, with bones brought from the Pantheon of the Veterans, dedicated to the Unknown Mambí Soldier, has now been located in the Hall of the Lost Steps of the National Capitol.

Everything seems to indicate that this funerary addiction will continue.

Marxism Professor is Cuba’s Social Networks Czar / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 19 October 2017 — A Marxism professor who is also an official of the Ideological Department of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) is responsible for implementing the Cuban government’s strategy for the use of social networks from the island.

Joaquín Suárez González , 52, a graduate of Marxism, Leninism and History at the  “Félix Varela” Pedagogical Institute in Santa Clara, and an official of the Ideological Department of the Central Committee of the PCC, is in charge of organizing the propaganda maneuvers through the social networks, and distributing among an army of netizens the tasks approved and supervised by the Council of State, the Council of Ministers, the National Defense Council, and the National Defense and Security Commission, Martí News has learned. continue reading

Engineers, programmers, designers, specialists in Support and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), make up this small elite group led by Suárez González, who, upon the conclusion of the elections and the installation of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) in Venezuela, won the recognition of President Nicolás Maduro for working actively and without rest for more than 24 hours in the rapid dissemination of the campaign and the hashtags for use in different platforms.

Social networks are the most active and dynamic phenomenon in the world today, so the tactic that the Cuban government manages is not to impose the benefits of the communist system and its doctrine, but to reach as many users as possible, and try fascinate them by showing the most attractive and unique side of the so-called “revolution.”

To carry the message of the Cuban government through social networks, all the state administration agencies, ministries and the press are subordinated to this commando of technologists and ideologues.

The Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), Intelligence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX), are responsible for transmitting “when and how to act” to the different embassies, consulates, collaborators, and “Friends of Cuba” so that all of them, in unison, can activate profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and support each entrusted mission, whether it be to ask for help for the destruction caused by a hurricane, to enhance the firmness of a people that provide solidarity to a needy nation, to discredit dissidents and/or influence, with the help of cyberspace, the opinion of thousands of young people everywhere in the world.

The most recent action took place during the “Networks Operation for the 149th anniversary of the Beginning of the War of Independence,” on October 10, when the remains of the hero Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and the outstanding patriot Mariana Grajales were buried in the Santa Ifigenia cemetery of Santiago de Cuba (where they joined the remains of José Martí and Fidel Castro).

According to Joaquín, on that occasion, the hashtags #VivaCubaLibre, #Cuba, #10deOctubre, #CubaEsNuestra and #SantiagodeCuba were the most significant.

Currently the cybernetic troop is training on the networks to launch incentive politics with the purpose of collecting opinions to design strategies and hashtags, and to “viralize” the last stage of the nomination process of candidates with a view to the elections for Cuba’s presidential turnover in 2018.

Excesses Do Not Generate Respect / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 3 December 2017 — Human beings are born and they die. Before being born they never existed and, after death, they cease to exist. In their honor monuments can be erected and their names given to streets, avenues, plazas and public establishments, but they are not there. Depending on their deeds, good or bad, they will be remembered with love or with hate.

José Martí died on 19 May 1895 and on that day his life cycle ended. What has endured afterwards are his thoughts and his ideas, but he did not live another day after that date.

For Antonio Maceo, what endured after his death on 7 December 1896, is his military exploits and for Máximo Gómez, after 17 June 1905, it was his brilliant strategy of war.

Other Cubans who are closer in time live on in their music, like Ernesto Lecuona, in their painting, like Wifredo Lam, in their theater, like Virgilio Piñera, or their poetry, like Nicolás Guillén. None of them accompanies us on a day-to-day basis nor do they go back to the places they visited during life, or greet or embrace those who shared with them the days of their existence, because it is impossible.

Lately we have been spectators of an absurd and grotesque phenomenon: trying to present as a living being someone* who died a year ago. To do this, they have used all possible means, including overflowing masses, amazing expressions and even special mourners, in a real circus show. Something truly shameful, which should embarrass the organizers.

Remembering is good, but excesses do not generate respect, rather they generate repudiation. This lesson should be well learned by politicians.

*Translator’s note: Fidel Castro

Cubans Eat the Most Expensive Eggs in the World / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida — The lack of planning on the part of the Ministry of Agriculture has been the main trigger for the fact that hundreds of poultry farms have generated a crisis now experienced by Cubans as the absence of eggs, along with the high cost of such an important food when it can be found.

