Tearing Up an Image of Fidel Castro is Worth a 12 Year Prison Sentence, According to the Cuban Prosecutor’s Office

A protester is detained by a policeman and a State Security agent in civilian clothes on July 11 in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 September 2021 — The Prosecutor’s Office is asking for 12 years in prison for Roberto Pérez Fonseca, detained after the July 11 protests in Cuba, during which he tore up a photograph of Fidel Castro. The case will be tried in San José de las Lajas, Mayabeque, on September 28.

The document of the Prosecutor’s Office, to which Martí Noticias has had access, indicates that Pérez Fonseca is accused of two crimes of attack and another two of contempt, in addition to instigation to commit a crime and public disorder.

The Public Ministry comments that, “ignoring the highly complex situation” that plagued the province due to the covid-19 pandemic, the 39-year-old accused took to the streets “shouting counterrevolutionary slogans.”

Later, he stood on the Boulevard, “leading a large number of people who he incited to throw stones and bottles at the officers of the National Revolutionary Police,” before which he maintained a “defiant” attitude, arriving, the document says, to throw a stone in the direction of an agent he was insulting which did not hit him. However, it did hit a police vehicle that was damaged.

The mother of the accused, Lisset Fonseca Rosales, believes that the facts do not correspond to the seriousness of the sentence requested by the Prosecutor’s Office and attributes the request to the tearing of Castro’s image.

“That is recorded on video and it went viral on the networks,” she told continue reading

 Martí Noticias. Fonseca Rosales refers to the video broadcast on social networks that shows what happened on that day, when her son walked with several people shouting “freedom,” “down with communism” and “patria y vida,” (homeland and life) among other things.
Pérez Fonseca was arrested on July 16, five days after the events. The police handcuffed him at his house, to which they had gone insisting they only wanted to talk. From there he was taken away and remains in the Quivicán prison as a precautionary measure awaiting trial.

Three witnesses appeared at the PNR (National Revolutionary Police) in San José, who went to testify that he never threw stones, which is one of the things he is accused of, that the only thing he had done was to march. And none of the three appear in the Police file. One of those who was detained was also going to testify in his favor and they never took a statement. The Defense can only bring two witnesses,” Pérez Fonseca’s mother told Martí Noticias.

The sentence petition duplicates the one requested for Sissi Abascal Zamora, a Lady in White and a member of the Pedro Luis Boitel Democracy Party who is in home confinement as a precautionary measure and is also awaiting trial. The 23-year-old girl is accused of attack, contempt and public disorder for protesting in the park of the town of Carlos Rojas, in Matanzas.

After July 11, more than 700 people were arrested, according to volunteers who have collaborated in preparing these lists with Cubalex. Of these, some 400 are still deprived of liberty. According to official data, around 70 protesters were tried in summary proceedings for what the Government considers minor crimes, while those it accuses of what they consider serious crimes are awaiting trial.

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The Price of Biking in Cuba is Rising

Since Mi Bici closed some time ago, there is no longer a state business that sells spare parts in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 22 September 2021 — “Before there was a store called Mi Bici, that was by the train terminal. I used to buy some pieces there, when it was there,” says Elizabeth. At age 56, this woman from Havana, a resident of the Plaza municipality, has been pedaling around the city for more than three decades and considers herself an expert in cycling. The convergence of a constant energy crisis and a pandemic, in which avoiding public transportation is key, could have turned the bicycle into a lifeline for many Cubans, but that has not been the case.

Elizabeth says that since Mi Bici closed some time ago, there is no longer a state place to buy spare parts. “We have to die in the private businesses of Cuatro Caminos, and everything there is very expensive. You have to keep an eye out for any part, and they are not even original,” she explains. Of course, the area outside the shopping mall has become the main black market in Havana, where any accessory or spare part could be ’resolved’.

“Sometimes they bring the parts from outside and that makes them even more expensive,” continues Elizabeth, who sees it as impossible for many to be able to afford the prices and admits that they will have to return to the severely lacking public transport, where they are also more exposed to the coronavirus.

Pedals, racks, ball bearings, axles, tires and brake pads, among others, are parts that must be changed regularly to maintain a bike and many, like Elizabeth herself, must wait to receive help from someone they know abroad, if they are so lucky. “I’m waiting for a package that my nephew who is abroad sends me. From there he sends me some parts that I have to change, but while I wait, I will have to travel on two feet,” he concludes.

Having a “mountain” bike is a headache. A chain or sprocket can cost between 2,500 and 3,600 pesos, some pedals up to continue reading

3,000 and bearings 1,500. Most of the parts for these bikes are sold at ’millennial’ prices, so putting together a complete bike can reach more than 30,000 pesos.
As for racing bikes, the luxury is even greater, since the components are sold in dollars and a single tire costs no less than 100, almost 8,000 Cuban pesos at the exchange rate on the black market.

The expenses not only go include the parts and maintenance. In Havana, the number of bicycle parking spaces has fallen sharply. A few years ago it was common to have a place near each shopping center where, for one or two pesos, someone guarded the bike while the customer made their purchases, but as the use of cycles decreased, so did these places.

“Parking now is not less than 20 pesos and you have to walk a long way between parking the bicycle and getting to the place where you were going, it is a headache,” says Daniel, a young university student who regrets the limitations on getting many places by bike. “You come in and they tell you it’s forbidden but they don’t offer you a place to park.”

With classes suspended in recent months, Daniel has worked as a courier making home deliveries of pizza and other food through the popular Mandao service. “When a customer lives on a high floor and asks me to go up the elevator to deliver the order, I can’t, because if I leave the bicycle alone, even if I put a lock on it, it is very likely that it will be stolen and it is not easy for me to find place to park, and if I do I have to spend part of my profit on that.”

Daniel also regrets that the city “is no longer a place for bicycles.” In addition to the lack of parts and parking spaces, there is added “the removal of the cycle lanes”, previously marked on the main avenues. “Many of the tire repairers who used to work exclusively with bicycles have also gone out of business. This is going uphill, it is getting harder and harder.”

In the interior of the country, where the bicycle is used even more than in the capital, the situation worsens, since the prices exceed those of the capital. Jesús, 40 years old, resides in Sancti Spíritus and goes every day from his home to work by bicycle, a 7-kilometer journey.

“We have the Santa Clara factory close enough, which supplies us with a few spare parts. However, the quality is terrible and the variety is practically non-existent. What strikes us the most is the lack of tires, the Ring 26s are still available, more or less, because they bring them from abroad and they show up for about 4,000 or 5,000 pesos each. But for Ring 24, like mine, they simply don’t exist and, if they appear, I can’t buy them because they can ask for up to 6,000 pesos. That is to say: a single rubber tire could exceed my monthly salary,” he laments.

In spite of everything, Jesús considers that the rustic machinery which many entrepreneurs work with are helping to solve the problem. “Although the pieces are homemade, they have made our day to day a little easier,” he argues.

Last August, the State newspaper Granma announced that about a thousand students  from the Marta Abreu University of Villa Clara could benefit from the purchase in installments of bicycles assembled in the state company Ángel Villareal Bravo, located in the province and better known as Ciclos Minerva.

The price of each unit was 2,900 pesos, paying in full and in cash, but if the buyer chose to postpone payment (an option available since the option was approved in July), he had to pay 20% down and had one year to pay the remainder with an interest rate of 2.5%.

The official newspaper said then that it was a great opportunity for young people, who could access a means of transport in a more flexible way. But the great advantage, as is being demonstrated, is the opportunity people have found with the resale of parts on the black market, at 12,000 or 15,000 pesos.

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Cuban Teleclasses: A 20th Century Practice That Fails Among Today’s Students

Many parents regret that content is being repeated in teleclasses. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 24 September 2021 —  For months, Yanet Fernández, who lives in the neighborhood of multi-family buildings in Havana’s Nuevo Vedado, has not started her day with kisses to her classroom friends and the rowdy conversation of the “gang” before the morning assembly. Since the capital’s schools closed last January, he has had to receive classes at home and the first thing he sees when he opens his eyes is the television screen and the notebook next to his breakfast.

