The Cuban Government Sells Cayo Coco as a ‘Safe Destination’ Despite the Omicron Wave

In mid-November, around 27 weekly flights arrived at Jardines del Rey, which rose to 35 during the month of January. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 January 2022 — The Cuban authorities have taken advantage of the slight increase in flights to the Jardines del Rey airport (Ciego de Ávila) to advertise Cayo Coco, one of the main tourist enclaves in the country, as a “safe destination for travelers of different nationalities despite the epidemiological complexities in the world”.

As published by the Cuban News Agency, after the start of the high season and with the end of a large part of the restrictions due to the covid-19 pandemic, in mid-November, around 27 weekly flights arrived at Jardines del Rey, which were raised to 35 during the month of January.

The official of the Provincial Delegation of the Ministry of Tourism, Lubia Olivera Espinosa, stated that most of the aircraft came from Canada and Russia, although there were also flights from Mexico.

In line with the announcement made last week in Madrid by the Cuban Minister of Tourism, Juan Carlos García Granda, to make more hotel rooms available to travelers in 2022 Olivera Espinosa announced that Cayo Coco has reopened new hotels, adding up to a total of 15 establishments. continue reading

Among them are Kempinski Cayo Guillermo, Iberostar Daiquirí, Iberostar Selection Esmeralda and Coral Level, belonging to the Gaviota Hotel Group. The official note points out that “the development of hotel facilities, planned out to the year 2030, continues with the construction of new accommodation sites in Cayo Paredón Grande.”

The Cuban government, which has minimized the impact of the omicron variant on the island, emphasizes the control measures carried out with tourists. “As part of the insurance for tourist operations, up to 500 daily samples are processed for PCR-RT,” said Tatiana Artiles Herrera, head of the laboratory at the Roberto Rodríguez hospital in Morón.

The official press does not mention that Air Canada, although it maintains its connections with Cayo Coco, Holguín, Santa Clara or Varadero, will suspend its flights to Havana until April 30. The decision, made public on January 5, was due to the wave of covid-19 in the world caused by the omicron strain.

Nor do they mention the tourism debacle in Cuba; in the first 11 months of 2021the country received just 6.5% of the travelers it received in the same period of 2019.

The pandemic, which caused harsh restrictions around the world between 2019 and 2020, ceased to be an excuse last year, as other Caribbean destinations recovered much of their tourist trade. The Dominican Republic, specifically, achieved 73% of the tourists it received between January and November 2019, and Mexico ended 2021 with the high figure of 12.5 million visitors.

____________

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.

Huge Police Deployment for a Sign Against Miguel Diaz-Canel in Santos Suarez, Cuba

“Abajo Canel singao,” (Down with Canel Motherfucker), was read in gigantic letters on General Serrano street, almost on the corner of Vía Blanca

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 26 January 2022 — A mob of police, military and plainclothes agents on Suzuki motorcycles, plus a Criminalistics vehicle, gathered this Wednesday on General Serrano street, almost on the corner of Vía Blanca, in Santos Suárez, Havana. It was not for any blood crime: rather the latest graffiti against Cuba’s hand-picked president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, has appeared there.

“It looks like someone’s been killed,” a local resident commented sarcastically, while a group of officials in white coats rushed around in front of the wall, which said in gigantic letters: “Abajo Canel singao” (Down with Canel Motherfucker). “I guess they’re collecting fingerprints, because they can’t be doing anything else there,” the man continued, looking at the entire display in astonishment.

Posters with phrases against the government, and especially against Díaz-Canel, are becoming more and more frequent on Cuban streets. Not a day goes by without the Cuban president being the target of a meme, a mockery, a joke or a graffiti, something unthinkable when new technologies had not reached the island and the terror instilled by Fidel Castro dissuaded so many from scribbling his name on a wall. continue reading

The place chosen for this graffiti could not be more symbolic. Popularly known as “the Malecón without water,” the wall separates the busy Vía Blanca from the nearest houses, but also draws a well-marked border between very poor neighborhoods, such as El Canal, and others with greater purchasing power, in the style of Santos Suarez.

Some neighbors and drivers who passed through the place published images on social networks in which an entire criminalistics team is seen photographing and trying to obtain prints around the sign, an action that has sparked criticism in a city marked by robberies and assaults where, for the most part, the perpetrators are never investigated or caught.

Allusions to television programs such as CSI and its official Cuban copy, Behind the Footprint, were not lacking among Internet users, who also satirized about the presence of a tanker truck with water to help with the cleaning and removal of the letters, in the middle of a city where the water supply is a headache for hundreds of thousands of inhabitants.

Passers-by were particularly struck by the size of the graffiti. With letters over a meter high, something that implies additional courage for the authors, who must have spent a lot of time in the area to complete their work, a job that the lack of public lighting that characterizes the place must have facilitated.

____________

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: The Revolution’s Forgotten

In the busy streets of Central Havana, it is increasingly common to see homeless people selling objects collected in the garbage. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, 26 January 2022 — With threadbare and dirty clothes, grubby and smelly, a woman was rummaging through the garbage this Wednesday in a dumpster on Neptuno street at the corner of Infanta, in Central Havana. She is not the only destitute person in the place, where by day and by night, slow figures prowl, dragging their feet, in search of alms or crumbs.

Some of them sleep in a doorway in front of the Carlos III veterinary clinic, others outside the church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen. “No one does anything for them, they should pick them up and take them to a home or health institution where they can be seen to,” says the person in charge of cleaning the portal of the church, who says that the beggars relieve themselves right there. “Every day in the morning, what I have to clean up is a lot of urine and excrement,” he laments.

At the same time, the man feels sorry, especially these days, when meteorologists announce a marked drop in the temperatures starting on January 29: “What are they going to cover themselves with?”

It is increasingly common to see beggars sleeping on a sidewalk or on a park bench, selling objects collected in the garbage on the busy streets of Central Havana, or cleaning windshields at traffic lights and begging for alms.

For more than 60 years, the Cuban regime has boasted that “the Revolution leaves no one defenseless.” These citizens, cut off from society due to alcoholism, mental illness or extreme poverty, are victims of the indifference of the authorities.

____________

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.

Mother of Cuban Doctor Kidnapped in Haiti Confirms Her Release to ’14ymedio’

Dr. Daymara Helen Pérez Alabedra, on the right in the image, was kidnapped in Haiti on January 13. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 January 2022 — Cuban doctor Daymara Helen Pérez Alabedra, who had been kidnapped in Haiti on January 13, has already been released, as confirmed this Sunday to 14ymedio by telephone from Las Tunas by her mother, María Alabedra.