Low egg production, allegedly caused by severely stressed hens after the passage of Hurricane Irma, has forced the black market importing of this essential food from the beach resort of Cancun, in Mexico. The whole thing seems like a plot invented by some filmmaker for a science fiction movie, but no, it’s real news, coming from the island.

Cuban TV national and provincial news programs are showing repeated images where some producers in the national assembly debate the steps necessary to rescue the production of eggs, and attribute the scarcity of the product to the indisposition of the birds, in addition to the destruction of more than 615 poultry houses by Hurricane Irma. continue reading

But the main trigger continues to be the lack of planning by Cuba’s Ministry of Agriculture, such that hundreds of poultry farms have generated the crisis that Cubans suffer today for the lack of this food source that is such a staple for ordinary Cubans.

A note published on October 1 in the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth, the official voice of the Cuban Communist youth) announced that as an emergency measure to meet the needs of the people, the government will sell “more than one million eggs, five per consumer, at a price of 1.10 pesos each.”

I do not know the psychology of birds; but it is crazy that within the Cuban fauna, the hens belonging to the State are the only ones stressed out. The private farmers are, according to all reports, “raking it in,” selling eggs from small producers at 4 pesos each.

The origin of this crisis, which is not the first and I suspect will not be the last, is not found in avian tension, anguish or depression, but in other elements that affect the production of the most popular of all the foods that make up the essential diet and the basic Cuban food basket.

The hurricane is not the culprit. The poultry industry in Cuba has had a continuous and acceptable development, has good breeding stock, mainly in layers, and has achieved a production per bird of 280 eggs per year, with a weight of 3.2 pounds per ten eggs produced. However, by not respecting the living space requirements of these animals, plus the low availability and quality of water, causing a high incidence of prolapse, along with the lack of adequate food, has caused the layers to acquire the vice of picking at each other’s feathers, and harassing their companions, especially when they are in their nests. All this has a very negative effect on egg production.

The egg crisis on the island has no quick solution, and it also affects self-employed workers in restaurants that survive between the desire to hide, the need to trade and the frenzy of the market.

“We have a partner who supplies us with flan, custard, pudding, cakes and other desserts that we offer in the restaurant; but they aren’t selling because if the police grab them in the street with any product that contains eggs in the recipe, they charge them with receiving stolen goods,” explains the owner of a small paladar (private restaurant).

But that small group of restaurant owners who, cautiously and shrewdly, have managed to scale the ladder and break, in plain sight, although invisibly, the egalitarian aesthetic imposed by the Revolution, managed to find harmony in the contradiction and devised the solution (quite expensive, by the way). They travel as a group and import, without formal permits, cartons of egg that accompany them as luggage from Cancun to Havana. No doubt, André Breton (author of the Manifesto of Surrealism), lacked imagination.

Claudio Fuentes: "I Do Not Want to be an Opponent One More Day"

Claudio Fuentes (Photo: María Matienzo)

cubanet square logoCubanet, María Matienzo, Havana, 23 November 2017 — According to Claudio Fuentes, photographer and human rights activist, he’s started doing something like ten interviews and they haven’t published any of them. Maybe it has to do with that mania he has to be always behind the camera, pointing the lens at the Ladies in White, other activists and even his own friends.

“It’s a simple attraction to photography and nothing else,” he says, justifying himself. “I’ve always had a kind of leadership in the shadow of the people I’m interested in working with, where I know my opinions are heard, but I do not have the imperative need to be making decisions,” and he offers the example of his work with Estado de Sats together to Antonio Rodiles and Ailer Mena.

“I always say that the one who knows the most about something is the one who should have the last word. If I was in a group working on Biology, which was what I studied, or with art, maybe I would have a voice of the first rank. But here I have come last and I am always learning about civil and political rights.” continue reading

However, he does not always assume the role of student.”It’s whatever is needed,” he says. “In the video of the electoral farce in Cuba, Ailer did a test, I did another test, and Antonio said: ’No, man, no, that’s fine’. If it works, they choose me if I’m not behind the cameras.”

The combination of photography and political activism started in 2008, when they tried to imprison Gorky Águila, director of the punk rock band Porno for Ricardo.

