Are Bikes Coming Back to Cuba With the Economic Crisis? / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez

As problems with public transport and private taxis increase, bicycles are gradually returning to Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 23 February 2017 — When you look at the photos of the most difficult years of Cuba’s “Special Period,” there are several details that can be observed: how skinny Cubans were, the deterioration of their clothing, and the number of bicycles that filled the streets. Just like the dial phone evokes the first half of the twentieth century, these pedal-powered vehicles remind many Cubans of the most difficult times of their lives.

Despite the benefits to health and the environment, most of those born in the last half century on this island see bicycles as a means of transportation for times of crisis. It is no coincidence that the decline in the use of these vehicles began with the opening to tourism in the 1990s, and with the distribution of licenses for the operation of a private sector.

Thousands of bike-focused parking lots, tire-patchers and bike-repairers saw their clientele gradually diminish until they had to close. In Havana very few of these places are left, though they once sprinkled the landscape of the city. Also disappearing, along with them, is the massive imports of parts from China to be assembled into bikes in Cuba.

However, with the economic difficulties of recent months, led by the drop in oil shipments from Venezuela, some are making haste to reassume the custom of pedaling. Late, missing and overcrowded buses, along with the fallout from state-imposed price controls on private taxis – which has even resulted in drivers going on strike – has led a resurgence of problems in getting from place to place.

Resigned, some are dusting off their bikes and launching themselves into the streets under their own power, on two wheels.

Oswaldo Payá Award Ceremony Is Absent The Winners / 14ymedio, EFE

The empty chair with the Oswaldo Payá “Freedom and Life” Prize that the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro could not collect. (Networks)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 22 February 2017 — The presentation of the Oswaldo Payá “Freedom and Life” Prize has led to a diplomatic conflict, after the Cuban government vetoed the entry into the country of three of the guests: OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, and Mariana Aylwin.

Almagro, Calderón and Chilean delegate Mariana Aylwin were unable to travel to the Caribbean country on Tuesday to participate in the event called by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, chaired by Rosa Maria Payá, daughter of the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, which the Cuban government Cuban has labeled a “provocation.” continue reading

Around Payá’s house, in the Havana municipality of Cerro, a police operation deployed in the early hours of the day prevented activists from reaching the home. From Manila Park, near the house, State Security agents dressed in civilian clothes demanded documentation from any dissident or independent journalists who approached.

Payá told this newspaper that her phone had been “out of service” in the afternoon although “in the morning it worked.” The ceremony was attended by seven activists who had spent the night in the house “plus another 20 people who where able to reach it,” said the dissident. Among them was the head of the political-economic section of the US Embassy in Cuba, Dana Brown, as well as diplomatic representatives from Sweden and the Czech Republic.

Payá told this newspaper that her phone had been “out of service” in the afternoon although “in the morning it worked”

Payá said that the award ceremony had been surrounded by a lot of repression on the part of the regime, Cuban State Security and the Foreign Ministry.” She condemned the reprisals “suffered by civil society members who wanted to participate in the ceremony, resulting in many of them being arrested and others prevented from leaving their homes.”

All of the leaders of the opposition groups on the island “were invited,” Payá told this newspaper. “There are some with whom we have lost communication over the last few days because of everything that is happening, and others who are not in the country and others who couldn’t get here.”

“We hope that this aggression, this rudeness, will find a response and a reaction in all the governments belonging to the Organization of American States (OAS), in all the governments of our region and also in the European Union,” said Rosa María Payá.

Luis Almargo tweeted: Our interest: To facilitate #Cuba’s approach to Interamerican values/principles and to expand the country’s achievements in science, health and education.

The Chilean and Mexican Chancelleries regretted the decision of Cuba, and Chile announced that it will call its ambassador on the island for consultations.

Meanwhile, the only official response from Cuba has come from the Cuban embassy in Chile, which issued a communication referring to the matter as “a grave international provocation against the Cuban government,” with the aim of “generating internal instability” and affecting Cuba’s diplomatic relations with other countries.

According to this note, the act was created “by an illegal anti-Cuban group that acts against constitutional order and that arouses the repudiation of the people, with the collusion and financing of politicians and foreign institutions.”

The only official response from Cuba has come from its embassy in Chile, which issued a communication referring to the matter as “a grave international provocation against the Cuban government”

The ceremony finally took place without the presence of the international guests. “The chairs will remain empty” until the awardees “can land in Havana” to pick them up in person, assured Rosa María Payá. Other Cuban guests were prevented from leaving their homes or arrested on the road.

Independent journalists Henry Constantin Ferreiro and Sol García Basulto were detained in the airport of Camagüey at the moment that they tried to board a flight towards the capital.

Constantín Ferreiro is vice-president of the Inter-American Press Association for Cuba and remains in custody without his parents being able to see him or provide him with personal hygiene supplies, according to his father.

Havana’s decision not to authorize the arrival of the head of the OAS was known after a night of uncertainty in which it was not clear whether Almagro had traveled to the Cuban capital, where he initially planned to fly from Paris, where he had participated in institutional activities yesterday. Rosa María Paya today called on the OAS to support the right of the Cuban people to decide on their destiny.

“To the point that Cuba is democratizing, all democracies in Latin America will also gain stability,” said the opposition leader, who hoped that “today is the beginning of an OAS commitment to the cause of rights and freedom in Cuba.”

She pointed out that they do not expect the OAS to “speak out against anyone,” but instead to put itself “on the side of all Cuban citizens in their right to begin a transition process.”

Felipe Calderón: “I Ask The Cuban Government To Rectify This Absurdity” / 14ymedio

Felipe Calderón was described as an “inadmissible traveler” in Cuba this Tuesday. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 February 2017 — Just five years ago, Mexican President Felipe Calderón was greeted warmly in Havana during an official visit. However, this week the now former president was denied entry to the island to participate in the Oswaldo Payá “Freedom and Life” awards to be held this Wednesday.

“I deeply regret not being able to be with them at this tribute” to the deceased opponent, the politician conservative National Action Party (PAN). “The Cuban immigration authorities asked Aeromexico” not to seat me on the flight, telling them I was an “inadmissible passenger” on Tuesday.

Before the trip, the former president alerted the Mexican Foreign Ministry of his intention, because he did not want to “arrive as if he were a tourist”

Prior to the trip, the former president alerted the Mexican Foreign Ministry of his intention, because he did not want to “arrive as if he were a tourist.” He reported on his departure to Cuba’s ambassador to Mexico, Pedro Núñez, and his country’s representative in Havana, Enrique Martínez. continue reading

This is the first time that the Plaza of the Revolution has prevented a former Mexican president from entering the country, an event that has raised a diplomatic dust storm, including a tweet from the Mexican Foreign Ministry in which he “regrets the decision of the Government of Cuba not to authorize the visit to Havana of former President Felipe Calderón.”

