El Patrón Feels Wronged

Jair Bolsonaro conditioned Cubans remaining in the Mais Medicos program, to their receiving their total, among other measures. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 14 November 2018 — The most significant thing about the statement from Cuba’s Ministry of Health (Minsap) announcing the withdrawal rom Brazil’s Mais Medicos program is that it does not clearly mention the real causes of such a dramatic decision.

The angry reaction arose after Señor Bolsonaro, president-elect of the giant South American nation, announced that the new conditions for Cuba to remain in the collaborative program would be: first, that the Cuban doctors would have to revalidate their credentials according to Brazilian standards; second, that the collaborators would receive their full salary – that is the money that Brazil pays for their services would go entirely to them; and third, that they would have the right to bring their families with them to Brazil.

The official statement from Cuba’s Ministry of Health only mentions the need to revalidate the title, which is interpreted as disrespectful, as emphasized by the words: “It is not acceptable to question the dignity, professionalism and altruism of Cuban collaborators who, with the support of their families, currently provide services in 67 countries. ”

Another reason to terminate this collaboration which is not confessed in the Minsap statement, is that the Cuban government does not want a right-wing ruler to be able to show achievements in the health of his nation’s citizens. That was an advantage that Cuba was happy to offer to the Workers Party as part of the practices of political clientelism, which includes quotas for young Latin Americans to come to Cuba to study medicine.

Cuba today has about 8,300 doctors in Brazil for which Brazil pays a salary of 3,300 dollars a month, but in reality the doctors themselves receive only 25% of that because the rest goes into the coffers of the Cuban government. Hence, many doctors have been annoyed that Minsap’s statement announcing the withdrawal of the mission says, “Employees have been kept employed at all times and receive 100% of their salary in Cuba” without clarifying that the salary it is talking about is a monthly payment that seldom exceeds the equivalent of $60 US, insignificant when compared to the nearly $2,500 that the state receives for each doctor in Brazil.

On the national television midday news, where the statement was read in full, it was added that “Cuba’s medical collaboration in the world is used to pay for investments or programs that reach everyone on the Island, that generate income that contributes to the economic and social development and circumvents the United States blockade. ”

Since August 2013, when Dilma Rousseff organized this program in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization, Cuban doctors were warned that they could not enter into contracts “freely” – that is on their own – and also since then they have been prohibited from taking revalidation exams.

Any “disobedients” caught in this “lack of discipline” were immediately returned to the island as punishment and if they dared to leave the mission they were defined as deserters and consequently were forbidden to return to Cuba for at least eight years.

In fact, the great offense that Bolsonaro has given the Cuban Government is to open the doors of his immense country to doctors who want to work there. Until now, the first reaction to the Cuban decision was a message on Mr. Bolsonaro’s Twitter account, where he lamented the withdrawal of Cuba from the Mais Medicos program; the second was his promise made at a press conference to give asylum to doctors who wanted to stay in Brazil.

In these critical moments for the Cuban economy, the annual 11.5 billion dollars that the country receives for the provision of professional services around the world, will be significantly reduced with the abrupt termination of the presence in Brazil, but in addition, the doctors who have to return to Cuba before their end of their “missions” in Brazil will be harmed.

Despite the difficult conditions that result from establishing themselves in places where no other medical professional wants to be and despite the burden of the low salary – from which the doctors had to cover their own living expenses – Brazil was one of the places most desired by Cuban doctors who, beyond their spirit of solidarity and altruism, wanted to fulfill a mission there to solve at least part that nation’s shortcomings in the provision of healthcare.

If something has been clear, it is that among the priorities of the Cuban government, rather than the humanitarian vocation to save lives, were to improve the image of a leftist party before its electorate and to earn money at the expense of the exploitation of professional work.

It is an indisputable sovereign right of Brazil to require any professional to revalidate their qualifications to practice in the country. It is a right of doctors to receive in full the salary that is being paid for them, and then pay the taxes on that salary that the law provides. It is also their right to be accompanied by family members if they wish.

Where is the offense?

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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.

Posthumous Novel by Rafael Alcides, Against Death, Against Oblivion / Ramon Fernandez-Larrea

Rafael Alcides in a scene from the documentary “Nadie” (Nobody), by the filmmaker Miguel Coyula. (Courtesy)

Translated from* from El Nuevo Herald, Ramón Fernández-Larrea, 8 November 2018

When one receives a novel – written by a friend who is a poet, or by a friend who has been and is forever a great poet – with the title Contracastro, one could never imagine that it is a love story, and not a pamphlet of accusations against power, nor the political testament of a worthy man, with a vertical and honest position.

And if that novel is also the posthumous work of that poet friend, which is also like a last will, and also, a very old story that Rafael Alcides began to ruminate on in the convulsive first years of the 1960s, and which he spent his life writing and rewriting, the result is a kind of testament, because this novel could be, or is also, the novel of our lives.

