Cuban Charcoal Makers in Las Tunas Get a Wage Increase After Protests

The charcoal makers decided to return to work this Tuesday but warned that they are watching to make sure that all the agreements are kept. (Trabajadores)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 January 2021 — The workers of the Integral Agropecuaria de Las Tunas have won the fight with the directors of that state entity after the tensions of the last days. According to the Martí Noticias newsite, the authorities gave in to the demands of the coal workers who had gone on strike due to the low wages they received in January.

According to the president of the Missionary Church of Cuba, Yoel Demetrio, speaking to Martí Noticias, this Monday morning several directors of the Company visited the charcoal makers and presented them with an offer to ease tensions and get them to return to work.

“They showed up right there in the coal shed where they work, which is the place where they were protesting, and they showed up every morning and sat there waiting for a response. They brought the charcoal makers 1,000 pesos on loan with payment plans, a change of clothes, also a pair of shoes, as well as a file and a mocha,” Demetrio explained. continue reading

The pastor explains that “they prepared conditions” for them to return to their jobs and they guaranteed that as of next February 10 they would receive “the basic salary” which is 2,100 pesos in national currency. The directors also pointed out that in the case of “overproduction” they would be paid “extra.”

Regarding the payment that is defined as “exports,” the officials reported that at the moment the amount of charcoal that is being sent abroad is low because of the Covid-19 pandemic. After the meeting, the charcoal makers decided to return to work this Tuesday, but warned that they are watching to make sure that all the agreements are kept, according to the apostolic pastor.

“The case cannot be closed yet, but that they gave in, they gave in, and that they are afraid, they are afraid,” said Demetrio.

The charcoal makers began the strike on January 19 after having received just 113 pesos this month, to which should be added the advance of 1,000 pesos received in December. The sum of both amounts is just over half the minimum wage announced by the Government for 2021: 1,910 pesos for 40 hours and 2,100 pesos for 44.

In addition, they did not receive the stipend that they usually receive for the benefits of a sector considered strategic by the Government, which from 2005 to 2019 (the last year for which there is consolidated data) has exported more than 266,100 tons of the product, bringing about 100 million dollars to State coffers, about 700 million of which was in 2019.

Despite the fact that many of them received pressure and threats from the authorities and State Security to abandon the protest, they maintained their demands.

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Cuban Court Sentences Three Members of Clandestinos From 1 to 15 Years in Prison

Rodríguez Baró received a 15-year sentence of deprivation of liberty, Prieto Tamayo was given nine years, and Pérez García one year. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 January 2021 — The Provincial People’s Court of Havana announced on Tuesday the sentence of the three accused of belonging to the Clandestinos group after the trial that took place on December 21. The defendants received sentences of between one and 15 years in prison.

Pánter Rodríguez Baró (43 years old), Yoel Prieto Tamayo (29 years old) and Jorge Ernesto Pérez García (43 years old) were charged with crimes of “defamation of institutions and organizations and of heroes and martyrs of a continuing nature” and “damages to cultural heritage,”,for having covered busts of José Martí in the capital and in Santiago de Cuba with pig blood.

Rodríguez Baró received a 15-year sentence of deprivation of liberty, Prieto Tamayo was given nine, and Pérez García was sentenced to one year. Unlike Rodríguez Baró, who the Prosecutor’s Office had requested 12 years in prison, the remaining defendants received less time behind bars than was initially proposed by the prosecution. continue reading

The court reported that the defendants, “reached a common agreement to discredit the image of José Martí,” and bought six rocks of cocaine “with part of the money received by a Cuban citizen residing in the United States.” They later consumed the drug to carry out “criminal acts.”

As described in the press release, “taking advantage of the darkness of the night and the shortage of people in the streets,” the defendants “in the early morning of January 1, 2020, began to spill pig’s blood on the many busts and banners of our National Hero and other heroes of the Revolution that were placed on public roads. “

Among the damaged works “was the bust of José Martí located outside the offices of Bohemia magazine, declared cultural heritage of the Cuban nation,” the statement details.

It was also reported that the actions were recorded with Pérez García’s mobile phone. The material was “forwarded to their US-resident links,” who posted it on social media and other digital platforms.

The note ended by recalling that those sanctioned and the Prosecutor’s Office “have the right to file an appeal.”

According to the testimony of relatives collected by 14ymedio, Rodríguez Baró acknowledged having committed the acts, while the other two defendants, Yoel and Jorge Ernesto, said they had acted at the request of Pánter, “without receiving any benefit.”

“My son Pánter acted for ideological motivations and is unjustly imprisoned in Detachment 47 of the Combinado del Este prison, reserved for the dangerous and fugitives. My son is nothing of the kind and must be released,” said Esther Baró Carrillo, mother of the main accused, speaking to this newspaper.

The supposed images of the monuments covered in red, accompanied by hooded men like those that appear in the Spanish series La casa de papel , came to light at the beginning of the year and were immediately the subject of an intense campaign of support by some activists in exile. Days later, the authorities announced that they had arrested four people implicated in the events.

The group had said that the blood on Martí represented the suffering of the Cuban people and their disgust with “the dictatorship.” Another of the actions to which the Clandestinos were called was to paint messages against the Government in all provinces, cities and towns, or to do the same with the doors of the houses of the regime’s “informers.”

The group took their name from the film Clandestinos, by the director Fernando Pérez.

The group’s arrest was accompanied by a smear campaign that accused them of being mercenaries paid by the Cuban artist living in Miami, Ana Olema Hernández Matamoros.

The Cuban authorities showed videos on Cuban television with the confessions of the alleged perpetrators, as well as photos of alleged money transfers through the Western Union agency, from Ana Olema to Pánter Rodríguez Baró, the main accused.

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In Havana, Around Fifty People Wait in Line to Buy Cars for Sky-High Prices

Outside a used car dealership owned by Cimex on 20th Street in Havana’s Playa district. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, January 18,  2021 — When it opened on Monday morning, the used car dealership on 23rd Street between Third and First avenues in Havana’s Playa district was greeted with a line of about fifty people. They were eagerly waiting on a shipment of cars to be sold for hard currency that were scheduled to arrive that day. Despite sky-high price tags, there is a waiting list to buy them.

