We Will Have an Electoral Law in 2019 but Constitutional Reform Retains One Candidate Per Position

A billboard in support of the Cuban government’s revised Constitution

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 16 August 2018 — In view of the deadlines imposed by the draft Constitution in its First Transitional Provision, and knowing that the referendum will take place on February 24, it can be calculated that by September 2019,the Cuban parliament will have approved a new electoral law.

If Raul Castro had fulfilled his promise of February 2015 to modify the electoral rules, the constitutional project now being debated would be adapting to what had already been enacted and not the other way around. The new law will be born chained to what is imposed by the reformed Constitution, in which the threads that bind can already be clearly seen.

The fantasy of new electoral legislation establishing a direct vote of citizens to elect their president was finally annihilated in the first paragraph of Article 104 that establishes that the National Assembly of People’s Power, in the exercise of its powers, “elects the President and Vice President of the Republic.” Later, in Article 121 it states that the President of the Republic “is elected by the National Assembly of People’s Power from among its deputies […] for a period of five years.”

For its part, Title IX, referring to the Electoral System, introduces a new element that denies voting rights to “those who do not comply with the requirements of permanence in the country provided for in the law.”

This detail, absent in the current Constitution, was specified in Law 72 of 1992, which in Article 6 says that “to exercise the right to vote requires the obligation to be a permanent resident in the country for a period of not less than two years before the elections” while, in order to be elected, Article 8 requires a candidate to be a “permanent resident in the country for a period not less than five years before the elections.”

The constitutional reform anticipates that the next electoral law will continue denying Cubans living abroad not only the possibility of being elected but also the right to vote.

In the particular case of the highest positions, from President of the Republic to provincial governor, articles 122, 124, 138 and 171 now include the requirement of not having any other citizenship to fill these positions. As a result, the tens of thousands of Cubans who have taken refuge in Spanish nationality*, plus the other thousands who hold any other nationality, will be excluded from the main rudders of the country.

Lawmakers will have to take into account a new constitutional provision included in article 182 of the draft, which modifies the elections of district delegates: they will no longer be held every two and a half years as established in article 111 of the current Constitution, but rather every five years.

One question that remains unanswered is whether the Candidacy Commissions** will be maintained in the next electoral law. The project under discussion does not allude to the subject, but neither is it in the current Constitution.

The elimination of the Candidacy Commissions is one of the main demands of independent civil society and the political opposition because it would open the possibility that voters are not simply approving a list that includes only one candidate for each seat in the Parliament; instead, voters would be able to choose between diverse candidates according to their personal political views.

After a comparative observation between the language used by the 1976 Constitution (with its successive reforms of 1978, 1992 and 2002) and that used in this project, there are indications that suggest what the 2019 electoral law might look like. The text under discussion no longer includes the term “merit” which, together with “capacities,” pre-conditioned the access of citizens “to all positions and jobs of the State.”

Current legislation is anchored in the idea of a ‘meritocracy’, and prohibits candidates from campaigning at all.  Voters are allowed “only to take into account, in determining which candidate to vote for,” the candidate’s “personal conditions, prestige, and capacity to serve the people.” In practice, the candidacy commissions (not the candidate) prepare a single-page biography for each candidate which is posted in a window and is the only legal form of “campaigning.”

Clearly, no one should have any illusions. It is enough to read articles 3 and 5 of the constitutional draft to affirm that the new electoral law of 2019 will not assume a multi-party system nor will it allow political campaigns to compete for the vote. Cubans living abroad, opposed to the system in their majority, will not have a presence in the polls. The reins are already firmly in place.

Translator’s notes:

*Spain’s “Historical Memory Law” allows the children and grandchildren of Spanish citizens born outside the country to apply for citizenship.

**Cuba’s Candidacy Commissions are made up of individuals from mass organizations created by the government/communist party. From wikipedia: “Candidates for provincial assemblies and the National Assembly are nominated by the municipal assemblies from lists compiled by national, provincial and municipal candidacy commissions. Suggestions for nominations are made at all levels mainly by mass organizations, trade unions, people’s councils, and student federations. The final list of candidates for the National Assembly, one for each district, is drawn up by the National Candidacy Commission.”

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

Informative Note about Detained Members / Somos+

Somos+, 18 August 2018 — The Executive Council has been able to contact the six members of our movement who had been arbitrarily detained by the State Security in Puerto Padre, province of Las Tunas. All have been released and are in their respective homes.

We are deeply grateful to all our members for their solidarity, and to the honorable and exceptional instances of journalists, influencers and members of other political projects that responded on behalf of our representatives during these days.

  • In our initial contact, these brave men and women have expressed firmness in their decision to stay in our movement and the certainty that nothing will make them bow down.

As we have already reported, their phones, a video camera, as well as the money provided for their travel expenses and performance of their duties, were confiscated

Repressive actions against Somos + is increasing, but no obstacle will stop us.

Executive Council

Political Movement S+

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

Another Another Another Cuban Physician from the Mais Medicos Mission Dies in Brazil

The Cuban doctor Ramón Domínguez Rivera. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miami, August 18, 2018 – Cuban doctor Ramón Domínguez Rivera, originally from the province of Pinar del Río, who was on assignment in Brazil, died on August 16, as reported by his Medical Brigade. Dominguez Rivera worked in Melgaço, Pará state. His body was found three days after he disappeared, according to the local press. One of the heads of Mais Medicos, Lizander Rubio, said on Facebook that the cause of death could be “a cardiovascular condition.”

Some of Dominguez Rivera’s colleagues expressed their grief on the loss of the doctor in social networks. Guillermo Fernández Maqueira stressed the generosity of the deceased. “I know that many of us will remember you, those of us who shared a meal with you, those of us who shared clothes and shoes in the dormitory in order to go out with our girlfriend at night,” he wrote. continue reading

According to data compiled by 14ymedio, this is the fifth Cuban doctor that has died in the last four months in the mission deployed in Brazil. In April, Guantanamo native Adrián Reyes Valverde was killed in a motorcycle accident in the municipality of Babaçulândia. A few days later physician Jorge Alberto Borrego died in the crash of the Cubana de Aviación flight last May in Havana.

Luis Alberto Martínez Vila, 29, died last month in a car accident near the city of Redenção, in the state of Pará, and Yanier Samón De Hombre, 32, died after a bout of severe abdominal pain two weeks ago.

Official media rarely report the deaths of any Cuban aid workers abroad.

More than 18,000 Cuban doctors have passed through Brazil since the two governments created the Mais Medicos program in 2013 to increase the presence of health personnel in municipalities and rural areas. After the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, the number of Cuban doctors in the program has decreased. However, the figure still exceeds 8,000.