On the cover of the print edition it is noted that Contracastro is “A novel written in reverse.” Why? I suspect that it has to do with what Alcides himself says in the public history of the book: “In this second version the old love story is supported with very slight additions. Not so the context, this time evoked from today by Tom, already an old man, in a mega-Miami where he has been among the city’s forgers… For that first version, consistent with my political views of the time, the novel was nothing more than the many other pamphleteering-style texts of the time, against capitalism and the bourgeoisie.” continue reading

And Rafael Alcides continues telling us that “because of its title it frightened the Casa de las Américas officials when they saw it appear in the Literary Contest of 1965,” where “The juror Mario Vargas Llosa, who nominated it for a Prize, managed to obtain an Honorary Mention.”

What changed then? The world changed, Alcides changed. The years passed and the luminous future never arrived on the coasts of the island. Fatigue and disappointment arrived. And the masks fell from those heroes who wanted us happy all the time. And then came the time to tell, openly, the rending of the protagonists’ journeys to nowhere, the many protagonists of the other major novel, the epic of a people who emigrate, of families that are torn apart and walk through these worlds, without being able to tell their loved ones in a letter, all the love they still have.

Contracastro, published today by Eriginal Ediciones, is an inquest into Cuban history after 1959, told in first person, but in two alternating times, but, always in the background, it is a passionate story of love, sex, disgust and illusions, especially of lost illusions that the protagonist is capable of shouting to the four winds: “Burn down the world if they want, I have you.”

Contracastro is that then and this now. They are Tom and Carla in a provincial Miami that has been filled with Cubans who expect life to change in the next sixty minutes so that they can return to their country. A country that has already been filled with Russians, Chinese, Americans, abandoned houses, streets that will be, from then on, only in a bloody memory.

“Even though here in Miami they hate the word revolution,” writes the author, “it is here, nevertheless, where the Revolution really is. The Revolution with capital letters. In Cuba, the Revolution has already passed and what there is is the complete opposite of the ideals of democracy, present since the Guáimaro Charter of 1869.” … And at the end of that statement made by Tom, the protagonist, thinking like Rafael Alcides, or Alcides himself stuck in the skin and blood of Tom, one can read: “So while we can not return to Cuba, I will continue to consider myself a man from Guáimaro, a follower of Agramonte, a soldier of Céspedes, that is, a revolutionary.”

Contracastro is, in short, the legacy of Rafael Alcides, a man who lived and died telling his truths in Cuba today, and that was uncomfortable for the authorities, because honesty, in times of disappointment, is, at the very least, suspicious. Here the poet leaves us this intense story of a love that was and was not. A testimony against death, against oblivion. And we must read with gratitude to its author, to discover who we have been or who we are now. To know which side of History we are on. Or, better, to check, with pain and bitterness, which side of this story is ours.

Rafael Alcides

Housing In Cuba / Somos+, German Gonzalez

Somos+, Germán M. González, 11 November 2018

Absolute power equals absolute responsibility: the socio-economic situation of the country is disastrous, party & government admits it: Who will answer for that?

In the final days of this October, several references to the subject of housing appeared in the official Cuban media. Published first is that Pinar del Rio lacks more than ten thousand homes in order to fully recover from “prior hurricanes,” we are talking at a minimum of at least 10 years, and later, in the public version of a meeting of the council of ministers the “president” announced the proposal of building homes at a rate of 50 thousand per year. Let’s look at some background.

The universal right to decent and adequate housing is reflected in international and multilateral documents and agreements, as well as in the legislation of many countries, including national constitutions. Recognized in this manner, the human right to adequate housing — and its environment – is of fundamental importance for the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights. Let’s look at the current situation in Cuba according to official sources.

The official newspaper Granma (January 25, 2018) reports that 47% of homes are inadequate, only exceeded in Latin America by Brazil (64%) and far higher than Argentina (22%) and Chile (23%). In addition, in the latter two countries, due to their climate, considering a home adequate implies many more requirements than in our sub-tropical archipelago. continue reading

The pace of construction has declined in the last twelve years, from more than 111,000 units in 2006 to fewer than 22,000 in 2017 (denying the claimed efficiency of the raulista term of office) according to the Cuban Statistical Yearbook (AEC), the smallest amount since statistics became available. Graphic view:

In its June 1st edition, Granma offers chilling data:

Housing pending solution: Grand Total/Total Collapses — Hurricanes prior to Sandy (2012): 42,000/25,000; Hurricane Sandy (2012): 36,000/14,000; Hurricane Matthew (2016): 8,000/7,000; Hurricane Irma (2017): 115,000/15,000.

In total, there are 201,000 homes affected; of those 61,000 were total collapses; 42,000 and 25,000, respectively, occurred before 2012.

In summary, if the pace expected by Díaz-Canel is reached, it would take four years to replace the homes affected by hurricanes and then ten years to repair the “not adequate” ones, plus an indeterminate period for impacts from new hurricanes and the currently adequate homes that, due to the passage of time and the poor quality of construction of the last 60 years, will inevitably deteriorate.

