Horoscopes, Divorces and Bikinis

Vogue’s iconic new year cover in 1974, photographed by David Bailey, featuring actress Anjelica Huston and the designer Manolo Blahnik. (Pinterest)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Xavier Carbonell, Salamanca, 29 January 2023 — It must be 15 or 16 years since I last flicked through the pages of a celebrity magazine. I remember the sparky covers with their 1990’s celebrities — Liv Tyler, Uma Thurman or Andy García — a bikini on the front page and the headlines were always about the mysterious reappearance of some actor, or a duchess’s secret, or a millionaires lover, or the second to last royal scandal.

These days, all serious and grown up now, I go down to the news kiosk in search of some bread or a literary supplement, and when I see the celeb mags I feel a wave of nostalgia. The covers no longer feature Angelina Jolie but Ana de Armas. Princess Diana has been replaced by Princess Leonor, Cher by Dua Lipa and Tom Cruise by Thimothée Chalamet, which, if we are even half awake, is almost an improvement.

I don’t know how all the mothers, grandmothers, aunties and their friends used to get all these mags through the customs and the censorship of the Island. To run their fingers over the dazzling pages, to admire Brad Pitt’s biceps or catch up with the latest diet to beat hypertension was their way of being transgressive, of staying young and of defying their parents, husbands or grandparents with this rather chaste print-based version of sexuality.

We too, still young boys, hoped that no one saw us cutting out a lingerie advert or a centrefold poster of Kate Moss, Claudia Schiffer or some chick in Karl Lagerfeld’s service. All those exotic names, the perfect face make-up, the long suntanned legs, the supernatural cleavages and the feline eyes, they fixed themselves upon our retinas and, I can guarantee, they will never leave them.

But it didn’t stop there. The models, singers and actresses, the scandals and heartbreaks were only the mere surface of the wider universe that those fifty pages covered. Every celeb mag, as we discovered later — whilst in search of tricks (always useless) for seducing our first girlfriends — was a tiny encyclopaedia. continue reading

Following the contents page and adverts for Coca Cola, Victoria’s Secret and Rolex — yet more names of remote and unachievable things — came the news of celebrities’ love lives. The gossip columns were the perfect polar opposite to the political press, they explained the economic climate better and without numbers and put on record all the drunken women, divorces and rumours that would later be turned into novels, songs and plays.

Once the appetite for gossip had been satisfied then came the diet advice and only after that, the recipes. Cooking tips, new types of blender, the  top ten brands of oven, how to decorate your patio to be a hostess for a ’brunch’ (but what was a ’brunch’?). As diligent as ants, the family set about an impossible project: trying to translate advice from a capitalist world to a ’sackcloth and ashes’ socialist one. A stuffed duck had to be adapted to a chicken as skinny as Cindy Crawford; the house wine passed for a Moët & Chandon; and the rusty wheel of the Singer sewing machine would spin tirelessly to try and achieve the style of a Valentino or a Versace.

When ill-fortune took hold there was no more pressing a remedy than the horoscope or the prophesies of that rather camp Walter Mercado, who appeared to be the product of a union between Elton John and Barbara Streisand. You only had to hear our mothers talking: “I read that this month some expected money would come our way”, “When it’s full moon, don’t get mixed up with other people’s business”, “You will feel vital and full of energy”, “Love will come knocking at your door on Friday, don’t hold back”.

Finally, on a hot Sunday afternoon it was time to open the magazine just before the classified ads, where there were the five, or ten, serialised chapters from the novel by Corín Tellado, the ubiquitous and harmless pornographer, as he was described by Cabrera Infante.

Taurus or Capricorn, alchemy or astrology, pig or rabbit, sunflower or olive oil, bikini or underwear, tracksuit or sarong; life was a constant dilemma of choice between things we had never even seen, and the magazines — the authorised opinion of Queen Elizabeth or of Keanu Reeves — helped us out in our theoretical predicament.

What we didn’t know [as kids] was that this whole microcosm was dependent upon a crude and secretive market. The magazines didn’t arrive home free of charge. They were rented by the day, they were traded for a bunch of bananas or a bottle of tomato pureé, certain titles became collector’s items and they were carefully looked after. Many female friends were ostracised for not returning a copy in time or for having ripped the cover. In an austere and monotonous country, that particular bastard genre of journalism was our only connection with the other world. Any infraction or theft would unleash a war.

Thanks to poor literature, our childhood got to become technicolour — as Nabokov used to say — and not black and white. Because of this, everytime I see the seductive and aggressive magazine covers, calling out like sirens, I wonder whether the termites have yet ground up the copies that I left back at my house.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso

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

In Cuba, Plans are Imposed Upon Cattle Farmers from an Office and That is Why There is Neither Meat nor Milk

Cattle farmers lack the space to increase their herds of cattle. (Vicente Brito/Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, January 30, 2023 — Pedro Rubio Tristá is one of the most successful cattle farmers in Las Tunas, he provides many fattening bulls to the government and exceeds the planned meat and milk production. Furthermore, he says he receives payment in hard currency and sells sweet potato to the government at a good price. However, he committed an unforgivable error of selling five cattle to his cousin and, although the cattle mass did not decrease, that earned him the prohibition of slaughtering any animal in 2022.

“He doesn’t understand and considers it an extremism,” stated an article published in a state-run press outlet which details the problems faced by producers and clearly explains why there is no meat or milk in Cuban markets.

“It has been two years since an official came here. The plans for milk and meat are imposed upon us from an office,” snaps Dilber Leyva, president of a cooperative in Las Tunas which exposes the problems with dairy products and bemoans that leaders develop plans without noticing the peculiarities of the territory and, much less each individual.

Last year one of his producers, he says, had to deliver 500 liters of milk from the 10 cows he owns, but four of them were pregnant, which made it infeasible. “He had to pay a large sum of money for not meeting the plan when, objectively, he was unable to,” he reproached. At the same time, the rate of default on the fines is high because many of them do not have the money, which results in debt for the cooperative which, in turn, cannot pay. A vicious circle.

“The cooperative’s milk debt for fines increased to 215,000 pesos last year because 50 producers did not honor the projections. For three months we were unable to pay farmers because Empresa Láctea [the Dairy Company] withheld the money for the debt,” he continued. And to top it off, the bank (Bandec) doesn’t give them credit either. continue reading

Jorge Velázques is another one let down by the same case as Rubio. Between him and his brother, Blas, they delivered 36 fattening bulls larger than 450 kilos. Their cattle herd increased and they exceeded the production plan. However, it occurred to him to pass three cattle to their brother, within the same farm, and both were penalized with the same measure: prohibition of slaughtering even one cattle.