Brazil pays Havana around $3,600 per month for each doctor, who, in turn, receives only $900 from the Cuban government. Cuban professionals or their families do not receive compensation in case of accidents or death at work.

The export of medical services is one of the main sources of revenue for the island government, which maintains tens of thousands of health professionals deployed in more than 60 countries, from which it annually derives more than 11.5 billion dollars according to official figures. Human rights activists have criticized this work activity as a form of “modern slavery.”

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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

In Camaguey, Neglected Beaches in Cuban Pesos, Beautiful Beaches in Hard Currency

The most ‘democratic’ of Camagüey’s beaches suffers from a chronic neglect. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ricardo Fernández Izaguirre, Camagüey | August 18, 2018 – The sun rises and dozens of bathers start to arrive at the beaches of the Bay of Nuevitas, on the north coast of the province of Camagüey. They are equipped as if for battle: food, water, sturdy shoes to deal with stones and even an improvised kit for the possibility of cuts on pieces of glass or cans. The poor conditions of the coast do not manage to cool the desire to take a dip.

The province of Camagüey has 25% of all the beaches in the archipelago but the state of the coast has been getting worse in recent years due to climate change, lack of maintenance and deterioration of infrastructure, to which is added the discharge of industrial or domestic waste. Some areas that were once a haven of peace and beauty today seem to come out of a post-war scene.

Among the extensive coastline, Nuevitas is the busiest resort because it is cheaper thanks to the “beach train” that runs in summer, from Friday to Sunday, from the city of Camagüey and arrives a few meters from the sea. continue reading

The beach train runs in summer, from Friday to Sunday, from the city of Camagüey and reaches a few meters from the sea. (14ymedio)

For low-income families this is one of the few possibilities of having a day sunbathing in front of the waves, because the most beautiful and well-kept areas, such as Santa Lucía beach, have been filled with hotels where mainly foreign visitors stay.

Getting there is expensive and complicated, so Nuevitas is a more accessible option. However, the most democratic of Camagüey’s beaches suffers from chronic neglect. The ruins of old buildings destroyed by hurricanes or abandonment dot part of the coastline and holiday makers are forced to bathe in the middle of concrete fragments, metal beams and other types of rubble (debris).

Among the beaches with the highest number of visitors Las Piedras, La Colonia and the others that extend close to the old railway line stand out, although some opt for the more distant ones such as Santa Rita and the one with better seabeds such as Varaderito, about three kilometers from the city, but which can only be accessed by a road in poor condition.

“Here it has been years that no repairs have been made nor the beach dredged,” laments Mily Marín, a local resident who takes her children to the beach. “These places do not look like the beaches I knew as a child, my children leave with wounds on their feet,” laments the mother, who recalls a childhood with a maintained coastline and denounces the institutional abandonment that the area has reached.

The industrial growth that the zone experienced during the years of Soviet subsidy made industries proliferate, among them some very polluting ones like the 10th of October Thermoelectric Company and a fertilizer factory. The damages left by strong hurricanes, such as Irma last September, have exacerbated the situation.

The rising waters have also taken space from vacationers. During the last century an increase in the average annual temperature of 0.6 ° was registered in Cuba and the average sea level has increased at a rate of 2.14 millimeters per year. At least 291 beaches in the country (84% of the total) have already been affected by these changes. The climate changes and industrial discharges are compounded by the problem of domestic waste carried to the sea by the waters of the Saramaguacán River and from places as far away as the north of the municipality of Camagüey and the plains of Sibanicú.

The neighbors of Nuevitas remember the beautiful beach before industrial waste and neglect appropriated their coastlines. This is the case of Juan, a retiree who makes a few pesos selling corn chips to holidaymakers and regrets that the bay is now invaded by a “fetid mud.” He only has one word to define the situation: “It’s a disaster.”

The authorities have been working on a project supported by the United Nations Development Program that seeks to alleviate the environmental impact in the area. “A series of results has already accrued that have repercussions not only on biodiversity, but also on the economic development and good social living of the territory,” assured the local newspaper Adelante.

The signature work of this collaboration is the so-called Malecón-Patana Rosa Naútica Complex, inaugurated at the end of last year, which includes a seawall on the coast with various recreational opportunities nearby. The work, 320 meters long, was erected partly over an old pier.

The Malecón-Patana Rosa Naútica complex, inaugurated at the end of last year, includes a wall on the coast with various recreational offers around. (14ymedio)

“It turned out very good, but the vacationers of Camagüey do not come to these places,” clarifies Pastor Yilber Durand. “They want to enjoy the beaches, which are in terrible conditions. I think it would have been better to invest all that money by improving them.”

The difference between “the beaches of the people,” as many call the coast where the Camagüeyans dip and “the beaches of the tourists” does not only lie in the quality of the maintenance they receive, in the cleanliness of their waters or in the number of houses that rent rooms for vacationers. The gastronomic offers also mark a great difference

While in Santa Lucia you can buy “almost anything […], in Nuevitas the offerings are poorer,” says Roxana, mother of two girls and resident in the city of Camagüey, who frequently visits the north coast. She has no doubt that “many sellers prefer to go to those places where customers can pay better for a sandwich, a soft drink or a fresh fruit.”

However, Roxana is happy that some private businesses remain in Nuevitas. If they were not here, “there would be very little left to enjoy, because between the dirty waters and the attention that you have to take with the garbage on the coast, at least drinking a cold juice in front of the sea is worth it.”

“We are the ones who guarantee food and drink to those who arrive from the main city, because the state offers are very scarce,” the owner of a restaurant that operates in a place leased to the State confirms to 14ymedio. The small businessman and some others plan to stay, waiting for good luck and care to return to the beaches of Nuevitas.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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

"Resisting For the Sake of Resisting Makes No Sense"

Ileana Álvarez and her husband Francis Sánchez decided to leave the country, along with their youngest son, due to the “pressures and threats” to which they were subjected by the authorities. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Havana, 16 August 2018 —  Two weeks ago, Ileana Álvarez and her husband Francis Sánchez went into exile in Spain. Both are known for their prolific work as poets, writers and essayists. They decided to leave the country, along with their youngest son, due to the “pressures and threats” to which they were subjected by the authorities.

Álvarez founded the magazine Alas Tensas [Tense Wings] in 2016 , an independent media that explores issues such as gender violence in a country that for decades has distanced itself from discussions about the role of women in society. Sánchez, meanwhile, is the author of more than 20 books published in Cuba, Mexico, Spain and the United States. From Ciego de Ávila, in the center of the country, he founded the magazine Árbol Invertido [Inverted Tree] in 2005, which he conceived of as a space to reflect the needs and voices of creative communities outside of Havana.

From Madrid they answer 14ymedio’s questions about the reasons that led them to make such a drastic decision.