“People in line are saying they should be here in a few minutes,” a potential buyer tells 14ymedio. “The list is very detailed because some people want to buy as many as two cars. Everyone is waiting for the shipment to arrive but the real scramble is for the Renault Talisman and the Geely CK,” he explains.

The dealership is owned by Cimex, a subsidiary of the military-run conglomerate Gaesa, which has a monopoly on auto sales in the country. At the moment the only cars available are a few “clunkers,” which the buyers ignore. “Everyone is talking about the new arrivals. That’s why there are two lists, one for each model,” says the man. continue reading

Around fifty customers gather to get on a waiting list to buy cars.

“You can come and go as you like, my brother. I’ve got everybody’s name written down on the list here,” yells a man near the front of the line to another who wants to leave for a few minutes without losing his place.

According to the dealership’s notice board, the cars for sale at the moment are the Chinese-made Geely CK for $32,000 and two models from the French manufacturer Peugeot: a Partner for $63,971 and a 508 for $ 72,000. The coveted Renault, however, is not on the list.

“In this part of the block you can hear the money talking. You can really hear it,” jokes a neighbor as she walks by the car lot.

Cimex had been selling the cars for convertible Cuban peosos but as of February 2020 customers could only buy them with freely convertible foreign currency. Prices for the roughly thirty available models range from 34,000 to 90,000 USD.

The car dealership’s notice board showing prices for new models. (14ymedio)

According to the dealership, the new prices come with a 10% discount. Customers must pay for a car in full using a debit card.

Since the new purchasing process was introduced, customers have complained about mechanical problems that arose after shelling out a huge amount of cash.

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Cuban Taxi Drivers are Going Through a Bad Time

Most taxi drivers work more than 14 hours a day, avoid taking vacations and get behind the wheel even when they’re sick. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Claudia Collazo, Havana, 25 January 2021 – From the moment the yellow car turned the corner, the neighbors knew that there was “a man with money” inside — the driver. But in the last year, the neighborhood taxi drivers have only accumulated debt. The payments to rent the car from the State, the fall in tourism, and the monetary unification which has ended Cuba’s dual currency system, all these circumstances are a knock-down blow to what was an occupation that guaranteed a good standard of living.

“When I go out, I tell my wife not to open the door to anyone because I owe thousands of pesos and, if it’s someone who wants to sell us something, we don’t have enough to buy anything either,” Darío, a 39-year-old from Havana, tells 14ymedio. Dario alternates with a partner driving a modern Peugeot linked to the state company Taxis Cuba.

Until two years ago, Darío and his family spent vacations in hotels in Varadero, they were able to redo their bathroom and kitchen with top-quality materials, they bought a small apartment for their mother-in-law, and even allowed themselves a trip to Russia to see Moscow. All of that, the man remembers today as if they were the stories os someone else’s life. continue reading

“Now all that is impossible,” he laments. “I no longer want to do this job but the way things are, there is no way to find another way to earn a living.” Since those vacations in the most famous spa in Cuba, problems have accumulated. Some nobody could foresee, like the pandemic; but others everyone could see coming for years.

Darío belongs to a clan of taxi drivers. His father and uncle were among the first to take the helm of the Panataxis, a service that emerged with the Pan American Games in Havana in 1991. Those cars were exclusively for foreign customers but with the decriminalization of the dollar, two years later, nationals could also use them by paying in foreign currency.

The first taxi drivers were considered members of an aristocracy and their economic position was enviable. Direct access to tourists, tips, possible gifts, customers who, on their return visits to the island, would bring the drivers things they ordered, and a lot of skill in ‘sneaking’ rides and conveniently hiding the meter kept the money flowing.

With the Raulista reforms promoted at the beginning of the last decade, the authorities shook up the sector. From being state workers with a fixed salary, they went to a more autonomous system. Currently they must pay 625 pesos a day to Taxis Cuba for the rental of vehicles, be it high or low tourist season; in good weather or in the middle of a hurricane. If they do not pay the amount of the lease, the car is taken away.

The taxi drivers then achieved a long-dreamed of feat: being able to take the car home. But the responsibility for any repairs, scrubbing, changing parts or fixing a simple flat tire also fell on their pockets. That, coupled with the fact that they no longer receive subsidized fuel, has significantly undermined their once attractive earnings.

Although the company must meet certain obligations with the drivers, in practice this has not been the case. “Even the existence of reserve cars was projected so that, when there was any damage, the taxi driver could continue working,” recalls Javier, a driver who laments the deterioration of his Chinese-made vehicle for which he can barely find parts.

Parts replacements are largely based on the “cannibalism” of cars that have crashed or have a fault. “In the company’s warehouse you can barely find motor oil and it is not of the required quality,” he says. “Even many Geely-made cars have had their engines blown because they did not use the right lubricant, especially in Havana’s Agency 4,” he says.

In their new circumstances, the solution so that the money earned doesn’t disappear in lease payments and technical issues, the taxi drivers began to dream of achieving a contract with a state company that needed rides for its employees. The most appealing were those that allowed them to comply with the agreed schedule but left them several hours free to provide service to other customers.

“Many drivers weathered the tourism crisis, which began in the middle of last year,” says Alfredo, a worker for one of the taxi agencies, “thanks to the contracts that the Government to give rides to Public Health workers, and with the Stores to deliver purchases made on-line. But now that the ‘reordering’ has begun, things got screwed up.”

When the taxi driver does not have a contract, he earns less, but he can hide part of his personal income to pay less in taxes. With the arrival of Covid-19, airports at half-capacity and measures that restrict mobility, it has become impossible to pay the lease rate without a contract with an entity.

The worst was yet to come. The government authorized an increase in the rates charged by taxi drivers — which have risen between four and six times compared to the previous price — but in a proportion that they consider insufficient to cover the new costs for car maintenance.

In addition, the ordinance put an end to “the party of contracts.” Before the monetary unification and the elimination of the convertible peso (CUC), in the state business sector the CUC was valued at parity with the Cuban peso (CUP), which made it cheap for these entities to have taxis carry their officials and managers. In reality, the non-state exchange rate between the CUC and the CUP was 24 to one, and with the elimination of the CUC the price of this service has multiplied by 24, which makes it a luxury that the state business sector cannot afford.

“The issue is that as these cars were, originally, primarily serving tourism, their prices were already high,” continues Alfredo, “Now the money we earn is less, and to top it off, with the decline in tourism, because of the pandemic, the consequences have worsened.”