“With regard to the contract, the prices are unstable, the prices of the businesses that are supposed to help are very high, delayed payments are constant and the prices include taxes on our products because contracts are written according to the norms decided by only one person. That is not a contract,” he protests.

After having interviewed up to 20 farm workers, Periódico26 has not found a single story of satisfaction with the much-lauded 63 measures to stimulate agriculture and livestock.

The nonsense with the land is not minor. Cattle farmer Raúl Escobar owned, via a family inheritance, a large part of the land in his neighborhood, Indaya, on the outskirts of Las Tunas. He decided to give it up, he says, “to benefit the community,” but now he wants more space to increase the cattle herd and they won’t give it to him. “And we’re talking about one of the measures to stimulate cattle farming,” he protests.

Yoel Martínez Vargas, an Agriculture delegate in the province, stated that the root of all the problems is that those who decide do not get close to those who produce, and he calls for speed in providing land. “Still, not infrequently, farmers are after the leaders, when it should be the other way around,” he says.

There are more than 50,000 hectares in the province that are either idle or not fully exploited because they were granted without rigorous study, he states. The official calls for improving conditions for farmers by providing them with proper housing and reassessing their work so they don’t leave.

The article states that each farm worker owns just 13.42 hectares, which only allows for 13 head of large cattle, when there is “more than enough” land to provide him with the 67 hectares needed to for adequate production.

Another nefarious data point for the province — in Las Tunas, more than 1,200 producers fall short of the milk they need to deliver. Although the article adds that “in most cases the reasons are unknown,” the statements made by the farmers, compiled in the report, are very clear.

Martínez Vargas requests that those who understand, in detail, how the new measures function approach each producer and get involved in development.

The delegate took advantage of the document to announce the decentralization of the sector in the province. Empresa Integral Agropecuaria [Integrated Agriculture Company] will disappear and one will be created in each municipality; urban farms will be converted to mipymes (micro, small and medium enterprises) and Puerto Padre will be the first agroindustrial municipality in Cuba’s Eastern Balcony (Las Tunas), shifting to the local government. In his opinion, this should be good so the sector will make its own decisions and manage is eventual profits.

Yoel Martínez Vargas expressed that “the root cause is poor contracting because the production plans are not well-conceived. Right now, more than a few, are increasing their mass and they cannot slaughter them because the contracts are poorly written.”

On several occasions the report refers to the words of Vice Prime Minister Jorge Luis Tapia Fonseca and his calls to “stimulate thinnking and creativity,” which serves as the headline for the article. However, those responsible never take responsibility for their errors and the solutions revert to being little more than good intentions.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

The Spell

With 11J the first step of the spell was taken: the awareness that what is believed to be impossible can become possible. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 28 January 2023 — Václav Havel, the leader of the Velvet Revolution that liberated Czechoslovakia from communism, said that dissidents do not reject armed struggle because it is very radical, but quite the contrary, they reject it because it is not very radical.

The victory of an armed group can change the man who sits in the presidential chair and some ministers for others, it can dictate new laws, even promote a new Constitution (all this has already been done in Cuba), but not the national soul. The strength of a society is not in the mentality of those who govern, nor in the papers where the laws are signed, but in a much deeper sphere, in the degree of consciousness of the governed.

It is said that Cuba’s Constitution of 1940 was not only the most advanced in the history of the country, but also in the entire continent. But even if it had been, what good was it? It was enough that a group of soldiers treacherously seized the main stronghold of the country to throw it down the sewer and govern dictatorially. What good is the most perfect Constitution in the world if it does not take root in the civic conscience of citizens? Its validity was only twelve years, which, for the time of a nation, is equivalent to the duration of a breath. And, of course, that dictatorship lasted much less: barely seven years.

But without this awakening of the collective conscience, the spirit of tyranny reincarnated as a new leader. And since the will of an entire people has great force, and that people erected him, first on a throne, and then on an altar, he not only ruled fiercely as an absolute and perpetual monarch, but, even more, as a god who ruled forever our destiny.  And that people that, years ago, did not have the courage, or even the interest, to take to the streets and massively support the students who on the hill of the university demonstrated all the decorum that that people lacked to protest against that group of military coup plotters, now filled the squares to ask for the firing squad for the opponents of the supposed redeemer. continue reading

It was like a people hypnotized, prey to a spell before the one who, in a messianic pose, insisted that we had been married to the lie, when it was precisely at that moment that they were forcing us to live with it forever. And when they, taking refuge in an ideology in which they did not believe, put all the wealth of the country in a booty bag, many were disenchanted, but it was too late. That enchantment had already taken over most of the people.

To disenchant means to break the spell, which, in this case, is, more precisely, enchantment. And a collective spell was needed to put an end to it. That spell is a dawn in the conscience of each citizen. Only then will the sun of freedom illuminate all the fields and streets of the homeland. And the first rays of that dawn began to manifest that glorious July 11, 2021. Despite its apparent failure – not as resounding as the assault on the Moncada Barracks was – power came to shake, for which the first step of the spell was taken: the awareness that what is believed to be impossible can become possible.

The second step is to divorce that people from lies and marry them to the truth. Waking up those who are still asleep, giving light to those who are still blind, without hurting anyone, without responding to insults with insults, without threats of revenge, adding, never subtracting. When Jesus asked Ananias not to be afraid to go to Saul of Tarsus, the most brutal persecutor of Christians, and to cure his blindness, Ananias healed Saul, who became Saint Paul, the most fruitful preacher of the divine word.

And in this time of chrysalis — the time that the worm lasts inert in the cocoon — in which nothing transcendental in sight happens, all Cubans of good will, both inside and outside, must join forces to, all together, end what began on that date, flooding the national home with a deluge of light.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Jose Marti Versus Totalitarianism

Statue of Martí in the 13 de Marzo park, in Havana, this May 19. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Corzo, Havana, 28 January 2023 — We are 170 years after the birth of José Martí, a citizen par excellence, a man who at the young age of 17 was sentenced to serve six years of forced labor for writing a critical letter to a young man who had enrolled in the volunteer security forces in favor of Spain to combat the Cuban insurgency. Absurd and unfair sentence, like most of those currently handed down by the Castro-Chavista regimes that prevail in Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia.

Martí was a man consistent with his convictions, without considering the risks that could arise from his decisions. He was also a notable intellectual.

Writer, poet, journalist, thinker, but more than any other condition, a lucid patriot, a notable organizer and a man fully identified with democracy, which is why, when he established the Cuban Revolutionary Party in 1892, the most precise commitment was to create the bases for the establishment of a democratic republic in Cuba, “a fair republic” “with all and for the good of all.”

