‘Don’t Quote Me or Publish My Face’, the Fear of Cuban Migrants

Journalism cannot be nourished only by anonymous sources, it needs people to show their faces. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Mexico City, 5 December 2022 — He has been in Miami for half a year, has two jobs and a suitcase full of fears. “Don’t quote me or publish any photo where you can see my face,” he says emphatically when an independent Cuban media outlet approaches him to take his testimony. He had the courage to cross the Darien jungle, to deal with coyotes and cross the Rio Grande, but when it comes to the Cuban political police, fear does not diminish despite the distance.

It is more and more frequent that a migrant from the Island refuses to appear with their name and surnames in a press report, for fear of being denied entry to their own country, when they decide to travel to visit their family and take the necessary products that will alleviate their critical economic situation. They live in a society where they can express themselves freely, choose what they eat and the newspapers they read, but when it comes to Cuba they continue to be locked behind the bars of totalitarianism.

Recently, an article we prepared for this newspaper came across the harsh reality that people who demonstrated in Florida, in the United States, against Castroism, with T-shirts that carried slogans in favor of the freedom of political prisoners and a democratic change on the Island, refused to have their testimonies appear with their names attached. The reason for that refusal is summed up in one sentence: “I am going to return to visit my family and I do not want to have problems.”

Is it their fault that they keep the mask on despite being far from those who pushed them to wear it? No. The fear that spreads among so many Cuban émigrés is nothing more than another example of the long tentacles of totalitarianism and the psychological damage that it causes. They are not cowards, but victims. But understanding them does not fix the problem. How can the vicissitudes of an exiled community be recunted if some of its members prefer to hide their faces and hide their names from a reporter? Journalism cannot be nourished only by anonymous sources, it needs people to show their faces.

The networks are full of anonymous profiles and false photos, but a country cannot be democratically transformed from behind the mask. Dispensing with the mask and vindicating an opinion with an uncovered face seems to be another of the conquests yet to be achieved. The sad thing is that we will not only have to achieve this for those who live on the Island, but also for those who reside in other countries where they should be able to behave as freer beings.

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

The Official Version is a ‘String of Lies,’ Claims the Mother of a Young Man who Died in the Bahia Honda Speedboat Attack

Yeni Meizoso insists that the Cuban government maintains the version against her son because he is dead, otherwise he could refute it. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 December 2022 — Yeni Meizoso Fabelo, the mother of one of those who died in the sinking of a boat in Bahía Honda, on October 27, has come out to deny the official version, despite the pressure received by the Government. “Do you know why they say it? Because that son of mine is now dead,” were her harsh words in a message posted on networks in which she demanded “that they no longer tell lies.”

Meizoso Fabelo begins her moving story by referring to her son, Yerandy García, as “the one killed by the Border Guard Troops,” about whom “they told a string of lies.” The mother’s position contrasts with the official who blames the migrants for the incident. The woman explained that the agents first broke the motors of the boat and then hit them on the side.

Since the first testimonies came to light, State Security has harassed and pressured survivors to change the initial version of the ramming of the boat in which seven migrants died, including a two-year-old girl, while trying to leave the Island. “They don’t want to see the truth or they don’t want you to tell the truth,” added Garcia’s mother, whom the regime accuses of having organized the group that was on board the boat.

“I need them to continue investigating so that they see that this is a lie and that Yerandy never in his life looked for people for the group, to leave, because he happened to be at my house that morning,” she continued recounting in a video shared by journalist Mario Pentón. The woman insisted that the Government maintains the version against her son because he is dead, otherwise he could refute it. continue reading

“I ask that they analyze that and go there to see how deep it is. At no time did that boat leave the place, that boat, when its engines broke, it could not move from there and they pushed it aside,” she insisted, accusing the Border Guard ship of ramming the migrants.

The Government attributes the responsibility to Héctor Meizoso, who lost three relatives, for organizing the group. In addition, the authorities insist that García was a coast guide for the illegal boats, like Michel Arronte Sánchez, who is in custody. But the border guards do not appear on the list of culprits.

The Home Office investigation concluded that the collision was “virtually unavoidable” because “the boat had already gotten into [the path of the Border Guard patrol] from a sharp turn.” Víctor Álvarez Valle, an agency specialist, described the event as “a human trafficking operation organized from the United States by sanctioned persons” in Cuba.

The official reconstruction of the events indicates that the boat had 26 people on board and 13 15-gallon fuel tanks, although it was initially designed for six passengers. 150 meters from the coast of Bahía Honda, with a swell of 0.5 to 1.5 meters in height, the border guards collided with the boat.