And let’s not even talk about labor rights. Most taxi drivers work more than 14 hours a day, avoid taking vacations and get behind the wheel even when they’re sick. Any pause can lead to their cars being taken away. But, the current tough situation has forced many of them to turn in their cars, as they are unable to continue paying the vehicle lease.

In their neighborhoods, those taxi drivers without vehicles no longer receive visits from the informal vendors who with great frequently used to knock on their doors to sell them all kinds of products. And this has meant an end to the abundant family meals in those houses where the silhouette of a yellow car is no longer there.

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Havana’s Alma Mater Bookstore is Flooded With Sewage Waters

A dark liquid comes out of the Alma Mater bookstore, overflowing through the door and reaches the beautiful granite floor at the entrance. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 25 January 2021– A woman with a baby in her arms steps down from the doorway and heads down the sidewalk on tiptoes at the corner of Infanta and San Lázaro in Havana. Without taking her eyes off the ground, the young woman tries to avoid the filth of the sewage waters that have flowed from the interior of the Alma Mater bookstore, which has been closed to the public for weeks because of the foul flood.

The bookstore offers a selection focused on university bibliography, history, philosophy and sociology manuals, while from the building a dark liquid flows out through the door and reaches the beautiful granite paving, with wavy figures, in front of its entrance. Passersby hurry their steps and tighten their masks as they pass.

The scene is not new. The bookstore has suffered several closures over the years due to the deterioration in the drainage system of the apartment building where it is located. The last repair was completed in October last year, but a few months after its reopening, the premises had to close again. continue reading

“You can’t stand here because of the bad smells,” complains a customer of the post office — located several meters from the bookstore – whose line traditionally ran along the covered sidewalk but had to move because of the stench. “You take all this infection home,” laments another customer from a nearby office who has come to buy some stamps.

A “closed” sign can be read on the door of Alma Mater, although its old opening hours are still written above it: Monday to Friday and part-time on Saturdays. In the stained-glass windows, dirty and covered with pieces of brown paper, is a faded poster with the face of José Martí, who curiously has his gaze directed just towards the most flooded area of ​​the portal.

From outside you can hear the sound of sewage dripping into the premises. The leak has destroyed most of the false ceiling and pieces of it are on the ground. However, the bookstore’s Facebook page does not mention its current status, showing only past images from its collection, where books on Fidel Castro and Ernesto Guevara abound.

In the stained-glass windows of Alma Mater, dirty and covered with pieces of brown paper, is a faded poster with the face of José Martí. (14ymedio)

A local employee tells 14ymedio that the warehouse located in the basement is flooded. “Efforts have been made by the workers to get that water out of there, but they have been unsuccessful so far,” laments the worker. “I don’t understand why they don’t come with an engine to extract it, the situation can turn into a serious health problem.”

The residents of the building are desperate. The bad smell is spreading throughout the area and they feel like they are living a “cyclical curse,” with similar breaks from time to time. At the beginning of last year, a neighbor tried to solve a blockage in his apartment by putting a metal bar through the pipes and ended up causing a break that also forced the bookstore to be evacuated. The current break is attributed to the poor condition of the infrastructure and the lack of maintenance of the property, but one never knows in a block with dozens of residents.

Where the battered bookstore is located today was once the famous Quesada Lamps store, a symbol of Havana from the middle of the last century, where appliances and other home decor were offered. The firm had subsidiaries in several Latin American countries and was nationalized after the Revolutionary Triumph.

But beyond its commercial life, the location of this corner made it one of the emblematic points of the Cuban capital, surrounded by businesses and food service options, on the border between the glamorous neighborhood of El Vedado and the popular and bustling Centro Habana. Even the most famous vagabond in Cuban history, the Knight of Paris, frequented the portal that today has become impassable from the plague.

After a long time of neglect, in 2013 the Alma Mater cultural center was inaugurated on the premises, which had an intranet navigation room on the mezzanine and a small room for events and conferences. In its early days, interesting volumes could be found on the bookstore floor, but as time passed ideological excesses and political pamphlets littered its shelves.

The decadence continued its course and the trade began to sell poorly produced handicrafts and clothes with official slogans. And then, again and again, came the floods. Sometimes it forced them to close for a few days, then weeks that turned into months without service to the public. The wreck of the Alma Mater bookstore has been long and harrowing, and the blame should go not only to the sewage leaks.

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The Cuban Government Announces Electricity Rate Options for the Private Sector

These modifications are carried out “based on the criticism” that the Government received after the new electricity prices. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 January 2021 — The authorities have taken a small step back and, in the face of protests from the private sector for discriminating against them in the reduction of electricity prices announced last December, they are offering them several options not to pay so much.

The Minister of Energy and Mines, Liván Arronte Cruz, acknowledged this Thursday, on the national television program The Roundtable, that these modifications are carried out “based on the criticism” they received after the new electricity prices, which were lowered after announcing that they would go up from January 1.

Arronte, who said that the increase in the price of electricity was made “to encourage savings,” assured that “everything that is owed and that can be corrected, it will be done in an effective way” but that if demand is not met, there will be blackouts. continue reading

The deputy minister of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, Tatiana Amarán, detailed the options. The first is to pay for all electricity consumption at the rate approved for the residential sector. In the second, that consumption can be paid for the rate that today applies to the state sector, connected to low voltage, while the third option involves a combination of the two previous rates.

This third, she specified, will be applied to common services within multi-family buildings.

Amarán gave as an example some figures to illustrate that with low consumption, both in the first option and in the third, the same would be paid, but as consumption increases, the third variant “will always be more economical for the forms of non-state management that carry out their activity within the home.”

The objective, she said, is “not to charge non-state forms of commerce with a greater increase in the electricity tariff.”

“The best option is the third, but of course, we must bear in mind that whoever has their business outside their home cannot avail themselves of this possibility,” a private sector worker told 14ymedio .

With an experience of more than a decade as an entrepreneur, the young woman ensures that this can also be used for new people who want to pay less. “All they need to do is take out a license and pay for it and they would already benefit from this option,” she commented.

“They did not make many changes, the difference is minimal if we are talking about a business, but yes, this benefits the private sector a little. The best option is the third, comparatively speaking,” said a specialist in the field consulted by this newspaper.

Amarán also announced that the resolution approving these new rates was issued this Friday morning, which is why the electricity companies will not begin contracting until this Saturday.