“They have already released my daughter. She is already at home. They did not harm her physically,” Alabedra said in a brief communication, also noting that she had spoken “three times” with the doctor. Hours later, the Cuban embassy in Haiti announced through its social networks the release of the health worker and that she had already communicated with her relatives on the island.

Pérez was intercepted by armed men who demanded “100,000 dollars in exchange for her release” but the mother of the health worker did not comment on the details of the negotiation.

As Alabedra had explained in an interview with this newspaper on January 21, Fred Jasmin, director of the Notre Dame hospital, in the city of Petit-Goave, was personally dealing with the negotiation to free her daughter. This Sunday, the local media Haiti24  announced that as part of the negotiations, the healthcare worker’s family paid $10,000 to the kidnappers, but they did not release her at that time. continue reading

Pérez arrived in Haiti with the Cuban medical mission, of which she was a part for three years. She then returned to the island for nine months and, according to her mother, returned with a work contract at the Notre Dame hospital. “She came on January 29, 2020 and left on October 19. This Thursday marked 15 months of that separation.”

“The place where she worked is stopped, there are many demonstrations to demand her release. Here in Chaparra, the town where she was born and lived, in the province of Las Tunas, everyone is in the same, very attentive. Friends that she has in other countries, too,” Alabedra said then.

According to Le filet info, with sources close to the medical brigade, the Government of Cuba decided to reduce the delegation of doctors deployed in that country and repatriated 78 health workers after hearing the news of the kidnapping.

This information was refuted by the Haitian Minister of Health, Lauré Adrien, who assured that the repatriated group was made up of people who had completed the mission or were going on vacation.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry acknowledged a serious problem with armed gangs, which have increased kidnappings and massacres in popular neighborhoods. According to official records, at least 1,000 people were deprived of their liberty in 2021.

In mid-December of last year, Cuban engineers Andrik Alfredo Abad Reinosa and Enides Galano Silva were kidnapped on their way to do paperwork at the Immigration Office in the Haitian capital. At that time it was reported that the Autoplaza company was negotiating with the kidnappers and, according to the Sputnik agency, their release was achieved on January 3.

In Kenya, surgeon Landy Rodríguez Hernández and general medicine specialist Assel Herrera Correa continue to be held by kidnappers. The Cuban doctors were intercepted by alleged members of the Somali jihadist group Al Shabab on April 12, 2019, when they were on their way to work at the hospital in the city of Mandera, in northeastern Kenya and on the border with Somalia. There is no news of their condition, beyond the promise of the Kenyan government to guarantee a “safe release.”

Cuban doctors have worked in Haiti since 1998, when a first brigade was sent after Hurricane George. They were part of the team deployed to support the victims of the 2010 earthquake and care for patients infected by the cholera outbreak that emerged months later. And they have also been supportive after Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

____________

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.

Protesters’ Trials in Cuba: ‘Black Berets, Red Berets, It’s Like They’re Going to Bring in Bin Laden’

Justice 11j has denounced that in the trials carried out to date, one of the repressive patterns is the police operations at the courthouses. (Santa Clara Court/Saily Gonzalez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 25 January 2022 — Despite the harassment to which they are subjected by State Security and the strong operations at the doors of the courts where the July 11 protesters are being judged, many of their relatives have made it clear that they will not stop asking for justice in loud voices. One of them is Marta Perdomo, the mother of Nadir and Jorge Martín Perdomo, whose trial began this Tuesday in Quivicán, Mayabeque.

“This is full of red berets, black berets, State Security agents and police, as if they were going to bring Bin Laden,” the woman told 14ymedio outside the municipal court, moments before an officer snatched her cell phone from her hands. “Yeah, they’re going to take my phone away, so I can’t do anything else,” she managed to say.

Perdomo is one of those who have joined the initiative proposed by several activists to carry out cacerolazos — protest by banging on pots and pans — and broadcast them on social networks in support of political prisoners. “My children are innocent, I ask for freedom for my children,” the woman cries out in a video as she beats on a pot.

Nadir and Jorge Martín are the only defendants in that trial, and they face, respectively, eight and ten years in prison. “Jorge is accused of double contempt while Nadir is accused of attack,” explains his mother, insisting that these are “fabricated accusations.”

Perdomo expected to see her children enter the building, but it was not possible. According to what another close relative told this newspaper, “no one could see the kids from afar,” because “the truck turned the corner and they took them in the back way.” continue reading

In the week of January 24 to 28, the authorities have scheduled four trials in the provinces of Havana, Mayabeque and Matanzas. “Thirty-nine protesters will be tried for the crimes of sedition, sabotage, public disorder, contempt, assault and sexual assault,” the Justice 11J platform summarized on its Facebook page .

Among those to be tried is the musician Abel González Lescay, who is facing the weight of the prosecutor’s request for seven years in prison.

The siege of family and friends who wanted to approach the courts has been the trend in these trials. In regards to them, the Attorney General’s Office published a statement on Monday to justify itself, saying that the accusation of sedition for the protesters – the main reason why some face sentences of up to 30 years – is for “attacking the socialist state.”

On Tuesday, Michael Valladares, husband of the writer and political prisoner Maria Cristina Garrido, another of the 11J detainees, denounced that he was preparing to give his support to Marta Perdomo outside the court, but State Security did not allow it. “The place is full of State Security agents,” he tells 14ymedio. “There are about four blocked blocks, full of soldiers, and 100 meters away there is a cordon. They threatened me with a fine and that they would arrest me if I insisted on going through.”

The scenario was similar this Monday in Matanzas, where the opponent Félix Navarro and his daughter, Saily Navarro, are being tried, among other detainees, according to Annia Zamora, mother of the Lady in White Sissi Abascal, who also participated in the protests and who was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.

“Yesterday they did not allow us to leave the town of Carlos Rojas, there is a strong operation,” said Zamora, who also said that the trial was prolonged, and that at seven o’clock at night “they were still in court, with the accused sitting on the bench.” For her, it is something “incredible” that even at that time they wanted to continue the trial. “A lawyer from the neighboring province of Mayabeque said no, that she had to return home” and they stopped until today when they have resumed,” she explained.

Zamora denounces that she has suffered this harassment since Sunday. That day, she says that she and her husband were arrested when they were leaving to go to mass. Taken to the Jovellanos police unit, they were kept until seven at night. “They are violating all our rights for only wanting to go to mass to pray and ask for the freedom of our political prisoners,” she protests.