Calderón recalls that he supported “Oswaldo Payá many years ago without having met him, by spreading the Varela Project and collecting signatures in Mexico for him.” In those years he saw “with great sadness how the Cubans involved in the project were persecuted.”

The politician evokes with special aggravation the Black Spring of 2003 and his indignation to learn that 75 dissidents had been arrested and sentenced to long prison terms under the so-called Gag Law.

In one of his previous visits to the island, Calderón asked President Raúl Castro to let him speak with Oswaldo Payá, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL). However, “the Cuban government always resisted,” he recalls. He believes that the “diplomatic complications obstructed” this longed-for encounter.

“I ask the Cuban government to rectify this absurdity,” said the former president, who maintains his idea of ​​meeting “with Oswaldo’s family” whom he admired for being “an example of congruence, civility and love of neighbor.”

The former Chilean foreign minister Mariana Aylwin experienced a similar situation on Wednesday when she was prevented from boarding a flight from her country to participate in the ceremony where a posthumous recognition will be made to her father, Patricio Aylwin, the first president under democracy in Chile after the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

The Chilean Foreign Ministry said that the government “will make the Cuban authorities aware of their displeasure at this action” because the purpose of Mariana Aylwin’s trip “was to receive from a civic organization the testimony of recognition of her father… The exercise of this right should not be impeded, especially when in Chile there have been various acknowledgments of Cuban historical and political figures.”

According to Rosa María Payá, the Uruguayan Luis Almagro, has confirmed his presence in the event today to receive the award

According to Rosa María Payá, Uruguayan Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), has confirmed his presence at the event today to receive the Freedom and Life Award for his “outstanding performance in defense of democracy,” although he has not made a statement on the matter.

The award ceremony, which is due to be held on Wednesday, is being led by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, an organization headed by Rosa María Payá, daughter of the late dissident.

Nationally, the government also prevented independent journalists Sol García Basulto and Henry Constantin from Camagüey from traveling to Havana, where they planned to fly to attend the award ceremony. The Inter American Press Association (IAPA), of which Constantin is regional vice president for Cuba, issued a protest statement demanding the release of the reporter, who until yesterday remained detained.

Alexei Gámez: “Before Wifi This Was a Dead Town” / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Alexei Gámez, a resident of Jagüey Grande, got his first computer at the age of ten. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 21 February 2017– Surrounded by cables and circuits Alexei Gámez has spent his life. From an early age he became passionate about technology despite growing up amidst the rigors of the Special Period. At age ten, he had a computer, “the kind that connected to TVs,” he recalls with a mixture of pride and irony. At that time he did not imagine that the screens and the keyboards would help to awaken in him a civic conscience.

At the beginning of this month, the name of this young man of 35 years, resident in Jagüey Grande, appeared in the digital media. Police broke into his house and after a meticulous search took the devices for wireless connection that Gámez counted among his most valuable treasures. The trigger was a Youtube channel where he teaches Cubans how to set up a wifi network with routers and NanoStations. continue reading

At that moment he crossed the line. In a country where thousands of users are plugged into wireless networks every day, the authorities turn a blind eye most of the time because of the inability to control the phenomenon. But it is one thing to connect to SNet, the largest of these communities, and another to say publicly that you do so and, in addition, to teach others how to create their own virtual web.

When the eyes of the cyber-cops focused on him, it carried no weight that at the age of 19 he had been one of a contingent of computer scientists, nor that he became the administrator of the Banco Popular de Ahorro network in Matanzas. After the raid on his home, an officer warned him that the Cuban Telecommunications Company (ETECSA) accused him of “illegal economic activity,” although he was never paid a penny to distribute his knowledge.

He entered the world of politics at full speed and now says, with determination, he will be involved in it “until my last day

Since then, Gámez can not leave town without asking permission, but immobilizing a computer expert is like trying to hold back the sea.

Technology has also connected him with a new life. A few years ago he obtained one of those USB memories loaded with audiovisual content that circulate from hand to hand. Thus he met Eliécer Ávila, leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement. “That was the beginning of a friendship that lasts until today,” says Gamez.

He entered the world of politics at full speed and now says, with determination, he will be involved in it “until my last day,” unable to imagine any other course.

However, technology remains his main passion. “By not having access to mass media such as radio and television, because they are state media and only represent the Communist Party, we try to spread our message through a USB drive, a DVD or in the Weekly Packet,” he told this newspaper.

Computers, smartphones and tablets “have given us the opportunity to get closer to people and convey our message of how we think and how we want things to be in the future,” he explains.

For Gámez the opening of Wi-Fi zones in squares and parks of the country is still far from an efficient service. “The bandwidth is very restricted” and “clearly they have it very controlled.” With his knowledge, he intuits that navigation through Nauta service could be a more successful experience for customers, if the state telecommunications company ETECSA, that operates it, proposed it.

“I rely on the experience of whose of us who have a wireless network at the municipal level, with approximately 200 people connected and working at high speed.” Gámez says he can “watch a film” from his house even though its streaming on a computer elsewhere. “We do that with equipment of lower power” than those of the state monopoly.

“Before the wifi this was a dead town, there was nowhere to go,” he recalls.

Jagüey Grande Park is the center of the life of the municipality and the little recreation available to the residents. “When a few people get together, that’s as far as the Nauta connection goes,” complains the computer expert.

However, he believes that the installation of a Wi-Fi zone has significantly changed the life of the area. “Before wifi this was a dead town, there was nowhere to go,” he recalls. “On weekends there were several nightclubs, one for children, one for young people and one discotemba*.

Gámez played in that park as a child and evokes the times he spent amid its trees and benches. But with the passing of years, “the park was dying and was always dark,” he laments. “After the coming of the internet it’s full all the time and for the young people it’s a fixed meeting point,” he says with relief.

Like many of these netizens, Alexei Gámez manages to slip through the bars of control every day thanks to wireless networks. He does it like a mischievous child who clings to the tail of a kite called “technology.”

*Translator’s note: Discotemba = a place that plays older music for an older crowd.

The IAPA Demands The Government Of Cuba Release Its Regional Vice President On The Island / 14ymedio

Independent journalists Sol García Basulto and Henry Constantín Ferreiro. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miami, 21 February 2017 — The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) condemned the arrest in Cuba of Henry Constantin Ferreiro, director of the magazine Hour of Cuba and regional vice president of its Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and called for his release, stressing the urgency of including guarantees for freedom of expression and of the press within the framework of the policy of rapprochement of the United States with the Cuban government.