“I only watch teleclasses to please my mother. I copy everything, but out of commitment to her. It’s the most boring thing in the world and, to top it all, it’s the same as last year,” says this ninth-grade student. “I have asked everyone, but none of my friends have seen a single subject from those classes on television,” says Fernández.

Alina Moreno, mother of the teenager, has been dealing with this problem since face-to-face classes were suspended. “Turning on the television and seeing the teacher sitting behind a desk, trying to capture the attention of the children without the slightest preparation makes me desperate. They do not exploit all the tools that this format offers and, in addition, they are repeating content,” she complains. continue reading

Each teleclass lasts half an hour and, most of the time, the teacher who teaches it has never been in front of a camera before. The most used resource is the PowerPoint presentation, often with errors and spelling mistakes, a tool that has begun to become obsolete.

“What I see now is that they are not recording anything new and I understand that they get tired and do not want to see it. The authorities are not taking the education of the boys very seriously in this pandemic scenario,” says Moreno.

Inés Casal, a grandmother of two school-age adolescents and a retired professor at the University of Havana, tells 14ymedio that she has been aware of this issue because her two grandchildren also receive teleclasses and it is difficult for her to separate her roles “as a professional and as a grandmother.”

Casal recalls that the educational television method “had its peak in the 60s of the last century,” when it was strongly promoted in the US. But, in her opinion, the idea “has been a failure,” above all if it is based, as many countries have done, on trying to make up for the absence of a teacher in the classroom by putting one in front of a camera.

“A teacher giving classes on TV, without any teacher-student interaction, will never be able to replace a teacher in a classroom constantly exchanging with their students, and vice versa.”

Casal believes that, in the specific case of Cuba, failure was predetermined. “The classes that I have seen are disastrous. The teachers simply repeat what is in the books, without an atom of didactics, with almost zero support media: presentations with texts and nothing else. With some exceptions, serious mistakes are made when writing the questions of the exercises. They have selected teachers who have no sense of humor to give this type of classes, they look like robots. The children who manage to attend and, above all, learn, are so good that they do not even need the classes,” she emphasizes.

In her opinion, it would have been preferable “to understand and assume that there will be a regression in the students (lost years) and hard work required after they rejoin classes.”

This idea has been rejected by world institutions in the field of childhood and education, which consider it essential that children continue to receive classes, face-to-face as much as possible, or a replacement with some technological tool.

In Cuba, not even teachers like Inés Casal consider the method most used in most Western countries that faced the closure of schools at some point in the pandemic: online classes.

The teachers resorted to video calls and messaging to try to advance in the subjects and, although in no case has the quality of face-to-face been matched, the mechanism has allowed not only a minimum of learning, but also routines and a culture of effort.

Countries with lower incomes or where internet penetration is low have suffered more, but this should not have been a problem in Cuba, with a relatively small size and the state telecommunications monopoly Etecsa potentially capable of providing a basic infrastructure to cover the service to guarantee online operations and education that the country offers, ultimately, free.

“There were two possibilities: either that Etecsa would offer educational data packages to be used by teachers and students; or that the Ministry of Education would acquire the packages and offer them to students. But this has not happened because Etecsa does not have a social vocation, rather it focuses on collecting [money]”, says María, a resident of the same neighborhood of Yanet Fernández.

“Teachers complain that they have not been offered an extra allocation for WhatsApp,” she adds, knowing that many teachers are spending money out of their own pockets to keep in touch with their students.

Although an agreement between the telecommunications monopoly Etecsa and the Ministry of Education would be very simple, since both are part of the State, the Government has never explored this route.

“They don’t want to set a precedent because then anyone who works remotely could ask for a data quota and, as a general rule, the only people who have preferential or free prices are some employees of Etecsa, State Security and, probably, also the senior officials. There is an eternal mistrust that people are not going to use it for its intended purpose,” says María.

Juliete Isabel Fernández Estrada has two children who receive teleclasses and she has managed to get them to watch them daily, even if just “as a formality.” However, she believes that the limitations of this format are a reflection of those already possessed by Cuban education.

“To the poverty and rigidity of the contents that are taught, the political indoctrination, the outdated and the deficient training of teachers, is added the poor use of the facilities provided by the television medium and the lack of imagination to animate teleclasses, in which practically all kinds of resources and messages would fit, not just the patriotic songs in fashion and fragments of Fidel’s speeches,” she laments.

Lizandra, a fourth grade teacher, says that there are parents in the group she teaches who have been able to pay for a private tutor to help their children not lose the thread with their studies, but points out that “this is not the case for most of them.” Many parents complain that children have no way to review the assignments and exercises that are given to them every day in class and that teachers are very fast in the teleclass.

“I think that the fact that students are not motivated by the teleclass has so much to do with the television format. Many of them spend hours watching Youtuber programs downloaded from the internet that come in the ‘weekly packet‘ but, unlike teleclasses, there they find an attractive set, different camera shots, animations or graphics that make the content more digestible,” says Lizandra.

The teacher confirms what María pointed out: the internet is “very expensive” and it is very difficult for teachers to always be connected to monitor the evolution of their students.

The announcement by the Ministry of Education that face-to-face classes should be resumed gradually starting in November and it will be difficult for young people to get used to returning to an activity that they have abandoned almost a year ago.

“I have spoken with other mothers and they tell me the same thing,”  explains Alina Moreno. “I am afraid that going back to school will be difficult for a young woman who has been away from classrooms and the routine of learning for months.”

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Statues of Fidel Castro and ‘Che’ Guevara in Mexico Vandalized Again

This is how the so-called ’Monument of the Encounter’ appeared after being vandalized. (Twitter / @ ELPOLICIA8)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 September 2021 — The statues of Fidel Castro and Ernesto Che  Guevara in the Parque Tabacalera, in Mexico City, woke up this Wednesday vandalized again. Two people threw white paint on the so-called ’Monument of the Encounter’, the work of the sculptor Oscar Ponzanelli, and placed between the two statues a flag of Mexico and a leaf on which they drew a hammer and sickle with the phrase: “Out AMLO” (Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Mexican president). The perpetrators were arrested.

The effigies of Castro and Che, who met in the Mexican capital in 1955, have always been a target and even more so in recent weeks. Prior to Miguel Díaz-Canel’s visit to Mexico on September 16, opposition senator América Rangel shared on her social networks an image of the memorial, anonymously “intervened in,” accompanied by the phrase: “Thus, with blood and the labels of ASSASSINS, is how these two architects of the Cuban dictatorship, which has its people in misery and without freedom, should be represented.”

Days before, on September 11, a group of residents of the central Tabacalera neighborhood asked the Senate to intercede to demand that the head of government of the Mexican capital, Claudia Sheinbaum, remove the sculptures because they consider them an “insult” to the victims of the regime on the island, since they represent an ideology “contrary to democratic principles.”

The petition was also uploaded to the platform of the organization Change.org and already has 10,459 signatures of support. It refers to the “destruction” of the figures and they refer to Fidel Castro as a “dictator” and call Che Guevara a “murderer.” They point out that they are “perpetrators of crimes against humanity and have caused the systematic violation of the human rights of continue reading

the Cuban people.”

In addition, last July, legislators from the National Action Party called for a consultation to define the future of the ’Monument of the Encounter’. “The regime instituted in Cuba has caused thousands of deaths, repression, violation of freedoms, a gag law, extreme poverty, and has his people in misery,” Diego Garrido said to Radio Formula.

The disagreements have even led to a robbery attempt, such as the one carried out in October 2020. The authorities then decided to cover the piece with a metal structure.