The dedication to his patriotic convictions was absolute. He disembarked in Cuba in a precarious boat and on May 19, 1895, despite having no combat experience, he set out to face an enemy force only to die “facing the sun,” as he had predicted in one of his poems, “I am good and as good, I will die facing the sun.”

Castro’s totalitarianism has committed innumerable crimes, but one of the most horrendous was identifying José Martí with his revolutionary project. Intoxicating the new generations with the false propaganda that the Apostle* was the inspirer of the process that had begun in Cuba in 1959 was a lie that germinated in many people, to the point that there are many who fought totalitarianism thinking that Martí had been the promoter of that shameful regime. continue reading

Whoever studies Martí will easily realize that because of his life’s work he could not promote a dictatorship, let alone a totalitarian regime. The man who said: “Freedom is the right that people have to act freely, think and speak without hypocrisy,” would never have been able to defend a society of double standards like the one established in Cuba by the Castros.

Nor would he support a regime that instituted hatred between labor and capital, about which he wrote: “The worker’s right can never be hatred of capital; it is harmony, conciliation, the common approach of one and the other.”

The Apostle was never a sectarian, divisive man, the essence of the Castro dictatorship. Martí worked intensely for the unity of Cubans and for the respect that every human being deserves, even when he acts miserably. He always rejected hatred, a key instrument of totalitarianism and ideological populism, which he considered a nefarious sentiment. That is why he said: “There is no forgiveness for acts of hate. The dagger that is stuck in the name of freedom is stuck in the chest of freedom.”

The man who made the Necessary War was also capable of affirming that a republic is not governed like a barracks. He was a man of civil law, a republican, never a dictator. Totalitarianism is the extinction of the republic, the end of citizen rights.

Martí’s example must germinate among us. His perseverance, patriotic stubbornness, manifested with particular vehemence after the failure of La Fernandina, show a man who never gave up and who assumed his commitments regardless of what the results were going to be, a conduct that many honor today.    #José Martí is a rich source of knowledge. His vast work should be studied by those who aspire to be politicians because it is a reservoir of wise reflections on problems inherent to public affairs. He was an exceptional man for the fact that he defended his ideals to the last consequences, but he was also exceptional for the richness of his thought and the vastness of his teachings.

José Martí, for Cubans the greatest symbol of freedom, would be very alarmed by the situation that the geographical space he called Our America is currently facing, a crisis that is largely induced by the regime that has tried to plagiarize his teachings.

*Translator’s note: Cubans of all political persuasions refer to José Martí as “the Apostle.”

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

Cubans: Sponsor or Death, We Will Leave!

This Island contains millions of lost souls eager to escape who cannot count on a sponsor. (Coast Guard)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, 30 January 2023 — It was the early morning of January 23 when the raft, with 28 people on board, capsized on the north coast of the province of Matanzas, Cuba. At least five rafters died and another 12 are still missing. The tragedy, which once again puts the families of this Island in mourning, occurred barely two weeks after the start of a new immigration program conceived by the United States to stop the flood of Cubans that has been arriving at its southern border.

“I need a sponsor, whatever the cost,” a neighbor who has plenty of gray hair and lacks resources told me, looking at me without blinking. Trapped in the elevator of this concrete block, the man felt safe enough to launch his request my way: “Someone to get me out of here and I will pay with work, whatever it takes.” In his apartment in a building that was built with a Soviet subsidy in the 1980s, his wife, his two daughters and three grandchildren hope that his efforts will bear fruit as soon as possible.

My neighbor, who until recently was a member of the Communist Party, now wants to find a way to “get his people out as soon as possible.” The possible escape route is the humanitarian parole program that the United States announced at the beginning of this year to benefit migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti. With this measure, Washington intends to welcome 30,000 nationals of these countries every month, and reject those who try to enter its territory illegally.

But the path is not easy. To process the humanitarian permit, the beneficiary must have a “sponsor” in the United States, who has to assume responsibility for their financial situation and show the income that allows them to start the process. Although in recent years Cuban emigration has been very diverse, from different social classes and racial origins, it is evident that white and professional exiles now have better chances of having a parole approved for their relatives on the Island.

If the raft heading toward the Straits of Florida or the crossing through Central America is brutal and potentially deadly, the new permit is based on economic requirements that filter and leave out the poorest, less urban groups and Afro-descendants. This is a road for those who can have someone on that side who can show their face and their wallet. But this Island contains millions of souls in torment who cannot count on a sponsor.

The tension has ended up exploding. Those who continue to assemble the raft to face the sea are those who have no other option. Unlike my neighbor, a retired cameraman from official television, who launches his proposals to everyone who he sees and probably has a relative in Florida who will finance part of his getaway, the rafters of this minute are the ones who do not fit into one category or the other. They don’t want to stay, but no legal and pocket-friendly program allows them to leave.

In the early morning of January 23rd: 28 people with no possibility of being “sponsored,” and with no hope of having a better life in Cuba, throw themselves into the sea. The waves have swallowed the dreams of a good part of those Cubans.

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Editor’s Note: This text was originally published in Deutsche Welle in Spanish.

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

The Tragedy of a Cuban Mother: One Daughter Disappeared in a Shipwreck, the Other in Prison for July 2021 (11J) Protests

On the left, in prison for 11J, Yarelys; in the center, the daughter who disappeared in the shipwreck, Yamily; on the right, the survivor, Yailyn. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 January 2023 — Marta Vázquez Molina, mother of two women who shipwrecked on Tuesday in a precarious boat in the surroundings of Cayo Cruz del Padre, in Matanzas, denounces that the Cuban Border Guards did not continue the search for the disappeared, alleging that they did not have the equipment to work at night. One of her daughters, Yailyn Mesa Vázquez, 27, was rescued, but the other, Yamily Triana Vázquez, 35, is still missing.

Between sobs, Vázquez told 14ymedio that on Monday, January 23, at 8:30 p.m., the boat in which her daughters were traveling left from La Sierrita beach, in Cárdenas. On board were 31 people seeking to reach the United States, a figure that is far from the number reported by the official press which claims there were 28 rafters, of whom 11 have been rescued, 12 remain missing and five have been confirmed dead.

Around noon on Tuesday, the boat with the migrants sank and “all the crew members tried to swim in different directions to save their lives,” Vázquez details. Her two daughters stayed together at sea for a while, but Yamily Triana “couldn’t make it,” laments her mother.

The youngest, Yailyn Mesa, spent around 24 hours adrift until a fishing boat carrying foreign tourists rescued her, dehydrated and with burns on her skin, while Yamily Triana is still missing.

According to the mother’s account, after the shipwreck one of the young rafters swam to a key, from where he saw and signaled to a boat that did not rescue him because “the Cuban state ships are prohibited from helping” any shipwrecked person. “It was only the next morning that the young man was able to swim to shore and notify the Border Guards of what had happened.