____________

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 ‘Weekly Packet’ Rises in Price While the Censorship of its Content Increases

In its beginnings, the ’weekly packet’ gave Cuban officialdom numerous headaches and enormous gratifications to the viewers, who came to be counted by millions throughout the island. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 January 2022 — The weekly packet, that compendium of audiovisuals, music and digital material that for more than a decade has been an alternative to official television, has risen in price this January and in Havana it will cost 70 pesos each week. Customers are alarmed by this increase and also the loss of quality, due to excessive censorship, which marks the content.

“Important information to all Mega Vision clients, weekly packet,” starts a note included in the product that is being distributed this week in various points of the Cuban capital. “Due to economic changes” linked to the new dollar rate in the informal market, there is a “weekly packet price adjustment starting Monday: 70 CUP (Cuban pesos).” In neighborhoods like Centro Habana it even reaches 100.

The notice has sparked the annoyance of many consumers, who until now paid about 50 pesos for all the folders divided by theme that make up the compendium. A price to which the cost of the courier could be added in case the client preferred to receive it at home.

“I’m not going to pay that amount because it’s getting worse and worse,” laments Manolo, a retiree from Cotorro who had already noticed “the loss of quality” of the materials collected. “Many documentaries have bad subtitles, the copies of the films are bad and to top it all, they have fewer and fewer things that have to do with history and politics.”

“It’s not a matter of twenty pesos difference,” he continues. “It is the enormous difference between what was received in the beginning and the current sloppiness. Until recently they had at least the newscasts of many channels in Florida but they removed them. They have already gone past being servile, they can’t count on me to keep them in business.” continue reading

In its beginnings, the weekly packet was a source of numerous headaches to Cuban officialdom and enormous rewards to viewers, who came to number in the millions throughout the Island. Being able to access documentaries, films and television series that were not broadcast on national television consecrated this audiovisual compilation above the official grid.

From its early years, the managers of the business instituted the “zero politics, zero violence, zero pornography” rule that allowed them to circumvent official censorship, although the weekly packet was never appreciated by cultural institutions, which accused them of promoting frivolity and tastelessness.

La mochila, (the backpack) was the official antidote that the authorities found against the “poison that they are putting into the heads” of the young people in the packet. However, the underground offer won the pulse. The alternative prepared by the Cuban State and distributed through the Computer Youth Club, despite its enormous resources, hardly found an audience.

During this time, there have been several attempts to raise the initial price, which was then one convertible peso (25 Cuban pesos). “They tried to put it at 75 CUP a year ago, but people threw a tremendous tantrum and they had to lower it to 50. Overall, with the same amount of money they lowered it, quality also fell and censorship grew,” explains Manolo.

A messenger linked to the Mega Vision production house assured 14ymedio that “the previous price could not be maintained.” Distributed to private businesses, the packet also survives by advertising restaurants, photo studios and musicians who pay to be included in its popular compilations. “Paid ads fell with this pandemic because many stores were closed, we can’t make ends meet with what each customer pays just to watch.”

But the packet does not seem to be hit only by the flight of advertisers and the disappointment of the audience. “Since internet access arrived on mobile phones in December 2018, more and more people consume materials directly from the internet. They watch programs through Facebook, they do a lot of tricks to lower the megabytes and there are even more and more families who pay for their Netflix subscription from Miami,” says the messenger. “With that it is very difficult to compete.”

And he explains: “Many Fire Stick and Roku are arriving that anyone can hook up to their television and access a wealth of audiovisual material. They share it through Wi-Fi between several families and that’s where I think the business of the future is coming, because the packet, more and more, is serving people without an internet connection.”

Others consider that it still “does business and you can take advantage of it.”

“I have a good clientele who are looking for soap operas and reality shows, they are not interested in politics,” acknowledges Barbarita, another distributor of the packet in the municipality of Playa. “These are people who want to turn on the television in the morning and watch that type of program.”

“Cooking courses, music videos and video games are in high demand,” he says. “My clientele has not complained about the lack of newscasts or other topics, rather they would like it to include more music and spaces for participation, such as singing contests.” Barbarita believes that “70 pesos a week is still cheap, it costs less than a pound of beans.”

____________

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.

‘Many in Cuba Haven’t Even Heard About the Hundreds of Political Prisoners’

The musician Abel González Lescay, one of those prosecuted for 11J. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 25 January 2022 — When his trial was postponed in December, Cuban artist Abel González Lescay, arrested after demonstrating peacefully on July 11 in Bejucal, Mayabeque, thought he would end up being released. Paradoxically, that seemed to him “bad news,” because it could, in his opinion, “overshadow” the denunciation of the rest of the prisoners and those sentenced for the protests.

But that his process would be dismissed was an illusion. The young musician, a second-year student at the University of the Arts in Havana, currently under house arrest after spending a week in detention in July, will be tried this Wednesday in San José de las Lajas. Before that municipal court he has summoned to gather, that day, “everyone who wants to demand justice for Cuban dissidents.”

“We must not stop expressing ourselves at such a serious moment for the Cuban nation,” he wrote on the networks, hoping that his trial could “mark a turning point in the future of this horrible story.”

In a conversation with 14ymedio, Lescay says that despite the fact that “there is a movement in support of political prisoners that is growing quite a bit,” it is a minority phenomenon, and that “if you go out into the streets and talk to people,” there are few who at this moment who are aware of the prisoners. “Many haven’t even heard of the hundreds of political prisoners,” he laments.

The artist faces a sentence of seven years in prison (according to his file, three years for “public disorder”, three years for “aggravated contempt of a continuing nature” and one year and six months for “contempt of the basic figure of a continuing nature”). The Justice 11J platform, which keeps a record of those arrested, imprisoned and convicted of the demonstrations, has confirmed what the musician suffered when he was arrested on July 12: “They took him out of his house naked, humiliated him and beat him.” continue reading

“When they took me out of my house, it was done by some policemen who did not have an arrest warrant or anything,” he tells this newspaper. “They forced me into a car without telling me where we were going.”

The six days he spent behind bars the young man remembers as “a rare experience,” in which he suffered “many injustices” that he tried to take in the best way, “as a spiritual retreat,” as a means of survival.

“To say what was the worst thing that happened in prison is complex because it is something compact, one thing feeds the other,” he argues. “It’s not just that the head of the prison wanted to kill me and that in front of all the prisoners he shouted that he’s going to kill me: it’s a guy who’s injecting something into your shoulder without you wanting him to, and you don’t even see the person’s face. He comes with the syringe and puts it in your shoulder while telling you that it’s obligatory and that’s it.”