What were the circumstances that led you to make this decision?

Francis Sánchez: Actually, “the circumstances” would be our entire lives. I have grown up like any Cuban of this era under the heavy burden of authoritarianism, also suffering that alienation from human relationships when many people around you live in fear, with masks and lies, something I never wanted to adapt to. continue reading

I always felt a little proud of the challenge of residing, resisting in a small city in the interior, irreverent, solitary, and achieving in these adverse conditions my personal goals, even if they were not the greatest, such as making a family, doing literary work, having a blog or founding an independent magazine. I found myself frequently in the midst of censure and other unpleasant situations. It was an exhausting daily resistance, sometimes telling myself that this was my destiny.

Nevertheless, in the last months, since March, we began to be the targets of great harassment. Ileana was interrogated and threatened by State Security, they interviewed me upon entering the country and they confiscated my laptop. In a short time, we became targets for State Security, their intimidations were very strong, they forbade us to leave the country several times, coerced our friends and collaborators, and we began to notice dangers that even touched our children.

We realized that we could be trapped in the fallacy of some kind of common legal case*, I doubt that then we would have had a way out or to get support, something that I am more convinced of today. Pen América published a dossier on the risk of our situation [Status: Threatened]. But, ultimately, we felt extremely vulnerable and isolated. I saw clearly that sometimes resisting for the sake of resisting does not make any sense. My goal and my victory is in creating, and I decided to take advantage of Spanish nationality to provide a period of tranquility for my family, and maybe a better future for my children.

Ileana Álvarez : I have always believed in the possibility of change, with faith that the future will be better, in the same way that I believed in the commitment and responsibility of the intellectual with her time. This led me, from my years as a Philology student at the Central University of Las Villas, to create or ally myself with literary projects and the founding of magazines such as ImagoVidenciaÁrbol invertido and Alas Tensas, where I have expressed my ideas and conceptions about culture and society.

However, the harassment, the ideological and psychological harassment suffered in recent months by an independent feminist magazine made my faith falter. Far from what was happening in the world, intersectional feminism, not at all essentialist, even from the culture that made Alas Tensas, had become dangerous for the structures of the patriarchal power existing in Cuba.

The situation became particularly intolerable, we could not — under that harassment, which included our collaborators — continue to develop our work. I felt as a woman, mother, journalist and poet who lived in the provinces, even more vulnerable and alone. I saw that my children were no longer safe, and that is very painful and disequilibrating for a mother. The situation was untenable and I realized that I needed a break.

There is something that I would like to add, which aggravates the state of vulnerability of many Cuban feminists: feminist activists are rejected from different political extremes. For the Government and its institutions, feminism is a falling backwards to bourgeois liberalism, while for a good part of the opposition, which has not shed its macho thinking, it is not to be trusted because of its leftist tradition. Both positions forget all the gains that feminist struggles have brought to the world.

What risks did you face staying on the island?

Ileana Álvarez : I was facing greater harassment, since some of the serious threats made to me by State Security became a reality and affected loved and innocent people; I was facing more psychological and emotional damage than I had suffered to date and that was seriously affecting my physical condition; I was facing greater social isolation than I was already experiencing in my city, and other ignoble practices that the blind mass performs, and losing my right to enter and leave my country whenever I wanted. That and more, because I was going to continue doing feminist activism from Alas Tensas.

What is the current legal status under which you are in Spain?

Francis Sánchez : I obtained my Spanish citizenship, through the Law of Historical Memory. It was a process I started in 2010. I have come to Spain, therefore, with a Spanish passport, our son will soon receive Spanish nationality by choice, while Ileana will obtain her residency.

What will happen from now on with the projects ‘Alas Tensas’ and ‘Árbol Invertido’?

Ileana Álvarez and Francis Sánchez : So much resistance we have encountered to carry out personal, independent projects, such as the cultural medium Árbol Invertido (since 2005) and the feminist magazine Alas Tensas (since 2016), only confirms that they are our raison d’être, even to our regret, they define us, and we will continue with them always, in the midst of new and unpredictable difficulties such as those we will encounter in Madrid.

The attacks we received signify a kind of praise and recognition of the work we have done. Without a doubt, Cuba needs alternatives for free expression. We have always thought that our magazines were a space of freedom, a kind of virtual country, ideal, without censorship or rancor, as was our literature, because in such deteriorated internal and social conditions we needed to invent an island better than to inhabit, and the ubiquity of the internet allowed us to do that very well.

Now, for other reasons, perhaps we need more than ever to keep that tunnel open to the utopia of an island with everyone and for everyone. These projects are nourished by the Cuban reality, and by collaborators and readers who, for the most part, are still on the island. Cuba needs projects like Alas Tensas and Árbol Invertido.

What would have to happen to make the decision to return to Cuba?

Ileana Álvarez and Francis Sánchez: Our family and our house are there, along with other people and places we love. We have the right to be there, to never have left and to return as soon as we decide. We are traveling legally, and we prefer to think about our departure, as well as our probable return, as part of the natural freedom of movement of human beings.

For those of us who have positioned ourselves in favor of freedom of expression and democracy, exile does not have a pejorative weight. But, in the contemporary global village, Cubans also take advantage of multiple opportunities that come from abroad, a fellowship, a master’s degree or a work contract, and today many intellectuals and alternative journalists reside outside of Cuba, sometimes temporarily, without this being a straitjacket.

Of course, we would like to return to a different country, where real feminist activism is not a threat, independent journalism is not demonized and the freedom of expression of artists is not throttled by the State. The ideal would be to return to a country where nobody is afraid to say what they think. By the way, if we were to choose, we would then find a society in which two abominations do not exist: the death penalty and acts of repudiation. In short, that Cuba we dream of, and that all Cubans, regardless of our differences, and wherever we are, we have the right to build.

How do you imagine life in exile now?

Ileana Álvarez and Francis Sánchez: The Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet said: “Exile is hard work.” Socrates preferred to drink the hemlock rather than be expelled from the city. Those who manage the life of generations and the time of the island, have abused that master key. “Outside,” for now we barely have had time to imagine, we have very little apart from our will, proven by where we come from. We are willing to work on anything and start from scratch as millions of compatriots have done, for as long as we consider necessary, and return to Cuba when it seems appropriate.

A message for those who pushed you to make this decision?

Ileana Álvarez and Francis Sánchez : We do not think about the faces of “those” of flesh and blood. The evil lies behind and above simple instruments. But, a message, with all my heart, could be: “Thank you.” It could also be: “We will continue discussing in eternity,” or “Violence is not an argument.”

We have always clung to positive emotions, we decide what we are. In short, for us, poets who try to live in coherence with our consciences, it is rather stimulating to feel that we are again at the beginning, not at the end. We remember Pablo Neruda: “You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot stop the spring.”