Then the search maneuvers began but they were suspended when the sun went down, a few hours that were crucial to find her daughter and other survivors, Vázquez believes. “I want to report that she has not appeared because they did not look for her at night. Those who are appearing are dead. I want to report it, I don’t care what happens to me or what they tell me,” she insists. continue reading

The 11 rescued people were transferred to a polyclinic in the province, where they received medical assistance until State Security agents detained them despite their suffering from burns and dehydration. The rafters were taken to the Santa Marta Police Unit, without communication with their families and without medical care to treat their injuries, says Vázquez.

It was like that until Thursday. “They didn’t tell us anything,” laments the woman. Relatives began to demand to see the detainees. Then, a “high-ranking” State Security agent came out and asked for one from each family to enter. Once inside, the man read a list with the names of the rescued and the missing.

“I got very sick, my blood pressure rose, I fainted. And I asked to see my other daughter and they didn’t bring her, and she yelled for them to bring her so that she would be the one to confirm for me about Yamily, until they finally brought her and she confirmed that yes, it was true,” she recalls bitterly.

Finally, the Police released Yailyn Mesa, the mother of a two-year-old girl, but the other nine people rescued were transferred to an establishment in the city of Matanzas known as “El Técnico” to continue the investigations there. “They don’t care about anything,” adds the mother, reproaching the delicate health situation of the survivors.

“I have hopes that Yamily will appear. She has two children, an 11-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl. I have to draw strength for them,” she stresses.

This tragedy adds to the drama that the Vázquez Molina family has suffered in the last year and a half, after another of their daughters, Yarelys Mesa Vázquez, was imprisoned together with her husband, Osdennys Salinas Martínez, for participating in the massive demonstrations of 11 July 2021, commonly referred to as “11J.”

The matriarch says that the couple was in a protest in front of the Cárdenas government house in which they shouted ‘Freedom!’, when a group ran into a freely convertible currency store (MLC) and broke the windows. “They also went in, they took some food, but they did not break anything,” however they appeared in a video that came into the hands of the Police.

One day after the protests, two trucks of black berets, armed, arrived at their houses to arrest the couple. “As if murderers lived here,” the woman claims. “They took them prisoner, beat them, mistreated them,” she adds. Her daughter was sentenced to seven years, while her partner received eight years in prison.

The Madrid-based organization Prisoners Defenders (PD) came out in defense of the Vázquez Molina family. “The mother has not only suffered from having her daughter unjustly and violently imprisoned,” but also from mistreatment, persecution, verbal abuse, and harassment by the uniformed officers.

“I don’t know how I’m going to do it, besides, with my other daughter in prison I think I’m going to go crazy,” says Vázquez Molina. The mother insists that her imprisoned daughter still knows nothing about this tragedy. “We have only told her that her sister is on a key and that they are still looking for her. I don’t have the courage to tell her the truth.”

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

An Ice Cream Vendor Shot Three Times on July 11, 2021 (11J) Demands Reparations from the Cuban Justice System

Orisis José Puerto Terry went from being a victim, to being accused, and denounced that now he is being harassed by police. (https://twitter.com/justicia11j)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 January 2023 — Osiris José Puerto Terry has a bullet lodged in his back, a prominent scar on his abdomen and another on his right foot, almost all the way to his knee cap. A captain of the specialized police force shot him during the protests on July 11, 2021 at the corner of Santa Emilia and Diez de Octubre. “It is attempted murder,” denounced this ice cream sandwich vendor who that day was only trying to make it home.

Puerto Terry went from being a victim to being accused. A year and a half ago he underscored to Diario de las Américas that he was being followed by military counterintelligence and the Aguilera police unit in Lawton, in the municipality of Diez de Octubre. “On the seventh of every month I must appear at the police station with my wife and sign a document of commitment stating I will not become involved in politics, will not create problems and a series of other things. On dates determined by State Security, I must spend three or four days without leaving my house.”

The official who handled his case in Villa Marista, political police headquarters in Havana, “does not want me to say that they shot me three times while I was defenseless and without resisting at all. Why wouldn’t I say the truth? Saying the truth is not a crime,” he told that same news site. Puerto Terry is tired of his demand for justice and compensation being tossed back and forth and the empty words.

With regard to the case, he recounted that the Prosecutor stated that the two sub-officials injured him “while they were doing their job.” Puerto Terry denies that and reiterated, “That is a lie. A captain of the specialized police force shot me. In the Prosecutor’s response, five months after the fact, they called it causing injuries. I do not agree with that. I do not agree: three shots from a firearm are not injuries, it is an [attempted] murder,” affirms Osiris.

Puerto Terry told Diario de las Américas that on that Sunday the people who were protesting against the government were pushed back by the police and government supporters who were mobilized. “It was heated,” said the 49-year-old man, when around 5 pm, while he was crossing the street, a group of officials arrived “shooting firearms at the population.” continue reading

One of the shots hit a column he was using for protection. “A neighbor opened the door to the building where I sought refuge. When I was going to enter, the police fired a second shot which hit my right foot. I fell on the floor, I could not stand up, and the official fired a third short which hit me in the back,” stated Puerto Terry to that same news site. One of the neighbors came out and shouted, “It is Orisis lying there.”

The link to the YouTube video showing the moment in which this vendor was injured in the leg and when he was shot in the back was shared via Justicia11j’s Twitter account.

After offering him aid, a neighbor nicknamed Coquín put him in a car and took him to Calixto García hospital. When he entered the hospital, he was beaten by the police officers who were at the entrance, “When the doctors and surgeons from group number four who were on staff that day arrived, the officials asked, ’Are you going to save this counterrevolutionary?’.”

Puerto Terry was discharged on August 11th. An official at 100 and Aldabó, the seat of the Technical Investigations Department, took a statement from him and his wife. Despite having drafted a letter where he explained that on the day of the protest he went to sell his ice cream sandwiches and as he was returning home he ran into some neighbors on Pamplona and San Nicolás who offered him some rum.

On that July 11th and the days that followed, arbitrary acts occurred on the part of police against the population. After several accusations by civil society and Cubans on social media, it was evident that Diubis Laurencio Tejeda was murdered by a gunshot fired by police sub lieutenant Yoennis Pelegrín Hernández during the protests the following day, July 12th, in the Havana neighborhood of La Güinera, in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Yelling ‘Freedom’ is an Aggravating Factor for the Tribunal that Convicted Nine Cubans for July 2021 (11J) Protests

The nine demonstrators protested at Esquina de Toyo, the same place where young Elías Rizo waved a Cuban flag on top of an overturned police car. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 28, 2023 — On Thursday, the court of Crimes Against State Security of Havana’s Provincial Tribunal handed down sentences of up to 15 years in prison for another nine 11J [11 July 2021] protesters charged with sedition.