For his part, Arronte acknowledged that Cuba has “no additional sources at this time” and that electricity is generated “to the same extent that it is demanded by the population and the economy.”

“If consumption increases because the rates do not regulate it and the cost of the generated kilowatt exceeds what is expected in the analyses carried out, depending on fuel prices and the generation levels that are achieved, we could be spending 5,000 million pesos per above 17,800 million foreseen for the subsidies of the tariffs, “he detailed.

The minister recalled that 48% of the fuel used in the country to generate electricity is imported and no less than 95% of the electricity consumed in the country comes from fossil fuels. The other 5% comes from clean energy, far from the minimum 20% set by the 2030 Agenda.

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Havana, One Step Away From a Night Curfew Due to Unstoppable Increase in Covid

At the moment, no new restrictive measures have been announced to those already existing in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 January 2021 — The health authorities of Havana acknowledge that the situation of the covid pandemic in the capital is “very complex” and that in the coming days they could declare a night curfew, as it already happened last August.

The president of the Provincial Defense Council (CDP), Luis Antonio Torres Iríbar, detailed this Thursday that 180 health workers have been infected so far in January. As on other occasions, the official attributed these cases to the “relaxation of the sanitary protocol,” but also to “the transfer systems of suspected and confirmed” cases and to the breach of home isolation.

For his part, Francisco Durán García, national director of Epidemiology of the Ministry of Public Health, detailed that 54.4% of people diagnosed with Covid-19 since last November 15, after the reopening of the José Martí International Airport, have a source of infection related, directly or indirectly, to travelers from other countries. continue reading

“It is not the foreigner or the traveler who arrives incubating the disease, it is the violations that we commit and the breach of the protocol that is established, because if it were complied with we would not have these results,” claimed Durán, who also attributed the infections to “the repeated violation of the sanitary protocols.”

Officials from the Ministry of Health also reported two other outbreaks. One originated in the Salvador Allende Student Residence for foreign students, in the Boyeros municipality, presumably at a New Year’s Eve party.

As of Wednesday, there were 23 confirmed, six of them external personnel who in turn became sources of contagion in their respective communities. As a consequence, the foreign student program has closed down and the internal contacts, which include 45 professors, are in total isolation, pending a second PCR test.

Another outbreak occurred in the Cerro Pelado Athletes Training Center, from two athletes from the Artemisa province, and has resulted in 26 infected, all from the sport of Wrestling.

Given the increase in cases, the Havana authorities have decided to reinforce the management of hospitals and isolation centers with cadres from companies and other sectors. The measure seeks that “health personnel can concentrate on medical assistance,” as explained.

However, no new restrictive measures have been announced to those already existing in Havana in relation to mobility, the operation of private businesses or public transport. If the current trend continues, “it would be considered to totally restrict the mobility of people and vehicles at night,” according to the Tribuna de La Habana.

This Friday, Cuba reported 530 new cases of coronavirus and, again, four deaths, which gives a cumulative total of 20,060 positives and 188 deaths from the disease. The provinces with the highest incidence continue to be headed by Havana, followed by Matanzas, Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo.

In addition, the Ministry of Public Health warned of the presence on the island of one of the new genetic variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the one detected for the first time in South Africa and which has spread, as of now, to 20 countries.

According to María Guadalupe Guzmán Tirado, head of the Center for Research, Diagnosis and Reference of the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine (IPK), the mutation was discovered in an asymptomatic traveler from South Africa from the PCR test that is carried out at airports to all travelers arriving in Cuba.

Guzmán said that the patient’s contacts were negative, but he warned that there is a possibility that the variant is found in Cuba and could establish itself as a circulating strain.

The main difference of this strain is that it is more contagious than the original, although, said Guzmán, it is not known that it has a direct effect on lethality or that it causes more severe cases of the disease, nor that it will affect the “Cuban vaccine candidates.”

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Building Your Own Home in Cuba is an Obstacle Race

After decades of strict controls on the sector, in the last decade the permits have been made more flexible for those who wish to start these works. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Acosta, Havana, 21 January 2021 — Five years ago, Edelmira Rodríguez laid the first brick in her house. It was the beginning of a dream, of building her house with her own efforts, which at times turns into a nightmare. The shortages and the lack of liquidity mean that, to this day, the roof has not even been installed.

Rodríguez, an employee of the Ministry of Labor and a resident of Havana, was enthusiastic about the push the authorities gave a few years ago to the construction of houses by the interested parties. After decades of strict controls on the sector, permits have become more flexible in the last decade for those who wish to start this kind of work.

Given the lack of State resources, more than half of the homes built in Cuba between January and October 2020 were built by individuals, according to the Minister of Construction, René Mesa Villafaña. During that period, 40,215 houses were completed in Cuba, of which 23,429 (over 58%) were built privately. continue reading

During that period, 40,215 houses were completed in Cuba, of which 23,429 (over 58%) were built privately.

But behind those numbers there are thousands of stories of difficulties and moments of hopelessness like the ones Edelmira Rodríguez is living through today. “The land they gave me is only seven meters long by six meters wide and that forces me to build a two-story house,” she explains to 14ymedio.

A construction of more than one story requires that the lower structures be able to support the weight of the second story. This translates into having greater quantities of steel, cement and other materials, but these resources are not always available, or of the required quality.

“I started five years ago and have not even been able to install the first-floor ceiling. Since before the pandemic began, the materials were nowhere to be found, and the price of cement in the black market is prohibitive, and let’s not even mention the rebar”, Rodríguez laments.

Those shortages also encourage the theft of building materials. Avoiding losing aggregate and bricks becomes such a nightmare that it often forces families to permanently camp on the construction site.

More than half of the homes built in Cuba, between January and October 2020, were built by individuals. (14ymedio)

“Not only do you have to monitor whether they are taking cement or not in the wheelbarrow, but also keep your eyes open so that they do not steal in one night what has cost you months to obtain”, says a young man who is making repairs to his home in Calzada del Cerro. In the front porch of the house, whose roof collapsed a few years ago, sandbags and stone dust are piled up.

“My father watches at night and I do so during the day, because we cannot lose any of this material. Here, in this neighborhood, there are many people who are trying to repair or build their own little houses, but cement is only available at the foreign currency stores”, explains the young man. “Rather than because of self-effort, this is due to self-strain, because nothing is guaranteed”.