The controversy has accompanied the monument from the moment it was installed, in 2017, according to the local press published on December 2, behind the National Museum of San Carlos, very close to where Castro and Che are supposed to have met, but they did it without the necessary permission. For this reason, they removed it and kept it in a warehouse, until its relocation to Parque Tabacalera, last year.

On a park bench, seated in a casual way, the Castro and Guevara sculpture mimics a way of presenting historical figures that has been used the Island for personalities such as John Lennon in a park in Havana’s El Vedado. These sets are also designed to allow a photo in which the passerby sits next to or in the middle of those represented.

In Cuba there is no sculpture of Fidel Castro, only some bas-reliefs in the main political squares of the country, an absence that many have pointed to as an indicator of Castro’s fear that his physical image would suffer some type of aggression as happened with the sculptures of Saddam Hussein and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin after the fall of the Baghdad regime and the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Despite this care, on July 11, one of the most iconic images of the popular protests shows a group of people tearing up a poster with the face of Fidel Castro. Anger and mockery are mixed in a few short minutes of video in which the responsibility that Cubans place, regarding the current situation, on the shoulders of the person who ruled the country for almost six decades, is noted.

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A Mexican Senator Denounces Payment of 13 Million Dollars to Cuba for ‘False Doctors’

The Government of Mexico said at the time that the first group of Cuban doctors arrived in April 2020. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 September 2021 — The coordinator in the Mexican Senate of the opposition National Action Party (PAN), Julen Rementería, denounced this Monday that the highest authorities of Mexico and Cuba “orchestrated a fraud” of 255,873,177 million pesos (about 12,692,940 million dollars ) to the detriment of the Mexican Health budget by hiring 585 “untitled” doctors from the Island to treat covid-19 patients.

This is the group of healthworkers imported in April 2020, as the Mexican authorities argued at the time, to help fight the covid-19 pandemic, raised suspicions from the beginning. On the one hand, due to the lack of transparency of the agreement between both countries and, on the other, due to the apparent lack of training of Cubans, denounced by various medical associations in Mexico.

In a long thread on his Twitter account, headed by the title “Cubagate”, Rementería released an investigation that, he says, took six months, and which reveals that the Mexican government hired what he calls “false doctors” with the consent of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the head of government of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, and Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel.

The PAN senator recalls that on April 21, 2020, in the “crisis of the pandemic”, the federal government transferred to Mexico City, through the Institute of Health for Well-being, Insabi, a sum of 135,875,081 million pesos “to help it in the covid crisis.” continue reading

Three days later, Rementería continues, the government of Mexico City signed with “the Cuban dictatorship” two “biannual agreements”: one, for the exact value of that transfer and another for 103,638,266. “Both are aimed at hiring ’Cuban doctors’ to help in Mexican public hospitals,” says the senator.

In both “biannual agreements,” the thread continues, “the Cuban Ministry of Health is committed to guaranteeing that the personnel sent to Mexico have full capacity and experience. According to them, they say they have the documentation that certifies as professionals the personnel sent to our country.”

CubaGate investigation document published by Senator Julen Rementería. (Twitter / @ julenrementeria)

The documents presented by Rementería show that, as a minimum, the public institutions involved in the agreement — Insabi, the government of Mexico City, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of the Navy, the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS) and the Institute of Social Security and Services for State Workers (ISSSTE) — they did not demand any title from Cuban health workers, claiming that the responsibility for this lies “from the Cuban Ministry of Health.”

“The IMSS accepted foreign people as ’doctors’ without corroborating that they were accredited and put them to treat covid patients in the middle of the pandemic,” accuses the opponent.

In this regard, Rementería says that they consulted the National Institute of Migration and the Ministry of the Interior, and they responded that it was not their competence. “In other words, the authority in charge of controlling the migratory flow to Mexico, allowed 585 people to enter, without knowing who they are or what they are coming to.”

In September 2020, the LatinUs portal already revealed that imported doctors worked undocumented, showing that there was no evidence of immigration permits or entry as “visitors.”

“How many Mexicans have died at the hands of these false doctors?” Rementería asks in his thread, noting that each of them cost 437,390 pesos out of the taxpayers’ pocket (about $21,700), while a Mexican doctor earns in the IMSS 17,000 pesos a month (about 843 dollars) “and they have them without the tools to work.”

During his investigation, Rementería tried to find out what documents accredited the professional training of the health workers and the conditions imposed by the Cuban government in the contract. (Twitter / @ julenrementeria)

That money, asserts the PAN senator, showing documents that prove it, did not go to the “supposed doctors,” but “to the Cuban dictatorship,” since the transfers were made to the regime’s official accounts.

“This doesn’t stop here,” announces Rementería. “We want the records of the patients treated by these false doctors. We want to know how many Mexicans died as a result of this fraud. We want compensation for the families of the victims of this fraud. We want those responsible to answer to the law.”

The investigation presented by the head of the PAN in the Senate does not refer to the almost 200 Cuban health workers who were stationed in Veracruz on the same dates as the 585 in Mexico City or the 500 they sent in December, about whose spending and titles nothing is known.

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Ten Months Forced Labor for Young Cuban Marching on the Street on July 11th

The moment in which Armando Sardiñas Figueredo is detained by a policeman and a State Security agent in civilian clothes, on July 11 in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 September 2021 — The image of a young man violently taken into custody by a plainclothes policeman a few meters from the Capitol in Havana has become one of the iconic photos of the repression against protesters on July 11. Now, the protagonist of the snapshot taken by a 14ymedio reporter faces a sanction of ten months of internment in a correctional labor camp.

On Monday, Armando Sardiñas Figueredo, 20, shared on his Twitter account the document issued by the Supreme People’s Court (TSP) in which he is informed that he has been sanctioned to “ten months of deprivation of liberty subsidized by correctional work with internment,” a sentence to be served in the center of La Lima, Guanabacoa.

“I never offended or attacked any official,” the young man assures this newspaper, who says that no one ordered him to demonstrate that Sunday, that he learned of the protests “through the social networks,” and he went out into the street at the corner of hotel Manzana de Gómez. Sardiñas narrates that several State Security agents addressed him when he joined the peaceful demonstration in Central Park. One of them tried to hit him, but Sardiñas dodged him, after which they restrained him, put him in a patrol car and transferred him to the Zanja police station.

There, they put him in a cell. “I did not know why they were arresting me, because I knew that I was not committing any crime,” says the young man, who assures that inside the cell there were “about 70 people who continued to demonstrate.”

An officer, says Sardiñas, interviewed him about two hours later, “and practically forced me to sign the arrest warrant.” The accusation: continue reading

“public disorder.” He spent ten days imprisoned at the 100th y Aldabó,  station in Havana, and, regrets, that as a result of the arrest he lost his job.

The legal document specifies that he must present himself at the correctional center on October 7, under penalty of having the current measure revoked to go on to serve his sentence in a regular prison. “The tasks to be carried out” are mainly in agriculture, the document points out.

It also recommends that Sardiñas come to the place with a “towel, sheet, a bucket, clothing” suitable for the work to be carried out, in addition to other personal hygiene products, since “the center cannot guarantee them,” clarifies the information from the TSP.

“I am going to serve an unfair sanction on the 7th but this is not the end, it is only a sign that they have to remove the blindfold and be realistic,” Sardiñas added on his Twitter account after publishing the document. “Let’s be realistic. Cuba is a dictatorship and Human Rights are violated and freedom of expression is not respected.”

The July 11 protests began in San Antonio de los Baños, Artemisa province. After learning about this demonstration through videos that circulated like wildfire on social networks, the streets of Cuba became abuzz with people and protests were added in Matanzas, Camagüey, Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos and Havana. Shouts of “Cuba libre,” “Patria y vida” and “Down with the dictatorship” echoed through the most important streets of the country.