Add to this that the projected Diaz-Canelian pace is 2-1/2 times greater than what was achieved in the last five years as an annual average, plus the aforementioned unpredictable destructions and deteriorations, and the hopes of decent housing for most Cubans is more than remote.

A problem without a solution? For sure, under the current mandate of the “five” and their dogmas that are only effective for maintaining power.

The liberalization of the economy, the creation of a real estate market with modern credit system included, and above all the restitution to millions of Cuban diaspora members of their civil, political and economic rights with the consequent financial injection would surely give better results — in this and any other socioeconomic spheres — than the diffuse Díaz-Canelian dreams, which are nothing more than a badly copied version of the thousands of similar promises made by the Castro brothers… and look where we are after sixty years of listening to them.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

Nobody Knows How To Eradicate Pollution From Cuba’s Agabama and Sipiabo Rivers

The official press criticizes the obsolete infrastructure, which contributes to the poor state of the waters. (Escambray)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 November 2018 — Three months after the local press in Sancti Spíritus denounced the contamination of several tributaries of the Agabama and Sipiabo rivers, surrounding the municipality of Fomento, swimming has been banned in those waters by the authorities,  due to the lack of action and the exchange of accusations between different institutions that have not yet resolved the situation.

“What have the main entities done to take action to counteract the pollution of the aquifers? What factors have contributed to the phenomenon that instead of  improving it is getting worse?”, questions an article in the Escambray newspaper, which notes that about five years ago bacteriological analysis of the water began.

Last July, the Provincial Center of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Microbiology reported that they had carried out analyses of 10 water samples in the swimming areas of Balnerario, Ramblazo and Campismo Popular La Hormiga, whose waters are fed by the Agabama and Sipiabo rivers. In all of them  “the presence of total coliform bacteria and fecal coliform over the permissible parameters” were found, the official media reports. continue reading

Among the causes of the pollution reported by the Ministry of Public Health in October are the discharge of domestic wastewater and the excrement of pigs raised by individuals in their homes. Although experts from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (Citma) maintain the hypothesis that the Agabama River is contaminated from Santa Clara.

The local press argues that, according to the provisions of Law No. 124 of Terrestrial Waters that governs the management of this resource and guarantees its protection and quality, the power to ensure the quality of water is the responsibility of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH), Citma, the Ministry of Public Health, and the local bodies of the People’s Power. These organizations do not know how to come to agreement in order to to solve the water problem in Fomento.

“I was unaware of the magnitude of the closure of the swimming areas due to the contamination of surface waters,” the Provincial sub-delegate for Hydraulic Resources,Yusliadys Lorenzo Coca, told Escambray.

The Hydraulic Utilization Company does not seem to know anything about the situation, either. The technical director of the entity, Francisco Hernández Lorenzo, said that he also did not know about the imbalance, alleging that they are responsible for the sources of the supply. When the local journalists reminded him that the company is the owner of the water, the manager placed blame on a higher institution. “Public Health should have communicated to do a joint study, because this has an impact on the population,” he replied.

Citma, for its part, placed the responsibility on other institutions. “Who is responsible for taking action?, those who use the water and manage it: Hydraulic Resources, Agriculture, Azcuba, local bodies of the People’s Power,” said Néstor Álvarez Cruz, director of the Environmental Unit in Sancti Spíritus.

“While in the law there are many that bear responsibility, in practice few take action on the matter, and the solution may take as many years as the pollution lasts,” the Escambray article points out in conclusion, while denouncing the lack of knowledge on the part of the competent authorities, the lack of organization and the obsolescence of the infrastructure.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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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.

Cuba Slams the Door on the ‘More Doctors’ Program in Brazil

More than 8,300 Cuban healthcare professionals work in Brazil (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 14 November 2018 — Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health (Minsap) reported on Wednesday in an official statement that it is withdrawing from the Mais Medicos social program in Brazil due to the “derogatory and threatening” words of president-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who announced modifications to this project that the Cuban Government considers “unacceptable.”

Minsap has also circulated a message among Cuban doctors who work in Brazil to continue working until their transportation is organized for their return to the island. The message specifies that doctors must “avoid provocations” and maintain “self-care and protection.”

In the official note published on Facebook on Wednesday, Minsap emphasizes that in the five years of work in that country “about 20,000 Cuban employees performed 113,359,000 patient consultation” serving a population of “up to 60 million Brazilians,” (out of a total population of about 209 million), at a time when the Cuban brigade represented 80 percent of all doctors participating in the program.

“It is not acceptable to question the dignity, professionalism and altruism of the Cuban collaborators who, with the support of their families, currently provide services in 67 countries,” the Cuban health authorities added.