The accused, ranging from 25 to 39 years of age are: Lázaro Yurisan Sarduy, sentenced to 14 years in jail; Lázaro Osmel Salinas (to 15 years); Yoslien Rosa and Yunier Sánchez (both to 11 years); Deyvis Javier Torres, Carlos Pérez Cosme and Reinier Borrell (10 years); and Alcides Peró Candó and Manuel Bermúdez (both received 5 years of correctional labor without internment).

Prosecutor Roeldys Matos Delgado accused the young people of “tumultuously agitating the social order and discipline” in addition to assaulting authorities and contributing to “undermining the socialist system.” He admitted that the protesters were “thousands of people,” in contrast to the official versions the state-run press tried to impose.

Matos stated that the “mob” advanced from the areas surrounding the theater in the Havana neighborhood of Mantilla, through Diez de Octubre, a main road, shouting “offensive phrases” against Miguel Díaz-Canel and the police. The Prosecutor also accused the protesters of using “rocks, sticks and various objects” against the agents at the “popular” Esquina de Toyo, on Diez de Octubre.

Esquina de Toyo was one of the most significant scenes on 11J. One of the young protesters climbed atop of an overturned patrol car and waved a Cuban flag, an image that became one of the most iconic of the protest. The “young man with the flag,” whose name was Elías Rizo, managed to leave Cuba following the protests and, after a long journey, settle in Madrid. continue reading

The accused, according to Matos, “climbed on top” of police patrol cars and managed to overturn them as a “show of contempt.” The crowd’s retreat occurred in the area of Vía Blanca, where police repressed protesters more harshly. After presenting their version of the events, the prosecution sought up to 27 years in jail for the young people.

The defense denied all the Prosecutor’s accusations and, in the case of Borrell, presented that he wasn’t even with the protesters, but rather riding his motorbike to the Esquina de Toyo “out of curiosity.” Other attorneys presented similar arguments about the lack of “direct” participation of the accused in the events of 11J. The defense team for Sarduy, who has had AIDS since 2019, reasoned that there was not enough evidence to prosecute him.

The Prosecutor’s response, as stated in the sentencing document, was to insist in the accusations and accept the events as “proven.” Furthermore, he alleged that the young people shouted, “Freedom!” at the top of their lungs and sang the chorus of Patria y Vida, a song “inspired in sentiments contrary to the state’s socialist system,” the agents had also heard them say, on more than one occasion, “Díaz-Canel, you are a motherfucker.”

Matos stated that if the police officers had drawn their weapons it was to shoot, as in the case of Yovani Viera, 14 shots into the air to “protect his colleagues.” Furthermore, he made a special effort to denigrate all the accused, attributing to them, “a violent nature,” “vulgar vocabulary,” “scarce relationships with their neighbors” and a propensity for “scandal.”

The tribunal, which was presided by Nelson Delgado and included Irela Heredia, Carlos Hurtado Castillo, Mercedes Ramos and Juan Sosa, assessed the events, the testimony of the witnesses — most of them police officers and public officials — and the videos used by the experts to identify the protesters, and sided with the Prosecution.

On January 23rd, we learned of another sentence from the same tribunal against 15 protesters whose total sentence equaled 75 years. Among the accused was Jonathan Torres, who at the time of the events was only 17 years old. The arguments made by the Prosecutor were similar and were well received by the tribunal.

The following day, in East Havana, another 10 people were tried, among those was instructor Pedro Albert Sánchez, charged with public disorder, assault, resisting arrest and contempt. The sentences were up to eight years in prison.

The 11J trials, which since the beginning have been used to set examples, were discussed by Minister of Justice, Óscar Silvera, in a meeting with ambassadors from the European Union last week. During that meeting, Silvera signaled to the diplomats that offering amnesty to the protesters was an impossibility.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 Rum Exports Fall Due to the Bad Sugar Harvest and the ‘Lack of Containers’ in Matanzas

“As in previous years, failure to comply with the sugar harvest put the province’s export route uphill,” said a Cuba Ron official. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 January 2023 — Companies in Matanzas, Cuba, fell far short of their export goals in 2022, some as much as 85% short of the plan. The directors of the province attributed the failure to productive stagnation, the lack of supplies and the absence of “strengths” in the industrial sector, as they explained this Friday to the official Girón newspaper.

In a desperate turn at the end of the year, 25 companies from Matanzas accelerated production in 130 items to achieve projected profits: 41 million dollars. Despite this “readjustment,” as the newspaper defines it, only 36 million in profits was achieved, of which “a good part” was due to “over-compliance” by some of the companies. The percentages “are far from efficient,” lamented the managers.

The delays have to do, mainly, with the lack of raw materials, the lack of technology, insufficient management of the markets and a “weak use of the strengths and opportunities of the companies,” according to Aliuska López Reyes, head of the Department of Foreign Trade, Foreign Investment and International Cooperation in Matanzas, and José Joaquín Pérez Ortiz, an expert in foreign trade.

The officials detailed the meager results of the companies. The most alarming figures correspond to two state companies: Pescamat, which met only 15% of the plan; and Fibras Naturales, with 29%. Cuba Rum, for its part, also failed –although the percentage was not revealed – due to the difficulties of the harvest and “the lack of packaging.” Pérez Ortiz commented, “As in previous years, a failure to meet the plan targets of the sugar harvest made the province’s export plan an uphill battle.” continue reading

The lack of raw materials affected the ability to export the clothing of Unymoda and Lamas, two companies of the Gardis retail products group. The group announced in February 2021 that Unymoda would start making disposable, hygienic and surgical masks with a plant located at the Camilo Cienfuegos campus of the University of Matanzas.

In October 2022 it was revealed that the first mask had not yet been marketed. For its part, Lamas deals with aluminum carpentry, with product lines for the international market.

Also behind was the Victoria de Girón company, founded in 1967 by Fidel Castro, focused on exports of citrus, concentrates and oils, as well as charcoal and products manufactured by other institutions. “They had a concentrated juice plan for 2022, which they were unable to complete due to difficulties with technology and not having the necessary production levels,” Pérez Ortiz explained.

The spokesperson assured that, according to internal analysis, the company has the possibility of obtaining raw material from independent producers, but the lack of machinery “represents a conflict.” At the moment, he affirmed, “their means do not allow the product to come out with the required quality standards.”

In its best years, Victoria de Girón was the province’s export leader in 20 productive sectors, but currently it only provides charcoal from the invasive marabou weed, along with citrus and chili peppers.