Around the Capitol in Havana, where Sardiñas was arrested, hundreds of people gathered shouting “libertad” and “patria y vida.” A 14ymedio reporter took several videos and photos, one of which records the moment when Sardiñas was violently arrested by a plainclothes policeman who grabbed him by the neck.

The image reflects the excessive repression against the demonstrators that the Government deployed, especially after Miguel Díaz-Canel assured that the “combat order is given” and that they were ready “for anything,” words that unleashed violence against those who protested.

So far, the Cuban government has not recognized official figures of detainees, injuries or deaths. It only admitted the death of one person, Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, 36, a resident of the Havana municipality of Arroyo Naranjo.

Along with hundreds of anonymous citizens who went out into the streets on July 11, several of the main figures of the Cuban dissidence  also ended up in detention. Among them, the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, leader of the San Isidro Movement; Félix Navarro, from the Democratic Action Unity Roundtable, and José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba.

According to the list drawn up by various volunteers under the coordination of the Cubalex legal advice center, of the more than 800 detainees who have been confirmed from those days, 377 remained in jail in August, 10 of them enforced disappearance.

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

Cuba’s Province With the Most Livestock Yields No More than Eight Liters of Milk per Producer

Official media highlight the production of milk in Camagüey. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 September 2021 — The official press celebrates that the Evelio Rodríguez Curbelo cooperative, from the municipality of Jimaguayú, Camagüey, reached an annual production of one million liters of cow’s milk. “It reached this goal for the tenth year in a row,” an article reported this Wednesday.

The feat is a mirage. In one day, the cooperative obtains 2,739 liters of milk; if there are 347 members, this represents 7.89 liters for each one, which is what each farmer delivers on average to the Camagüey Dairy Products Industry.

Officialdom has little to celebrate when they highlight that in Camagüey a cow gives almost seven times less milk than in Spain, even taking into account that production fell 1.3% in that country, according to the first report of the Spanish Agrarian Guarantee Fund. Only the average in Galicia is around 25 liters per day per cow, although in some parts they can exceed 50 liters.

For Isel Galindo Cruz, president of the Evelio Rodríguez Curbelo cooperative, production is an achievement, the fruit of the “result of the will of the peasants and their desire,” since “in the last two years no inputs of any type have been received type to develop livestock.”

The cooperative member confirmed “the infestation of the pastures, the deterioration of the roads, the blackouts and climate change are some continue reading

of the obstacles we have faced” and concluded: “Even so, we reached” the production goal of milk.

Galindo Cruz attributed the low milk production to the lack of rainfall and announced that for this year there will be 1,247,000 liters of milk, which will comply with what was agreed in the calendar. There are in Camagüey, he said, 174 cattle farms that have 2,400 cows and from each one they are obtaining an average of 3.7 liters.

The crisis in milk production the island is going through is evident. In May 2020, the State newspaper Granma announced that it had “158,000 cow owners.” In that year there was talk of the start of a livestock development project in Camagüey to “benefit 105 cooperatives.” The announcement was made a month after they denounced that “the dairy farmers accumulated a delay in the deliveries to the industry of about five million liters,” and that the deficit in milk production increased.

Due to the lack of milk, the Cuban government announced “restrictions on the production of ice cream, yogurt and other assortments that depend” on this food product. So it has had to resort to the production of soy yogurt and its derivatives.

Today the news is the production of milk in Camagüey, in June it was the slaughter of six cows as part of the package of 63 measures that the Government announced in April in order to stimulate food production. At that time, only 6% of the cattle ranchers in Camagüey met the requirements to trade “freely” beef and milk.

The province of Camagüey, due to its size and soils, has led the sector throughout history; however, malnutrition was a negative factor for livestock last year. In the first semester, the province registered the death of 17,000 cows due to malnutrition and a 30% decrease in milk production. To this was added the low birth rate, which resulted in their being 5,982 head of cattle fewer than the previous year.

But the low indicators may point to another phenomenon: the growing diversion of milk and its productions towards the informal market. In a country where the dairy derivatives industry and trade has been strongly monopolized by the State, the ways to get cheese, yogurt and milk through clandestine networks have proliferated.

To avoid this obvious traffic, checkpoints are permanently maintained on the island’s roads, with uniformed officers and specialized dogs to detect the illegal trade of dairy products. However, the thriving business of selling pizzas, snacks and other quick recipes flourishes in the shadow of this informal business.

To avoid declaring all the milk they produce, farmers resort to many tricks. From pointing to the drought, the lack of feed and drugs to care for their animals, to declaring many of the calves that are born as male to avoid subsequent control over the females, their udders and their young.

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The Cuban People Have Already Conquered Their Freedom

Young man with a placard during the July 11 protests in Cuba. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 20 September 2021 — When José Martí was preparing Cuba’s war of national liberation from exile, he wrote in the newspaper Patria that the objective was not a change of clothes, but “a change of soul.” It could be understood that the root of the problem did not consist of transforming institutions, not excluding economic relations here, but a change of consciousness and, in this case, a much deeper and more generalized consciousness than would have been a class consciousness like the one that Marx advocated.

This was probably related to what Martí expressed in his article about the act carried out in New York in honor of Marx posthumously, where, after praising him, he added this criticism: “But he walked quickly and somewhat in the shadows, without seeing that children who have not had a natural and laborious gestation are not born viable, neither from the bosom of the people in history, nor from the bosom of a woman in the home.”

Martí, more influenced by Emerson and the American transcendentalists, did not see the class struggle, and violence in general, as the appropriate way for the triumph of social justice. For him the important thing was not the number of weapons in hands, but “the number of stars on the forehead,” from which it is understood that a patient struggle was required to generate that consciousness that was not class, but transcended the social classes towards a civic conscience of the entire population. “Trenches of ideas are worth more than trenches of stone,” he said.

Thus, the only revolution that could bring about the rights and freedoms of a people was the one carried out in the human spirit.

Political prisoners who individually had become aware continue reading

of rights that are inherent to human nature were not afraid to speak out their thoughts. They were even freer behind the bars than the jailers who guarded them. When a State Security captain threatened me with a new charge for a “subversive” manuscript that they had found in my cell during a search, I replied: “Well, when you understand its pertinence, send for me to sign the papers.” And when he warned me that if they found an anti-government leaflet out there they would come looking for me, I told him: “If it isn’t signed by me, don’t bother, because I sign everything I write.”

To use violence to overthrow communist regimes is to confront it in a field that those regimes know all too well. All the violent attempts against the totalitarian regime imposed in Cuba were defeated. But when half a dozen political prisoners created a group that instead of violence denounced human rights violations along with other peaceful actions, that was the starting point of a non-violent movement that grew and spread throughout the country and that could never be defeated, because the regime had prepared to counter any violent opposition, but not a peaceful struggle.

Curiously, of the six of us, two had been professors of Marxism, and another two came from the ranks of the old communist party, the Popular Socialist Party (PSP). Little by little we came to understand that more than denouncing international public opinion, our most important mission was to create an awareness in the population of their rights. It was a patient process that in reality turned out to be a long and tortuous path of almost forty years from which only the two professors of that small founding nucleus survived. But it was very necessary because it required, as in Martí’s criticism of Marx, “a natural and laborious gestation.”

In the first days of 2021, we both wrote an open letter to the Government alerting it of what was coming so that it could make the radical changes that could prevent that imminent social explosion, but they did not want to listen. And when the people finally took to the streets on July 11, the behavior of those massive demonstrations that took place in dozens of cities in the country was peaceful, unlike the social explosions in other Latin American countries.

The violence was later initiated by the regime with ruthless repression. But Cuba could no longer be the same, because finally the people had awakened and had become aware of their destiny. And this is a more important conquest, even, than the possible collapse of the dictatorship, because it is a conquest for all time. That people did not take to the streets because a caudillo ordered it to. No leader led it.