“Suddenly and without thinking twice I was an activist for his cause. It was like a fury that I did not care about anything.All that time I had been against the system but without having expressed myself,” recalls the photographer. “I put aside my individual artistic tendencies and contributed everything I had as a tool available to the cause of democracy in Cuba.”

He confesses that he is “crazy for communism in Cuba to end because I do not want to be an opponent one more day. This field fills me with pride,” he says, referring to the time he has spent working with the opposition and the privileged position he has in the history of contemporary Cuba that allows him “to have an overview of what has happened in the opposition starting some years ago, or knowing who is who, who is really in this fight with authentic democratic goals and who are not so much.”

“But I want to make movies,” he adds.

His political position shows a Claudio Fuentes before 2008, a skilled photographer who jumps to the moving image or video in a self-taught way or in courses at the San Antonio de los Baños International Film School; and with that comes the second Claudio, punk and oppositional, who still engages with the fixed image, but who begins to radicalize towards the Civil and Political Rights movement and towards a minimalist documentary image, black background and interview style, with barely any traditional artistic values, supported only in the focus and the denunciations of the actions of the powers that be.

As a photographer and activist, he believes that his process has been organic. “In all the circles in which I have been I have belonged to those that are seen as the most radical. I see radicalism as a necessary thing. I am increasingly radical because in this totalitarianism there is no chance for the path of civic action and I do not enter into any moral questioning, the Universal Declaration [of Human Rights] is there and the whole Western world recognizes it.”

He also talks about the image as passion. “The image impacts me. All the poetics that are behind it, even the crappiest, the most mediocre, I am always reading things there. But if I try now to be a successful artist with my work, I will have to put aside the activism,” and he enumerates what he would abandon and that it would cost him more than “the feeling that my work is still waiting.”

“It would leave many people unprotected, a lot of information would not reach them, or the documentaries that we do that contribute to the civic education of the people or inform exiles and others outside of Cuba of where this is going, and these are my priorities now.”

Although he does not believe that this is his work, he talks a little about the documentary by Olac Garmendia where he was the director of photography and one of the three scriptwriters, or of the shared experience in the documentary Gusano, where he worked as a photographer and editor.

In the latter, he says, “the discussions were exquisite, rude, strong, and I made important decisions in making that film, but with all this what I have learned is to work as a team and not be the artist locked in his ivory tower or the peacock. There are many I have deep differences with even though they are friends of mine, who do not engage in any work from their art to improve the situation in Cuba or have a separate work as activists.”

Gorki Águila (left) with Claudio Fuentes (Photo: María Matienzo)

He has a list of things that he could do with others without “immolating himself” because he does not want anyone to tell him, when “castroism falls” that, “I didn’t do anything, but you didn’t tell me what to do.”

In a list that ranges from recharging the phone cards of political prisoners so that they can make calls, to collecting universal literature to distribute among those same prisoners, to telling his local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), “I’m not participating in that,” to “things that have to do with kindness, with generosity,” because, like he told a friend who “didn’t want to get into the political game”: “Look, compadre, life gifted us with a dictator who is a tremendous son-of-a-bitch so we’d do things against that; they gave us a lack of freedom so that we could conquer it, it is very simple, you have to sign on.”

He analyzes a phenomenon that artists don’t escape: “What happens is that the majority here is alienated. You don’t participate because the street doesn’t belong to you, you don’t have property, or businesses, and people have a convulsive tendency to complain, and I am up to my eyeballs in complaints. They are people conquered by Castroism  long ago.”

As an artist who has dedicated himself to putting a face to politics, he describes what a Cuba without Castros will be like.

“The change I imagine is very similar to what has happened in Eastern European countries, that first there is a turnaround so big that millions of people are going to have to be literate,” dreams Claudio. “There has to be a revolution of learning, in addition to 18 months of transition where new political actors will appear, intelligent people who have prepared in the shadows for fear of repression, who will compete with others who have achieved their legitimacy in the opposition.”  He adds to his list of candidates the political exile: “Luckily we have an exile 90 miles away that demonstrated not only its economic capacity but its political capacity. We have Marco Rubio, Carlos (Díaz) Rosillo, Carlos Trujillo, the two Díaz-Balarts, Carlos Curbelo, Ted Cruz.”