The improvised builders complain that banks grant very small loan amounts, ranging between 20,000 and 80,000 pesos, but currently in the informal market one bag of cement exceeds 500.

The improvised builders complain that banks grant very small loan amounts, ranging between 20,000 and 80,000 pesos, but currently in the informal market one bag of cement exceeds 500.

In recent years, this material has become a rare “gray gold”, sought by all those who want to repair a kitchen, modernize a bathroom or touch up a facade. For two years, the product has barely appeared in the stores that take payment in Cuban pesos and has been rationed in State construction yards for victims of natural disasters.

The shortage of the product was aggravated by a tornado that hit Havana in January 2019. With thousands of houses affected, the State guaranteed a 50% discount off the cost of construction materials for people with houses damaged by the disaster in the neighborhoods of Luyanó, Regla, Guanabacoa and Santos Suárez.

Avoiding the loss of aggregate and bricks becomes a nightmare that often forces families to permanently camp on the construction site. (14ymedio)

The monetary unification and the rise in many prices of products and services since last January first, the has had a negative effect on those who dream of finishing their own home. Some, like Tomasa Correa and her husband, have had to move into the house while still waiting to be able to buy what is left to finish construction.

“We still have to install the glass on the windows and front doors on both floors,” says Correa. “Public Health gave us the go-ahead and for a few months we have been living in the house but we have the biggest problem with the money we owe,” she acknowledges. Debts in excess of 60,000 pesos have been accumulating and now the couple does not know how they are going to repay that sum.

“We have a food stand offering vegetables and fruits located in a privileged area and over two hundred people pass through there in any given day. In addition, attached to the stall, we sell soft drinks, juices and condiments, but sales have been declining for months in a tailspin, due to lack of products”, Correa details.

However, Correa feels lucky to have been able to finish her home, in a country that needs around a million homes. Others have barely advanced beyond the foundations or some walls of what will be their future home. As is the case with Gerardo Mena, who has been with his family for 15 years in a shelter for victims of the disaster after the collapse of their building.

“Economically, we are not doing badly, but in Cuba, it is not enough to have money to solve things. Three years ago, I bought a piece of land in Monaco [Cuba] from the State and began to build a house for the family.”

“Under these conditions, my wife and I had two daughters because time went by and we couldn’t keep waiting to become parents until we owned a house,” Mena told 14ymedio. “Economically, we are not doing badly, but in Cuba, it is not enough to have money to solve things. Three years ago, I bought a piece of land in Monaco [Cuba] from the State and began to build a house for the family.”

A brother who emigrated helps him with part of the resources he needs to buy materials, but even his solvency has not materialized in advancing with the construction. “In these three years I have not been able to go beyond raising the walls and building the supports on the first floor,” Mena laments.

After decades of strict controls on the sector, in the last decade, permits have been made more flexible for those who wish to start these works. (14ymedio)

But even those walls that have yet to be plastered are an unattainable illusion for Eduardo Portales, a Havana native who has been trying for a long time to buy a piece of land on Vento Street from the State. About four years ago there was a small store that offered its products, selling its goods from a metal container placed on the site. Now, the metal box is rotting in the open while officials of the Physical Planning Institute and those of Tiendas Caribe play hot potato avoiding the responsibility of removing it.

Until the container is removed, the land purchase process cannot be finalized. But when the site is finally liberated, Portales will still have the long and tortuous path of starting to build with his own effort.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

Cuban State Company Threatens To Fire Charcoal Makers If They Persist In Their Protest

The charcoal workers have been threatened with losing their jobs if they do not return to work. (Trabajadores)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 January 2021 — The dispute between the workers of the Empresa Integral Agropecuaria de Las Tunas and the directors of that entity has escalated one step further. According to Martí Noticias, the charcoal makers, on strike due to the low wages they received this January, have been threatened by their bosses and State Security itself.

“They were told that if they continued [striking] they would be seen as ‘counterrevolutionaries’ not as workers, and a disciplinary measure could be applied so that they would not work anymore, that is, they would be expelled from the company,” the apostolic pastor Yoel Demetrio told the Miami-based media; Demetrio is the president of the Missionary Church of Cuba, and has served as spokesman for the charcoal makers, whom he is supporting.

The workers were considering denouncing, for theft of wages and corruption, Jaime García Oquendo, director of the company, official of the Ministry of the Interior and former head of prisons in the province, and Vladimir Rodríguez Acosta, a representative of the workers. But, apparently, the threats from the authorities led them to step back from a responsibility that their wives have now assumed. continue reading

“A lawyer prepared all the documentation for them and they, with these pressures and fears, did not want to go to the Prosecutor’s Office to file a complaint; however, the women decided to go to court themselves. When they arrived, the prosecutor did not want to receive their claim,” says Demetrio.

After an energetic protest, the Las Tunas Provincial Prosecutor’s Office accepted the complaint and indicated that the deadline for a response is 60 days and that time will start from this Wednesday, when the document was registered.

In addition, the prosecutor informed them that they should go to the company’s Labor Justice Body, where they were received by the head of marketing, Nelson Batista Serrano, and Oquendo himself.

According to the pastor speaking to Radio Martí , both verbally attacked the women for having denounced them before the independent press, which automatically turned them into counterrevolutionaries. They were then warned that their husbands would be summoned to their workplace this Thursday to be told that, if they persisted in striking, they would be fired from their jobs.

The charcoal makers began the strike after having received just 113 pesos this January, to which should be added the advance of 1,000 pesos received in December. The sum of both amounts does not reach half the minimum wage announced by the Government for 2021, which is 1,910 pesos for 40 hours and 2,100 pesos for 44.

In addition, they did not receive the stipend that they usually receive as a bonus in a sector considered strategic by the Government, which from 2005 to 2019 (the last year for which there is consolidated data) has exported more than 266,100 tons of the product, bringing about 100 million dollars to State coffers, about 700 million of which was in 2019.

The company alleges that the drop in exports does not support the payment of benefits, but the workers believe that the company is stealing money that belongs to them.

This protest has been added to that of the Sancti Spíritus stevedores, who have also gone on strike due to the low amount they will receive when the payment per bag loaded is just 0.50 pesos.