Remember how this dictatorship was imposed. The leader was applauded, they compared him to Christ, and in fact many took down the images of Galileo from the walls to place their own. Many people offered him their homes: “Fidel, this is your house.” When someone expressed their mistrust, they said to themselves: “If Fidel is a communist, put me on the list.”

And in the tumultuous mobs they called out for “to the wall” [execution] for their adversaries. If it is idolized, if an idol is raised to an altar, from there our destiny will rule with an iron fist. The Cuban people, with their cries for freedom and “Patria y Vida” [Homeland and Life], have just brought down from that altar all those who today have tried to establish themselves as supreme sovereign.

None of the Eastern European countries that escaped this totalitarian dictatorship had a history of civic struggle as long as Cuba’s, and consequently as fruitful for the collective consciousness of its people. Even from the brutal response of the repressive forces we have accumulated valuable experiences.

Threats, gags, and jailings don’t matter. A people who are not afraid to say what they think and who act not as unjust laws dictate but as their own conscience dictates, is already, in fact, free.

Because freedom is not granted by governments, nor by laws, not even, in the end, by bars and chains, but by the will to be free in thought, in words and in actions. The rest will follow.

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Does the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States Have a Future?

The Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, after his arrival in Mexico to attend the Celac summit, with the Mexican Foreign Secretary, Marcelo Ebrard. (Twitter / @ SRE_mx)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Valencia, 18 September 2021 — As might be expected, this Saturday the official Castroist press turns to the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), which is celebrating its sixth summit in Mexico and which has justified the official visit to that country of the Cuban communist leader, received with great fanfare but little money, by Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Amlo). After all, the Morena Party is an organization that shares many ideals and principles with the Cuban Communist Party. Birds of a feather flock together. Cuba’s State newspaper Granma titled its article Celac has the floor, but I believe, however, that the most important thing is to think about whether Celac has a future.

The answer is much more speculative and less emphatic than these communist declamations to which Granma has us accustomed, as if it were a question of glossing a permanent historical feat. Hopefully one day the editorial committee of this newspaper will realize how ridiculous they appear to the world. I hope it will be soon, and in a free nation in which one of the fundamental principles to be respected is freedom of the press.

Let’s go to the matter at hand, does Celac have a future?

It should be remembered briefly that this organization arose under two fundamental principles: opposing the Organization of American States (OAS) until it disappeared and assuming the principles of the so-called 21st century socialism, which was gaining space in the region through the flow of Chavista oil that had been put at the service of this adventure. The organization’s agenda was created by Chávez, Lula and the material author, Fidel Castro, who in the last years of his life dreamed of a regional project that would serve to end up pitting some countries against others.

Fortunately, the second principle is far from being achieved and continue reading

does not seem feasible. Furthermore, Celac, its principles, its funding, its political relations and interdependencies have shown notable limitations in facing the global challenges of this century. Specifically, the arrival of covid-19 has thrown more than a few shadows of doubt on the usefulness of this organization.

For this reason, this sixth summit is interesting, because speculation about Celac will be on the table, no matter how much diplomacy has tried to soften the positions and reach an agreement that allows the continuity of the project, revitalizes its organization and gives it new airs right. This is a very difficult time when countries, for obvious reasons, have to focus on solving their own problems and stop fooling around with adventures that only fit in heated minds, many of them physically or politically disappeared from the face of the region.

That is why the organization has decided to focus on the first principle: ending the OAS. A good example of the Celac crisis is that instead of advancing projects and tasks for the organization, some leaders have recovered the old thesis of forcing the disappearance of the OAS as a matter of priority. Those who defend this proposal, led by Amlo, think that Celac can only have a future to the extent that the OAS is ended, while at the same time they see it as a body subordinate to Washington.

Serious mistake. Strengthening Celac does not have to do with disappearing the OAS or any other regional cooperation project, such as the Ibero-American Cooperation Summits promoted from Madrid, which this year turned into hilarious speeches against the United States embargo.

Contrary to the ’Uniformity Theses’ everything fits in diversity. To impose a single way of seeing things and to demand a painful uniqueness based on common principles that, luckily, not all countries endorse, is absurd. This search for unity within diversity is a founding trap for Celac, from which, when it falls, it is very difficult to get out. A good example: what some authoritarian leaders describe as “foreign interference”, others see just the opposite, and therefore it is difficult to advance.

Charactierizing the OAS as “discredited, dying entity, contrary to Latin American interests and compliant with the script drawn up by the United States Government to keep our peoples subdued” is another good example of that “uniformitarian” language that wants to be imposed on all the governments of Latin America, when precisely not all think the same. Also, someone could end up thinking the same of Celac.

All these Celac champions should realize that if the OAS has not disappeared there is a reason why, and that rather than seeking changes in attitude or radical positions, it makes much more sense to advance in cooperation, dialogue and understanding, because at the end, that’s what it’s about. And not to pit some nations against others, from positions that are contrary to public liberties, respect for human rights and plural democracy.

The communists of the State newspaper Granma call this strategy of understanding and conciliation “cosmetic band-aids” or “non-conceptual reform” and declare their commitment to the destruction of the OAS, a company in which they identify the members of 21st century socialism, as if these were the only ones that exist in Latin America or have the right to impose their principles and ideas on the rest.

Focusing the future of Celac on the disappearance of the OAS seems to be the objective of this sixth summit. They will forget about covid-19, the poor economic results in the region, as the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Carribean (ECLAC) has recently reported, the need to boost world trade and investment by transnational companies, to ensure stable and quality employment for citizens of their countries and thus overcome their economic backwardness.

They will not talk about that, because whoever finances this whole type of adventure, the Chavista Venezuela, is not there for great celebrations, and, in the absence of the black gold of that country, it is necessary to find some way to finance the Celac and its existence.

I am very afraid that this will be the matter to be discussed in this sixth summit, but Granma and the official Cuban press will not say much about it. They are justifying with unpresentable arguments the continuous blackouts that the country suffers, also originating from the lower supplies of Venezuelan oil.

Will Mexico and Amlo be able to carry Celac on their shoulders? I doubt it. Because it is one thing to raise a battle and quite another to win it.

And the stage is not for this type of show. The sixth summit will be like the others: a collection of silly messages and photographs, and someone telling Díaz-Canel: “You eat and you go.”

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

Uruguay’s President Denounces the Imprisonment of Opponents in Cuba

OnSaturday, Uruguay’s president Lacalle Pou speaking at the VI Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), denounced that in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua “there is no full democracy.” (@PPT_CELAC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 18 September 2021 — The president of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle Pou, and the Cuban leader, Miguel Díaz-Canel, staged an exchange of accusations this Saturday at the VI Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), in Mexico. The discussion began when the Uruguayan showed his concern because on the island, and in Venezuela and Nicaragua “there is not a full democracy” and opponents are imprisoned.

Lacalle’s speech began by recognizing that two principles promoted by Celac are “self-determination and non-intervention” but he also described democracy as “the best system that individuals have to be free” and that, for that reason, “participating in this forum does not mean being complacent.”

After that introduction, his criticisms were even more direct: “When one sees that in certain countries there is no full democracy, when the separation of powers is not respected, when the repressive apparatus is used to silence protests, when opponents are imprisoned, when human rights are not respected, we in a calm but firm voice must say with concern that we look seriously at what is happening in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.”

Lacalle’s statements gave rise to a strong exchange of words between the two leaders, which was only partially broadcast on Cuban television, but which is already generating comments in support of the Uruguayan on social networks for his direct comments to the President and First Secretary of the Communist Party on the island. continue reading

Visibly annoyed, Díaz-Canel responded to Lacalle saying that with his words he was showing a lack of knowledge of the Cuban reality. “The courage of the Cuban people was demonstrated for six decades. Listen to your people who collected more than 700,000 signatures against the LUC (Law of Urgent Consideration). Monroism and the OAS is what you have just defended,” he said.