His hope includes that, along with the changes, “there are measures of protection for all those who try to compete with this new thing that comes, because nobody is to blame for our being out of control. And the reality is that we are all in the ditch here. ”


Author: Maria Matienzo Puerto: I once dreamed that I was a butterfly coming from Africa and I discovered that I had been alive for thirty years. From then on, I built my life while I slept: I was born in a magical city like Havana, I dedicated myself to journalism, I wrote and edited children’s books, I gathered around art with wonderful people, I fell in love with a woman. Of course, there are points that coincide with the reality of the vigil and I prefer the silence of reading and the hullabaloo of a good movie.

Where the Influential Are Above the Law / Juan Juan Almeida

Ariel Pestano Jr. crouching in catching position. His father played on the Cuban National team and won silver and gold medals in the Olympics. (Foto: Mayli Estévez Pérez)

Juan Juan Almeida, 25 October 2017 — Pressured by the influential and under the protection of a superior command, a Cuban court imposed a prison sentence on a young self-employed worker who, acting in legitimate self-defense, caused minor injuries to the son of a well-known Cuban sports figure, Ariel Osvaldo Pestano.

On July 1, Renny Ferrer Suárez, 31 years old, with no political or criminal background, the son of a math teacher, freely turned himself in to the authorities in the town of Caibarién [a coastal municipality in the center of the island] , after having had an altercation with Ariel Pestano Jr. and a friend, who assaulted him. The reaction of Ferrer Suárez caused slight injuries to the son of the Cuban baseball star. continue reading

“No one arrested him, he showed up at the local police station and after taking statements, they released him; but the [former] star receiver of the Cuban team and deputy to the National Assembly of People’s Power (the Cuban Parliament) [father of the injured], used his influence beyond the borders of this small town. He spoke with Raúl Castro’s grandson in Havana and, without anyone expecting it, a counter-order appeared that ended up imprisoning Ferrer for 49 days until the day of the trial,” explains Leonardo Rodríguez, resident of the town of Camajuaní.

During the time that Ferrer Suárez was detained, his family was harassed, threatened and even stoned.

Ferrer says that the people who harass him are taking advantage of the prestige that Ariel Pestano has in the area. Several members of the police, lawyers who know the case and even Lieutenant Colonel Soto, a delegate of the Ministy of the Interior in Caibarién, know that they have been vicious toward Renny, but they cannot act against the power of Pestano and his powerful friend from Havana.

“Maria del Carmen, Renny’s mother, is terrified. She is a person who maintains an irreproachable behavior and, as a worker, there are no complaints about her. She is a selfless teacher who stayed to fight against all odds, facing difficult periods like the mass exodus of workers in the education sector. This is a small town, everyone knows each other and we all know that Renny is a quiet boy who worked as a self-employed person in the shoemakers’ guild. But the Pestano family are boasters who function as modern chieftains. Here in Camajuaní, as in any other small town, being a player on the national team is more important than being mayor,” the source adds.

The trial for Case 42/17 was held on September 6 in the municipal court of San Juan de los Remedios, in the province of Villa Clara. The Pestano family attended; but the boy who was next to the alleged assailant when the altercation took place did not appear at the hearing. Instead, the prosecution put a pair of false witnesses on the stand who were dismissed because the judge could not hide that they did not know the defendant and that the testimony they gave was riddled with inconsistencies. However, Renny Ferrer Sánchez was sentenced to serve one year in prison, with the additional sanction of being restricted from visiting the beach of Caibarién for three years.

“They denied my appeal, I filed a complaint for harassment, but they did not take it into account. I am ready to serve a year in prison, but I am also willing to denounce what happened. Not only for justice, but also so that no one else has to suffer what is happening to me,” Renny Ferrer concluded in a telephone conversation.

Ciro Díaz: “Musician In The Morning, Mathematician In The Afternoon, Activist In The Evening”

Ciro Díaz, the guitarist of the group Porno para Ricardo, is a dissatisfied Cuban who is doing a PhD in mathematics in Brazil. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 2 December 2017 — It is risky to define someone in brief strokes, but if it is Ciro Díaz we are talking about it is even more so because the same person contains a mix of the activist, the musician and the mathematician.

The guitarist of the group Porno Para Ricardo is a dissatisfied Cuban who is doing a PhD in mathematics in Brazil. This week he was visiting Havana and spoke with 14ymedio.

14ymedio. What attracts you most about life in Brazil?