And he continues listing horrors: “It’s that when you turn on the faucet, the water that comes out is disgusting, you have coronavirus and there is no doctor to see you. Being locked up for four days without talking to anyone, sick and without medical assistance is torture.”

After being released, on July 18, “complicated” days arrived. “It’s ugly what happens in prison, and then on the street you continue for a while feeling as if you’ve been poisoned,” he says. Those days he was very nervous: if, for example, someone parked a car in front of his house, he would run to the window to see what it was about. “I remember that one day I was walking down the street and I saw the moment when they picked up three kids and punched them as they put them in a police car. When I saw them, their whole faces were deformed.”

Despite everything, he is proud to have taken to the streets that Sunday. Since the “events in San Isidro,” he explains, referring to the hunger strike of the MSI artists in November 2020 to ask for the freedom of the anti-establishment rapper Denis Solís, “I was already wanting to do something.” He was not at the artists’ sit-in on November 27, 2020 before the Ministry of Culture “because he was far away,” and he felt “very powerless” that day.

For this reason, on July 11 in Bejucal, after seeing online what was happening in San Antonio de los Baños and Havana, the young man did not think twice.

“I saw that the people who were in the street were my buddies and that there were thousands of people, and I went out into the street,” he recalls, “to unload, to shout freedom.” And he continues: “People went out on the street, for the first time in their lives, to express what they felt. The situation was serious at that time, they gave us electricity for only four or five hours a day in the middle of the quarantine, and the covid was going up every day, with new cases. There was no way not to go out on the street. “

For Lescay, almost all of the 11J protesters are in disagreement “with the things that are happening in Cuba politically.”

A shocking moment for him was when he found out about the prosecutor’s request, in October, when he thought the worst was over. “I had to get serious not to succumb,” he narrates. “When they tell you something like that, reality is destroyed, because six months, a year, is one thing something that one can even endure… but seven years? When I looked ahead and calculated that I would come out of prison at age 30, it was very hard.

In the meantime, however, he has tried to get on with his daily life. “They haven’t told me anything else since I got out on July 18, not how I have to behave nor what I have to do,” he says, surprised. “I am under house arrest, but they have not told me to go sign any paper that follows up that I am complying with the measure, and they have not summoned me either.”

He hasn’t had any problems at the university either. In fact, he says, when he started this semester he went to talk to the rector, who referred to him as “a talented student” and even gave him psychological help to recover from the impact of those days he spent in prison.

This Wednesday, together with Lescay and also Bejucal, they will process six other detainees, four of them “very young,” between 17 and 21: Ángel Miguel Martín Caro, Jorge Luis Reynoso Barrios, Omar Valenciano Donatien, Raúl Xavier Díaz Pérez, Alain Yamil Sánchez Baluja and Livan Viel de la Peña. Regarding them, whose cases are not as visible as his, he insists on drawing attention: “It is useless for me to ask people to go to my trial to pressure them to release me, but not the others, nor does it helps me to keep my mouth shut and try to go to trial waiting for them to shake my hand.”

____________

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.

Yunior Garcia Will Request Asylum in Spain Because ‘It Would be Suicide’ to Return to Cuba Now

Yunior García Aguilera at a press conference after his arrival in Madrid. (EFE/Fernando Villar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 24 January 2022 — The playwright Yunior García Aguilera will request asylum in Spain, where he arrived in mid-November 2021, after leaving the island forced by the siege around his apartment that he was subjected to by Cuban State Security. The founder of the Archipiélago platform traveled to Madrid with a tourist visa granted by the Spanish Government, valid for 90 days and not valid travel to another country. However, more than two months have passed and the opposition figure admits having realized that he cannot return as soon as he expected, he said in an interview with the newspaper El País that was published this Sunday.

“Since my arrival in Madrid, my theater group in Cuba has been closed and the actors have been fired. My works are prohibited. The case against me is still open. As soon as I set foot in the Havana airport they have excuses to send me to jail for 27 or 30 years, as they have done with other protesters. Going back now is not a real possibility. It would be suicide,” he says from his new host city.

On his arrival in Madrid, García Aguilera said that his intention was to exhaust the duration of the visa, recover mentally and physically from the wear and tear suffered in the weeks prior to the Civic March for Change, of which he was one of the promoters, and return to the Island willing to continue advancing the demands for freedom for political prisoners and the dialogue to initiate a change towards democracy in Cuba.

However, since he left, his Trébol Teatro group has been closed and he notes that before leaving Cuba, State Security threatened him with 27 years in the Combinado del Este prison. continue reading

In the interview, García Aguilera talks about his landing in Madrid’s daily life. After an arrival under the spotlight, with spaces in the Spanish news and pages in the newspapers, the playwright has had to start an ordinary life and says that he survives “honestly” thanks to some collaborations with the media and the support of the Cuban exile. As he explains, the coat he was wearing during his conversation with the El País reporter was given to him and he is willing to work at whatever is necessary to maintain the small apartment where he lives in Lavapiés.

García Aguilera says they he must tae some precautions, such as keeping his exact address secret – “State Security has tentacles everywhere” – but he is delighted with his host neighborhood. Less than a kilometer from Puerta del Sol, Lavapiés is an area in which more than 88 nationalities coexist and which, despite the gentrification process that has been going on for a few years, preserves the tradition of the oldest residents of the capital, together with the multiculturalism of its new inhabitants.

“On Sundays, the Blacks take out their drums and play them. That reminds me of my land,” says the playwright, who emphasizes that he feels very grateful for his current austere life, because he has had the warmth of the Cuban community, which has even helped him to protect himself from the cold Madrid winter, which these days registers temperatures between 28 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit.

“In politics, what is real is what is not seen” he says to describe the “discreet” work which, he maintains, he has continued to carry out for democracy in Cuba. This links to one of the most unpleasant episodes that he has experienced since he arrived in Spain, an act of repudiation that he suffered in the Faculty of Political Sciences of the Complutense University of Madrid when he tried to relate his experiences in a presentation organized by an association of the same Faculty.