Organized protests by state workers have been very unusual in Cuba, where unions are yet another offshoot of the Communist Party. In recent years, the increase in private work has resulted in some notorious protests, such as those staged by taxi drivers or the drivers of the horse drawn coaches used as buses, due to the labor conditions imposed, but the “OrderingTask,” which has increased wages but also prices—in some cases a lot—and this has provoked some sectors to start raising their voices and using the right to strike, won by the labor movements which, paradoxically, the Government denies.

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Before a New Thaw, the Strategy is Already a Matter of Debate

Although it is difficult to acknowledge it, the link with the United States has a determining weight in the future of the Island. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 22 January 2021 — Once Joe Biden assumed the presidency of the United States for the next four years, a space opened to serenely analyze the meaning that it may have for Cuba’s relations with the world’s leading power, since, although it is difficult to recognize it, this link has a determining weight in the future of the Island.

Thus, arises the temptation to steer the issue, risking speculations or issuing recommendations. Both approaches can be directed both to the concerns of United States Government and to the steps that Havana can take and, of course, to the roles, in both scenarios and in different directions, of all those who can exert some influence from exile, in the internal opposition, from the environments of civil society or independent journalism.

Fellow journalist Wilfredo Cancio, of CiberCuba, has advanced what, in his opinion, would be the 22 tasks that the new White House team should take into account to relaunch its relations with Cuba. A useful and detailed list of pending subjects. continue reading

Far from claiming sterile impartiality, as an observer I limit myself to voicing my speculations about the actions available to the Cuban Government and the way in which it could use them at a possible negotiating table.

The first notable thing is the enormous disproportion between the degree of concern that exists on the island about what the United States might do and the concern that may be felt in that nation in relation to the decisions of Havana. Cuba’s concern goes beyond government halls and spreads to every corner of the country until it reaches the most humble kitchens in the most remote places.

The United States can indefinitely postpone actions that lead to a new thaw, while for Cuban rulers the arrival of the Democrats to the White House represents a relief compared to what was expected after Trump’s re-election. In sporting terms they do not take it as a victory but as a standing eight count: a period of time that they are obliged to take advantage of so as not to repeat the mistake made with Obama.

Although they are aware of this disadvantage, it can be presumed that the Cuban rulers will send their delegates to the negotiating table wrapped in the mystique of defenders of national sovereignty and with the arrogance of someone who says to their counterpart: “We have resisted. We are and we will remain the same; you will be here as long as your electorate allows it.”

The introduction of democratic habits that put at risk the permanence in power of those who rule in Cuba will be the most inflexible point; what they will caution is that they are not willing to cede one iota, while the so-called “compensation for the consequences of the blockade” will constitute the demand that will force other side to assume an equally intransigent refusal.

Dictators around the world have the perception that this matter of “the human rights of citizens” is nothing more than a grandstanding speech for democratic countries and as long as those from here continue to think that way, they will not move an inch; at most they will carry out the occasional symbolic gesture such as releasing a couple of prisoners, whom they will re-imprison whenever they feel like it, unless they go into exile.

The Cuban leaders are interested in having flights resume to all the island’s airports, normalizing the sending of remittances, have work resume at the Embassy in Havana and opening the flow of tourists with the “people-to-people meetings,” but as these points are already on the new president’s agenda, and Cuba’s leaders sense that they will not have to offer anything in return to achieve it.

Nor will they have to make an effort to restart the sports, academic and cultural exchanges, or for the island’s players to play with the Major League teams, because for that there are already enough pressures coming from the American interests themselves and because those actions are part of the so-called Lane II through which the same subversive purposes are supposed to pass subtly with different methods.

The instructions received by Cuban negotiators will include showing the greatest interest in the immigration issue, because it is known that it is a useful point for the other party.

One of the weapons that the Government of Cuba has used the most has been the veiled threat to activate an immigration bomb and, from that position of blackmail, they will try to persuade their counterpart of the advisability of holding the biannual migration talks, favoring family reunification and restoring the 20,000 annual visas for immigrants, along with five-year visas for visits to the United States.

These hypothetical instructions are also certain to include the demand that Cuba ceases to be on the list of countries sponsoring terrorism; that the US end the “black lists” that limit commercial transactions in the United States and prevent citizens of that country from staying in hotels run by the Cuban military; and they will certainly demand that Titles III and IV of the Helms Burton Act be deactivated.

They will seek those conquests, but they will be reluctant to return the fugitives from US justice and terrorists from the Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN) who are in Cuba; nor will they stop supporting the Maduro regime in Venezuela.

If the pandemic allows it, this year the IX Summit of the Americas will be held in Miami. The event, should Cuba be invited and Díaz-Canel not decline the invitation, it will give the opportunity for a meeting, in person or virtual, at the highest level between the two countries.

This is how the first thaw attempts were forged, when at the VII Summit held in 2015 in Panama, Raúl Castro and Barack Obama had the opportunity to talk.

Today the panorama is very different and if the meeting in Miami occurs in May, when the previous ones have traditionally been held, the Cuban delegation could boast of having completed the generational transfer announced for April at the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party, and sell it as if it were a transition to a new stage post the “Ordering Task” (some name they will invent).

Never better can it be said that they will put on an “I didn’t go” face and be open to listening on any subject, even if their ears are plugged.

The pending reflection is what part will be played by the non-conformists who yearn for a real change in Cuba. A foreseeable proposal will be to resist another approach or, on the contrary, to demand participation in the dialogue.

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Diaz-Canel Tried to Manipulate John Paul II’s Visit to Cuba in 1998

Fidel Castro and Pope John Paul II, during the latter’s visit to Cuba in 1998. (EFE / Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 January 2021 — The former spokesman for the Archdiocese of Havana, Orlando Márquez, revealed that the current president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, tried to manipulate the visit of Pope John Paul II to Santa Clara in 1998.

At that time Díaz-Canel was the first Party secretary in the province, and, according to Márquez in an article published in the magazine Otra Word, he pushed for the mass of the head of the Church to be celebrated in the Plaza Che Guevara and not in the Loma del Capiro, as originally agreed.

Márquez affirms that he cannot help but recall the uneasiness of the Bishop of Santa Clara, Monsignor Fernando Prego, “when the local authorities proposed that this papal mass be celebrated in the Che Guevara Plaza de la Revolución,” one of the “sacred” symbols of the Cuban regime. continue reading

It was there that in 1997, a year before the arrival of Karol Wojtyla to Cuba, Fidel Castro received with pomp the dubious remains of the Argentine guerrilla to the island.