The Uruguayan asked for the floor again and addressed Díaz-Canel: “If there is something that is true in my country, luckily, it is that the opposition can gather signatures, in my country, luckily, the opposition has democratic resources to lodge complaints, that is the great difference with the Cuban regime,” he added.

Lacalle went further and added: “I just want to quote, and they are not my words, it is a very beautiful song and those who sing it feel oppressed by the Government: ’No longer shall flow the blood / Of those who dare to think differently / Who told you Cuba is yours? / Indeed, Cuba is for all my people’,” he added, quoting the song Patria y Vida.

Díaz-Canel, abruptly demanding the floor, replied in a sour tone: “I think that things should not be left unclear, it seems that President Lacalle has very bad taste in music, that song is totally a lie and a construction among some artists against the Cuban revolution.”

The clash between the leaders of Uruguay and Cuba was not the only one on a day in which Celac has shown its deep internal differences, most of them linked to the issue of respect for human rights, authoritarian regimes and repression against dissent.

Mario Abdo Benítez, president of Paraguay, asserted that his presence at the summit “in no sense or circumstance represents recognition of the Government of Mr. Nicolás Maduro.”

“There is no change in the position of my Government and I think it is gentlemanly to say it up front,” said Abdo Benítez. Immediately Maduro responded by shouting from the other side of the room: “Nor mine to yours!”

Later, when it was the turn of the Venezuelan ruler before the microphone, he went further: “And I say to the president of Paraguay: Set the date, place and time for a debate on democracy! In Paraguay, in Venezuela and Latin America! And we are ready to give it, name your place!”

For his part, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, president of Mexico, inaugurated the summit, in which more than a dozen leaders of the region participate, with the call that something similar to the European Union (EU) be built in the area.

In his welcome message López Obrador highlighted the need to “build on the American continent something similar to what was the economic community that gave rise to the current European Union.”

He also criticized the lack of support from the United States Government, as he stressed that since 1961 that country invested 10 billion dollars in 10 years (82 billion dollars at the current exchange rate) for the benefit of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.

“It has been the only important thing that has been done in terms of cooperation for development in our continent in more than half a century,” he said.

He affirmed that it is time to end “the lethargy” and propose a “new and vigorous” relationship, in addition to replacing the policy of “blockades and mistreatment with the option of respecting ourselves.”

For López Obrador, it would be a gesture of “goodwill” for the United States to make donations of vaccines against covid-19 to countries in the region that have not had the possibility of protecting their peoples against the coronavirus.

Cuban leader Miguel Diaz-Canel denounced, for the second time since his arrival in Mexico, the “opportunistic campaign of US interests against Cuba” and that the US embargo has been tightened while the island suffers “conditions due to the pandemic.”

“The interventionism of the United States is a flagrant violation of international rights,” Diaz-Canel said.

For his part, the Bolivian president, Luis Arce, criticized the Organization of American States (OAS) and called for an organization “that functions with democratic practices and that responds to reality by supporting the sovereignty of the countries and without interference.”

“The OAS is useless,” said Arce, who praised Mexico’s work in favor of Celac as an organization that defends that “financial interests cannot be above social interests.”

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Iron Fist Against Swimmers in Cuba: Fines up to 3,000 Pesos

Among the prohibitions is sitting on the emblematic wall of the Malecón or even walking along the sidewalk closest to the sea, where there are police operations. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 September 2021 — Among the announcements of the reopening of tourism in Cuba for November 15, even with the health risks that this implies, the official press announced that from August 2 to September 10, 1,731 swimmers were fined for “violating regulations” and endangering their own life and that of other people.

This iron fist is wielded against Cuban swimmers, who were fined between 2,000 and 3,000 pesos, while at the International Hotel in Varadero, one of the 15 currently operating and with 20% occupancy, foreign tourists are allowed to enjoy the sun and seashore without limitations.

In August alone, on the social networks of the Sol Palmeras hotel complex, in Varadero, foreign visitors could be seen in images enjoying the beach without any health-related restriction.

The delegate of the Ministry of Tourism in Matanzas, Ivis Fernández Peña, told the AFP agency on September 8 that they “managed to turn” Varadero into a haven of sun and beach. Since April only “0.1% of the more than 50,000” tourists received have tested positive for covid-19, said the delegate. continue reading

The State newspaper Granma took up the information on the fines for swimmers and emphasized that it is a measure to confront “indiscipline in beach areas” with the application of Decree Law 31, which regulates the protocol at the current stage.

The offenders, it was said, were “detected” at the intersections of 1st and 70th streets in La Puntilla, and on the beach at 16th and La Concha, “a situation that increases on weekends,” with the deployment of the police in the municipalities of Playa and La Habana del Este.

It is even forbidden to sit on the emblematic wall of the Malecón or even walk along the sidewalk closest to the sea, a measure that has fueled the anger of Havanans, used to spending long hours enjoying the sea breeze, meeting friends or listening to some music in what they call “the longest bench in the world,” one several kilometers long.

For its part, Tribuna de La Habana also referred to 63 people fined in “East Havana, including the Camilo Cienfuegos district, and 51 in the municipality of Playa.” Hence, the president of the Defense Council in the capital, Luis Antonio Torres Iríbar, and the governor, Reinaldo García Zapata, demanded “greater rigor” from the authorities and called on “the public to respect health measures and standards.”

Havana, a coastal city with an ancient tradition of swimming along its coastline, has gone through the hot summer with its beaches and Malecon closed to those who want to take a dip, even if they just want to get close to the waters to cool off in the middle of the intense heatwave.

The closure of the East Beaches to swimmers, the most popular in the capital, has been a severe blow to the entire economic network of towns such as Santa María, Boca Ciega and Guanabo, in which a large part of the families survive by renting rooms, serving food or managing other entertainments for those who come looking for a quiet day in front of the sea.

Instead, Guanabo has practically become a ghost town, in which the few restaurants and cafes that continue to offer their services to the public only do so via take away and do not allow any customers to sit in their premises. The sands are constantly patrolled by uniformed men who warn those who arrive that they cannot swim.

These strict restrictions have been highly questioned, not only by those who point out the devastating economic effect it has on the private fabric of the area, but also remember that open and ventilated places are the least risky for getting COVID-19. Critics question the fact that state stores are kept open behind closed doors and with long lines, while families who want to enjoy the sea breeze are penalized.

According to information from the Ministry of Health, in the last seven days, Havana has registered 40 deaths from covid-19 and 4,028 infections. This Friday it reported 501 cases and four deaths: two in Boyeros, one in Marianao and one in San Miguel del Padrón.

The sanctions released this month are in addition to the 549 imposed between February and July of this year by the control and supervision bodies of the Havana government and the police. The highest incidence was detected in the popular councils of Guanabo and Cojímar.

In July of this year the opening of beaches was denied. On the 21st of that month, the figures for the pandemic showed 1,222 infections by covid-19, for a total of 7,745 cases. “When the epidemiological situation of the territory improves and access to these areas is approved, the news will be duly reported by the relevant official media,” the capital’s government networks announced.

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Ongoing Blackouts, the Story that Never Ends in Cuba

The National Electrical Union confirmed that power outages will continue on the island. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 September 2021 — It’s the story that never ends,” says Leonardo, one of many people affected by the island’s ongoing power outages, in response to the explanation offered by Unión Eléctrica (UNE), the state power company. On Sunday morning UNE director Lazaro Guerra claimed power had been completely restored but warned that there would still be outages.

Though power has been restored, it does not mean that the problems with electric service the country has faced in recent days have been solved, as Guerra acknowledges. This was reiterated in a social media post which states that, if current conditions continue, “expectations are that disruptions in electricity service may occur due to a deficit in generating capacity.”