According to official data, charcoal was one of the main products in the island’s export basket in 2021, with sales that amounted to 6,000 tons that year and generated revenues of more than 2.07 million dollars. Today, the leading company in the export of this material is Agroindustrial Ceballos, in Ciego de Ávila. The Various Productions Company (Provari) is also dedicated to this business, for which it initially used inmates as free labor, as this newspaper documented.

For her part, the head of the Department of Foreign Trade considered that the production deficit is due to the fact that “enough is not demanded” in the payment chain, so businessmen “do not know the importance of these issues” and have no support through legal contracts.

“It has been proven that there is a market for everything that is produced, it is enough to explore the demands to understand that it is possible,” added the official, who also opined that many of the obstacles to exports fall on “subjective cases” because “we have examples that have managed to overcome these barriers and today exhibit good results.”

Among these success stories is the Jovellanos Beekeeping Company, with an “over-compliance” of up to 241% of its sales plan in products such as wax, pollen and royal jelly.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

‘Denigrating the Masculinity’ of Cuban President Diaz-Canel is a New Crime to Imprison 10 Cubans for 2021 ’11J’ Protests

A long section of the sentencing document is dedicated to justifying how the defendants contributed to destabilize the “achievements of the Revolution and citizen tranquility.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 January 2023 — On Tuesday, the Municipal Court of Habana del Este signed sentences of up to eight years of imprisonment for ten demonstrators from the protests of July 11, 2021, commonly referred to as ’11J’. To the defendants, among whom was Professor Pedro Albert Sánchez, the Prosecutor’s Office attributed the crimes of public disorder, attack, resistance and contempt.

Although in most cases the defense lawyers requested the acquittal of the defendants, the Prosecutor’s Office insisted that all the facts had been proven by the competent authorities and prepared a version that appears in the court ruling, to which 14ymedio had access.

On 11J, at two in the afternoon, the minutes refer, the defendants “felt motivated by the various calls promulgated on social networks” and challenged the “social isolation measures” during the coronavirus pandemic, with the “evident purpose” of provoking a public disturbance from the Havana municipalities of Regla to Guanabacoa.

Without skimping on adjectives, the Prosecutor’s Office states that the defendants used the “discomfort caused in the people by shortages of food products and medicines” to “alarm the residents, passers-by, and business managers.” In the midst of the tumult, it affirms, the defendant Marlon Paz Bravo – sentenced to six years in prison for attack and public disorder – came into contact with a police patrol in the vicinity of La Cotorra park. continue reading

There, they point out, Paz Bravo and other unidentified people stoned the police vehicle and caused damage: a stone hit the windshield and made a dent in the right door, for which the Court will force him to pay 295 pesos. Hiding behind the bodywork, the agents — the sentencing documents states with regret — failed to “establish order.”

Cubans and Foreigners Linked to the Regime Take Over State Companies Without Competition

Sylvain de Zanja and Belascoaín, in Centro Habana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez/Olea Gallardo, Havana, 26 January 2023 — A tetrapak of fried tomato sauce weighing 8 ounces for 630 pesos, some even smaller containers of mayonnaise at 280 pesos, and packet of cookies for 380 pesos, a 3.5 ounce bag of chips for 150 pesos… All imported and at reasonable prices unattainable for the average Cuba, is the new product line at the Sylvain establishments, which used to sell sweets and bread. And on some vague day at the end of the year they went from being state-owned to ending up in private hands.

Or at least, in part. The store on Zanja and Belascoaín, in Centro Habana, located on the ground floor of the famous building known as Super Cake – for the pastry shop it housed before 1959 – is divided into two, according to an employee speaking to 14ymedio: one state-owned and the other private.

In the first, the only thing for sale is garlic paste and the occasional spice for seasoning, but it is closed. “It’s empty because we don’t have materials or products to work with,” explained the worker, who, like other women, is working in the private area “to guarantee us a job while supplies arrive on the other side.”

On the private side, “there is everything,” as the neighbors marvel, “but we cannot afford it.” Not even the powdered milk: at 1,800 pesos for 2.2 pounds.

The Sylvain store on San Rafael Boulevard, in the same Havana municipality, has also been “privatized,” offering imported and expensive products similar to those at Super Cake, and the the store at San Lázaro and Hospital, which sold food before, now offers office supplies, as does as the Belascoaín branch between Monte and Campanario.

The case of the Sylvain chain is not unique, and it is part of a list that has been growing for months: that of state establishments that become rented by individuals overnight, without any kind of notice. continue reading

The same thing happened in the so-called Mercadito Ideal at 23rd and C, in El Vedado, whose outdoor area is occupied by a private stall where the items are, according to the visitors, “for the elements.” Namely: umbrellas at 2,300 pesos, soda bottles at 350 pesos or shopping bags at 850.

The Sylvain de San Lázaro y Hospital branch now offers office supplies, as does the Belascoaín branch between Monte and Campanario. (14ymedio)

Another example is the Coppelita ice cream parlor within the Hola, Ola complex, reopened last July, which a few months later accumulated several complaints on=line about the high prices of ice cream – 170 pesos for two scoops – the turbidity of having “reemployed” state workers and the scarcity of products to sell.

“How do they give that place, in a privileged area, just fixed up, to people who have nothing, who offer nothing?” some onlookers wondered at the time.

But if there is a place that has passed to a private owner and offers a service with stratospheric costs, it is the Palacio de los Matrimonios [Wedding Palace] in El Vedado. Nestled at 25th and N, in an old mansion from the early 20th century that fell into disrepair little by little, a couple could get married at the cost of just a 5-peso stamp.

Now, and after a slight remodeling that, according to the neighbors, was carried out by a foreigner to whom they “gave” the business, the place is called ModaHabana Novias, and sold as “Havana’s Italian atelier.” It offers the following, according to information sent to its clients: “We are dedicated to the rental of wedding dresses and men’s suits, the organization and coordination of the entire wedding, venue management, we also offer micro-wedding services in private residences, photography and photoshooting around the city, makeup and hairdressing, catering services, buffets, wedding cakes, management of alliances in jewelry stores, among other options.”

Mercado Ideal at 23rd and C, another of the state premises leased to private hands. (14ymedio)

The firm’s offers range from an “economic line,” which consists of a wedding dress between 8,000 and 10,000 pesos and the “maid of honor” dress included, to a “luxury” line: a wedding dress for 70,000 CUP and, “free”, an “Italian” suit for the groom, from the Carlo Pignatelli brand, the tornadoda (reception) dress, those for the bridesmaids and the ladies and gentlemen, make-up and hairstyle service at home, the bouquet with imported flowers and a garter belt.