The president of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press, Roberto Rock, demanded the immediate release of Constantin. “We also demand respect for journalistic work and the exercise of freedom of expression in Cuba,” added Rock, director of La Silla Rota de México. “The dictatorial measures of the Cuban Government have not changed a bit, continue to harass and disrespect freedom of expression,” he said. continue reading

Constantín, who was named vice president of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, was arrested last night at the airport in the province of Camagüey with Sol García Basulto, correspondent of the 14ymedio portal. The journalists were preparing to take a flight to Havana to cover the first installment of the “Oswaldo Payá Award: Freedom and Life” in honor of the late political opponent, granted to the Executive Secretary of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro.

According to media reports, Garcia Basulto reported via telephone that she was taken to the third Montecarlo Police Station, where she remained until she was released shortly before dawn, while Constantin is still in detention. His family said that “the police had set up an operation around the house, but he had already left for the airport.”

Rock concluded that “Cuba’s opening to the world will be possible when the human rights of all Cubans are guaranteed freedom of expression and of the press, and as long as this does not happen, we will continue to denounce it aloud.”

The IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is composed of more than 1,300 publications from the Western Hemisphere, and is based in Miami, United States.

Cuba Refuses OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro Entry To The Island / 14ymedio

The Secretary of the OAS was also unable to enter the country using his Cuban passport, which does not require an entry visa (@ agro_OEA2015)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 February 2017 — The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, has published a letter explaining why he can not attend the Oswaldo Payá “Freedom and Life” Award ceremony. In the letter, addressed to Rosa Maria Paya, Almagro states that he will not come after the refusal of the Havana authorities to grant him an entry visa to Cuba.

The Cuban consulate also denied Almagro entrance to the country using his Uruguayan passport, with which it would not need entrance visa.

According to the Secretary General of the OAS, an official of the Organization, Chris Hernández-Roy, was summoned to a meeting last Thursday by the Consul of Cuba in Washington and the First Secretary of the Consulate in which he expressed, also, the Cuban authorities’ surprise over the reason for the visit and its astonishment at the “involvement” of Almagro in anti-Cuban activities. continue reading

The award is not recognized by the Cuban State and the activities of Cuba Decide, an organization led by Rosa Maria Payá, “undermines the Cuban electoral system,” according to what they told the OAS.

For all these reasons, the authorities refused to grant Almagro a visa and warned him that he would not be admitted to the country if he attempted to board a flight bound for the island.

Almagro laments in his missive the “analysis as superficial as it is alarmist,” that has led to his visit being interpreted as a problem for relations with the United States

“We have responded to these arguments by pointing out that the only interest on our part has been, is and will be to facilitate Cuba’s rapprochement with the values ​​and principles of the inter-American system, both as regards the defense of democracy and the promotion and respect for human rights, while expanding Cuba’s achievements in science, health and education to our region,” said Almagro.

Almagro laments in his missive the “analysis as superficial as it is alarmist,” that has led to his visit being interpreted as a problem for relations with the United States. He considers it “rather ridiculous” that bilateral relations between the two countries depend simply on the holding of the award ceremony.

He emphasizes, furthermore, that his presence on the island scheduled for Tuesday has nothing to do with a desire to evaluate the internal situation of Cuba or its political or ideological trends, issues on which he says he does not consider himself competent to give an opinion.

As Almagro writes in the letter, this is not the first time an act of this kind has been carried out in other countries of the region, and so, he says, he has made it known to the Cuban authorities. According to the secretary general of the OAS, these acts in other countries “are carried out without the government necessarily supporting them, but without censoring them, because they are part of the tolerance of democratic systems and values,” he argues.

His only concern, he says, is that he hopes that as a result of the Cuban government’s boycott of the Oswaldo Payá Award, there will be no repression of those who organized the event. “This would be absolutely unfair and undesirable,” he warns.

The Secretary General of the OAS also rejects the “criminalization” of Cuba Decides and notes that his intention was to honor the memory of Oswaldo Payá

Almagro argued that his presence and activities are not anti-Cuban “in any case” and, on the contrary, his interest is that the country develops at all levels, not forgetting the guarantee of all the rights of its citizens.

For that reason, the Secretary General of the OAS also rejects the “criminalization” of Cuba Decides and notes that his intention was to honor the memory of Oswaldo Payá, so he asked that the authorities reconsider their decision and allow him to enter the Island. “But that was not possible,” he laments.

Almagro closes his letter by reiterating to Rosa Maria Payá the high regard he has for her, in addition to his desire to “continue working within the framework of cooperation established between the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy,” of which she is the current president, “and the OAS.”

The relationship of the Secretary General of the OAS with the Cuban Government has gone through distinct phases. In November of 2014 Almagro visited the Island for fourth time, in his role foreign minister of the Republic of Uruguay. On that occasion he was interviewed by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez. However, on assuming his current position in the OAS he became a frequent target of criticism in the official press.

In 2009 the OAS lifted the suspension that weighed on the Island and supported its eventual rejoining

The OAS and the Government of the Island have had tense encounters for decades, since the country was excluded from the regional organization in January 1962, after defining its Marxist-Leninist course. In 2009 the OAS lifted the suspension that weighed on the Island and supported its eventual rejoining of the organization.

Almagro reiterated the invitation to Havana in early 2016 when he stated that his heart felt that Cuba “should be back” in the body, although his brain indicated that the process “will not go that fast.”

During a meeting of the Association of Caribbean States held in Havana, President Raúl Castro reiterated that “the OAS from its foundation was, is and will be an instrument of imperialist domination and that no reform could change its nature or its history. Cuba will never return to the OAS. ”

 

Cuban Government Blocks Several Guests From Entering Cuba For The Oswaldo Payá Award / 14ymedio

The former Chilean Ministry Mariana Aylwin could not board the plane that would take her to Havana on Monday. (Youtube)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 February 2017 – The Cuban government has mobilized in the last hours to prevent several guests from arriving in Havana to attend to Oswaldo Paya Award ceremony, scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday, at 11:00 am. Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon has been the most recent to make public that Cuban immigration authorities did not allow him to enter the country.

“We are informed by Immigration of Cuba that passenger FCH is not authorized to enter Cuba and request that he not be documented on flight AM451”, Calderón published in his Twitter account transmitting the message that the Aeromexico airline gave him. continue reading


For the moment, Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confined itself to regretting the decision of the Cuban government not to allow the entry into its territory of the ex-president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, through the Ministry’s official Twitter account.

Calderón is the third case known today, after those of independent journalists Sol García Basulto and Henry Constantin Ferreiro, who were prevented from traveling from Camagüey to Havana. In addition Mariana Aylwin, a former Chilean Minister, was prevented from boarding a plane in Chile to travel to the Cuban capital on Monday, to collect the posthumous award for her father, former President Patricio Aylwin.