Jair Bolsonaro’s reaction was immediate. In his Twitter account he said that Brazil had conditioned the continuation of the program on a validation of the credentials of the more than 8,500 Cuban doctors in the country according to Brazilian standards, along with a change that would allow them to personally receive the full salaries Brazil pays for them. He also demanded that they be free to bring their family members with them. “Unfortunately, Cuba did not accept,” he added.

Minsap affirms that the collaborators “have stayed at their jobs at all times and receive 100 percent of their salaries in Cuba,” without mentioning that the Cuban Government keeps at least three quarters of the amount received from Brazil for the services of Cuban health professionals.

“Those who come here from other countries earn the full salary [that Brazil pays for them]. The Cubans earn approximately 25% of the salary [Brazil pays for them]. Does the rest go to fuel the Cuban dictatorship?” Bolsonaro asked on November 3.

Before being elected president, Bolsonaro had been very critical of the agreement signed in 2013, under which more than 18,000 Cuban doctors were sent to Brazil under the government of Dilma Rousseff. At that time, the Workers Party, an ally of Havana, agreed that through the intermediation of the Pan American Health Organization, Cuba would keep about 75% of the 3,300 dollars a month that Brazil pays for each Cuban doctor.

After the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the Cuban government pressured the Brazilian authorities to renegotiate the contract for its doctors and obtained an increase of 9% in the payments for them. The Plaza of the Revolution also achieved an increase of 10% for feeding the doctors in indigenous areas. None of that money went to the doctors, according to several testimonies obtained by this newspaper.

In Cuba, where the average state salary barely exceeds $30 a month, a mission abroad is one of the most common legal channels for qualified professionals to increase their income, despite not receiving the full salary paid for their services.

The Cuban State has declared that it receives more than 11.5 billion dollars annually in income from professional services abroad, and that this income is the country’s main source of foreign currency.

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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.

Keys To Understanding An Emergency Tour By Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel

Díaz-Canel did not choose to visit closer or more lucrative markets, in part because he is not looking for contracts but rather alms. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Lima, 13 November 2018 — If it were not for the two stopovers, one in Paris and the other in London, which Miguel Díaz-Canel made during his first official foreign tour at the head of the Cuban government, the map of his trip would be reduced to a group of countries that share ideological similarities and that are, for the Plaza of the Revolution, old allies from lost political battles.

In “the world according to Diaz-Canel” there are only as few nations as fingers on a hand, Moscow is located a few kilometers from Havana, and both the Americas and Europe have disappeared from the map. It is a planet scuplted in the geology of authoritarianism and created at the will of all-powerful parties, a land where the fragile grass of democracy hardly grows.

During his journey through that reduced world, the 58-year-old engineer was officially received by leaders from five countries: Russia, China, North Korea, Vietnam and Laos. The trip generated abundant declarations of “total support and solidarity” between the rulers, several visits to mausoleums housing the remains of controversial leaders, and the signing of some trade and cooperation agreements.

This latter seems to be the core of so much hectic activity, because beyond the official rituals, the journey was marked by urgency and driven by the despair of a leader at the head of a bankrupt nation. It was a trip in search of patrons, a “pass of the hat,” to achieve an economic relief from the tense situation on the island.

The scope of the agreements reached in this tour and their impact on the economy will only be verified in the coming months, but according to the headlines in the official newspaper Granma, we can already read that the compañeros visited on the trip have not been very benevolent. There has been no lack of agreements or signatures for exchanges, but there have been few loans or donations after so many handshakes, beyond having obtained 60 investment projects and a loan of 50 million dollars to buy weapons.

With productivity in the toilet, foreign tourism that will fail to reach the 5 million promised visitors, and the default of investors lacking enthusiasm to buy a piece of the Cuban pie, Havana is experiencing an acute lack of liquidity that is deepening the daily problems. Nevertheless, despite this tense situation, Díaz-Canel did not opt to visit closer or more lucrative markets, in part because he is not looking for contracts, but rather alms.

In addition to help and donations, the trip aimed to reaffirm the concept of “continuity” that has become the cornerstone of Cuba’s rulers. To reassure those who, like Kim Jong-un, could fear that, with the help of a younger leader, Havana might undertake economic and political reforms that would allow it to strengthen ties with Washington, Brussels and other democratic governments.

To all of them the message was clear. Nothing moves in the politics of the Island without the consent of the Communist Party and the generational change is totally under control. With this mantra, late Castroism tries to renew the support provided by these five nations in international forums, following the crisis facing regional entities such as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

A third reason to undertake this “path of complicity” has been to annoy the United States and to make it clear to the European Union that it is not a priority on the Cuban agenda. And, in passing, slam the door on Latin American administrations that believed that without a Castro in power dialogue with the island would be easier. By preferring not to travel through the countries of the area, Cuba’s government has shown its low regional spirit and its disdain for its

Now, once this tour of necessity and ideological myopia is over, it remains only to wait for the real benefits it will have in everyday life. The millions of dollars agreed upon in exchanges are just a drop in an ocean of needs and are unlikely to deter those who plan to escape the island. Those thousands of Cubans who each year set a course for countries not included in the small world preferred by Miguel Diaz-Canel.