“Someone decided that the best moment to resuscitate the memory of Che Guevara was the one in which the thirty years from his death coincided with the preparation for the Pope’s visit,” said the former spokesperson for the Havana archdiocese without naming names.

According to Márquez, the Cuban Catholic Church refused because of “the interpretations or consequences” of a mass in that place, dedicated to a man who was responsible for hundreds of executions and who openly affirmed that the purpose of every revolutionary was to become “a cold killing machine.”

Jesuit priest Roberto Tucci, who was responsible for the Pope’s travels at the time, rejected the proposal, and the Cuban authorities had to give in and allow the Eucharist to take place at the Santa Clara Sports School.

The visit of John Paul II, a pope from the Soviet bloc, was seen by the world as a sign of the opening of the Castro regime, which for decades persecuted believers, but immediately the system returned to its own devices. Nothing prevented, for example, years later, the persecution of Catholics united by Oswaldo Payá around the Christian Liberation Movement.

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Las Tunas Charcoal Workers Denounce the Theft of Their Wages by State Company and the Union

The workers also plan to denounce Jaime García Oquendo, director of the Empresa Integral Agropecuaria de Las Tunas. (Trabajadores)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 January 2021 — A few months ago, the Empresa Integral Agropecuaria de Las Tunas was distinguished with two awards, one last October and the other in December. Judging by recent statements from the charcoal workers, the authorities do not seem disposed to let the awards be joined by an improvement in the workers’ income.

Several employees in the sector have gone on strike after having received wages of 113 pesos this January, to which should be added the advance of 1,000 pesos received in December. The sum of both amounts is just over half the minimum wage announced by the Government for 2021: 1,910 pesos for 40 hours and 2,100 pesos for 44.

14ymedio tried to find out the reasons why company would pay such a meager amount, but the official who answered the call refused to provide any information and maintained that it’s “something la gusanera* is saying,” a falsehood, according to his version, about which they have already posted something. “If you are a journalist, come and talk face to face, if that’s not the case, search for information on Google,” he said. continue reading

This newspaper has checked the internet and has not found the alleged information “on Google.”

In addition to the announced strike, the charcoal workers also plan to denounce Jaime García Oquendo, director of the company, official of the Ministry of the Interior and former head of prisons in the province, and Vladimir Rodríguez Acosta, representative of the workers, for theft of wages and corruption.

On Tuesday, Radio Televisión Martí broadcast the statements of Luis Silva, one of the striking workers who announced his intention to stop working until he received a decent payment. “I [am not going to] work any more until they resolve the salary. With 113 pesos it is not enough for anything. There are four of us, my wife and two children,” he said.

According to the Miami-based media outlet, charcoal makers usually receive an extra payment for exports at the end of the year but the company did not do so this year on the grounds that sales had plummeted as a result of the pandemic.

The workers of the Empresa Integral Agropecuaria de Las Tunas deny the company’s sales data and insist that they exported more than 15,000 tons of the product for a price of about $432 per ton, according to the apostolic pastor Yoel Demetrio, president of the Missionary Church of Cuba, speaking in an interview with the Miami-based Radio Televisión Martí.

Several agricultural workers from Las Tunas received recognition from the National Union of Forest and Tobacco Workers. (Time21)

“In January they only paid 113 pesos. That is not enough to live on, and then those workers have decided not to work anymore until the authorities increase their salary. Here, in the protest, there are 22 charcoal makers, but there are others in different municipalities. For example, in Jobabo they are also protesting, because they are from the same company,” added Pastor Yoel Demetrio, who supports the complaint.

There are still no official consolidated data for the year 2020, but there are some partial figures that indicate good production and even higher exports than the previous year. For example, as of June of last year, only the Agroforestry Company of Matanzas had produced almost 534 tons to export, “a figure that exceeds forecasts,” according to the official press. For 2020, company had planned to produce about 1,650 tons to break the record of 1,614 that it reached in 2019.

The 16 companies of the Ministry of Agriculture in Camagüey dedicated to the export of charcoal, managed to sell three million dollars worth in the first four months of 2020, a figure similar to the same period of 2019. As of April, they had sold more than 9,390 tons on the international market, less than the 11,914 planned.

The Ceballos Agroindustrial Company, from Ciego de Ávila, is the entity that exports the most charcoal in the country, and as of August 2020 had sold more than 25,000 tons destined for Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain and other European nations. Its director said a year ago that since 2005 the company had exported more than 266,100 tons of the product, bringing about 100 million dollars to State coffers, about 700 million of which was in 2019.

In February 2020, the Villa Clara company Valle del Yabú exported its first 16.8 tons of charcoal to Europe, the newspaper Trabajadores highlighted.

According to official figures, Cuba annually produces about 40,000 tons of charcoal each year to satisfy national demand and cover exports, mainly to the European market. Cuban charcoal — made from the invasive marabou weed — is sold mainly to Europe and several Asian countries and, in 2017, it became the first product, in more than half a century, to be exported to the United States.

*Translator’s note: Gusano literally means ’worm’ and in this context la gusanera refers to ’counterrevolutionaries’, government opponents, and Cubans in exile.

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Price Hikes Reach Cuban Movie Theaters, Which Double Their Rates

In some provinces the ticket prices are variable but at Cine 23 they are fixed. (14ymedio/Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 January 2021 — The “Ordering Task*” has arrived in movie theaters, the latest victims of the price increases, according to data published by Cubacine.

Irinka Cordoví, director of Project 23, manages the five cinemas on 23rd Street in Havana’s Vedado district, said that the ticket price to normal functions will go from 2 to 5 pesos, while the functions in 3D, which varied between 5 and 10, they will cost 15 pesos for children under 12 and 25 for adults. In the case of children’s and circus shows offered by some cinemas such as Yara, the price will be 20 pesos for children and 30 for adults.

When it comes to musical or humorous shows, Cordoví added, the price could reach 150 pesos, “depending on the level and quality of the artists.” continue reading

The official insisted that the increase, which responds to the new economic measures dictated by the Government, will be accompanied by “better operations within theaters and cinemas” and that there is “a commitment to elements such as hygiene and atmosphere, quality of the programming, as well as in excellent treatment from to the assistants.”