The entry veto augurs diplomatic consequences, as Bachelet’s government has already announced that it will call Chile’s ambassador on the island to protest the decision. “The Government of Chile deeply regrets the situation that has affected former minister and former parliamentarian Mariana Aylwin being prevented from traveling to Cuba,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“The problem was fundamentally the visit of Almagro. I had my tourist visa. I had problems checking in and I went to the airport early, where they told me I was would not be admitted to Cuba,” Aylwin told 14ymedio.

The Cuban government notified the Chilean Foreign Ministry that her visit was not welcome. However, Mariana Aylwin no longer holds positions in the Chilean Administration. “As I do not represent the Government, I decided to go as many democrats came to support our struggle during the dictatorship,” she explained.

The former secretary of state explained that she would receive the award given to her father “for the defense of democratic values.”

“It’s an arbitrary act, I deeply regret it because my dad opened diplomatic relations with Cuba and now they do this,” she said. Aylwin described what happened as an “act of a dictatorship and incomprehensible in the 21st century,” and recalled “when, during the time of Pinochet, there were many Democrats who wanted to come to give us their solidarity who also could not enter Chile.”

“That is the difference of a democracy and a dictatorship. They are afraid of everything that opposes them in their arbitrary desires, they own the truth, they impose themselves by force,” she said, although she admits that the country’s situation hurts more than her personally. “It hurts me a lot more that there is repression in Cuba than that I am prevented from coming. Be of good cheer!!! There are many of us who are with you,” she told this newspaper.

Rosa María Payá, daughter of the late opponent Oswaldo Payá, has denounced the decision taken by the Cuban Government and has made public the document delivered to the former Chilean minister at the airport. The text reads “Do not approve nor send the passenger [Mariana Aylwin] who is inadmissible in Cuba.”

Payá, who leads the initiative Cuba Decides, which calls for holding a plebiscite on the island to initiate a transition to democracy, lamented what happened and added that “now more than ever we have to work to recover our nation hijacked by an elite never chosen by anyone.”

In addition to these actions, travel bans have also been imposed on journalists Henry Constantin Ferreiro and Sol García Basulto. Garcia Basulto, a correspondent for 14ymedio in Camagüey, was detained until six o’clock in the morning, while Constantin Ferreiro is still being held.

García Basulto explained that both were arrested inside Ignacio Agramonte International Airport when they were preparing to take a flight to Havana that departed at midnight Monday. Police seized her “cell phone and several documents” that she carried with her, she explained via telephone.

After the arrest, García Basulto was transferred to the third Police Station in the Montecarlo District, where she remained until being released shortly before dawn.

Last November, the Garcia Basulto remained under house arrest for several days while the caravan with the ashes of former President Fidel Castro was traveling across the country. On that occasion State Security agents guarded her door to prevent her from leaving.

Constantin Ferreiro’s mother declared at midday that from seven in the evening on Monday, “the police had set up an operation around the house but he had already left for the airport.”

Independent journalists Sol García Basulto and Henry Constantín Ferreiro. (14ymedio)

Constantín, who was named last December as regional vice president for Cuba for the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), also serves as director of the magazine La Hora de Cuba and at the time of his appointment at the IAPA he committed to disseminate ” The reality of journalism “in the island. The organization has issued a press release condemning Constantin’s detention, demanding his immediate release and calling on the Cuban government to guarantee freedom of the press and expression.

In addition, Rosa María Payá informed 14ymedio that Cuba Decides coordinators in Holguin Province, Julio Cesar Alvarez and Felix Fara, were arrested on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Payá said that Álvarez was arrested “just after” she called him to invite him to tomorrow’s event.

Thanks to some relatives of the activists, she learned that they are still being detained as of Monday at the Holguín City Security Unit and that their wives were warned not to approach the place to find out anything because they would also be detained.

The first ceremony of the Oswaldo Payá “Liberty and Life” Award is scheduled for Wednesday, and Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, and, posthumously Patricio Aylwin Constantín, will be honored.

The award recognizes “persons or institutions, whose career or concrete action have highlighted the effective promotion and defense of human rights, life and democracy.” The award is a project of the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy, led by Rosa Maria Payá. The entity brings together members of civil society, political parties and student organizations in more than twenty countries in the region.

Canary Islanders in Cuba, Islanders Two Ways / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mara and Daniel Delisau

Building of the ‘Leonor Pérez’ Canarian Association of Cuba ‘Leonor Pérez’ in Old Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata and Daniel Delisau, Havana/Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 20 February 2017 — The players arrange their dominoes on the table. Outside, the sun still floods the wide entryway on Monserrate Street in Old Havana and time seems to have stopped. The scene occurs at the Canary Island Association of Cuba, a community that languishes between nostalgia and lack of resources.

People from the Canary Island migrated to Cuba for decades. In 1862 there were 48,192 Canary Islanders in Cuba, 41.5% of the total Spaniards in the country. The flow continued, with highs and lows, and between 1898 and 1932, another 70,000 Canary Islanders arrived. continue reading

The descendants of those travelers maintain some of their customs and gather at the Association that bears the name of Jose Marti’s mother, Leonor Perez.

In the main building, there’s a cultural folk night every Thursday, with typical dances and songs although the average age of the regulars is over 60 and the younger ones rarely come, says an employee of the place. “They are older people, most of them with economic needs,” she explains to 14ymedio. “They need food and basic products like vitamins, disposable diapers, bedsore creams, wheelchairs or walkers. But we are less and less able to help them, because they’ve cut off a lot of the aid to us,” she adds.

The descendants of canaries in Cuba maintain some of their customs and gather at the Association that bears the name of the mother of José Martí, Leonor Pérez

“When they are helpless we have to send them to the Church, because this Association is going through a bad time. We can barely help them and we also have to prepare the activities we hold here,” she confessed. “This building consumes a tremendous amount of resources and keeping the doors open every day is a heroic task.”

Upstairs, sales of food and drink try to raise some cash. Coffee, soft drinks, chicken and garbanzo Milanese, says the menu board. But the food service isn’t enough to stop the institution’s decline. A deterioration hardly noticeable to the newcomer, dazzled by the majesty of the interior and the recently painted façade.

The Association has around 47,000 members throughout the country, and those who are able pay 12 Cuban pesos a month in dues. This money is barely enough to run the building, a few yards from the most luxurious hotels in Havana’s historic center, nor to maintain the association’s 14 houses across the country.

In mid-2014, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the government of the Canary Islands sent three grants worth 16,000, 9,000 and 6,000 euros for the Association, intended for a day care center for the elderly, the purchase of medications, and repairs and improvements to the Guines headquarters. But the resources were quickly depleted due to high demand, according to internal sources.

The president of the Association, Carmelo Gonzalez Acosta, traveled to the Canaries this January to remind its public administration of the need to maintain the aid and interviewed the Deputy Minister of Foreign Action, Pedro Rodríguez Zaragoza, with a view to “recovering the support of the Community Administration toward those who have Canary Island blood in their veins,” reported local media.