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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.

Open Letter to Miguel Diaz-Canel

Mr. Díaz Canel, you have a privileged opportunity to make history in Cuba and become the leader who moved the country forward (ACN)

14ymedio bigger

Author: Marcos Nelson Suárez, Dallas, 11 November 2018

 

Mr. Miguel Díaz-Canel, President of the Republic of Cuba:

I write as a compatriot who does not reside on the island. In the late seventies, the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping took a historic step of unthinkable consequences that resulted in turning the People’s Republic of China into a world economic power, a country that back then was extremely backward and paying the tragic consequences of Mao Zedong’s policies, including the deaths of more than 70 million Chinese.

After a decade of applying the euphemistically known “socialism with Chinese characteristics” (read “free market economy”) China began to grow and, in less than 30 years, has managed to free more than 400 million Chinese from poverty and become the second largest economy in the world.

You have a privileged opportunity to make history in Cuba and become the leader who moved the country forward.

During the last few years, and possibly forced by circumstances, Raúl Castro developed timid reforms, but reforms that at last have provided some relief to the Cuban population after more than half a century of low productivity, lack of incentives and, in general, a economy that has depended on foreign benefactors.

You know well that more than a million Cubans have abandoned our homeland in search of a better future that, although promised in every speech, was never achieved.

Although the US embargo affects the economy of the country, especially because it limits foreign financing, the countries of Eastern Europe, including the former Soviet Union, were not under economic embargo yet were three decades behind in relation to their Western European neighbors.

If you want to overcome the US embargo, the first thing you must do is eliminate the barriers that prevent Cuban citizens from bringing what they want to market from abroad. There are no real reasons why, while foreigners can invest in Cuba and develop businesses, Cubans should be barred from doing so. Today, at airports abroad, I see my fellow countrymen arrive without luggage and return to Cuba loaded with televisions, car parts, motorcycles and everything that they are allowed to import.

I think the real reason for the limitations is the fear of the Communist Party of Cuba of losing power. However, both China and Vietnam have eliminated these restrictions and there is no reason to suppose that the power of their corresponding communist parties is in danger. Both countries developed repressive tactics that keep those who aspire to democracy at bay. Something similar can happen in Cuba.

Deepen the reforms. Open the door to opportunities. In fact, give preference to Cubans instead of foreign companies.

Take advantage of the opportunity that history has given you. Be the true leader who assumed a historical role and drove Cuba towards the growth and welfare of its citizens.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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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 US Coast Guard Repatriates 37 Cuban Rafters

The passengers on the boat consisted of 29 men and 8 women. (US Coast Guard)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 November 2018 — The 37 Cuban migrants traveling in a boat heading north towards the United States were intercepted on Sunday by the Coast Guard Service of that country and repatriated to Cuba. The passengers of the boat, which was located by an air patrol, were 29 men and 8 women, according to a statement from the rescue service.

The Coast Guard patrol boat William Trump intercepted the rafters after they were located and the crew proceeded to embark them onto the ship, where they received food, water and medical attention. One of the migrants was treated for headaches.

“Many times these intercepted vessels are overloaded and unsafe, and the risk is simply not worth the possible reward,” said Lt. James Hodges, of the Coast Guard’s Seventh District, who said he was proud of those who participated in the mission.

The US armed forces’ rescue service notes in the statement that, since the 1st of October, 82 Cuban migrants have tried to enter the United States illegally by sea. During the 2018 fiscal year, which ends on September 30 for the administration of that country, 296 migrants tried to illegally migrate to the United States.

“These statistics represent the total number of interceptions in the Straits of Florida, the Caribbean and Atlantic waters,” the institution explained.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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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.

Independent Media “Open The Doors Of Imagination And Creativity”

Carlos Alejandro Rodríguez graduated in 2015 from the University of Marta Abreu in Santa Clara and went on to work at the newspaper ’Vanguardia.’ (Yariel Valdés González)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Miami, November 11, 2018 — Two years after several young journalists from the newspaper Vanguardia in Villa Clara wrote a letter strongly criticizing the operation of the official media, 14ymedio spoke with one of the signers of that document to discover the motives that led them to write it and the consequences that it had in their professional lives.

Carlos Alejandro Rodríguez Martínez graduated in 2015 from the University of Marta Abreu in Santa Clara and went on to work at the newspaper Vanguardia, the provincial organ of the Cuban Communist Party in the Villa Clara. Now, when he speaks about the letter that changed his life, he makes clear that he does it in a personal capacity and not in the name of the group of writers. continue reading

The recent graduates arrived at the newspaper “with the desire to change everything” but they collided with censorship, which he calls “terrible.” The editorial disorder also affected them and in that environment of hostility they decided to write the letter in which they ennumerated their concerns and criticisms regarding the official news spaces.