García Aguilera attributes the action to “young people from the United Left” (one of the member parties of the United We Can coalition, currently in government) and considers that many of these people preserve the unreal myth of the Cuban Revolution as an ideal of justice and equality. The playwright urges people “of good will who dare not call Cuba a dictatorship” to “understand that this romantic vision is doing Cubans a lot of harm” and asks the international community to abandon its “hypocrisy” and its “lukewarmness” toward “that brutal and cruel dictatorship that rips out the hearts of Cubans,” as he did since the most recent column published in 14ymedio, where he has a fortnightly collaboration.

Despite this bad time, García Aguilera is happy in his new city and confesses that he is happy when he can give himself a little treat such as buying a chocolate bar, some pork or visiting the bookstores in his neighborhood, always with caution, since some Cuban media have come to spread images of him buying cheap clothes with the aim of painting him “as a consumer who is happy eating ham,” he says.

At night, sometimes until 5 in the morning, he speaks with Cuba through video calls with his 10-year-old son, who continues to live in Havana, with the Archipiélago moderators and the relatives of the political prisoners.

Although his exile is expected to be longer than initially announced, García Aguilera insists that “he will never give up returning to his country. Being Cuban is a chronic condition that has no cure. I cannot forget that I am a Cuban who wants to return to Cuba.”

____________

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.

Yosvany Garcia’s Health Suffers After Ten Days as a ‘Plantado’ in a Cuban Prison

Mailin Sánchez, wife of Yosvany García Caso, a ’plantado’ on hunger strike in Holguín, in a video with her three children. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 January 2022 — Yosvany Rosell García Caso, for whom the Prosecutor’s Office requested 30 years in the trial in Holguín for sentencing on January 14, has been on a hunger strike for ten days in protest of what he considers an unjust sentence. As confirmed to this newspaper by his wife, Mailin Sánchez, he is the only one who continues to be a plantado* out of the defendants who went on a hunger strike in the same prison.

Mailin Sánchez says that this Sunday a State Security agent called her to tell her that she had to appear at the prison on Monday morning, but that her husband did not want to see her. “He does not want to receive visits, he did not want to talk to me, he continues in the position of being a plantado in respnse to the unjust request of 30 years,” she says.

Sánchez says that her husband is in the infirmary because his health is deteriorating. “I spoke with the doctor and she tells me that the analyses that they did today are already altered, there is already damage to his health, that he has lost a lot of weight,” she says, adding that García Caso “does not have the right to calls at this time.”

“They are destroying this family,” Mailin Sánchez denounces in a video, accompanied by her three children, where she also asserts that her family “wants him free and at home now.”

In addition to García Caso, two other political prisoners continue on hunger strike: the artist and leader of the San Isidro Movement Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, in Havana, and Chadrián Vila Sequin, in Matanzas. continue reading

At the same time, the case of Walnier Luis Aguilera Rivera, one of those arrested after the July 11 demonstration in the La Güinera neighborhood, Havana, sentenced to 23 years in prison, has been brought before the United Nations.

The Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH) has denounced his case before the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Aguilera Rivera, who suffers from mental retardation, according to his father, was sentenced on December 23 for the crime of “sedition” and is in the Combinado del Este maximum security prison.

“The denial of a forensic medical/psychiatric test in the investigative and judicial phase certified the predisposition to convict him,” explains the OCDH in a statement published this Monday, detailing that the young man was arbitrarily arrested on July 20 and his whereabouts were unknown for seven days.

“He was confined alongside common criminals,” says the Madrid-based organization. “He was prevented from having immediate access to his parents, to the medications he requires, and to lawyers.”

The clinical history of Aguilera Rivera, continues the Observatory, “is evidence that he has required special psychiatric treatment since he was a child.” The Diagnosis and Orientation Center certified since 2014 that he had “special educational needs, due to suffering from intellectual disability.” For this reason, and since then, “he is permanently medicated” and, in addition, he was not required to undertake Compulsory Military Service, for “borderline intellectual functioning” and being an “unfit subject” to assume natural or daily obligations.

The OCDH also emphasizes that the “criminal figure of sedition” serves the regime to “sow terror in the Cuban population,” since “it foresees sentences that range between 10 and 20 years in prison, or the possible death penalty.”

Among the four trials for 11J that will take place this week in Cuba, for a total of 39 detainees, is that of the opposition figure Félix, who will be tried in Matanzas. Accused of “public disorder” and “attack,” Navarro faces a sentence of 15 years in prison.

Navarro, 68 years old and a former prisoner of the Black Spring of 2003, was one of the few from the Group of 75, after his release in 2011, who refused to leave the Island.

He was arrested, along with other prominent figures of the opposition, in the heat of the demonstrations on July 11. Specifically, as recorded by the group Justicia 11J, his arrest occurred on the morning of the next day, when he was inquiring about the situation of other detainees in the municipality of Perico.

President of the Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham Party for Democracy and a member of the Democratic Action Unity Table (Muad), the opponent is being held in the Combinado del Sur prison in Matanzas, where he has suffered from covid-19. In September he staged a hunger strike for three weeks in protest against the accusations against him.

In the same trial, his daughter Saily Navarro, a Lady in White and a promoter of Cuba Decide, is facing a trial with the prosecutor, Idania Miranda Ferrer, asking for 11 years for the crimes of “public disorder,” “disrespect” and “attack.” Currently, she is under house arrest.

According to a complaint by the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Press (ICLEP), its executive director, Alberto Corzo, and several reporters from the independent outlet Cocodrilo Callejero are “besieged in their homes” in Matanzas by agents of the National Revolutionary Police and State Security.

If something is surprising about this week’s trials, it is the, once again, high sentences that weigh on the 21 accused in Havana, between the 19 years in prison that Liliana Oropesa Ferrer faces and the 26 years requested by the prosecutor of the Municipal Court of October 10, Gustavo José Mayo González, for Alejaime Lambert Reyes.

*Translator’s note: A ’plantado’ — literally ’planted’ — is a term with a long history in Cuba and is used to describe a political prisoner who refuses to cooperate in any way with their incarceration.

____________

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: The Calendar Hits Us Again On January 28

Police operation at the gates of the Santa Clara courthouse where the July 11 protesters were processed. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 24 January 2022 — Lately, the anniversary of the birth of José Martí has ​​been preceded by tragic moments in Cuba. The death of three girls due to a partial building collapse on January 27, 2020 occurred just twelve months after a tornado tore through Havana. This year, on the day that marks the 169th anniversary of that anniversary, a week of trials against the July 11 protesters concludes.

The hearings where those who protested that day are being judged have been characterized by injustice and the regime’s attempt to convey a message to make an example of them. The long prison sentences requested by the prosecutor for many of the defendants, together with the sentences that have already been announced, cast a bleak picture. Serving that time behind bars, in many cases, means spending more years in prison than the defendants have already lived.