The authorities affirm that the boat was illuminated as on all occasions, but its driver, shouting “the Griffin is coming!”, turned sharply to avoid the encounter, hitting the seabed. The Government assures that “there were no invasive or aggressive actions” and that it was, instead, the weight of the boat and the movement that caused it to collapse.

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

Two Mothers of 11 July (11J) Prisoners Were Detained for a Few Hours Along with the Leader of the Ladies in White in Cuba

Norabel Herrera and Marilin Cabrera managed to evade the repressive siege of State Security and join Soler. (Angel Moya Acosta)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 5 DecemberThe leader of the Cuban dissident collective Damas de Blanco [Ladies in White], Berta Soler, was arrested this weekend along with the mothers of two prisoners for the massive protests of July 11, 2021 (11J), the regime opponent Ángel Moya reported on Monday.

Norabel Herrera and Marilin Cabrera managed to evade the repressive siege of State Security and join Soler, who has already been detained 32 times since she decided to resume her Sunday protests at the beginning of the year and with the release of those detained for 11J as the main reason.

Moya explained on his Facebook profile that his wife and leader of the Ladies in White was arrested, as is customary, when she was trying to leave the headquarters of her association in Havana on Sunday morning, together with Herrera and Cabrera.

Soler, who was fined 30 pesos, was released this morning, hours after the other two women were released, Moya said.

Since the 9/11 demonstrations, several people have been detained for protesting for the release of their relatives. Some members of the family of political prisoner Andy García, detained in Villa Clara, have been harassed and interrogated on several occasions by State Security this year.

In February, Yudinela Castro Pérez, mother of 18-year-old Rowland Castillo Castro, was arrested in Villa Marista, Havana, for demanding her son’s release. The same thing happened with Migdalia Gutiérrez Padrón, mother of one of the protesters from La Güinera, detained by the Police during the anniversary of 11J for wearing white. continue reading

Bárbara Farrat , mother of the young Jonathan Torres Farrat, only 17 years old, was imprisoned for several hours on December 24, 2021, for claiming that Cuban families should be together during Christmas and the end of the year. State Security has threatened Farrat several times with the possibility of prosecuting her for sedition.

Berta Soler is one of the founders of the Ladies in White, a group that emerged at the initiative of several women, relatives of the 75 dissidents and independent journalists -including Moya- convicted during the 2003 wave of repression known as the “Black Spring.”

The European Union and the NGOs Human Right Watch and Amnesty International criticized that wave of arrests and convictions, describing them as political. The Cuban authorities alleged that the accused dissidents were violating national sovereignty on orders from the United States.

The Ladies in White received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament in 2005.

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

Pablito, and Selective Historical Memory

Pablo Milanés performed for the last time in Cuba, in June, in a concert not without tension and polemic. (Pablo Milanés Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 3 December 2022 – Those who today, even after his death, reproach Pablo Milanés for what he said or stopped doing in previous times, have a very selective memory. The majority of people who lived during the first two decades of the Revolution belonged to the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution and were present at the mass rallies in Revolution Square. So did those, who, not as long ago, supported in one way or another the condemnation of asylum seekers in the Peruvian Embassy or those who emigrated from the port of Mariel. These days many of them condemn Pablito for his past, but not for anything in the world do they acknowledge criticism of their own past.

You could understand criticism of anyone who left Cuba before 1968, a period when, through the so called “Revolutionary Offensive“, everything remained controlled by the Party-State elite, when it wasn’t yet possible to work independently of the state, and it was imperative, if you wanted to get a job, to be part of the so-called “organisations of the masses”. These people didn’t really live in a totalitarian dictatorship. But to those who lived through it you have to say: “don’t ask others to do what you weren’t able to do, and don’t criticise others for doing what you too, in one way or another, also did yourself”.

If you say that Pablito was very late in correcting things in order to be on the right side of history, then what exactly is the right moment for separating the “early” from the “late”? Perhaps the day they “changed their opinion”? And if our melodic poet changed his opinion very late then what can we say about those who haven’t yet done so themselves, but could still one day do so? continue reading

And this is the message that he is sending to them: “Dear repressors, keep repressing the people. Dear police and soldiers, keep supporting the tyranny. Dear intellectual apologists, keep on defending the disgrace. All of you, carry on supporting those responsible for the misery and oppression of all the  people, because, at the end of the day, the eternal condemnation of History will inevitably fall upon you”.

I don’t know about History, but with this message the ignominy will be maintained far beyond these guys’ lives, and the guiltiest people will be quite happy with this tremendous service that they are giving them.

If you announce to the defenders of a besieged garrison that they’ll all be executed when the stronghold is overrun, then nobody will surrender and the battle will be prolonged, because everyone will fight to the death at the cost of more lives on both sides, that is if there’s anyone left surviving at all.