*Translator’s note: Sanchez is referring to the practice of falsely charging dissidents with common crimes (ranging from domestic violence to murder) rather than with political crimes, to prevent people from being considered “political prisoners” by international human rights organizations.

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

Without Guarantees of Due Process, Detentions Always Appear Unjust / Cubalex

Cubalex, M.sc. Laritza Diversent, 3 August 2018 — The constitutional reform will recognise Habeas Corpus, as it is applied in domestic law. An obviously ineffective procedure. It does not provide protection against arbitrary detention or enforced disappearance. Nor does it comply with international standards in terms of due process.

“No-one who is imprisoned considers that it is in order,” was  José Luis Toledo Santander’s cynical comment. “Everyone detained by the police considers himself innocent and to have been unfairly detained,” adds the deputy and member of the editing commission of the constitutional text. “That implies,” he concludes, “that every person detained by the police would be able to seek a writ of Habeas Corpus.”

Abuse of power and excess of discretional authority

The agents of police and security (Ministry of the Interior) have minimal training and excessive authority. After being recruited and a 6-month course, they are ready to exercise power and enjoy the impunity guaranteed by their uniform and their licence. continue reading

Whether on the orders of a superior, personal dislike, or a battle for territorial control — it’s all the same. No-one who has a business escapes the payment of tribute to the authorities. The evidence presented and declarations to a tribunal, whether true or not, carry more weight than the law itself.

In such circumstances, it is logical that everyone detained by the police considers himself unfairly detained. That’s the logic in a country where guarantees of due process do not exist.

Do you know that the police can interpret and apply, acting as judges, 27% of the offences in the Penal Code?

Without remission of the case to a tribunal, they are authorised to judge it, and apply a fine. When they exercise this power, they do not inform the detainees that, in the event of their accepting it, they are recognising their guilt (loss of the presumption of innocence) and abandoning the right to be judged by a tribunal.

Absence of independent, impartial tribunals

Do you know that the Committee against Enforced Disappearance (an office of the United Nations) is concerned that the subordination of the tribunals to the National Assembly and the Council of State affects the independance of the judiciary?

Yes, judges are subject to all types of political influence. Both of these state organs are charged with appointing, promoting, suspending, and dismissing them. A judge can be dismissed from a tribunal, for not being willing to join the Cuban Communist Party, which subjects them to conflicts of interest and intimidation.

Total absence of the right to defence and therefore the presumption of innocence

Did you know that the national tribunals only accept legal service contracts issued by the Collective Law Firms (Legal practices supervised by the Ministry of Justice)?

Yes, in practice they are obliged to contract defence lawyers from an organisation which is unique in the country and ideologically committed to the political group holding power in the country. This situation affects the right to freely select your lawyer.

Nor are the ONBC lawyers are not independent. They are subject to interference, pressure and undue influence from the authorities who intervene in the penal process, which prevents them from performing dilligently and fearlessly, acting against the interests of their clients.

First published in Cubalex

Translated by GH

Cuba: Without a Real Transition There Will Be No Winners / Miriam Celaya

Cuban on Havana’s Malecon (EFE)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 16 August 2018 –With its lights and its shadows, the virtual debates surrounding the constitutional reform undertaken by the Cuban government have created the benefit of uncovering a host of non-conformities and claims long repressed by Cubans from all corners of the globe, and at the same time, stirring the polarization around the issue that operates as a turning point: to participate or not in that which, from the outset, is perceived as the leadership’s farce.

So much reluctance is not by chance. Sixty years of scams by the dictatorial power has developed in Cubans a natural distrust of everything that flows from it. However, this has not been an impediment to breaking the silence. Demands are overflowing the virtual spaces of some websites and social networks, where they have been creating discussion groups on constitutional issues, and in which very interesting analyses and discussions are taking place.

However, the truth is that certain uprisings of civic rebellion are taking place in Cuba, either because of the uncertainties generated by a reform project clearly designed for the benefit and consecration of the top leadership or by the feeling of general frustration among a population that had pinned its hopes on improving its living conditions. The population also had its hopes pinned on true participation in the national economy and politics from the “transition” of power, from the hands of the historical generation to a new younger president, supposedly better linked to “the people.” They are not seeing such hopes expressed in the lapidary constitutional proposal that only reaffirms and prolongs the demise of citizen rights. continue reading

The motives may be apparently disconnected and disengaged from the strictly constitutional issues – such as Decree 349, which affects the artistic sector; marriage between LGTBI couples; the censorship of an art show or of one in a theatre scene; the arbitrary detention of a citizen; etc. – however, protests are focused on and related to the same basic problem: the boredom of a nation in which all individual rights have been violated for too long. The general feeling of malaise inside Cuba is palpable.

The trigger that would spark the delicate political and social balance could be both the enforcement of certain decrees and laws that further limit citizen rights and the arbitrary detention of an artist or a group, the censorship of a film or a play, the confiscation of the means of work of any business owner or independent professional, the shortages in the markets, the high prices of food, the eternal problems of transportation or any eventuality within the endless accumulation of setbacks and limitations that characterize the days of the common Cuban.

Authorities are aware of this. That’s the reason there has also been a rebound in the repression and surveillance against the “disaffected” sectors, that is, the dissidence, the opposition groups, the protest artists, the independent journalists and against any hint of demands, even within the “socialist” ranks themselves.

These demands are growing in their number and in their intensity, as reflected in the great variety and quantity of independent and “alternative” journalism that is currently taking place in Cuba despite the censors, and to the chagrin of the power elite, in hubs of disobedience of several young filmmakers; in the gradual but tangible process of loss of fear, especially among the younger intellectuals and artists sectors. It is the spirit of the generations that distance themselves from the “zombie effect” that still afflicts their parents and grandparents.

At the same time, this other sector of the dissatisfied is increasing. It is much larger and more dangerous, and is composed of the poorest individuals, those who depend on insufficient wages, who lack other means of making a living, a decent home; who see their children grow up among material shortages of all kinds and who, when the time comes, and in the absence of a leadership that will channel their demands peacefully, could become a violent and uncontrollable force, with unpredictable consequences and at an incalculable social and political cost.

And just as the rupture of the so-called “revolutionary social pact” between the un-government and dis-governed is becoming evident, also palpable is the leadership’s fear of things getting out of control if the usually meek flock turns into an ungovernable mass. The agents of the State (in)Security have threatened – not just by chance – a small group of popular artists after their arrest for protesting against an official decree, telling them that they would not allow another “Nicaragua” in Cuba. If there is something the Castro hound pack fears it is people without fear.