The Association has around 47,000 members throughout the country, and those who are able pay 12 Cuban pesos a month in dues. That money is barely enough to keep the property running

The Cuban authorities also asked the Canary Island government to help them by sending a stone mill to supply Canary descendants with gofio (flour made from roasted grains), the Cuban consul in the Canary Islands, Ulises Barquin, explained recently in an interview.

The official explained that the gofio disappeared “at the end of the 1980s with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, which was the main supplier of wheat,” but now they want to restart the production because “it goes far beyond the food aspect… it has an enormous symbolic value.”

The mill sounds like a distant promise to those who spend their hours in the spacious facility in Monserrate Street. “Before, you could come here and eat very cheaply, but we’ve lost a lot of options,” complains an old man. “Now they don’t sell custard and rice pudding for us, which I can’t eat any more because my sugar is through the roof.”

Paco, a Cuban son of the Canaries, feels grateful for being able to count on a place to “meet friends and have a good time.” His two sons emigrated to get Spanish nationality and now the old man waits to “have a place in the Canary Island vault in Havana’s Columbus Cemetery,” because his family “doesn’t have a proper tomb.”

A woman walks through the wide gate and asks the receptionist if there will be a feast for Easter. Her name is María Antonia Hernández, she is 56 years old and she is the granddaughter of a Canary Islander who came to the Island at the beginning of the 20th century. “He came looking for a better life and ended up owning a bodega in San Antonio de los Baños,” says the woman. “A short time later he married a woman from Pinar del Rio and they had eight children.”

“The behavior, the character and the way of being of the Cubans is very linked to the Canary Islands” …at present there are at least 650,000 Canary Islanders and their descendants” in Cuba

Roberto Domínguez, author of the book Ariguanabo: History, Music and Poetry, says that “the behavior, the character and the way of being of Cubans is very linked to the Canary Islands.” He calculates that at present in Cuba “there are at least 650,000 Canary Islanders of their descendants.

When she was a child and was annoyed by something, Maria Antonia Hernandez’s mother repeated with a sneer that she was acting like an “islander” like her grandfather. Although Cuba is also subject to “the damn circumstances of water everywhere,” according to the poet and playwright Virgilio Pinera, Cubans rarely self-define as islanders. In the popular language “islander” is reserved for those from the Canary Islands.

“We are the few who called them by their place of origin, because the rest of the Spaniards call them Galicians,” reflects the granddaughter of the old man. “He had a lot of friends who came from villages close to his and he loved to eat ropa vieja, but with garbanzos,” she recalls.

Hernandez tried to obtain Spanish nationality through the Law of Historical Memory, popularly known as the Law of Grandchildren, but failed to complete the paperwork with all the required documents. “My grandfather came to this country with just his clothes and always gave very little importance to the papers,” she laments.

Failure to obtain a European Community Passport has meant a severe economic blow for her. Earlier this month the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation announced the subsistence allowances for 2017, support that would have been very welcome to María Antonia Hernandez, who is retired with the equivalent of 10 euros per month.

As of January 2015, 119,662 Spaniards resided in Cuba, the vast majority of  them Cubans who obtained Spanish nationality through the law of grandchildren

Others have been luckier than this descendant of a Canary Islander. According to Cuba’s National Statistics Institute (INE), as of January 2015, 119,662 Spaniards resided in Cuba, the vast majority of them Cubans who obtained Spanish nationality through the law of grandchildren. In 2014 alone, some 5,618 nationals received their European Community passport through that route.

Maria Antonia’s grandfather was never able to return to his homeland. “He died a few days after the events of the Port of Mariel,” the migratory crisis that led thousands of Cubans to escape the island in 1980 and that came to be known in the United States as the Mariel Boatlift. “He would not have believed that the country he had come to would have turned out like this.”

“The bodega was nationalized and suffered directly from the shortage of things that he liked most: tobacco, gofio and sardines,” recalls Maria Antonia. As an inheritance he left her an old mahogany wardrobe and a three-string guitar that he played in country parties.

From Island to Island

José Luis Mosqueda is president of the Association of Cuban Residents in Gran Canaria, the second largest of the Canary Islands. The entity “was created six years ago and is meant to bring together the majority of Cubans” who reside on that other island, he comments to 14ymedio.

The group has 112 members and the last public event they celebrated was for the anniversary of José Martí, when they took flowers to a bust of him in Telde. “The mother of José Martí was from Tenerife, but her ancestors, the grandparents, were from San Mateo, in Gran Canaria,” Mosqueda proudly remarks.

Consul Ulises Barquín estimates that there are some 22,700 Cubans spread over the seven islands that make up the archipelago, “although 25 to 30% of them are not physically here” because “they left with the economic crisis or they repatriated themselves after Cuba changed its controls on travel and migration, in January 2013, eliminating the requirement for an exit permit to leave the country.

The tourists enter to take photos and eat in the cafeteria of the ‘Leonor Pérez’ Canarian Association of Cuba in Old Havana. (14ymedio)

“In actual numbers, we are around 15-16,000 Cubans living in the Canary Islands, with Tenerife having the most,” and 95% of them are regularized, says the consul.

Mosqueda emigrated to Gran Canaria 26 years ago. His sister is married to “a Canarian of those who went to Cuba to avoid military service during the Spanish Civil War,” he says. In 1961 they decided to return and soon the brother joined them.

When he arrived he began to work “in a company that polishes parquet and granite, with a friend of the family.” Later, he became independent and created “a building and renovation business,” he adds. He then set up an aluminum workshop where he has been working for 15 years.

The association that he leads, Mosqueda says, brings together those who “continue to believe that they are really Cuban and still love Cuba.”

Set Fire To Havana In Order To Hide The Body? / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Fire at the store “La Mezclilla” (Photo archive)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 21 February 2017 – People say that when an event happens repeatedly it stops being an accident. The fire that took place on Monday, February 20th, 2017, in “La Mezclilla” store, in the neighborhood of San Leopoldo (Municipality of Centro Habana) is the third one in less than a month in a State-owned business in that municipality.

The first incidents occurred in an establishment dedicated to the assembly and sale of paintings and mirrors (Subirana Street, Pueblo Nuevo neighborhood); while the second, which took place a few days ago, started in the appliances department of the commercial complex known as La Feria de Rayo (Calle Rayo, in Chinatown). continue reading

So today’s fire adds to the mysterious tendency of “spontaneous combustion” that is becoming viral in State stores, which most suspicious Habaneros tendentiously attribute to the offensive the Comptroller General has been carrying out In different companies and that are exposing numerous pilfering, shortages and corruption, especially in centers dealing in Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) or the Cuban pesos (CUP) equivalents.