In the text they reported, among other subjects, that many media outlet bosses rejected articles on social problems because the ideas expressed in them were not in line with “the interests of the country at the current time,” or because they were “too critical.”

Today Rodríguez believes that the only error was signing the letter in the name of the Foundation Committee of the Union of Young Communists (UJC) of the newspaper and he believes that it would have been better for it to appear signed only with the names of each journalist. “The structures of the UJC, at the municipal and provincial level, harassed us and tried to convince us to sign and publish a mea culpa,” he laments.

The text of the retraction was written but never saw the light of day because it didn’t placate the authorities, since it only regretted that the missive had been leaked. “We wrote that letter not to publish it on the internet, but rather to read it in the framework of the Provincial Plenary Session of the Cuban Journalists’ Union in Villa Clara in 2016,” explains Rodríguez.

The publication of the document had the effect of a fragmentation bomb among the journalistic and literary circles of Villa Clara. Various intellectuals circulated emails asking that the young people not be harassed and standing in solidarity with the proposals, but the official Cuban Journalists’ Union (Upec) considered it an intolerable act of “protest.”

The director of the newspaper ’Vanguardia’ warned the young reporters not to collaborate with independent media. (Capture)

“It was hell,” recalls Rodríguez. Following the letter’s publication in various digital media outlets, representatives of the municipal and provincial UJC reproached them for having violated the procedures of the organization, although they were never able to prove that they were responsible for the leak of the text to the independent media.

In reality the letter had been conceived for the Provincial Plenary Session of Upec and sought to reaffirm, specifically, the right of reporters to continue collaborating with independent media in the style of El Toque and OnCuba. “The director of the newspaper told us that we couldn’t collaborate with them but we responded that the laws don’t prohibit it.”

Rodríguez recognizes that it wasn’t only a question of publishing in spaces with greater editorial liberties. “Working in other outlets also helped us to live because with 345 Cuban pesos a month, around $14, nobody lives.” With the salary he was receiving at the Vanguardia newspaper he didn’t have enough “even to pay for the trip from home to work.”

Now, he recalls the moment during the meeting with Upec when one of the signers of the letter rose, began to read it, and all the others put themselves behind her so that she would not be alone. After that in the hallways the other reporters moved away when they saw them or watched them with looks of fear as if they had done something very dangerous.

The climate of pressures became oppressive and as soon as Rodríguez finished his social service he asked for leave from the Vanguardia newspaper. The majority of the other signers who stayed “were leaving sanctioned for different reasons” and the authorities “used very different pretexts” to get rid of them.

Currently Rodríguez is part of the team of Tremenda Nota, a magazine focused on minorities, where he works as editor and reporter. “The advantage of working in independent media is that it opens the doors of imagination and creativity.” Contrary to when one works at an official newspaper where “the doors are shut and you crash into impassable walls.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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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.

Cuban Customs Confiscates Opposition T-Shirts at Havana Airport

T-shirts against Decree 349 seized by Cuban Customs at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, November 6, 2018 — The campaign against Decree 349, an article in the the proposed new Cuban constitution which includes strict rules on artistic expression in public spaces, has collided with Cuban customs restrictions. Upon her return to the island, artist and activist Yanelys Nuñez reported on social media that customs officials at José Martí International Airport  had confiscated eight T-shirts with anti-decree slogans she was bringing from the United States.

On Sunday Nuñez and a fellow artist, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, returned from a three-day trip to Miami, where they had been participating in an artistic event. The items, which were produced in the United States by Cuban-American designer Coco Fusco and were adorned with an illustration by Alén Lauzán, were seized after customs officials had inspected their baggage. Two of the shirts belonged to Nuñez and the other six to Otero. continue reading

“As soon as they saw ’349,’ they told us it was subversive propaganda,” the activist explained to 14ymedio. She and Otero had travelled to the United States to participate in an event organized by a not-for-profit organization, Creative Time, entitled “On an Island: Defending the Right to Create,” at which they made a presentation critical of Decree 349.

The artist has already said she will file suit in Havana to reclaim the two shirts that were confiscated and is currently receiving legal advice.

Before boarding their flight to Miami, Nuñez and Otero were detained at the airport while their luggage was being searched. Though authorities did not confiscate anything at the time, the delay caused them to miss their flight on American Airlines. Later that afternoon they were able to catch another flight to Miami on the same airline.

The main complaint of those critical of Decree 349 is that, in every case, artists must obtain prior approval from a cultural organization, which they are forced to join, before executing their work. This requirement directly impacts those who create work outside a state-sponsored framework. The result is that the content of their work is subject to regulation.

The campaign against Cuba’s Decree 349 is important to Yanelys Núñez because “the government survives on its image.” Her goal is for more artists and cultural institutions to “speak out against this blatant censorship by the Diaz-Canel government.” She plans to continue exerting significant pressure to achieve its repeal.

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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.