On the other hand, it has to be said that if we are fighting for a Cuba in which all the rights and liberties of its citizens are to be respected, then you have to respect the rights of those who still believe in, and defend, the badly named Revolution, without violating the rights of those who think differently. But one needs to send a different message to those from the other side who violate those rights — a message like the one that the glorious Oswaldo Payá launched at his persecutors: “I don’t hate you Brother, but I’m not afraid of you either”.

I pity those who still call for “those guilty of the Cuban tragedy to be hung from guasima trees with barbed wire”, a view generally held more commonly among those who have suffered the least, those who ignore the lessons of history and wish for the repetition of the same mistakes that brought us to this calamitous situation; those who packed the squares and yelled for the death of those supposed guilty of other mistakes of the past and later were forced to go into exile or wound up in prison. Or, worse, like that commander of the Revolution, doctor Sorí Marín, who signed the decree of executions and was later executed himself for the law which he himself redacted. So many innocent people lost their lives in front of firing squads having been sentenced without due process.

History’s reach goes further than this; when they said that there could not have been anything worse than the machadato [1920’s tyrannical government of president Machado], and, after that was over, the mobs took to the streets to lynch anyone who was marked out as a porrista [government cheerleader], though it was never proven, and they were dragged through the streets in a general chaos which Machado himself prophesied whilst boarding the plane that took him to exile — a chaos that has continued to this day — well later came even worse: el batistato [the Batista regime]. And many said: “there can’t be a regime worse than this”. And the blood flowed, and it carried on flowing, after the arrival of a newer, and worse regime still. And today they’re still saying the same thing.

Enough. We have to put an end to this prolific chain of tyrannies — an end to hatred and reprisal, each time more shameful than the last — before we all drown in a sea of blood.

We cannot build a republic of peace on the foundations of the gallows. Or as a visionary named José Martí once said about the Russian revolutionaries of his time: “The steel of incentive is no use for the founding hammer”.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso

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

Cubalex Denounces 26 ‘Incidents of Repression’ During the Municipal Elections

The high abstention rate, for Cuba’s participation rates, marked this Sunday’s elections. (14 and a half)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 1 December 2022 — Cubalex reported this Wednesday that, so far, it has documented 26 incidents of repression during the elections for delegates to the municipal assemblies last Sunday.

According to the organization, these events occurred in at least seven provinces of the island, with the largest number, 12, concentrated in Havana.

The organization points out that, according to the data collected, “the Cuban authorities continue to use the criminal investigation procedures, provided for by law, as a repressive instrument.”

Likewise, Cubalex registered “13 incidents of harassment” with 34 victims, of which 20 were women and 14 were men.

Among the actions detected by the group is the obstruction of “political participation, arbitrary arrests, surveillance operations and selective internet cuts.”

According to the organization, the objective was mainly focused on preventing activists from being able to act as observers during election day.

It also added that the relatives of the demonstrators imprisoned for their participation in the 11 July 2021 (11J) protests “were threatened with the transfer of their children to remote prisons and with harming them in court if they made publications contrary to the elections.”

Last Sunday, Cuba held the municipal elections in which the highest percentage of abstentions was registered since 1959.

Preliminary data from the National Electoral Council (CEN) released on Monday show that 31.42% of the eligible voters did not go to the polls. This is a particularly high figure on the Island, which is used to participations above 85%.

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

Cuban Carlos M. Alvarez Wins the Anagrama de Cronica Award with a Book on the San Isidro Movement

Álvarez’s work is a review of Castroism not only as an expression of state power, but also as “a habit, a culture, a doctrine that shapes you emotionally and intellectually.” (Facebook/Carlos Manuel Alvarez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 30 November 2022 — Cuban writer and journalist Carlos Manuel Álvarez won the Sergio González Rodríguez Anagrama/UANL Chronicle Award this Tuesday in Mexico with his unpublished book Los intrusos [The Intruders]. According to the author, the text addresses his “long quartering” with the San Isidro Movement, in November 2020.

The award jury was made up of the writers Juan Villoro, Leila Guerriero and Martín Caparrós, the editor Silvia Sesé and the Secretary of Extension and Culture of the University of Nuevo León, José Javier Villareal, who made the decision public during the Fair International Book of Guadalajara, Mexico

Los intrusos – presented under the pseudonym Yorik – won among the forty manuscripts submitted to the contest, which celebrates its fourth edition this year. The endowment of the prize, offered by the Anagrama Chair of the University of Nuevo León, is 10,000 euros.

After learning of the ruling, Álvarez thanked the jury in a Facebook post and defined his text as a “mixture of reporting, testimony, profile and memory,” and attributed to the protest in San Isidro an irreversible change in the “political-sentimental map of the Island”.