In addition, the company offers a hairdressing service for 4,000 pesos and a bouquet with five imported roses for 5,000 pesos, prices that are equivalent to the monthly salary of a state worker.

“They are privatizing the country little by little and silently,” lamented a client who left the place in terror after asking about prices. “What worries me is that they are the ones keeping things for themselves. Nothing is said in the state media or on television.”

Last week’s meeting between Miguel Díaz-Canel and the Kremlin adviser Boris Titov confirms this trend that has been seen on the street for months. The meeting showed not only that Cuba wants to take its relationship with Russia to “a higher moment,” as the island’s president declared, but this consists of letting Moscow guide in a future opening.

Coppelita ice cream parlor, inside the Hola, Ola recreation center, in Havana. (14ymedio)

As revealed by the Russian media – in no case by the Cuban officials – both parties agreed to create a center to transform the Cuban economy “from private companies.” This means, for voices in exile such as the Cuba Siglo XXI [21st Century Cuba] think tank, the imminent transition from a “model with a nationalized economy” to the “Russian market mafia scheme,” in which the old Soviet oligarchic elite took control of numerous companies.

In reality, there are rules on the Island that regulate the bidding for the rental of state premises by individuals, but the truth is that the official press, always given to propagating any trifle that suits the regime, has not publicized this.

The Official Gazette of April 21, 2022 specifically establishes the procedure in detail. Among its articles, there is the one that indicates which principles should govern the tender: transparency (“the knowledge of the actions and decisions of the tender that the participants have for an effective social and popular control”), equality (“that the participants have equal rights and opportunities”), publicity (“that the different actions and decisions of the bidding procedure are public”), concurrence (“all those who meet the general conditions that are established have the right to participate in the bidding”), competition (” the possibility is guaranteed to all potential bidders to participate in the process, without being able to introduce limitations that have no technical, legal or economic basis”) and “reasonable efficiency” (“that the selection is most convenient for the public interest”).

The process, in any case, requires the “existence of establishments that it is decided to lease, working or closed” and that “the Council of the Municipal Administration or the Governor, as appropriate, make the call for the start of the bidding process for the lease of the establishment,” according to an official website in May. Everything can take a minimum of 15 business days.

Curiously, the day after the publication of that Gazette, and to date, no public tender or the name of its owner has been known, Fress reopened in the Plaza de Carlos III as a restaurant and store in Cuban pesos.

Three days after the publication in this newspaper of that news and of numerous complaints on-line due to the high prices of the premises, the establishment was closed “due to technical problems,” and the company’s premises in Playa, a restaurant with home delivery, also suspended activities.

Wedding Palace, in the Havana neighborhood of El Vedado. (14ymedio)

“They held an emergency meeting here in Carlos III because of the criticism on social networks, and starting tomorrow they can only sell processed food,” some workers explained to 14ymedio, which collected the testimony of several customers during those days.

The general opinion was summed up in the following: “I have nothing against the privates, but the problem is not that it is private, but that it was impudent. Why some yes and others not?”

The questions remain unanswered. Last August, the newspaper Sierra Maestra published a list of state premises that were going up for tender in Santiago de Cuba, the results of which is unknown. Some of them were Soditos, the state-owned cafeterias spread over various neighborhoods that sold everything from ice cream to condoms, including bread, tea, juices and soft drinks, with great success among the population.

Just a few weeks ago, the Habana Radio website reported the tender for three other properties by Gestión del Patrimonio: Obispo 328, O’Reilly 107 and Obrapía 107. All of them are historic buildings located in Old Havana.

The call for the first, however, expired on November 24, 2022. The second expires on February 5 and corresponds to the establishment where the Sargadelos store was located, a Spanish firm from Galicia that disassociated itself from that project on the Island about five years ago. Finally, the term of the third call ends on February 8.

To find out all these details – property, conditions, dates – it is necessary to opt for the tender, and to follow the intricacies of several clicks, something far from the “transparency” and “publicity” that the law establishes.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Western Union Expands its Offices to Send Remittances from Florida to Cuba to More Than 340 Sites

Western Union office in Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Havana, 27 January 2023 — The financial company Western Union decided to expand its service for sending remittances to Cuba to 343 offices in Florida through the pilot program that it has been implementing since the beginning of this month and which had started in a few branches.

Among the establishments that were incorporated into sending remittances are supermarkets, pharmacies, small markets, cafeterias, telephone stores and travel agencies, in a geographical area that goes from Daytona Beach to Key West and encompasses 65 municipalities in Florida.

The expansion of the service was activated last week, a Western Union spokesperson told CiberCuba, and also specified that his company is also considering resuming money transfers from other countries to the island in “the near future.”

Western Union also reported that they are working with the Government of Cuba to expand “the number of financial institutions” that will engage in the delivery of money to the recipients on the Island, although for the moment the shipment of up to 2,000 dollars is maintained in a single transaction, and applied to debit cards or accounts at Banco Popular de Ahorro, Banco Metropolitano and Banco de Crédito y Comercio (Bandec). continue reading

At the beginning of this year, when the resumption of operations to the Island was announced, the president of Western Union’s North America division, Gabriella Fitzgerald, announced “with great pleasure” that they were working on “a phase of an initial test.”

“The close connection between our US clients and their families living in Cuba, along with the role our services play in helping create better lives, are inextricably linked,” Fitzgerald said.

It then became known that the funds sent to Cuba may be available the same day if they are issued before noon and will be deposited in freely convertible currency (MLC).

Western Union suspended remittances to Cuba – the country’s second source of income, behind the sale of medical services and ahead of tourism – in November 2020, after the government of then-President Donald Trump sanctioned Fincimex and AIS, two remittance processing entities, for their ties to Gaesa, the conglomerate of companies run by the Cuban military.

A month earlier, the United States Government had formally prohibited remittances to Cuba sent through companies controlled by the Armed Forces. According to the available data, 51.3% of the companies that offered financial services in Cuba at the time had contracts with Fincimex.

The US-Cuba Economic and Trade Council, led by John Kavulich, told EFE that, instead of Fincimex, Western Union now operates with Orbit, a state company that sends funds to Banco Popular de Ahorro, Banco Metropolitano and the Banco de Crédito y Comercio, also controlled by the State.

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

Cuba: Suchel Went Too Far with Alcohol and Did Not Put Fragrance in its Colognes

It is not strange to find in the informal market, or in advertisements for ’online’ sales sites, the same essences that the colonies of La Filosofía lack. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 28 January 2023 — No customer dared to pay this weekend the more than three MLC (freely convertible currency) that a bottle of Suchel cologne costs at the La Filosofía store in Centro Habana. “They got out of hand with the alcohol,” warned one of the sales clerks as she discouraged shoppers from taking a “fragrance-free” product.