Without a doubt, “they will not allow it,” just as they are not allowing it in that Central American country where, according to witnesses, the repression is directed and monitored by Cuban troops. A “constancy” that has also been reported by numerous sources from Venezuela, where elite Castro troops have played an important role in the tenacious repression against the opponents of the dictator Nicolás Maduro.

Consequently, following the dictatorial logic, everything points to an eventual increase in the repression in Cuba, in direct proportion to the increase in citizen protest demonstrations or any spontaneous popular protest. Obviously, the so-called “debates” of the constitutional project that will only consecrate the rights of the power caste will also be jealously guarded by the agents of the political police, supported by the everlasting neighborhood snitches. The regime will try to keep everything on an even keel, but it knows that nothing is the same anymore. Especially when it does not even have the supreme resource: to release the pressure through a massive migratory wave.

Without the Mariel boatlift, without the “maleconazo“*, without fleets of rafters and without the land migrations toward the US borders of thousands of Cubans through South America, Central America and Mexico, the pressure stays in Cuba. It’s all about seeing who and how they will release it. If there is no economic reform and no real democratic transition in Cuba, this time there might be no winners

(Miriam Celaya, resident in Cuba, is visiting the United States)

*Translator’s Note: Uprising that took place in Havana August 1994, to protest government policies.

Translated by Norma Whiting

What Rights are Affected or Restricted by Decree 349/2018? / Cubalex

T-shirts: Criminal Artist

Cubalex, 16 August 2018 — The Cuban State ,through Decree No. 349 of April 20, 2018, has deliberately adopted regressive measures without consideration or justification that disproportionately influence the exercise of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

The decree limits equal access to worthy work to all people. It institutes forced labor by obliging artists to qualify with and establish links to a state institution in order to obtain remuneration for their work.

It establishes a system of retroactive censorship for cultural activities, the arts and other forms of expression, violating freedom for creative activity and the right to the full development of the human personality. It also violates the freedom of thought, belief, religion and of opinion, association and peaceful assembly. continue reading

Independent artists or those who do not have associations with the institutions of the state or groups of civil society will see themselves doubly discriminated against because their forms and means of expression are perceived by the state as a challenge, or an expression of political opinion.

It stimulates and promotes discrimination based on political opinion. It does not respond to any pressing public or social need. It does not pursue a legitimate purpose and is not compatible with the provisions, aims and objectives of international human rights law. It is not strictly necessary for the promotion of the general welfare of a democratic society.

On the contrary, it violates the principle of prior responsibilities that ensure respect for the rights or reputation of others, and the protetion of national security, the public order or health or public morals. With this decree victims are not needed, nor are affected groups or denunciations, and it does not take into account the guarantees of due process for the accused. The agents of the State will decide in a discretionary, selective and discriminatory way if any artistic manifestation promotes discrimination, violence or uses sexist, vulgar or obscene language.

Artists were not consulted before the adoption of Decree No. 349/2018 and the resolutions of the Ministry of Culture (MINCUL) that implemented this cultural policy. They are totally unprotected. They have no means to participate in the direction of public affairs nor in the process of formulation, application and adoption of public policy decisions that affect the exercise of their cultural rights.

They do not have access to effective judicial remedies or other adequate resources to obtain reparation, restitution, compensation and satisfaction or guarantees of non-duplication, in the event of possible violation of their moral and material interests. There are no mechanisms in the country to challenge this Decree in case of illegal, abusive, arbitrary, irrational or discriminatory application.

This article was first published in Cubalex.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

Martha Beatriz Roque Asks to Return to Prison in Solidarity With Jose Daniel Ferrer

Martha Beatriz Roque during an event in Miami. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 August 2018 — The former political prisoner of the 2003 Black Spring Group of 75, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, was detained for some hours by the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) on Monday morning after leaving her home, activist Tania De la Torre Montesinos confirmed to 14ymedio.

At the time of the arrest, Roque Cabello, an economist by profession, went to the State Security Room of the Provincial Court of Havana to deliver a letter requesting the revocation of her extrapenal license, in solidarity with the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), José Daniel Ferrer.

“They detained her in Santa Catalina street, at the corner of her house, and they kept her for a few minutes in the police car but then released her because she had hypoglycemia and they told her that she could not leave her house,” added De la Torre. continue reading

Roque Cabello, once recovered from the health incident, went out into the street and confronted the officers, telling them that her house was not a prison, according to the testimony of De la Torre. The PNR troops arrested her again and put her in the police car, and as of now her whereabouts are unknown.

According to the acitvist,  an officer who claimed to be called Miguel, prohibited her from visiting the Swedish embassy, where she usually connects to the internet. They also seized the letter she intended to present to the courts.

In the letter that Roque Cabello wanted to deliver to the authorities, the dissident specifies that if they do not revoke the measure of extrapenal leave with which she left prison in 2004, she prefers to face the same fate as José Daniel Ferrer and return to prison.

“At the time it was decided to grant the extrapenal license to the group of 75 we were all released. Ten of us sanctioned on this cause are in Cuba and we are in a legal limbo, but in freedom. If we can not all be together on the street, my personal decision is to return to prison as they have imprisoned José Daniel Ferrer,” wrote Roque Cabello.

José Daniel Ferrer was arrested on 3 August after an automobile accident in which an agent of the Ministry of the Interior was involved. Last Friday, the prosecution filed charges against the Unpacu leader for “attempted murder.” Some opponents consider that the accusation against Ferrer to be a charade to decapitate one of the largest opposition groups on the island.

Roque Cabello was the only woman in the group of 75 dissidents sentenced to long sentences for crimes against state security in 2003, an event that shocked international public opinion, known as the Black Spring. That was her second conviction, as in 1997 she was tried for signing the document La Patria es de todos (The Fatherland Belongs to Everyone) when she was part of the Internal Dissidence Working Group.

With the mediation of the Catholic Church and the collaboration of Spain, the Government of Raúl Castro decided to release the dissidents in exchange for their departure from the country. Roque Cabello, who had earlier benefited from an extra-penal license for health reasons, is part of the group of opponents who refused to leave the island, along with José Daniel Ferrer, national coordinator of Unpacu and Ángel Moya, husband of Berta Soler, current president of the Ladies in White.

Roque Cabello leads the Network of Community Journalists and Communicators, which has collaborators in several provinces of the country.

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Open Letter to All the Cuban Artists and Intellectuals

A group of artists are protesting the decree and are being repressed.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Sandra Ceballos, Havana | 14 August 2018 – Cuban artists and intellectuals have to unite. Cuban artists and intellectuals can not remain passive in the face of such ignominy and repression. In many parts of the world people have the right to disagree and demand justice, demand modifications and changes. There is also the right to demonstrate and strike. Of course, in places where there is democracy, the individual thought of man is respected.