Praying Towards Mecca From Havana

Seeing Cuban Muslims preparing to pray in the street is no longer a strange image for passers-by. (14ymedio)

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14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 3 November 2018 — Readings from the Koran, the Islamic hijab, and prayers while facing towards Mecca are increasingly seen in Cuba, where the Muslim community has been growing in recent years. The initial surprise has given way to curiosity, and passersby stop to ask questions when they see an image like the one in the photo above, where men profess their faith in the middle of a populated street in the Havana neighborhood of La Timba.

Last year, Imam Yahya who is of the Sunni branch and president of the Cuban Islamic League closest to officialdom, estimated that about 5,000 Cubans are converts to Islam. The current mosque in Havana, located on Oficios Street, has become a meeting point for many tourists passing through Havana, as well as African students and diplomats based in the island. continue reading

Prayer centers have also appeared throughout the country and in small cities such as Santa Clara, Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey there are small Muslim communities.

In the next few years one of the largest mosques in Latin America will be completed in the capital city, which will be financed by Saudi Arabia and is expected to accommodate some 10,000 Muslims.

However, “Cubans who have converted to Islam is one thing, and those who live tied to the teachings of Muhammad is quite another,” said Yasser, 52 and a resident in the Cerro municipality, speaking to this newspaper.

“As in other religions that are practiced in Cuba there are many who simulate or are two-faced in this,” laments this Havanan. “In my neighborhood we are one of at least three families of Lebanese origin,” he says, but he complains that many of the Cuban Muslims he knows “go to the mosque in the morning and at night they drink rum and dance reggaeton.”

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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.

From Minint Official To Political Prisoner Incarcerated For “Espionage” / Luis Cino Alvarez

Luis Cino Álvarez, Cubanet, Havana,  5 November 2018 —  The temper tantrum and bunkhouse scene put on recently by Castroism’s anti-diplomats, who grew indignant that the issue of political prisoners in Cuba was brought up at the United Nations, brought to mind a case of which I learned a few days ago via an inmate of Guanajay prison, of a young ex-officer of the Interior Ministry (MININT) who also is confined there, serving a 25-year sentence in terrible conditions.

His name is Jorge Frank Iglesias Fernández. He is 29 years old and was a lieutenant in State Security until February 2015, when he was detained and tried for “espionage.”

Iglesias Fernández refused to commit what he considered to be an injustice, giving warning of the imminent arrest of a Cuban American woman and a North American man who were visiting Cuba and whom State Security were investigating for presumed “counter-revolutionary activities.” continue reading

The authorities also linked to the case the ex-lieutenant’s brother, Víctor Eduardo Iglesias Fernández, 18, and sentenced him to five years in jail – which sentence was later commuted to “limited freedom,” with the added requirement to periodically appear before the enforcement judge.

After being detained for a year at Villa Marista, the head barracks of State Security, where he was subjected to continuous interrogations and enclosed in a cell measuring 3×2 meters, Jorge Frank Iglesias was sent to the maximum security area of Guanajay prison, in Artemisa. They have been holding him there in solitary confinement for almost the last two years. He has no phone privileges. His parents can visit him once a month, for two hours, and always in the presence of a guard.

My source tells me that in Iglesias Fernández’ cell, the guards have not turned off the lights for even one minute since his confinement. This continuous exposure to light has affected his eyesight and he suffers from frequent and intense headaches. When for such reasons they have had to transport him to the prison hospital at Combinado del Este, he has been taken in handcuffs and in the custody of an impressive team of armed guards.

I supposed that in any other country, a crime such as that committed by ex-lieutenant Iglesias Fernández – whom it would be a stretch to classify as a spy, being that he never was recruited by the North Americans – would be punished, as well, but not with such despicable and inhumane viciousness.

Could it be for cases such as this that the regime’s anti-diplomats refuse to speak about political prisoners?

The Cuban government refuses to admit that there are political prisoners in Cuba, and even less, prisoners of conscience. And don’t even mention the conditions of their confinement. The official spokespersons, when they deign to speak of the matter, provide assurances that these prisoners are convicted of crimes referred to in the Cuban criminal code – especially violent criminals, hijackers of planes and ships who had the good fortune to not serve as a lesson by being executed, or various ex-military personnel or intelligence agents convicted of espionage or revealing “state secrets” (which would be the case of  Jorge Iglesias Fernández).

This in a country where a state secret can be how many bushels of plantains were lost in Alquízar, or of tomatoes in Consolación del Sur, because of there being no trucks or fuel to collect the harvest in time.

It would be fitting, so as to evade international pressures, for the governmental cheerleaders to keep in mind the hundreds of peace-loving individuals who, in a country governed by moderately normal and just laws, would not be in prison but in Cuba are locked away, in terrifying conditions, for legal aberrations in the Cuban penal code that are frequently applied against dissidents, such as “contempt,” “disobedience,” and “pre-criminal dangerousness.”