“You have to take care of your customers’ pockets,” she explained, in a display of good faith, but later, with less honesty, she qualified: “I have to avoid the paperwork for the return.” According to the worker, the Suchel company had sent the entire batch damaged. “Most likely, the same thing is happening in other stores,” she assumed.

The employee invited customers to check the problem themselves. She would offer them the bottle, she would uncover it and then, satisfied, she would ask: “Tell me if they are not just alcohol?” A girl raised the vial to her nose and nodded.

“Whoever wants to take them is at their own risk,” insisted the worker. “I am alerting you now. Later I am not going to return the money to anyone.” Nor does Suchel, she clarifies, accept the return of the product. “They will stay there forever,” she said, with the recommendation to ask, in other establishments, if the colognes had been affected by the same situation. continue reading

“I don’t like to sell things that don’t work,” she said, but she is aware that other stores do not have the same sales “policy” and do not want a discussion with Suchel representatives. According to the clerk, the company always wants everything to be sold, even if the product is deficient.

The company, associated with the Dutch giant Unilever, has had a long-standing reputation for failing to meet quality standards. Adulteration, theft, corruption, delays and substitution of compounds are some of the factors that characterize its operation.

It is not strange to find in the informal market, or in advertisements of online sales sites, the same essences that La Filosofía lacks. The same thing happens with the components of the detergent manufactured by the company, the shavings with which the soap is made and flavorings in which the fragrances taken from the Suchel warehouses are dissolved.

Given the mistrust generated by these products, Cubans usually look for imported perfumes, shampoos, hygiene products and cosmetics. Even if they are of the worst quality or from a brand they do not know, the purchase will not have the same risk as trusting Suchel.

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

‘The Parole Has Been My Life’s Salvation,’ says ‘La Diosa’ On Arrival in Miami from Cuba

‘La Diosa’ made statements to various media outlets after her arrival at Miami International Airport. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 January 2023 — Excited and surrounded by microphones, the Cuban singer Dianelys Alfonso, La Diosa, made her first statements after arriving from Cuba, this Friday, in the city of Miami. “The ’parole’ [program] has been the salvation of my life,” said the artist, who managed to leave the Island with her family under the new immigration program that came into force on January 6.

“Everyone knows that I am one of the artists who has suffered the most in Cuba,” stressed the singer, who traveled with her husband and youngest daughter. Between sobs, La Diosa explained that due to the censorship of her they had “destroyed” her artistic career, since in recent years the Cuban regime did not allow her to perform on national stages. “I’m in a country where I hope to succeed,” she remarked.

The frequent criticism of the Cuban system and the repression that Alfonso unleashed through social networks made her the target of official smear campaigns, threats and a boycott to prevent her from being invited by other Cuban musicians to share the stage.

In 2019, La Diosa started the #MeToo movement in Cuba after making public her personal story with the musician José Luis Cortés, El Tosco, from whom she suffered harassment and sexist violence. continue reading

It all started when the singer told a program in Miami that she had been beaten and raped by the artist when she was a singer in the group NG La Banda. A week later, she denounced threats from El Tosco in reaction to her words. This generated a wave of solidarity and up to 300 people signed a document supporting Alfonso.

Journalists, feminists, lawyers, actresses, university students, writers, psychologists, researchers and activists signed that letter, as well as men such as the writer Antón Arrufat, National Literature Award winner. “Those people who have raised the phrase #YoSíTeCreoDiosa have helped me get ahead after that day,” the artist then declared to 14ymedio in gratitude.

At the beginning of this year, the United States extended the humanitarian ’parole’ program — which initially benefited the citizens of Venezuela — and included Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti. With this measure, Washington intends to welcome 30,000 migrants from those countries every month, while rejecting those who try to enter its territory illegally.

To process the humanitarian parole, the beneficiary must have a “sponsor” in the United States, who must take responsibility for their financial situation.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Santiago de Cuba Province Registered 25 Cases of Leprosy in 2022

The official downplayed the incidence of the leprosy cases for “a population as large” as that of the province of Santiago de Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 January 2023 — The Public Health authorities diagnosed 25 cases of leprosy in Santiago de Cuba in 2022, according to Yamila Valiente Hernández, the head of the provincial Dermatology group, speaking to the official newspaper Sierra Maestra

 Speaking in the framework of the World Day to Fight Leprosy, celebrated on the last Sunday of each January, the official downplayed the incidence of these cases for “a population as large” as that of the province. The number “is not important,” Valiente Hernández said, although she acknowledged that the presence of lepers in Santiago de Cuba is “shocking” due to the “rejection” they generate in others.

Despite advances in treatment, the doctor pointed out, leprosy “continues to cause a lot of rejection by the population towards people who suffer from it, even from their own families.”

Valiente Hernández assured that positive patients are compulsorily subjected, as complementary therapy, to psychological care. The World Health Organization (WHO) subsidizes, in theory, medicines for leprosy patients around the world, among which are antibiotics such as rifampicin, clofazimine and dapsone.

The most up-to-date data on leprosy cases in Cuba dates from January 2022, when the Ministry of Public Health reported 81 patients had been detected throughout the country in 2021, a figure, the institution assured, which represented a decrease of 29.5% in relation to the previous year. continue reading

This disease is caused by the bacterium mycobacterium leprae and is transmitted through the respiratory tract or by direct contact. The risk factors that are associated with this disease are malnutrition, overcrowding, lack of hygiene and the immunological susceptibility of the infected person.

The doctor explained that an infected person can take from six months to five years to show the first symptoms, such as headache, cramps or paresthesias (burning sensation on the skin). Spots lighter than the patient’s skin colorare also a sign of the disease.

The specialist explained that there are four manifestations of the disease, each with different signs and symptoms. One is the initiator, which is when the person has spots with poorly defined borders and low sensitivity. At this stage, she added, a patient can be stuck with a needle and feel little or no pain compared to healthy skin.

Then there is tuberculoid leprosy, which also manifests with spots, but with borders delimited by the presence of papules or grains. In this case, the patients also have no sensation in the contaminated skin areas, due to sensory disturbances in the peripheral nerves.

Lepromatous leprosy is the most severe form of the disease and differs from the first two in that it presents various lesions throughout the body. In addition, there is some insensitivity in the lesions of the palm of the hands or feet, the eyebrows and eyelashes fall out, and “involvements at the level of the viscera with a moderate increase in the size of the spleen, liver or testicle” appear, the doctor explained.

Finally, the fourth form is multi-bacillary, which occurs when the lesions simulate hives, with a clear center and a double pink border. As in the other stages, it is accompanied by sensitivity disorders, alopecia of the eyebrows and eyelashes, and edema in the feet.

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