The company offered its “apologies for the inconvenience,” which only further frustrated those affected. “I don’t know how long this will go on. Every day there are new outages and repairs. When will they finally restore service everywhere?” asks Linney

Karlos made forty-seven calls to the designated UNE telephone line, #18888, for reporting power outage. “When I wasn’t getting a busy signal, it rang but no one answered… Nine hours without power and continue reading

, from what I read, it’s going to be the same tomorrow. It’s infuriating to see what’s going on and that nothing is being done about it. Every day there’s a new breakdown and the saddest part is that they still charge you during the outages.”

14ymedio reported that a disruption on Saturday left several provinces in the dark until Friday night, a situation that in some cases lasted until dawn. The blackout was described in the state-run press as “an oscillation in the 220-thousand volt transmission lines.”

This unusual anomaly caused thermoelectric plants in Holguín and Santiago de Cuba, as well as engines at a fossil fuel power station in Moa, to drop off the national electric grid, causing a fall in generating capacity that led to a widespread blackout.

14ymedio received several reports indicating that by the early morning power remained out in areas of Santiago de Cuba, Holguín and several provinces in central Cuba. It was also confirmed on Sunday that the outages had spread to Guantanamo and Granma provinces.

Cubans are all too familiar with Guerra’s explanations: the failures are the result of technical problems resulting from lack of timely maintenance, which depletes the system’s reserves when demand is high.

The bad news is that maintenance to restore generating capacity is planned but, according to Guerra, it is dependent on the ability to get financing as well as the state of the nation’s electric grid.

At the moment outages are reported at CTE Otto Parallada, Units 5 and 7 at CTE Maximo Gomez, CTE Antonio Guiteras, Unit 5 at CTE Tenth of October, and Units 3 and 4 at CTE Antonio Maceo.

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

Diaz-Canel Went to Mexico for Wool and Returned Shorn

In the spacious hall full of presidents, the veneer of a democratic ruler with which the Mexican executive tried to paint Díaz-Canel did not last long. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 20 September 2021 — Everything seemed to be going according to the script drawn up in Havana. Miguel Díaz-Canel had been received with all the honors by the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and the accolade was to be completed with the relaunch of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac). But shortly before the official visit ended, something went awry.

In the large room full of leaders, the veneer of a democratic ruler with which the Mexican executive hastily tried to paint Díaz-Canel did not last long. It was enough for the Uruguayan president, Luis Lacalle Pou, to express his concern that in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua “there is no full democracy,” for the First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party to shed the character he was trying to present.

Not used to another person, microphone in hand, questioning him, the engineer – for whom no one voted at the polls – deployed his rusty rhetoric. Instead of accepting the criticism, announcing that what happened on July 11 opened a path of inescapable and urgent democratic change, or taking advantage of the moment to announce an amnesty for political prisoners, he preferred to appeal to the pitiful discourse of blaming others for the lack of freedoms on the Island.

He missed another opportunity.

It is worth remembering that the person who challenged him is not someone continue reading

far from the Cuban drama. In recent years, thousands of Cubans have gone to Uruguay fleeing the poverty and repression on the island. Many have continued to other nations, but others have stayed and settled in that southern country. Lacalle Pou knows very well the drama that these “common rafters” carry on their shoulders. He has every right to question the reasons that led them to flee.

So the Uruguayan asked to speak again and, in a brief but historic intervention, put his finger in the authoritarian wound. He quoted some verses* from the song Patria y Vida to the man who has fined and imprisoned thousands of Cubans who have hummed what has now become the soundtrack of freedom. It was the punch that ended up deflating the false “good mood” of the entire visit to Mexico.

Furious, decomposed and stammering, Díaz-Canel took the floor and responded. It would have been better to keep silent but tyrants have some well-marked weaknesses, one being that they do not know how to remain silent and they feel it’s a defeat if the opponent has the last word. They sin by wanting to crush the other with their words, when they cannot lock him up in jail.

Arrogant and annoyed, it occurred to him to accuse Lacalle Pou of bad musical taste and insisted that the song was a “construction among some artists against the Cuban Revolution,” without realizing that he was just confirming what the Uruguayan had denounced: that a clan self-designated as the sole voice of Cuba arrogates to itself the right to say what the homeland is and what is not, who can claim it and who can only be condemned to be gagged.

And so ended what could be Díaz-Canel’s last trip to an international event. Wounded in his pride, stripped naked in public like the Castro’s clumsy apprentice tyrant, those last few feet on the way to the plane must have been hell. As much as López Obrador and his chancellor tried to clean up his image, it was clear that in Latin America the Plaza of the Revolution is becoming less convincing with its discourse and is increasingly rejected for its human rights violations.

The same week that they lost old Europe, after the forceful vote condemning the repression of the July protests that took place in the European Parliament, the Cuban ruler is eating the dust of ridicule in Mexico. On the island, despite attempts to censor part of the skirmish with Lacalle Pou, the video of the latter “singing the truth to him” has quickly gone viral.

The clever old olive-green foxes of Havana have taken notice. His straw puppet falls apart, he is unpresentable, it is a danger to leave him at the mercy of international microphones and within the reach of any political figure who may question him. He no longer serves them for that.

We will have to be attentive to whether Díaz-Canel goes to New York to attend the next session of the United Nations General Assembly. The probable absence of the Cuban president will prove that his trip to Mexico was a “trial balloon” that confirmed the rejection of him in world forums.

López Obrador will also have drawn some conclusions and, although he seems willing to open his wallet and delay the long end of Castroism with his support, he must have realized that whoever hangs out with dictators ends up getting dirty. This Saturday, part of Díaz-Canel’s filth also rubbed off on the Mexican ruler.

*Translator’s note: The verse quoted (in English translation) was:

No longer shall flow the blood
Of those who dare to think differently
Who told you Cuba is yours?
Indeed, Cuba is for all my people

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

The Mexican President Comes Out of the Closet and Makes His Castroism Public

Miguel Díaz-Canel and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, during the parade for the Independence of Mexico. (Presidency of the Republic)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Joel Ortega Juárez, Mexico, 17 September 2021 — Miguel Díaz-Canel, nominal president of Cuba, appointed by Raúl Castro, Fidel’s brother, both of the dynasty in power since 1959, has been invited by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known familiarly as AMLO) to the ceremonies celebrating the beginning of the Independence of Mexico.

The Mexican president has come out of the closet and made public his support for Castrismo, a late-arriving definition of the president’s political preferences, ideologies and fanaticism. His right-wing opponents are on the verge of a fit of hysteria.

The Castro supporters of the 4T (“Fourth Transformation”, as López Obrador calls his government, which would mean the fourth fundamental change in Mexico after Independence, the Benito Juárez Reform and the Mexican Revolution) will be able to stop playing ostrich and proclaim openly his admiration for the Castro dynasty, probably convinced that AMLO’s coming out of the closet is a “turn to the left” that demands the unconditional support of “the communists” and the “revolutionaries” to confront the coup plotters of the enemies of change and of the people.

Some former communists, other “Marxists” do not care that the current government represses feminists, leaders of native communities, teachers, normal students, workers in many hospitals, the doctors themselves. They don’t care if it fires tens of thousands. It is enough that continue reading

it receives the Cuban president with all honors to give support to López Obrador for his defense of “socialist Cuba.”

Militants or left-wing parties, such as the Communist Party of Mexico, have very critical positions towards the AMLO government — on September 14 they marched down Reforma Avenue with a large banner that read “without workers’ power there is no real change.” They now contradict themselves and are moved by the visit of the dictator and organize demonstrations welcoming “President” Miguel Díáz-Canel in defense of the “achievements of the Revolution.”

To affirm that is an insult for Cubans, especially for the most oppressed. Cuba is an island where something similar to a so-called socialist social formation ceased to exist a long time ago. Some old PRI members inside and outside Morena have always been Castroites. It is a phenomenon that needs to be studied, one which allowed the Mexican authoritarian system to shield itself against the emergence of guerrillas in Mexico, and Castroism to have an exit door to the “West.”