Fans of Mathematics cannot avoid the temptation to relate fires directly to the offices of the comptroller, as summarized in the following axiom: “An increase in in controllers is directly proportional to an increase in state-owned businesses fires”

True or not, the causes of these strange fires have not been clarified by the authorities thus far. In fact, these fires have not even been reported in the national media, perhaps because they are attributed to an accidental and “local” character, or because – in the midst of all the material deprivation and social discontent- it is wiser not to stoke the flames.

Some residents of the buildings adjacent to the fires point out that firefighters and other specialized forces that have acted in these cases have offered them the questionable explanation that it’s possible that the buildings’ aging electrical systems have not withstood the overload caused by the “high consumption” of these establishments, which sparked the initial fire in the wires. This explanation does not convince anyone, especially taking into account that the wiring of foreign exchange stores is independent and much newer than the systems for the municipality’s residential sector and, in theory, was previously calculated on the basis of electricity usage for this type of premises.

Additionally, the plan of rigorous savings in electricity that has been applied to the foreign exchange stores for a little more than a year suggests the opposite: a decrease in consumption. For example, it is well known that all stores are required to comply with a plan of “energy indicators” which the stores cannot surpass, under penalty of losing certain bonuses. This forces store employees to turn off the air conditioning equipment according to a schedule previously established by management, and as a result employees and customers alike have to withstand the suffocating heat in the stores, which are not well ventilated, since they were designed for the constant use of air conditioning.

The chronic shortages in these businesses of late has also lightened the burden on consumption, since many freezer/refrigerators, where frozen products were once stored have been turned off and are out of service, which also tends to weaken the version of the “electrical overload “as the cause of fires.

But it happens that, in addition, there are notorious antecedents that reinforce the malicious comments at the popular level, and are feeding the rumors. No one has forgotten that a few years ago there was a big fire in the “La Puntilla” store, and it was well known in the street that the incident was initiated by a few employees who were involved in an enormous embezzlement. Setting fire to the store was the swiftest recourse they found to have the evidence for the crime disappear.

A similar case, equally silenced by the authorities, was the fire which some sources considered intentional that took place about a year ago in the basement of the popular Yumurí store (formerly known as “La Casa de los Tres Quilos [The House of the Three Pennies] located at the corner of Reina and Belascoaín Roads, also in Centro Habana, right in the marketplace department.

One does not have to be overly surprised. Cuba’s own history shows more than one example of how the displeasure of criollos has been expressed by flames. Thus, we have episodes like the Bayamo fire by the Independence Forces, the one in the city of Cárdenas, by Narciso López, and the incendiary torch that ruined the economy of not a few property and land owners in the 19th Century, among other notorious events, fruit of the pyromaniac national tradition.

In summary, whether or not the rumors are true, the fact is that several state businesses from different parts of the capital are suffering in these days a kind of fiery epidemic. If there really were a relationship between fires, embezzlement and bad management, the whole island of Cuba would be close to burning from one end to another.

Just in case, it would be advisable that, going forward, controllers begin to consider the possibility of carrying out their rigorous controls while supported by teams of firemen, cisterns and fire trucks… to see if at least they are able to do it before the flames.

Hotel Manzana, From Abandonment to the Controversy of Its Restoration / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez

The French company Bouygues Bâtiment International pays a monthly salary of between 1,500 and 2,000 euros to the Indian workers who work at the Hotel Manzana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 20 February 2017 – People’s memories of Manzana de Gomez vary according to how old the person is. Cubans over 60 evoke a huge commercial center surrounded by Neptuno, San Rafael, Zulueta and Monserrate Streets. Those under 40 see it as a dirty place, with sewers running with sewage and destroyed windows. But the youngest see it as a luxury hotel about to open in Havana.

In spite of the delays in the construction, everything indicates that by the middle of this year the repairs of the centrally located building will be finished. The Swiss company Kempinski Hotels has the rights to manage and market the hotel, that already promises to become the most exclusive place in the entire city, with a privileged view of Central Park and a paradise-worthy pool on the top floor. continue reading

However, the process of rehabilitation has not been easy, as the deterioration of the building was significant.

The work was plagued by delays and in July 2016, 200 Indian workers were hired to speed up the works

The restoration of the hotel was carried out by the real estate company ALMEST, an entity of the Cuban military consortium GAESA, which assigned the construction work to the French company Bouygues Batimet International. The work was plagued by delays and in July of 2016, 200 Indian workers were hired to speed up the work, according to Reuters.

The French company pays the foreign workers a monthly salary of between 1,500 and 2,000 euros, while Cuban workers receive barely a tenth of that. This situation has generated controversy and critics call the contracting discrimination against nationals.

When the carpet is installed in the Hotel Matanza hallways and its doors are opened for customers, the contrasts that have marked the life of the building will have come around again. The site has been both a commercial center and a building in ruins, a place where foreigners are employed and Cubans work as slaves, accommodations for tourists and place off-limits to Cubans’ wallets.

Broken Dreams / Cubalex

A montage of photos of Cubalex on the day of the police raid and mail from the people they help.

Translator’s note: The references here to the empty offices and the inability to work relate to a police raid that occurred in September of last year, during which much of the organization’s equipment was confiscated.

Cubalex, 20 February 2017 – It is an ordinary November day. Cubalex members are visiting the headquarters, the emptiness of the offices hardly bearable, their faces are not the same as before, but they continue to be united.

“A letter has arrived,” says an assistant. “Read it out loud,” everyone says. “It is a new case, I don’t recall the name,” she affirms. “But start reading it,” exclaimed the investigator.

“OK, I’ll start,” she says. “Havana, 16 November 2016, Dear Laritza and the Cubalex team, I recently wrote to you, another inmate gave me the address. Today I received an answer from you in which you explained the process to be able to help me. continue reading

“And I felt like the happiest prisoner in the world. I had written to all the state institutions and none responded to me. I am speaking to you from my heart, that you have given me back my hope and a desire to go on living.”

The emotion was visible on everyone’s face, after so many days without being able to do our work this letter filled the space and all of us with emotion. It was the first pleasant emotion we had felt after more than 90 days of anguish.

“A million thanks,” she continued reading, “love and blessings to you all, a thousand thanks for the help you can offer me, I have no way to thank you. I once again want to live. In you, I have found different human beings.

“I will send you all the documents you asked me for, I am serving a sentence for a crime I didn’t commit, while the real culprit walks free. They accused me of the theft and slaughter of cattle, and condemned me to 12 years* and I swear to you I am innocent.

“Soon I will turn 21, you are my best gift, just by responding to my letters. I was planning to go on a hunger strike, but I knew of Cubalex’s existence and the help you have given to many inmates here. May God always accompany you and thousands of blessings to you,” she concluded reading.