So much excess in penalizing the citizen act of protest is leaving a sad balance. In addition to the families destroyed by having a son or daughter in jail, the fear of falling into a similar situation spurs thousands of Cubans to leave the country as soon as possible. Among those who leave are not only those who participated in that day of popular demonstration and also fear being prosecuted, but, above all, those who could potentially join the next social outburst. continue reading

This dissuasive effect joins the pressure against relatives who denounce the irregularities of the trials, the threats to those who share, on their social networks, the debauchery of prosecutors or judges and an intense campaign of social demonization against those arrested on 11J. Incapable of havinv foreseen that the streets would be filled with cries of “freedom” that Sunday, Cuba’s ruling party now wants to reverse those impressive images by means of dungeons and fear.

On the same 28th of January, the day José Martí cried for the first time, almost 40 trials will have concluded against dozens of Cubans who, like him, believed that a freer country could be achieved “for the good of all.” At age 16, that attitude cost the then Havana teenager Martí a shackle on his ankle and later exile. A disturbing parallel with what is happening this week in Cuba.

The calendar has once again placed us in front of history’s mirror. Young people continue to be condemned and pushed into exile on this Island.

____________

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.

Coffee is Missing From Cuba’s Ration Stores Due to Shipping Company Problems, Authorities Explain

People buying in a Cuban ration store that sells the ’standardized family basket’. (14ymedio, Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 January 2022 — Cubans haven’t finished with one disappointment before facing another: coffee sold in the ration stores (called bodegas in Cuba) has not yet appeared in those markets in the month of January. The product has been missing from the bodegas due to “existing difficulties with the shipping companies,” the Government justified on Saturday.

The Business Group of the Agri-Food Industry stressed on its social networks that the coffee in the family basket “presents distribution problems in the months of December and January,” due to the fact that part of the product must be imported from other countries, after the drop in ground coffee from the national harvest.

However, the official message specifies that even when “national production” was met, a plan that is adjusted downwards each year in order to achieve it, “there is a level that is ensured with imported coffee, but that has not arrived in the country due to existing difficulties with the shipping companies.”

Cuba’s annual coffee production was 60,000 tons in 1959, it has plummeted since then to below 6,000 tons a year. continue reading

The instability in the distribution of the product has been a persistent problem, increasing the outrage among consumers, especially after the official announcements of an upcoming sale of coffee which has not actually materialized in the bodegas that distribute the standardized basic basket.

This is how it came to be that, in the second week of January, a shop assistant on Calle E between 23 and 21, in Havana’s El Vedado, chose to put up two large signs with the phrase: “There is no coffee,” tired of repeating it with her voice to every customer who comes in asking about the product, while she has no idea when it will be available.

“I put up the posters so that people would be warned,” the state employee said with annoyance, while recalling that the capital’s official press published, at the beginning of the year, an announcement saying that the distribution of coffee through the ration book corresponding to January was imminent.

Despite this scenario, the Agri-food Industry assured that “the industrial processing of coffee” has already concluded and “work is being done on the distribution of the remaining territories before the end of January” without specifying whether the product that has already been processed contains one hundred percent domestic raw material.

The Cuba-Café Company had warned in December of delays in the arrival of imports and in the deliveries from the businesses that process the beans, which harmed “the retail distribution of blended coffee for the family basket” in that month. [’Blended’ coffee refers to the fact that the beans are often mixed with other material, such as dried peas.]

And not only is there a delay in the distribution of coffee, milk for people on medical diets is still missing. As justified by the company, “its delivery has not been possible due to the lack of financing to insure it.”

Since last September, the Ministry of the Food Industry announced that due to the “delay in arrivals” of powdered milk, people who had been assigned a medical diet would not be included in the distribution.

The only alternative that affected people have, said the agency, is to depend on the “availability” of other products derived from soybeans that are sold freely, an option developed, they say, in consulttion with “specialists from the Ministry of Public Health.”

The cuts in delivery, the Government reported then, would continue in the month of October, after clarifying that children are the priority in the delivery of the precious food, but the truth is that people with medical diets have already gone almost half a year without milk.

____________

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.

2

Cuban Police Detain Several Ladies in White to Block a Protest

Images of the arrests of the Ladies in White outside their headquarters. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 January 2022 — On Sunday, women dressed in plainclothes at the service of State Security detained a group of Ladies in White along with the mothers of some political prisoners, among whom was Bárbara Farrat, the mother of the 17-year-old Jonathan Torres, imprisoned after the protests of the July 11 (11J).

“They were arrested when leaving the organization’s national headquarters in Lawton-Havana,” activist Ángel Moya Acosta spread on his social networks. Hours earlier, he had reported Farrat’s arrival at the national headquarters of the Ladies in White. “Cuban political prisoners are waiting for everyone. Together we can do more,” he stressed.

In social networks, “Farrat’s courage” was highlighted; in an intimidating act she was arrested and held for hours in December of 2021. Meanwhile, the activist Saily González shared a video in a Twitter message in which Disney Azahares More, Dixan’s sister Gainza, arrested for demonstrating on 11J, along with other relatives of political prisoners from Camagüey, went to the Church in support of the Ladies in White to “demand freedom for political prisoners in Cuba.”

Last Saturday, Ángel Moya Acosta denounced on his Facebook account the “repressive operation” deployed by members of State Security dressed in civilian clothes in the vicinity of the headquarters of the Ladies in White. continue reading

The activists had announced on Friday that this Sunday they were going to resume the demonstrations in the streets of Cuba. “We activate the campaign of confrontation for the freedom of all political prisoners without exclusion,” they announced.

The message was broadcast last Friday, the same day that the Justicia 11J platform reported that Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, William Manuel Leyva Pupo, Yosvany Rosell García, Cruz García Domínguez and Chadrián Vila Sequin, detained during the popular protests of July 11, were on a hunger strike.

The complaint highlights that the trials carried out so far are held behind closed doors, under operations in the vicinity of the courts that bloc access to the courtrooms, and only the presence of one family member of the accused is allowed.

In this context, a message shared by Berta Soler on her social networks says that the “moral and political” commitment of every Lady in White is “to support the relatives of political prisoners who act for the freedom of their loved one.”

In the morning, Soler denounced the theft, for the second time, of the padlock and chain from the gate of her apartment, located in Alamar, in Havana. This event was considered by the Lady in White as “an attempted robbery so that I would leave the headquarters and stop my activism. There is no pact with the communists, to the street, keep stealing.”