Most of the artists and intellectuals do not agree with the entire Decree of Law 349, but they speak behind closed doors and not in public. Nevertheless,  there is a group of artists who are protesting and are being repressed, imprisoned and physically injured. They are accused of delinquency and mediocrity, a strategy that is very vulgar and pathetic; but, for the most part,  these are young intellectuals and artists who are raising their voices publicly, who are just thinking about our economic assets and properties, international events and family peace. What a shame!

Some of these artists, like Amaury Pacheco and his wife Iris (from Omni Zonafranca), have four children, live in precarious conditions and dare to defend our cause. Others like Yanelys Núñez and Luis Manuel Otero have for several years performed, exhibited and sculpted. Of course, I understand the discrimination, since he did not graduate from ISA (Higher Institute of Art), nor from San Alejandro, and therefore is not a member of the institutional guild. What a pity. Of course not a pity for him, but for the guild. Undoubtedly these artists are fighting for the right to independence of  their ideals, the right to disagree, and the right to choose, which are nothing more than human rights. continue reading

The events in the San Isidro neighborhood clearly demonstrated to the world the violence and mistreatment perpetrated by the Cuban authorities towards the artists. But something very shocking happened: the neighbors of the community came to the defense of the artists and expressed their indignation at the actions taken against them. Finally, repression generates rebellion. Violence generates violence.

If we do not unite, we will end up having to ask permission to hang our works on the walls of our homes and studios; we will have to allow the authorities to enter our houses  and take away our equipment and personal property; we will have to present projects to the authorities for approval before we can celebrate them in a  party in our homes.

It will be necessary to ask the institutions what subjects we can adress in our works, we will have to forget that the patriotic symbols represent us, we will have to look at them as something unattainable, untouchable, alien. We will have to lower our heads in order not to lose the legal status of the Creator’s Registry.

The artists that do not belong to the small institutional ghetto will end up selling pizzas or fritters, or worse, painting slogans or the antique cars seen on the streets of Havana. This is going to end very badly if we continue to allow them to mistreat those who are raising their voices for us if we do not support them.

I ask myself where are the Cuban intellectuals and artists, where is the warrior spirit that Maceo taught us, where is the solidarity and dignity of the Cubans. Until when will we be sitting on ambition and selfishness. Will we have to wait until they have died in the ditches or other “accidents”? We must go to the institutions and express our disagreement, we must sign the letter opposing Law 349 that is circulating on the internet. Do not let the authorities divide us by sowing distrust and fear amongst ourselves. Let us not allow their blackmail and threats.

If we do not unite, we will say in chorus: Happy new 1960!

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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Ideology? "I Don’t Have Any"

‘Epic Book’ has all the keys to a show of impersonation in the style of those who perform at the Las Vegas cabaret, in the Infanta street in Havana, or in El Mejunje de Santa Clara (deskgram.org)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Ignacio de la Paz, Camagüey | 14 August 2018 — The complicity that is established among the spectators creates the perfect climate for Epic Book, a staging every Sunday of July and August that makes Camaguey residents shake with laughter. In a key of sarcasm, the piece questions the excessive militarization of the Island and the early ideological indoctrination of children.

In the hands of the director David Pimentel Martín, the company Noventísimo Performance Project does not skimp on ironies in the Café Teatro of the Camagüey headquarters of the Hermanos Saíz Association (AHS). From the minute the spectators arrive at the theater they encounter a mixture of chaotic insolence and self-confidence that ridicules the so-called values of Cuban socialist society.

So much irreverence, combined with acomplished and multifaceted acting, have turned Epic Book into a phenomenon in the midst of the province’s August heat, where high temperatures are often met with few high quality cultural options. The dialog runs and, before the sharpness of the work, some fall out laughing and others hide their guilt. continue reading

“The same burning, the same palm, the same plague, the cow is mounted on the truck, not for pleasure, out of necessity,” are the phrases that greet the spectators from the poster announcing the performances. In that surrealist image, is condensed a lot of the brazen criticism that begins as soon as the first speeches are declaimed.

Pimentel clarifies to the spectators that the Noventísimo Performance Project has a “pinkish fuchsia color” and that the year in which he was inactive was not because his members were traveling abroad, but because they were “birthing.” The laughter bursts out and there is always some clueless visitor who turns red up to his ears, his face clearly showing that he’s in the wrong place.

Epic Book has all the keys to a show of impersonations in the style of those who perform at the Las Vegas cabaret, in Infanta street in Havana, or in El Mejunje in Santa Clara. However, the playful show is punctuated with scathing dialogues that include everything from José Martí’s verses, through the rhymes of Bonifacio Byrne to the songs of Luis Casas Romero.

As an element that gives the piece a very current context, the burning theme of homosexual marriage is touched, which ignites the passions in the debate on the constitutional reform. The active opposition of the conservative religious sectors is shown in opposition to the demands of the LGBTI community.

Thus, Pimentel weaves speeches that whistle like darts towards the symbolic pillars of the system. One of them, in the worst Soviet style very common in the 70s and 80s of the last century, is the one that promoted the moral stimuli of the ‘vanguard’ workers, among which there were abundant diplomas that filled the walls of the grandparents and parents of those who today look with indifference or ridicule on so much paraphernalia.

In a cathartic act, the spectators gathered on the terrace of the AHS must shatter the vanguard diploma given to them a little earlier. Rip, rip, rip, they tear the paper, which for many of them represents a past full of false promises of the future. Rip, rip, rip and the pieces fall on the hard ground of a reality quite different from the one they were led to believe was just around the corner.

It is not clear to whom Epic Book expresses that marked apathy of the Cuban millennials, the emphasis comes in the voice of an actress who declaims: “Ideology, I do not have any.” The phrase, said with the emphasis of a Little Pioneer reciting her fidelity to Che at the morning assembly at an elementary school, summarizes the protective mechanism in which these grown children have taken refuge among the so-called anti-imperialist grandstands and the television Roundtables.

The most accomplished moment of the work is precisely the poetic replay of words from the classic poem Abdala by José Martí. A few verses that every Cuban child has had to recite at some other time, but in the context of Pimentel’s piece it presents a sharp questioning of certain concepts such as patriotism and duty.

When the lights go out and the voices stop echoing, people return home, still processing what they have just seen on the stage. In spite of the laughter and epic tone of Epic Book, a feeling of uneasiness settles on the spectators, as if the actors had completely exploded any remaining utopian bubble they had left.

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Jose Daniel Ferrer Released But Charges Against Him Remain

José Daniel Ferrer, national coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 August 2018 — On Wednesday morning the authorities freed José Daniel Ferrer, national coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), who had been detained for 12 days accused of “attempted murder.