“He’s just a kid,” said the group’s senior sadly. “Where is it from?” “From Agüica,” replied the reader, looking at the envelope. “We have to answer him,” said the psychologist, “even if it’s on a blank sheet and with a pen. We must explain what happened at our headquarters on September 23. He has his hopes set on us.”

“I have an envelope, and I saw that they left the stamps on the day of the [police] operation, you’ll find them in my drawer,” said the secretary to the assistant.

“Who will answer him?” She asked. “I will,” was the answer that was heard in chorus. “That’s like pouring a bucket of cold water,” said secretary said. “It would be better if the psychologist answered.”

The silence was an expression of the anguish captivated them. “Send him the phone number to call us,” advised the Director. “At least we can guide him. Let’s keep the letter, to show it to the teacher Julio on the next visit to the prison. By the way, who is going to make this visit?”

“I am,” replied the social investigator. “Don’t worry, I’ll give it to him.”

*Translator’s note: the penalties for unauthorized slaughter of cattle in Cuba are very severe, and it is literally true that a person may serve more time for killing a cow than someone else serves for killing a person.

Do We Have to Wait for the Government to Sell the Peugeot 508s to Improve Public Transport? / Iván García

Havanans boarding a the bus. From OnCuba magazine

Ivan Garcia, 18 February 2017 — Seven in the morning at the bus stop at Acosta Avenue and Poey Street, in the dense La Vibora neighborhood in southern Havana. Almost a hundred people are waiting for the No. 174 bus to Vedado.

While waiting for the bus, some take the opportunity to have a coffee from the roving coffee-seller. Others breakfast on bread with croquette or an egg sandwich from a private cantina, continually looking at the bus stop, in case a ‘guagua’ (bus) shows up. continue reading

Also at Acosta and Poey, some 40 people are in a line waiting for their turn to catch a shared-taxi to Vedado. Jaime, a maintenance worker in a polyclinic, can’t give himself the luxury of taking taxis.

“In the morning the taxi driver charges twenty “reeds” (Cuban pesos, CUP) to Vedado. Since I work in Playa, I have to take a second taxi for another 20 pesos. The return is the same. Eighty ‘coconuts’ to come and go from work, and I only get paid 20 a day. If I take a taxi I can make the trip in an hour, and if I wait for the bus, it’s three hours coming and going. Many documentaries, books and recorded chats about the life and work of Fidel Castro, but the government spent 60 years without being able to solve the transport problem. This is crap, brother,” says Jaime, notably angry.

If you want to meet a Cuban ruminating on the horrors of Castroism, visit him at home during a blackout, or ask him about the supposed benefits of socialism at the bus stop crammed with people.

At best, he relaxes at a popular pachanga (party) with some cheap beer and infamous rum, with reggaeton or aggressive timba in the background. But when it comes from moving from one place to other in Havana, they put on a whole other face.

Like Mireya’s face right now. She’s a kitchen helper at a school. “Oh mother. I leave at 6:30 in the morning to catch a bus. And at 8:00 I’m still at the stop. And when you do manage to get on, you have to keep your wits about you because at least opportunity the pickpockets will lift your wallet. And don’t even talk about the perverts. They shove themselves up against your ‘package’ from behind like you’re their wife. The other day some shameless guy was so hot he took it out and masturbated in plain sight,” said Mireya, talking openly to everyone around her.

The lines at the butcher shop to buy “chicken for fish,” or to do legal paperwork, or to wait for public transport, have become a kind of people’s plaza where a journalist, politician or specialist in social topics could take the pulse of a nation. Two years ago, the president of Finland disguised himself as a taxi driver to learn his compatriot’s opinions about his management of the state. That would be a good example for the Cuban authorities to follow.

Managing efficient public transport, be it land, air, rail or sea, is something the olive green junta that governs Cuban can’t get done.

Fidel Castro, today feted for his extensive anti-imperialist discourse and his role in the decolonization struggle of Africa, was never able to design a working transportation system for the island.

Havana, with its million and a half inhabitants, and a million foreign tourists and illegal visitors from other provinces, probably features among the worst cities of the world to get from one place or another quickly and cheaply.

In the 1960s, Fidel Castro acquired three thousand Leyland buses in Great Britain for urban and interprovincial transport. But it wasn’t like that. In the following decades, they were bought in Spain, Japan, Hungary, Brazil and China.

In Havana it has always been an odyssey to travel by bus. At its best, there were more than 100 bus routes in the capital and 2,500 buses plus a fleet of 4,000 taxis, bought from the Argentina military dictatorship, although they never finished paying for them.

With the coming of the Special Period in 1990, the closest thing to a war without bombs, public transport experienced its real death throes. The “camels” — a monster patented by some sadistic engineer — were container trailers outfitted with seats and pulled by a semi-truck tractor unit that could carry 300 people each, packed like sardines in a can.

Havanans still remember the memorable brawls inside the “camels,” worthy of an Olympic boxing match. Those steel boxes were saunas in the tropical heat and according to street legends they served to procreate dozens of kids of unknown fathers.

If every Cuban state official had to pay a penny for every revealed lie, believe me, there would be a legion of new rich on the island. Many thought it was a bad joke, but in 2014, the government, in complete seriousness, after authorizing the sale of Peugeots at Ferrari prices, announced that they were going to use the profits to create a fund to buy buses to improve urban transport.

Three years later not a single Peugeot 508 has been sold. Logically, you don’t have to have a Nobel in economics to know that no one is going to pay the equivalent of 300,000 dollars for a touring car. And in cash.

Thus, ordinary Cubans like the worker Jaime and the cook Mireya, are still waiting two hours to board a city bus. Until all those lovely Peugeots are sold.

Cuba’s Ladies In White Report 50 Arrests This Sunday / 14ymedio

A member of the opposition group Ladies in White is arrested on Wednesday, December 10, 2014, during a street demonstration in Havana. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 February 2017 — Some fifty Ladies in White were detained this Sunday on the Island, according to members of that dissident organization.

Former political prisoner and regime opponent Angel Moya told 14ymedio by phone that Berta Soler had been arrested by members of a State Security operation and the police surrounding her Lawton house. The incident happened shortly after three in the afternoon on Sunday, when Soler left the movement’s site in the company of the Lady in White Danaysi Munoz. continue reading

Moya added that in Havana the Ladies in White Yordanka Santana and Norma Cruz were “abandoned to their fate*” on the ExpoCuba and Cotorro highways respectively, after being released. According to the same source, as of 6:00 in the evening 23 Ladies in White had been arrested in the capital, although that number could be increased by some  “who still haven’t called in.”

A Lady in White protesting this Sunday in Havana. (Courtesy)

Moya also reported on a Lady in White detained in Bayamo and eight in Palma Soriano, while in Matanzas there were 22. In that locality Leticia Ramos and Marisol Fernandez were arrested twice in a single day and he said that the whereabouts of both women was still unknown.