____________

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.

Cuban State Security Evicts Journalist Yadiris Fuentes from Her Home

Yadiris Fuentes is a reporter for ADN Cuba. (Julio Llopiz-Casal)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 22 January 2021 — Serious threats from Cuban State Security are forcing independent journalist Yadiris Fuentes to, in a few days, move out of the home she’s lived in since June 2021. The owner of the home was warned by political police that if he did not evict her, he could face a fine or even lose his property, which is an illegal rental.

As Fuentes told 14ymedio, she will only be able to remain in the home until February 5th, the last day through which her rent is pre-paid. “Since the state of siege we all had around November (stemming from the announcement made by Archipiélago) they had not bothered me anymore, they had not called me nor seen me,” she explained.

“On Monday, January 17th I was not home, but Manuel called my cell phone, the agent who ’takes care of me’,” says Fuentes, who for years lived in Cienfuegos although she is originally from Pinar del Río. The official told her he wanted to see her in two days, last Wednesday, in the afternoon. “Summon me, if you want to see me, summon me,” she replied.

The ADN Cuba reporter let the Security agent know that she refused to respond to verbal summons and to date, she has not received an official document to appear before the authorities; thus, she believes the objective of the political police “was to intimidate and that, perhaps, to them, the rental thing is enough” harassment. continue reading

“The day after that call, my landlord informed me that State Security went to see him and told him that, ’either he evicts me, or they would fine him 15,000 pesos’ and that they could confiscate his house. Obviously, I will not subject anyone to live under that pressure and I said if that is how it is, I’d leave on February 5th,” she declared.

Fuentes assures us that these pressures to leave her without a place to live will not divert her from her profession, “This won’t influence anything I do as a journalist but while I concentrate on where to live, obviously I cannot work in the same way and they know that and I believe that is part of the method.”

The reporter stated that this type of pressure has been seen before and that her case “is not extraordinary nor unique… It is a technique they’ve already used a lot, especially against women, as if they view us as weaker and more susceptible to pressure.” Among the independent reporters who have suffered this type of pressure so they’d lose their rentals is Camila Acosta, a contributor to the online news portal CubaNet.

Faced with this dilemma, she says, “A friend always appears,” who can take her in for a few days while she finds a place to live, but she insists that she will try “not exploit these avenues” because she does not like “to be bothering anyone nor subjecting them to the pressure from State Security.”

“Right now, finding a rental is super difficult. There was a time when Havana was the easiest place to find one because there were several channels for finding them but right now, for example on Revolico, the online platform for buyers and sellers, there are very few options. Most of the ads are for people looking for rentals,” she says.

According to her experience, looking for options these days, she’s noticed that prices “have increased a lot” and that right now “everything is above 7,000 or 9,000 pesos,” (between 280 and 360 dollars, according to the official exchange rate), and when she communicates with the owners, they inform her that they are already taken.

The independent reporter is aware that what she is experiencing “is a cyclical story,” and that wherever she lives they can, once again, pressure her landlords, even if the rental is legal.

This scene has served as motivation for a group of independent Cuban female journalists to launch the Casa Palanca campaign, with the goal of fundraising to acquire a property. With the initiative, shared on Verkami, the activists and reporters want to create a network “of linkages, protection, and emotional and psychological support.”

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

____________

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.

Five Cuban Political Prisoners from July 11th are on a Hunger Strike

A protester on July 11, 2021, is beaten by agents of the police in Havana. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 21, 2022–Five political prisoners, of those detained for the popular protests on July 11th (11J), are on a hunger strike. Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, William Manuel Leyva Pupo, Yosnavy Rosell García, Cruz García Domínguez, and Chadrían Vila Sequin are refusing to ingest food, demanding their immediate release, reported Justicia 11J on Friday.

On its Facebook page, Justicia 11J provided updated details about the upcoming trials of 39 J11 protesters, which will take place between January 24th and the 28th. Among the crimes for which they are accused are “sedition, sabotage, public disorder, contempt, assault, and sexual insult,” it states.

The platform [Justicia 11J] denounces that in the trials to date, “we have identified the same patterns: police operations at the tribunals where the trials are held behind closed doors.” A cordon [blocking access to the court], which “constitutes a violation of the right to due process, and an assault on transparency of the judicial proceedings.”

“The authorities only allow one family member per defendant to be present at the trial,” explains Justicia 11J. Activists call upon the prosecutors and judges to guarantee, “justice for the more than one thousand people who ended up arbitrarily detained and who are being subjected to torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment for exercising their right to protest.” continue reading

In order to restore the rights of those arrested that day, Justicia 11J proposes dropping “the charges for which there is no evidence,” dismissing “the cases against protesters which have yet to be charged,” and acquitting those who have been tried, “but who have not yet been sentenced.”

“In the cases of those who have been convicted, but not yet sentenced, promote ex oficio appeals and declare the protesters absolved,” adds the document. “Promote ex officio revision of the proceedings,” and “initiate an investigation against agents of the Ministry of the Interior and the Revolutionary Armed Forces who used excessive force,” were the other recommendations.

The platform [Justicia 11J] reiterates its demand that the Island permit entry to “international organizations such as Amnesty International and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, so they may inspect the state of detention centers across the country.” They also joined the #UEenCubaMiraLasPrisiones [European Union in Cuba Look at the Prisons] campaign, targeting European diplomats in Cuba.

With a demand that foreign press credentialed in Cuba be present at the trials, Justicia 11J completed its report on Friday. The document is accompanied by a list, by province, of the trial dates and the names of protesters who will be tried, their age, and the sentences sought by the prosecutor’s office:

January 24th and 25th, prosecutor Idania Miranda Ferrer, People’s Municipal Tribunal of Jovellanos, Matanzas:

1. Félix Navarro Rodríguez (68), 15 years

2. Saily Navarro Álvarez (35), 11 years

3. Daymelin Abreu Rodríguez (20), 7 years

4. Odrey Rodríguez Lanz (30), 11 years

5. Adrián Echegoyen Espiñeira (25), 7 years

6. Cristian Carlos Contreras Matos (24), 16 years

7. Yoandy Ripoll Smith (32), 16 years

8. Yanelys Rosabal Milanés (36), 9 years

9. Mildrey Mederos Soca (44), 9 years

January 24th, 25th and 26th, prosecutor José Mayo González, Municipal Tribunal of Diez de Octubre, Havana (sedition):