Author contact: luicino2012@gmail.com

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

A Doctrinaire Constitution / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 15 September 2018 — A constitution is not a doctrinaire document, but is rather the result of consensus among differing political, economic and social positions.

Throughout the current project to revise the constitution, the effort has been made — using other language — to introduce the Party’s political, economic and social guidelines, so as to endorse them constitutionally and pull one over the eyes of the Cuban people. A single ideology permeates each article — sometimes at the start, others at the end. It’s like the master pastry chef who deems it necessary to add a drop of lemon to each one of his creations.

The 1940 Constitution, free of ideological adornments and respectful of Cuban history and traditions, when analyzed today — 78 years after its promulgation — continues to dazzle for its responses to the moment in which it was drawn up and its foresight about the immediate future, without imposing straitjackets on succeeding generations. Without a doubt, the delegates to the Constitutional Assembly of 1939 achieved a Constitution for “with all and for the good of all,” as the Apostle would have exhorted.* continue reading

The 1976 Constitution and the current project do not come close to it in depth nor transcendence — but rather remain as simple doctrinaire documents, far from the conviction and needs of the Cuban people — what with both being focused on maintaining one Party’s hold on power, at all costs and with no regard for the country’s development nor its citizens’ wellbeing.

Herein is the reason that, in the current draft document, are found so many restrictive and discriminatory measures in the political, economic and social order — which will only be greater in the new laws that will complement it.

*Translator’s Note: Refers to a phrase spoken by Jose Martí (christened by Cubans as “the Apostle”) in 1891. It has since been invoked by countless orators and writers to convey the spirit of the ideal Republic.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué  Ellison

Uruguay Consulate in Havana is Filled With Cubans Applying for a Work Permit

In the Uruguayan consular offices, the visa interviews for the coming four weeks will be scheduled on first working day of the month. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 November 2018 — Dozens of people approached the Uruguayan consulate in Havana on Tuesday to ask about the visas for work, education, family reunification and emergencies, which the government of that Latin American country has said it will begin to grant to residents on the island. The increase in the number of migrants in Uruguay has led the authorities to reorganize the reception of migrants and has positively affected Cubans.

The information about the new visas is still brief because they will only be valid beginning in 14 days, when the decree that President Tabaré Vázquez signed on October 29 comes into effect. Once the new procedures go into operation, Cubans will be able to complete the visa process from the Island.

In the Uruguayan consular offices, the visa interviews for the coming four weeks will be scheduled on first working day of the month. continue reading

“On December 3, interview appointments will be handed out and we hope that many people will come,” said one of the consulate’s security guards. “Today many have come to ask about it but we are not dealing with anyone who did not get an appointment at the beginning of November and we have no new details about the visas that have been announced.”

Carlos Manuel Ávila, 28, traveled all morning from Cárdenas in Matanzas to “be in front of the consulate at dawn,” he told 14ymedio. “This is an opportunity that I do not want to lose because it is a small, quiet country, where they speak Spanish and one can prosper,” said the young man sitting on a narrow wall next to the house in Miramar where visas are processed.

Waiting on the wall outside the Uruguayan consulate in Havana to obtain a visa. (14ymedio)

Avila has tried twice in vain to reach the US coast on a raft, but a few months ago he decided to “bet on legal migration to a country in Latin America.” His older brother is one of the 5,000 Cubans who have gone to settle in Uruguay.

“First, he thought it would only be for a while, until he could continue to the United States,” says Ávila, but “over time he has taken a liking to Uruguay and does not want to leave.” Now, the brother works as a car mechanic in a workshop in Montevideo and “is raising money to bring his wife and children.”

With the repeal in January 2017 of of the wet foot/dry foot policy that facilitated residence procedures for Cubans arriving on land in the United States, emigration from the island has been reoriented to other countries, such as Chile, Uruguay and Brazil.

The work visa that will begin to be offered at the Havana consulate is only given to those who present a contract with a company duly registered in Uruguay. “That is not a big obstacle because there is already a good community of Cubans there and some have been entered the labor market,” says María Elena, a 44-year-old interior designer who was waiting Tuesday for the forms to obtain a work visa.

“My husband has been there for eight months and is already working as a civil engineer, now the company where he is hired is going to help me get there to work with them,” she says. The couple will leave two children in Havana “waiting for our economic situation to allow reunification.”

The designer is pleased that the new requirement to show a work contract with a Uruguayan company repeals the previous one that required showing a bank account on the island with a deposit of about 5,000 CUC. “Before you had to juggle to get that money but now all the energy has to be used to find a contract.”

Among the dozens of applicants who have arrived at the consulate since the announcement, the majority inquire about an employment contract but there is also no lack of young people interested in pursuing studies in the country.

For Cubans who are already in Uruguay, the situation has also improved since November 1, when they began to be able to deliver proof of arrival at the Chancellery, which they can present to employers to work. Previously, the Ministry of Labor fined companies that hired employees without an identity card.

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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.