The opponent also reported that from the province of Ciego te Avila Lucia Lopez complained that she was “beaten at the time of her arrest” by State Security agents and “stripped of her blouse and bra before being released,” in a “clear act of indignity,” said Moya.

Lucía Lopez was “beaten at the time of her arrest” by agents of the State Security and “stripped of her blouse and bra”

Meanwhile, Iván Hernández Carrillo reported from his Twitter account of the arrest in the city of Cárdenas of Odalis Hernandez, Hortensia Alfonso, Cira de la Vega and Mercedes de la Guardia. Likewise, from Columbus the activist denounced the arrest of his mother Asunción Carrillo and Caridad Burunate when they were on their way to the church.

At two o’clock on Sunday afternoon, minutes before being detained, the leader of the Ladies in White women’s movement, Berta Soler, informed the media that there were already more than twenty detained in Havana to “prevent them from reaching the site.” She mentioned that two of them were “released on the road to Pinar del Rio*,” despite living in the capital. “Since last Wednesday morning there has been a constant [State Security and Police] operation outside,” the organization’s headquarters.

She also mentioned the particular case of Berta Lucrecia Martínez, who was detained at noon hours after a solo protest in Calabazar Park. According to the information that Soler has received, the activist stood for “more than 35 minutes” with a poster regarding Human Rights and shouting anti-government slogans.

Last year 9,940 arbitrary detentions were recorded, a figure that “places the Government of Cuba in the first place in all Latin America”

Lucrecia Martinez is one of the Ladies in White who has repeatedly been prevented from attending Sunday Mass or reaching the headquarters of his organization. Until the moment of not knowing the place to where it was led by the police patrol that stopped it.

Calabazar park is a very busy wifi area. As reported to this newspaper by the activist Agustín López Canino, many people “filmed and photographed the moment of protest.”

Last year, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) documented a total of 9,940 arbitrary detentions, a figure that “places the Government of Cuba in first place in all of Latin America” ​​at the head of such arrests, according to a report by the independent organization.

*Translator’s note: Cuban police/State Security often arrest dissidents and drive them a long way outside the city where they are arrested and then put them out of the car in the “middle of nowhere,” to find their own way home.

Mexican Police Rescue Two Cubans Kidnapped in Mexico / 14ymedio

Office of the Attorney General of the Mexican State of Quintana Roo, Mexico. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 February 2017 — Two Cubans have been rescued from the hands of their kidnappers on Isla Mujeres, as the result of a joint effort between the Federal Investigation Police and agents of the Ministerial Police of the state of Quintana Roo. In the operation carried out on Friday, one of those implicated in the kidnapping was captured, according to the local press.

The Special Prosecutor’s Office for Investigation of the Kidnapping began “a thorough investigation to find and pinpoint the two victims” from Cuba who had been held by the same people who helped them “to enter Mexican territory and then demanded 20,000 dollars from their families for their rescue,” said the report. continue reading

The investigation took ten days, and on 17 February “achieved the release of the people safe and sound,” although the identity of the victims was withheld. At the time of the rescue they were in a reserve “in a mangrove area located on Avenida Rueda Medina at Pelícano Street, in the municipality of Isla Mujeres.”

Police authorities say the family of the hostages had not deposited the money for the ransom. An individual “with the initials L.J.C.P, who was the leader of the group and who demanded the ransom from their relatives in the United States, in order to obtain their release to continue on their journey,” was arrested in the operation.

In another police action the same afternoon, six people of Cuban origin including one woman were arrested, “who could not prove their legal status in the State The migrants were turned over to the Public Ministry to be taken to the National Immigration” authorities.

It is estimated that hundreds of Cubans have been stranded in Mexico after the end of the United States Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy last January, which had previously allowed undocumented Cubans to remain in the United States if they managed to reach US soil. For many of these stranded Cubans, the American dream has become a nightmare of extortion and disappearances.

Artists Supply is Short of Materials for Camaguey Salon / 14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto

The art show opened in 2 February and will run until the first days of March in the Provincial Fine Arts Center. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto, Camaguey, 17 February 2017 – With a predominance of mixed techniques and recycled materials, Camaguey artists hide the shortage of raw materials in the City Salon show. The art show opened on 2 February and will run until the first days of March in the Provincial Fine Arts Center.

The event began with a contest in which 32 artists participated with more than 40 works, among which the wide presence of younger artists stands out. The members of the Camagüey Provincial Arts Center presented the prizes a few days after the opening. continue reading

Many of the works show a nonchalant character and the authors have had to deploy a greater imagination to supply the missing resources

The winner of the Grand Prize was video artist Hamlet Armas Perez, 27, who explained to 14ymedio the difficulty of “creating art right now in Camagüey” because of the lack of materials.

Many of the works show a nonchalant character and the authors have had to deploy greater imagination to supply the missing resources, since the Cuban Cultural Property Fund, the largest supplier of materials in the province, has stopped supplying art products.

This situation is suffered in particular by painters, says Armas Pérez, although video art makers also have “difficulties in finding resources.”

Kevis, a young graduate of the School of Art Instructors who could not finish his work in time for the exhibition, laments the high prices of materials, as well as the complexity of finding them. “I’m paying for a tube of white oil now 5 Cuban convertible pesos (roughly $5 US) on the street,” he protests.

“Some of the education and culture warehouses keep materials for more than 20 years.” Those are the resources that are circulating in the province according to Kevis. “The tubes of oil are sometimes hard and you have to put them in hot water to make them soft.”

Angel González Fariñas, director of the gallery, thinks that the predominance of mixed techniques is more related to “the authors’ instinct for experimentation” and takes for granted the “lack of materials especially in the prints and mountings.”

The artist Jorge Luis Pulido Álvarez, who won the Salon’s third prize and three collateral prizes with the trilogy In the habitat of my art, says that his work was done with mixed technique and that in spite of the shortages “the artists overcome these difficulties with the passion they feel.”

Lewis was unable to present his work because he could not get the mounting that he needed: a frame and glass

Lewis, an art instructor in the visual arts, said that he could not present his work at the event because he could not get the mounting that his work needed: a frame and glass. Lacking the necessary resources to dedicate himself to painting has pushed him to dedicate himself to drawing.

Another artist who has abandoned painting, in his case for a better remunerated technique — carpentry — is Pedro. This former professor at the School of Art Instructors says that he has dedicated himself to making coatracks and shoe racks because “you have to eat.”

However, despite the adversities, the organizers of the show have managed to maintain a high standard.

The curator and critic Pavel Alejandro Barrios Sosa sums up his perception of the work of the artists: “Art for art’s sake, the amusement of the artist, quotes, versions, allusions, the relationship between culture and popular expression, between the national and the universal.”