10. Carlos Alberto Hernández Pérez (23), 26 years

11. Elian Seguí Cruz (21), 21 years

12. Mackyanis Román Rodríguez (23), 25 years

13. Juan Piloto Ferro (58), 21 years

14. Alejaime Lambert Reyes (22), 26 years

15. Lázaro Daniel Cremé Bueno (21), 21 years

16. Arielvis Rill Baró (30), 25 years

17. Amaury Fernández Martínez (33), 21 years

18. Rolier Salazar González (36), 21 years

19. Luis Miguel Oña Jiménez (23), 21 years

20. Yaquelin Castillo García (49), 20 years

21. José Luis Castillo De La Torre (56), 25 years

22. Andrius López Fragosa (29), 25 years

23. Liliana Oropesa Ferrer (20), 19 years

24. Dayan Jesús Ramírez Rondón (23), 25 years

25. Osvaldo Lugo Pita (34), 21 years

26. Wilfredo Limonta Mesa (20), 21 years

27. Yurema Ramos Abad (25), 25 years

28. Eris Diógenes Mejías Vinent (21), 25 years

29. Juan Walberto Verdecia Rodríguez (48), 25 years

30. Germán Barrenechea Echevarría (24), 25 years January 25th and 26th, prosecutor Yerandy Calzadilla Dávalos, Municipal  Tribunal of Quivicán, Mayabeque:

31. Jorge Martín Perdomo (38), 10 years

32. Nadir Martín Perdomo (37), 8 years

January 26th, prosecutor Daylet Fuentes Morales, Municipal Tribunal of San José de las Lajas, Mayabeque:

33. Angel Miguel Martín Caro (50), 12 years

34. Jorge Luis Reynoso Barrios (21), 6 years

35. Omar Valenciano Donatien (25), 6 years

36. Raul Xavier Díaz Pérez (17), 5 years

37. Alain Yamil Sánchez Baluja (21), 7 years

38. Livan Viel de la Peña (19), 7 years

39. Abel González Lescay (23), 7 years

Justicia 11J also explained that of “the 1,379 people arrested in connection with the protests on July 11th, at least 727 remain in detention centers, 71 of them are women and 15 are minors younger than 18 years of age.

Of the 613 people who have been released, many are awaiting trial and were either released on bail as a precautionary measure or are under house arrest.

“A total of 158 people are being tried or have been tried for sedition and 40, for sabotage. Of the 93 people arrested in connection with the Civic Day for Change, on November 15th, nine remain in detention.

Unedited images of the protests on July 11, 2021, in Havana.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

____________

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.

Dollar Store Imports Hurt Cuban Soft Drink Factory

The factory, located in Guane, Pinar del Río, has seen how the crisis has reduced the production of its beverages to below 100 million units. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 21 January 2022 — As Cuba’s domestic soft drink manufacturing declined, the shelves of stores that only take payment in freely convertible currency (MLC) were stocked with similar but imported beverages. The complaint comes from the director of the mixed-ownership company — with a foreign partner — located in Pinar del Río Los Portales, Mario Venero Bencomo, who explains to the official press why the national product is scarce while she strives to convince of the importance of betting on the native industry.

The director reviews the decline in the production of cans and bottles, key in the shortage of Ciego Montero beverages (Tukola, Diet Tukola, Naranja, Soda, Pineapple, Mate) and the Cimex corporation (TropiCola, Cachito, Najita, Ironbeer ), which are produced exclusively at their plant. Los Portales is responsible for the manufacture of containers for 90% of national beverages, but the total number of units has suffered a resounding collapse.

In 2018, with renewed machinery, they achieved a record of 278 million units, a figure that they thought they would exceed each year. But in 2019, with the fuel crisis, which Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel called “temporary,” production fell to 247.9 million. In 2020 covid-19 arrived and with it, everything got worse. That year barely 112 million units were manufactured, not even half of the previous year. And this last one, 2021, a tiny 86 million. continue reading

The project to double the line of plastic bottles, in the making in 2018, foundered sine die.

More figures for the disaster: of canned soft drinks, only 23.5 million units were produced in 2021, which under normal conditions would hardly take a month and a half of work.

Los Portales is the result of an association with the Swiss brand Nestlé, arranged at at the end of the last century. In 1999, its first year of work, it managed to produce 12 million units, and by 2009 it was already making 48 million soda bottles and 153 million cans.

The factory, predictably due to its mixed-ownership category, can boast of having been well equipped technologically. So much so, that Venero Bencomo assures that there is not a single team left from the first factory, reopened from a pre-existing industry. Few Cuban companies renew their technology in an integral way and so that they no longer depend on obsolete machinery from the Soviet era.

However, the director resorts to the embargo to explain some problems encountered over time, a situation that she describes as “harassment” by the United States. As she explains, some companies have canceled contracts or  refused to supply spare parts which forced them to abandon the use of necessary machines.

At this very moment, she maintains, there are no parts for the can capper because the supplier company has sold shares to a US firm, now preventing the sale.

Venero Bencomo attributes the drop in production to the shortage of raw materials, most of which are imported. The purchase of aluminum cans and lids, which is “where the most is spent in this factory, from the point of view of annual consumption,” has been weighed down by the serious economic crisis that afflicts Cuba.

Los Portales has solved part of the problem by boosting the line of plastic bottles, which reached 62.6 million units in 2021, not far from the 68 million that is the norm in the industry, he says.

On the other hand, the production of cans was disastrous, with barely 10.6% of the 220 million able to be made.

Venero Bencomo defends her company and assures that it is exemplary, since it has not increased its prices with the Ordering Task* nor has it fired its workers – whose salary exceeds the country’s average several times, in her words – despite the collapse of the industry. “It is better to produce in Cuba. Employment and development are generated, and dependency on foreign suppliers is avoided,” she argues.

To understand how Los Portales holds up in this context, you have to read to the end of the text. The company has chosen to sell to stores that only take payment in hard currency (MLC), tourism and online in order to capture foreign currency and be able to pay its commitments.

By 2022, the production of some 50 million canned soft drinks is expected, more than double what was achieved in 2021. Although it remains to be seen if it is possible to achieve the goal.

Despite the high production, before the 2018 record, the shortage of these products was noted. Already by 2017 the factory explained that it could not cope because consumption was very high. And all this despite the health problems associated with the sugariness of these drinks.

*Translator’s note: Tarea ordenamiento = the [so-called] ‘Ordering Task’ which is a collection of measures that includes eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and others. 

____________

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.