As confirmed by Ferrer himself to 14ymedio via telephone, the charges against him remain. “There was only a change of custody from pre-trial detention to immediate release,” explained the government opposition figure. During the press conference at the headquarters of the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami, in which he participated by telephone, the opponent reported that he had been psychologically tortured and that the conditions of his detention were “horrendous.”

“They held me in a completely dark place,” denounced Ferrer, who described the cell where he was held as “dirty and stinking.” The opponent denounced the “continuous interrogation” to which he was subjected and the threats of revoking the probationary license with which he was released from prison in 2011. Ferrer said he was not beaten. continue reading

Ferrer was released during a visit by his relatives, said Carlos Oliva, a member of UNPACU. “They brought him to the headquarters of UNPACU in a small bus,” he added.

“Castroism is in a big offensive against the democrats of the region and especially against the Cuban democrats,” said Rosa María Payá, who leads the Cuba Decides initiative to which UNPACU is linked. Payá sympathized with Ferrer and added that “all Cubans are hostages [of the Government] and especially members of the opposition.”

Payá denounced the arrest of Jorge Luis García Pérez who was in Placetas, in the municipality of Villa Clara where he resides. Antúnez, as the activist is known, was summoned together with his wife, Magalis Rivaflechas, to the Immigration offices in relation to the prohibition that weighs on both of them to not leave the country. Once there they told him that the ban would continue because when he was previously in Miami he met with “terrorists.”

Antúnez and his wife recently denounced the murder at the hands of the police of Alejandro Pupo Echemendía, 46, who was being held at a station while being investigated for a horse-racing offense.

Payá requested the support of the international community to pressure the Island’s Government and to demand respect for the integrity of the activists. Ferrer, for his part, denounced the current process of constitutional reform in the country and said that his organization will continue to campaign for a No vote.

Ferrer was arrested with activist Ebert Hidalgo Cruz after an incident involving Interior Ministry official Dainier Suárez Pagán, who was allegedly hit by a car driven Ferrer while driving without license.

The agent Suárez Pagán is known by government opponents inthe city of Palmarito de Cauto for being violent and besieging activists. According to the judicial version, Ferrer tried to run over him while crossing the street, a statement that was denied by opponents shortly before Ferrer’s arrest.

Hidalgo Cruz was released without charges. “They forced me to say that José Daniel was guilty, that he had run into the officer with the car,” denounced the activist in a video released last Sunday by UNPACU.

The activist also said that he was questioned four times and threatened by the agents with keeping him prisoner. “I told them not to press me anymore, that I was not going to make any more statements,” he explained, regarding the agents’ insistence that he affirm that José Daniel’s aggression against the agent was deliberate.

José Daniel Ferrer García presides over UNPACU, an organization he founded in 2011 after his release on parole as part of the Group of 75 dissidents from the 2003 Black Spring that Cuban justice condemned to decades in prison. After negotiations between the Government of Raúl Castro and the Catholic Church in which Spain also participated, the dissidents who were imprisoned were freed and many of them went into exile.

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

Cuban Police Captain, Rafter and Now Under Arrest in the US for the Disappearance of Two Women

Video of Hareton Jaime Rodríguez Sariol and other rafters arriving on the Florida coast. No subtitles.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton/Manual Mons, Miami, 16 August 2018 — Hareton Jaime Rodríguez Sariol, a former captain in Cuba’s National Revolutionary Police (PNR), who arrived in Miami as a rafter in 2016, dressed in full uniform, has been arrested as the main suspect in the disappearance of two Colombian women in the state of Virginia.

Elizabeth Rodríguez Rubio, 48, and her granddaughter Angie Carolina Rodríguez Rubio, 12, were last seen on Sunday, 5 August, in the city of Harrisonburg, Rockingham County, Virginia.

They were accompanied by Rodriguez Sariol to the state of Maryland, where they reside. The police issued an alert on 7 August for the disappearance of the child and her grandmother. continue reading

The vehicle in which Rodriguez Sariol was transporting both women, a red Honda Civic, was found in flames on Interstate 66. After this the suspect drove a 2000 Volvo truck on the 6th and 7th of August to different places in the country.

Rodriguez Sariol was arrested in Lackawanna, Pennsylvania and continues to be questioned, police sources confirmed to this newspaper.

“The captain was madly in love with that woman. They met at an English school where they studied and then they left. She wanted to get married to get the papers,” says a source close to Rodriguez Sariol who agreed to speak with 14ymedio on condition of anonymity. According to this source, the Cuban was “obsessed” with the woman.

The vehicle Rodriguez Sariol was driving in with both women, a red Honda Civic, was found in flames in Interstate 66. (Courtesy)

“Hareton was a creep, he got his license in Texas and for a month he lived in his car outside the company he managed in Washington DC. She visited him on Fridays, when the captain got paid and gave her all the money. The woman lived with a son I never knew,” he adds.

David Barrero, son of Elizabeth Rodríguez Rubio and uncle of Angie Carolina Rodríguez Rubio, told local media that the family is very stressed by what happened. “Most of us have nightmares at night,” he said, adding that his sister and other relatives have distributed leaflets in Harrisonburg and other nearby cities.

The police set up a local crime line at (540) 574-5050 and is asking those who have information about both women to contact the authorities.

Rodríguez Sariol arrived in the United States in April 2016 aboard a raft with 25 other emigrants when the wet foot/dry foot policy was still in effect, which granted refuge to all Cubans who stepped foot on US territory.

The video that documents part of his journey went viral on social networks because he and another officer, Michel Herrera, arrived dressed in their PNR uniforms. As they said at the time, they did not take off their uniforms to avoid being arrested when they arrived on the boat on the coast.

El capitán, as his acquaintances call him for his rank in the national transportation directorate in Cuba, denied having repressed dissidents or participating in acts of repudiation against the opposition, in several interviews he granted to the South Florida media.

Angie and Elizabeth Rodriguez Rubio. Granddaughter and granddaughter respectively, have been missing since the beginning of the month when Hareton Jaime Rodriguez Sariol drove them to his home. (Courtesy Facebook)

The group of rafters left Guanabo, east of Havana and were at sea for more than 30 hours before arriving in the United States. Once in the country, Rodriguez Sariol received help from the US Government and settled in Virginia.

Marino Ramírez, a Cuban who has lived in the United States for more than 10 years, met Rodriguez Sariol at the Church of the Nazarene. “He was a serious man, but very kind. He always expressed his desire to bring his family from Cuba,” Ramírez told this newspaper. Still on the island are Rodriguez Sariol’s mother and a sister, as well as other relatives.

Maurice Naranjo worked as a representative for the Cuban Haitian Entrant Program, a federal program administered by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services to host and relocate Cubans and Haitians with “parole” status (on probation until they regularize their status in the country), and that’s how he met Rodriguez Sariol.