Díaz. Freedom. At the University of Havana I felt persecuted. If you did this you were thrown out, if you said that you were thrown out, if you did not behave in a certain way, they would throw you out, if you did not go to an activity you got into trouble. In Brazil, the opposite is true, because universities are epicenter generators of political problems. continue reading

14ymedio. Have you had encounters with that part of the university left that supports the Cuban Government?

Díaz. In Brazil there is everything, both the liberal left and the conservative left, the funny thing is that many people of the liberal left are very ill informed about Cuba. They think that the government of Havana is liberal when in fact it is ultraconservative and for the most extreme Brazilian left that is difficult to digest.

14ymedio. Activist, musician and mathematician. Aren’t they occupations that are too disparate?

Díaz. I’m a jumbled mixture of all that: musician in the morning, mathematician in the afternoon and activist at night.

14ymedio. But does one predominate over the others?

Díaz. Sometimes I turn more toward one thing than for another. Now I’m recording a new album with La Babosa Azul. When I finish it I’ll put it on the internet and forget about music for a while to concentrate on mathematics. Meanwhile I am an activist in my free time, when I have to face an ill-founded opinion about Cuba and help people to see our reality in a different way.

14ymedio. You mentioned the musical project La Babosa Azul, but some thought that was over…

Díaz. La Babosa Azul is a submarine: we record a record and then we submerge until the next one comes out. Between one thing and another maybe we do a concert or we record a video clip. The previous album was called El último (The Last). I called it that because I thought there was not going to be another album, but next year there will be one released in English.

14ymedio. Has the fact of living in Brazil separated you from the punk rock group Porno Para Ricardo?

Díaz. Never in my life have I played as much with Porno for Ricardo as since I’ve been in Brazil. In the Czech Republic we have played four times and whenever a concert is organized I join. It is very fun to play live and I love festivals that are full of people. A tremendous experience that here in Cuba is difficult to have, at least with so much publicity.

14ymedio. Than in those times of clandestine concerts?

Díaz. Yes, there were for fewer people, at the most 100 showed up. However, the most enthusiastic audience we have had is in Cuba because the songs speak them more and there is more interaction.

14ymedio. Will you return to the Island soon?

Díaz. I will continue coming every two years so as not to lose my (right of) residence and I will look for a job in Brazil when I finish my doctorate. It does not make sense to study six years to get a doctorate and come to live in Cuba, where I can not even work. What I will never lose is my residence here.

14ymedio. Have you thought about working with record companies?

Díaz. It is very difficult and I do not want to spend time on those efforts, not to mention all the concessions that have to be made. In Cuba it is particularly pathetic, you have to be a bootlicker to be broadcast on TV and radio, something I am not willing to do.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to making a serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Three Points to Solve the Embargo / Dimas Castellano

A bicyclist in Havana. (MARTINOTICIAS)

Dimas Castellano, 20 November 2017 — On November 1, 2017, Cuba presented to the UN General Assembly the project entitled “Need to end the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the US against Cuba.”

In his speech, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez criticized the policy contained in the Presidential National Security Memorandum on the strengthening of the US Policy towards Cuba, issued on 16 June 2017.

He criticized the prohibition of economic, commercial and financial transactions with Cuban companies linked to the Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior; the elimination of individual travel in the category of people-to-people exchanges; the prohibition of travel to Cuba outside the framework of the 12 authorized categories; the opposition to actions that promote the lifting of the “blockade”; the repeal of the Normalization of Relations Policy issued by President Obama in October 2016, and the conditioning of the suspension of the “blockade” to changes within Cuba. continue reading

Likewise, he criticized moving the issuance of visas services from Havana to US consulates in third countries; the warning to American citizens to avoid visiting Cuba; the expulsion of Cuban personnel from the Consulate General in Washington and the reduction of US personnel in the embassy in Havana.

Finally, the Cuban foreign minister said: “The blockade is the biggest obstacle to the economic and social development of Cuba.”

In 1992 only 59 countries voted in favor of the Cuban resolution and in 2016 — with the exception of the US and of Israel which abstained — all voted in favor, without affecting the US embargo in any way, because the resolutions of that body constitute recommendations and, therefore, compliance with them is not mandatory. Therefore, when obtaining the maximum possible result in the UN, action in that forum was exhausted.