At the same time, she recognized that for some years the attendance of the public to cinemas has decreased and that, for this reason, they intend to “reinforce the advertising and promotion of [the] programming.”

In a call to the Riviera cinema in the capital, an employee insisted that at this moment it is “closed due to the pandemic, like all other cinemas,” but that “as soon as this is over, we will open with the new prices.”

The Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso also announced last December an increase in the ticket prices, which was widely criticized on social networks for considering the excessive price of 125 pesos for a function, even if it is the first balcony. Critics also pointed to the cost of tickets to recreational parks and the Miramar Trompoloco Tent where a seat costs as much as 100 pesos.

*Translator’s note: The “Ordering Task” is the Cuban government’s efforts which include ending the dual currency system and other major adjustments in the economy.

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Not at 45 Pesos, Not Even at 50 Pesos: There is No Bread in Havana

“I send the kid to buy bread and sometimes he gets back at nine o’clock at night without it because after waiting in line there isn’t enough,” complains a resident from Centro Habana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 18 January 2021 — Antonio’s face, after walking through several streets of Centro Habana this Sunday looking for bread without success, sums up his fatigue and disappointment. “What is happening is terrible,” he laments. “I don’t know if there is no flour or no oil, but the truth is that bread is missing from the map.”

The difficulties in buying this staple food have been multiplying in recent months. At the beginning of January, people in Havana reported that there was no bread in any non-State establishment for that sells unrationed bread, and that even in the private ones, where sold for almost twice the price, it was in short supply. A situation that occurred last October was repeated.

Now, not at 30 pesos, nor at 40 nor even at 50 for a package of rolls: there simply isn’t any bread. Antonio had received news that on Zanja Street they were selling a bag of eight rolls for 50 pesos. “I didn’t want to go there because on the corner of my house I always buy it cheaper, at 40 or 45 pesos, sometimes at 30,” the young man explains, referring to a paladar — a private restaurant — where they have a bread sales counter. “And it turns out that when I arrived there wasn’t any!” continue reading

The bread, Antonio continues, is barely enough to be displayed on the counter: the neighbors are “chasing the car” that brings the bread, a Lada car filled to the roof, and as soon as it arrives, “the line forms and in three minutes it’s over.”

In the bakeries where the state sells un-rationed bread, the situation has not improved: “In the Carlos III [shopping center] you have to line up so that you can spend hours,” says another resident of Centro Habana. “I send the kid to buy bread and sometimes he gets back at nine o’clock at night without it because after waiting in line there isn’t enough,” he complains.

Other neighborhoods, such as Nuevo Vedado, don’t have better luck. Both in private bakeries and in state bakeries, the shelves are empty most of the time. “The only thing in private bakeries is cookies and sweets, but no bread,” says a resident on Panorama Street. “In the state bakery, to buy the bread with the ration book, the line is constant; they put out the bread, a very limited amount for a very limited time, so it’s gone right away.”

The reason for the shortage of such a basic product changes depending on who you ask. Private sellers say demand has skyrocketed and that where the product used to last on the shelves for a full day, it now sells out in an hour. State employees insist that in the bakeries that sell rationed bread “flour, fat and sugar are scarce.” On this subject, the Government is silent.

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‘This Year the Dictatorship is Done,’ Says Artist Otero Alcantara

Otero Alcántara has been the victim of a smear and harassment campaign orchestrated by the Cuban government, the signatories maintain.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 January 2021 — The artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara posted a live video on his Facebook page, which has already been watched more than 17,000 times, in which he says “the dictatorship” dead and asks the authorities to accept that everything is over, avoiding prolonging the suffering of the population.

“Cuba is going to enter a democratic system very soon. It depends on them how much blood is spilled or not in the streets, the sacrifice that we have to make, as a group of artists, intellectuals, politicians, activists,” he says.

The artist is one of the most visible leaders of the San Isidro Movement. His hunger and thirst strike, this November, for the release of rapper Denis Solís led him to become an internationally known opposition figure. He insists in the video, about 28 minutes long, that he does not intend to turn himself and his friends into a kind of fashionable activists, but rather they are part of a very broad collective with multiple ideological sensibilities, and what they share is the arrival of democracy as their sole purpose. continue reading

 

Otero Alcántara expresses his support in particular for the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu) and its leader, José Daniel Ferrer, who was arrested this week after his eldest daughter was denied entry to the country. “José Daniel Ferrer and his family are being violated. Do not make people suffer more,” insists the activist.

In his opinion, the Internet has revolutionized the situation of the opposition in Cuba and the Government is not aware that it can no longer maintain power as it did. He considers that the population has already realized that the situation is unsustainable and the fall of the regime is imminent.

“A social outbreak can happen the day after tomorrow, controlled or uncontrolled,” he predicts. And he asks the citizens to take power. “This year the dictatorship is done, it is done, we are building democracy right now. We are going to impose the word dialogue as a civic structure, dialogue with character demanding freedom,” he says

The opposition activist also refers to the economic situation as a generator of popular unrest. Otero Alcántara believes that the vertiginous rise in prices as a result of the “Ordering Task,” has damaged the most fragile, the retired or elderly whose pensions barely cover the prices that are asked of them just to feed themselves. “Retirees used to eat for little more than one peso, not now. They raised everything,” he is indignant.

In recent months, the artist, who has suffered multiple arrests since he founded the San Isidro Movement to reject Decree 349 with which the Government tried to curb independent art, has seen the pressure on his surroundings and himself increase. The regime has questioned his artistic merits, has linked him to the CIA, as it usually does with those who express their rejection of the regime, and has accused him of terrorism.

However, Otero Alcántara maintains that the most recent campaign against him, highlighting him in the official media, has only served to attract the sympathy of the citizens. “People adore us in the street, old women who touch me and say ’we are with you’. That is what is happening in Cuba right now, the dictatorship is done,” he continues.

Finally, he insists once again that he will support any opponent of any sensibility. “Now we have to take power, I’m with Unpacu,” he says. But he also cites platforms based abroad, such as Cuba Decides, or a priori movements that are more social than political, from animal rights to the LGBTI community.

Free Denis Solís, free Luis Robles (arrested last December 4 for protesting with a banner in the center of Havana), free all political prisoners, free the Cuban! Stop the abuse! Have mercy on the old men who cannot drink their coffee with milk!

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