This “Castroist pax” was not exempt from tense episodes, since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. López Obrador himself has said that he had differences with Fidel Castro when he came to the inauguration of Salinas and when he gave asylum to Carlos Ahumada. During the PRI government, at different times, Cuba suffered the expulsion of several of its diplomats accused of carrying out espionage activities.

We must not forget that Mexico, in the voice of the then Foreign Secretary Manuel Tello, argued that Cuba was “incompatible” with the Pan-American democratic system, at the same time that it abstained from voting on the expulsion of Cuba from the Organization of American States. Only abstention is what the Mexican pro-Castro members, mostly PRI members, remind us every time they can, as an example of dignity and “congruence” with the “principles of Mexico’s foreign policy of “non-intervention” and respect for the “right of self-determination of the peoples.”

The balance of 62 years of relations between Mexico and Cuba is one of great sympathy with the Castroism on the part of the the PRI, PAN and, now, Morenist governments. This idyll obeys a convincing policy of blackmail before the gringos, but with limits. Mexico never wanted to trade in oil to avoid the shipments from the USSR to the island. In a word, when it came to definitions, Mexico aligned itself with the United States. The force of the myths is very impressive.

Faced with all that gibberish, it is almost impossible to criticize the Castro dictatorship. Whoever does it is “an agent of imperialism, the CIA or a traitor.”

The PRI governments are not criticized for the massacres committed against the people, but they are respected for their policy of “non-intervention” in relation to Cuba.

Faced with all that gibberish, it is almost impossible to criticize the Castro dictatorship. Whoever does it is “an agent of imperialism, the CIA or a traitor.” The PRI governments are not criticized for the massacres committed against the people, but they are respected for their policy of “non-intervention” in relation to Cuba.

In Cuba there is an immense amount of business controlled by the high bureaucrats of the Cuban Communist Party, the Army and the State companies. Those bureaucrats are billionaires. They are a new class, as Milovan Dijlas called it in Yugoslavia long ago.

The famous Ochoa Case made clear the existence of a policy to provide foreign exchange that included drug trafficking from Colombia, created and promoted by Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro himself.

This unbearable reality has been recounted by the most prominent writers and is part of the new music of young people, also of cinematographic and theatrical creation, of all kinds of arts. It is in the word of mouth of the people, despite the terror of a police society, where neighbors denounce their neighbors or even relatives their own relatives.

Overcoming hunger and terror, two months ago, first in San Antonio de los Baños and later in many cities and towns on the island, people came out to demonstrate. The response of the State and of Díaz-Canel was brutal: they went out to beat the protesters, intimidate them with weapons, and then detain hundreds at the doors of their homes or even by invading their modest homes.

Testimonies of women, young people, children, mostly from poor neighborhoods in Havana, Camagüey, Matanzas, Santiago de Cuba, recount the abuse, torture, beatings and arrests of many people whose whereabouts were unknown for weeks.

Except for some Trotskyist groups, including one within Cuba, almost all the “left” on the continent and in Europe continue to worship the  Cuban dictators. This attitude favors the most vulgar anti-communism, which uses repression and hunger against the people as a sign of the “condition” of repression and misery that “communism” produces. Those who defend the Castro dictatorship are, paradoxically, the best propagandists of anti-communism.

Continuing the ostrich policy and refusing to see reality has very high costs for the radical struggle against capitalism throughout the world, including the island of Cuba.

While the Mexican president receives Díaz-Canel, several thousand Cubans are crowded into Mexican territory and participate in caravans to break the savage siege of the National Guard against them. Cubans continue to flee in small boats or in improvised rafts made of tires in order to find something different to be able to survive and send money to their relatives.

AMLO adores remittances, as he says it whenever he can. In that he also agrees with Díaz-Canel. They speak against imperialism, they are disappointed in denouncing the blockade, but Cuba receives millions of dollars. Without remittances, hundreds of thousands or millions of Cubans would experience famine.

That prison socialism, of hunger and a cheap brothel, is exactly the opposite of that which the peasants, workers, intellectuals, students and women fought under the leadership of the “bearded young men” Fidel, Camilo, Abel Santamaría and Che Guevara, among others. before the Castros showed themselves as autocrats. Cuba stopped being a socialist country long ago. The fight for a society free of exploiters, oppression and absolute lack of freedom has to break with the cult of dictatorships such as the Castro regime. Without breaking with that model of barbaric socialism and communism, the anti-communist groups will be strengthened.

It is very pathetic that some political forces that have suffered ineptitude, fraud, and crimes against popular opponents by the López Obrador government fall into the trap of “greeting” Díaz-Canel’s visit as a leftist and anti-imperialist sign.

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

Covid in Cuba: New Restrictions in Trinidad: ‘Soon the Numbers Will be Much More Alarming’

Image of the Trinidad hospital shared on social networks to denounce the collapse of the center. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 September 2021 — It has not been three days since the official press announced the preparation of the city of Trinidad for the return of tourism starting in November, but until that time comes, there will be little opening. This Thursday, new restrictions come into force to contain coronavirus infections, which in recent days have been skyrocketing in the town.

The previous day, the municipality had 275 positive cases — far ahead of Sancti Spíritus, with 175 — and on Thursday, 212. The province maintains an accumulated incidence of 1,849.59 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

On social networks, images and testimonies multiply of Sancti Spiritus citizens that show the overwhelmed situation in the Trinidad hospital. “Although the city received a group of doctors as reinforcements, the situation is so critical that they cannot cope,” says a post on Facebook about the city.

“The province is still experiencing an increase in cases and if we multiply those that are emerging by the probable number of contacts (10 on average for each one), soon the figures will be much more alarming,” said Deivy Pérez Martín, a member of the Committee Party central and first secretary of the organization in the province.

To try to contain the rate of infection, the measures that come into force today especially affect mobility restrictions, to avoid non-essential traffic. All administrative procedures and shopping centers are paralyzed, including bakeries, restaurants and state and private cafeterias, which will only be able to sell food until 2:00 in the afternoon.

On weekends, no establishment may open and businesses operated by continue reading

the self-employed are closed, except for those selling take-out food, which will be allowed to carry out the activity until 1:00.

Shared public transport is paralyzed, except for essential workers linked to health, commerce, education, the food industry and community services. Cars or tricycles will be able to circulate.

For their part, private vehicles will be allowed to circulate on alternate days, according to the last digit of the plate: Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the case of even numbers and cars without registration; Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for odd numbers. On Sundays, no means of transport may travel that has not been authorized.

From 2:00 pm it is forbidden to move around the city on bicycles, electric and combustion tricycles, in addition to circulating on the street in a general way.

“To stop this travel we have to adopt extreme measures in the province, the people have been asking for measures constantly,” said Pérez Martí, who believes that if the numbers of infections in Trinidad continue to rise, it is because the residents do not follow the serious restrictions.

“The [measures] that we have been applying since September last year are more or less the same as those that have been put into practice in all the provinces, but they have not always been applied effectively. There has been a lack of systematic control and discipline, and all this because there is no requirement,” he said at the meeting on Wednesday held to review the situation.

However, the people of Sacti Spiritus are not clear on how the new measures can help to reduce the pandemic. “On the contrary, everything is going to get worse,” a Trinidad resident tells 14ymedio, “because if there is nowhere to get the little food, it will be worse.” People even joke, the woman continues, wondering if the covid “understands odd and even plates.”

Among the readers of the provincial newspaper, Escambray, the division has once again been seen between those who consider it a good idea to restrict mobility and the many who consider that time limitations mean more queues or more people on the street in the same period of time.

“My dad went to his bodega (ration store) yesterday at 5:30 in the morning and returned at 12 o’clock; just for eggs he risked his health, look at how many hours,” says one reader, while another reproaches that common citizens have to go on foot for medicines but they see that “the leaders drive around in cars with their families.”

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