From that moment on, the atmosphere of detente generated by the restoration of diplomatic relations recommended directing the solution through bilateral negotiations.

Three points to consider are the following:

The Internal Causes

As the resumption of diplomatic relations did not emerge from victory, but from the failure of both contenders, each party was obliged to change to move towards normalization.

This was what General expressed in a conversation held in 1977 with two American senators: “Our organizations are like a bridge in time of war. It is not a bridge that can be easily built, nor as quickly as it was destroyed, but if we both rebuild parts of the bridge, each one its own part, we will be able to shake hands, without winners or losers.” Inthese words the Cuban leader recognized the bilateral character of the conflict and its solution.

For these words to become relaity, the normalization of relations with the US had and will have to be accompanied by the empowerment of Cubans, with the restoration of rights and freedoms for their effective participation in national problems. And this is not at all to cede sovereignty to an external force, but to give the Cuban people the participation that belongs to them in said sovereignty.

It is a matter of retracing the road traveled since the nationalization of US property in Cuba led to the rupture of diplomatic relations and the enactment of the Embargo Law. In this confrontational context, the Cuban government dismantled the existing institutions, disarmed civil society, laid on inefficiency and avoided any commitment to human rights.

Beginning in 2008, General Raúl Castro implemented a package of measures whose main result was to reveal the exhaustion of the model and the depth of the crisis. Therefore, it is now a matter of abandoning the grasp of state control, centralized planning and the absence of freedoms that, without ignoring the negative effects of the embargo, are the main causes of the crisis in which Cuba finds itself.

Cuba-United States Relations

The policy of the Obama Administration provided an opportunity for change that was wasted by the Cuban side to remove obstacles within the country.

This policy, by not demanding the democratization of Cuba as a premise to reestablish relations, contained a danger for the conservation of power: the external contradiction would gradually shift towards internal contradictions, which explains the insoluble contradiction of the Cuban government: to change and at the same time to preserve power.

President Barack Obama issued six sets of modification: the first extended general travel permits, offered commercial facilities to Cuban private companies and small farmers, increased the amount of remittances and donations, expanded commercial exports of goods and services from the US, increased Cuba’s access to communications, and provided commercial telecommunications and internet services with lower prices.

These sets of measures were reflected in the increase of authorized trips to Cuba, the arrival of the first cruise ship from the US to Cuban ports, the resumption of flights, the start of direct mail and transportation between the two countries, the establishment of agreements with several American telecommunications companies. The measures facilitated negotiations with other countries and revived expectations and hopes for change.

If these measures — including the Presidential Directive of October 2016, aimed at trying to make the progress achieved irreversible — did not produce a greater result, it is because the corresponding measures on the Cuban side were missing, which limited itself to allowing Cubans to stay in Cuban hotels previously reserved for tourists; to buy computers, DVDs and mobile phone lines; to sell their houses or cars; to leave the country without having to ask the State for permission and to stay abroad for up to 24 months without losing their right to return; and established public WiFi access points. Measures that, more than advances, clearly denote the point t which rights in Cuba had regressed.

The Example of Vietnam

As the suspension of the Embargo is the prerogative of the US Congress and not of the UN, the practical thing since the vote in 2016 would have been to introduce in Cuba internal changes in the style of those introduced in Vietnam.

The United States dropped three times as many bombs on Vietnam as those used during the Second World War; 15% of the population was killed or injured; 60% of the villages in the south were destroyed and, after the war ended, the country faced an economic blockade and border attacks. In spite of this, after the victory, the implementation of the system of a planned economy plunged the country into hunger and superinflation until, in 1986, the “Vietnamese Renewal” was launched under the slogan of “Economic reform, political stability.”

Instead of dedicating itself, year after years to presenting UN resolutions or developing ideological campaigns against imperialism, Vietnam undertook a systematic program of reforms, based on the introduction of market mechanisms, autonomy of producers, the right of nationals to be entrepreneurs and delivery of land to the peasants who developed the initiative, interest and responsibility of the Vietnamese.

Because of the results of these measures, the US suspended the embargo on Vietnam. In 2008 the country focused it efforts on leaving the list of underdeveloped countries, in 2010 it set itself the goal of entering the group of middle-income countries, in 2014 it ranked as the twenty-eighth largest exporter in the world, and in 2016 it approved measures to move it toward becoming an industrialized nation.