“He seemed like a decent person. Being a police captain in Cuba did not influence his behavior. He was kind and expressed several times his desire to do everything possible to get ahead and find a job. He was helped with several federal and state benefits,” he said.

Naranjo can not believe that Rodriguez Sariol is involved in the disappearance of two people. “The police contacted me to ask me some questions about him and I could not believe it. I thought they were talking about someone else,” he added.

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

A Discreet Test of Internet for Mobile Phones Unleashes Frustrations

A young man connected to the wifi network in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 15 August 2018 — A young woman was talking on the phone in a café when someone at the next table overheard the conversation. In a few minutes everyone in the place had their eyes glued to their cellphones to test the mobile internet they’d heard about in that private dialogue. The Telecommunications Company of Cuba (Etecsa) did not say a word, but at 11 am on Tuesday morning thousands of customers across the country knew that it was the moment they had been waiting for, for years.

Neither the official website of Etecsa, the state communications monopoly, nor its public communication office revealed that tests were being undertaken of the web connection; it was only uncovered by independent journalism sites and private accounts on the social networks. Thus, after two decades of delay and surrounded by institutional secrecy, Cubans peered into the World Wide Web from their cell phones. The experience was exciting but the technical problems generated more frustration than hope.

Congestion preventing the opening of web pages, continuous crashes causing the loss of data signals to phones, and an inability to see the images in applications with multimedia content were some of the most common difficulties suffered by thirsty netizens who expected to set sail in the virtual world, but were barely able splash on the shore of the WWW. continue reading

“I’ve spent 20 minutes and I have not been able to open a single digital site,” complained a boy who had learned about the “pilot test” through a friend who works at Etecsa. “They told the employees not to say anything but everyone who has a friend spread the word,” he says. By the end of the day, he had managed to “enter Facebook Messenger and write a couple of messages,” in addition to reading “half of an article, because it wouldn’t completely load,” from a newspaper in Florida.

The disappointed young man was only nine when, in February 2011, the Alba-1 submarine cable connected Cuba with Venezuela. At that time the majority of Etecsa users thought that the Internet was around the corner, but mismanagement and the ruling party’s fear that citizens would actively launch themselves on the web delayed connectivity.

After that came a long period of concealment and evasions. Official voices insisted that the government was going to opt for the “social use” of the new technologies, but it maintained prices for web browsing that had no relationship to national salaries. Wi-Fi zones were also born, a last attempt to delay the arrival of the web in the private space, but at least this addressed millions of people’s the appetite for communication and need for contact.

Connectivity policy has focused on delaying the moment when customers are alone, in the privacy of their homes or in a remote spot far from the public wireless access areas, in front of a screen where they can interact and through which they can publish and be heard. But Etecsa’s arguments were running out, its customers ceased to be convinced by old excuse of the US embargo and the demands for internet on mobile phones became a clamor.

In the end, the clumsy state company — one of the least efficient in the world — has announced that before the end of the year it will enable access to the web from prepaid mobile phones. Postpaid users and some privileged officials or official journalists have been enjoying this opportunity for months, but their opinions on the quality of navigation are very negative.

“It’s hopelessly slow,” says a young journalism graduate who works at a local media outlet with a quota of mobile phones connected to the web. “They have asked us to defend the Revolution on social networks but at this speed it is very difficult,” he says. The basic use this information professional has made of the connection is limited to “exchanging messages by WhatsApp and trying two frustrated video conferences in IMO.”

After yesterday’s experience, spoiled by slowness and technical problems, customers now wait for Etecsa to make an open announcement on the implementation schedule for the service and on the rates for data packages. They also want guarantees of functionality since “for something so bad I’m not going to pay as if it were really internet access,” a woman in the Etecsa office stressed this Tuesday .

The state communications monopoly is in trouble. It has millions of customers tired of waiting and many of them, on August 14, peeked into the network through their phones. Now they want to repeat the experience more efficiently and with complete freedom.

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

Venezuelan Migration Overwhelms the Region’s Borders

Venezuelans looking for work in the Brazilian city of Boa Vista. (File / EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE / 14ymedio, Havana, 11 August 2018 – The pressure of migratory inflows from Venezuela on the countries of the region led Ecuador, this Wednesday, to declare a state of institutional emergency in the provinces of Garchi, Pichincha and El Oro, while in Brazil this week the authorities closed the border with its northern neighbor for 20 hours after a court order, specifically in the state of Roraima, the main gateway for Venezuelans fleeing the economic, political, and social crisis of their country.

In the case of Ecuador, a country with which Venezuela does not share a border, a statement from the Foreign Ministry indicated that “in recent days, the flow reached 4,200 entries daily”. The fear that the new Colombian president, Iván Duque, might close the border, has intensified the arrival of Venezuelan immigrants in recent days in search of a destination in the south of the continent.

In 2017, 288,005 Venezuelans entered Ecuador, a figure that is likely to be surpassed this year, judging by the crowds on the border between the two countries. continue reading

The main gateway to Ecuador is the Rumichaca pass, on the border with Colombia, totally congested in recent days. From there many of migrants move to the capital, Quito, with the intention of continuing their journey to the south and crossing into Peru, and even reaching Chile.

The state of institutional emergency will last throughout the month of August, although it could continue according to the circumstances at the border crossing points.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Health, it will “strengthen medical care with a greater number of doctors.” The deployment will include a group of social workers and psychologists, especially for vulnerable groups (children, adolescents and women), as well as humanitarian aid to meet primary needs.

Meanwhile, in Brazil, the differences between the government of Roraima and the Federal government caused the temporary closure of the border. The lawsuit filed with a federal judge by the local authorities, who have seen about 50,000 Venezuelans arrive in the past year, was later annulled by the Federal Regional Court of the First Region.

“Closing the border means not recognizing the immigrant as equal to the Brazilian,” said the Court, while the country’s Minister of Security, Raúl Jungmann, hinted that the request for border closure suggested by the authorities of Roraima might be linked to internal political issues of that region, ahead of the elections that will be held this coming October in Brazil.

Jungmann considered, on a personal basis, that the decision to request the closure of the border may have had some “toxic interference of the elections,” which he affirmed would be “intolerable,” since “that issue can not be included in the electoral contest. ”

The minister pointed out that, since the government declared this past February a “situation of vulnerability” due to the massive influx of Venezuelans, the financial resources directed to Roraima have increased, in order to alleviate the situation.

Likewise, in cooperation with international entities, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), camps have been set up which welcome Venezuelans and a program initiated to move Venezuelans wishing to relocate to other regions of the country, through which 820 immigrants have been placed in cities such as Sao Paulo, Cuiabá, Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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