The book, in the words of its author, constitutes an intimate account of his experience with State Security, and a theoretical exploration of the terms “revolution, dictatorship, language, and totalitarianism.” continue reading

“We are not victims who suffer Orwellian customary repression, nor are we actors subject to the closed framework of the Cold War, but individuals who fight and lead another possible conflict of modernity and its truncated horizons,” Álvarez points out, referring to the new generation of opponents. inside and outside Cuba.

The writer adds that his work is a review of Castroism not only as an expression of state power, but also as “a habit, a culture, a doctrine that shapes you emotionally and intellectually.” In short, it is a question of describing the “aesthetics of militancy at risk,” Álvarez emphasizes.

As for his companions from the San Isidro Movement – most of them in exile or suffering prison, such as Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Castillo Osorbo’ Álvarez defines his chronicle as “a dizzying operation” for the San Isidro strikers, whom he thanks “the treasure of being able to belong.”

The violent eviction of the strikers from San Isidro, on November 26, by State Security agents dressed in protective suits (the excuse was that the activists had violated the covid protocols), in turn provoked the solidarity of more than 300 artists gathered the next day in front of the Ministry of Culture to request dialogue with the authorities. Álvarez is interested in leaving a record of those days through an artistically worked story, even if it refers to real events and characters.

Carlos Manuel Álvarez was born in Cárdenas, Matanzas, in 1989, and lives in New York. For his report Tres niñas cubanas, [account of event in English] published in the magazine El Estornudo – of which he is the founder – he was awarded the Don Quixote Prize for Journalism, in 2021. He has published the novels Los caídos (2018) and Falsa Guerra (2021), in addition to the book of stories La tarde de los sucesos definitivos (2013).

Recently, Álvarez denounced that the Cuban regime prevented him from traveling to the island, when he was denied “from Havana” to board an American Airlines flight. The journalist then assured that he was willing to return to Cuba “by any other means.”

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

‘Cuban Students Are Waking Up Now, They Don’t Believe in the Revolution’

The University of Camagüey tried to “wash its hands” of him by offering Tan Estrada several jobs as a technician in places that have nothing to do with his profile. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 December 2022 — Last Monday, the directors of the University of Camagüey (UC) detained professor and journalist José Luis Tan Estrada, when he was about to go home. In a kind of improvised trial, they recited to him a rosary of “incidents” against the Government. They notified him that he could no longer teach at his faculty and — as a consolation — they offered him a couple of jobs in a canning factory and at the municipal headquarters of Hydraulic Resources.

It goes without saying that he did not accept. Upon leaving the UC, he could not help but take a picture of the old mantra of State Security, freshly painted on the wall plaster: “The university is for the revolutionaries.”

14ymedio. It gives the impression that you are accused of carrying an “ideological poison.” What is the negative influence attributed to you on the faculty?

Tan Estrada. For a while now, I have more followers on social networks, mainly on Facebook, for my work as an activist and my journalism. There I have denounced the arbitrariness of the regime, telling life stories and giving voice to people whose problems are not solved by the Government or the local authorities.

At the university, the head of human resources and the dean told me that the students follow me on social networks, they agree with what I publish and with my ideas. No one has published anything, of course, because they are afraid of losing their university career. They are afraid of being repressed or closely monitored by a professor.

Another element, according to them, is that I am a negative influence on the students, due to my openly contrary position to the Island regime. If I do not agree with the political system or the people who lead it, how can I prevent students from feeling themselves reflected and doing the same? continue reading

It seems that they do not know that a university student – and much more so those in journalism – has the ability to reason and realize the social problems we are experiencing. Everyone is suffering from them equally.

14ymedio. Why take this measure against you right now? Did you expect that level of radicalism that involves discarding a professor in the midst of the educational crisis that the Island is going through today?

Tan Estrada. Cuban universities have been characterized by being a repressive body against anyone who, within the faculty or students, opposes the Government. Because, supposedly, as it is written on that famous sign at the entrance of the UC, “the university is for revolutionaries,” complemented by that other no less famous: “Within the Revolution everything; against the Revolution nothing.”

There are plenty of examples. At UC itself, we have José Raúl Gallego, José Alemán, Henry Constantín, Eliecer Jiménez… countless students and professors who have gone through the university and who have experienced that type of repression. I am neither the only nor the first, nor will I be the last.

Of course, I knew that a measure would come against me, because of my “antecedents.” I lived closely the case of Professor Gallego, as he was prosecuted and discriminated against for his political ideas, despite being an excellent professional. One of the best I’ve had, without a doubt. What I did not expect was that the summons would be surprising, without prior notice, almost at the time of going home.

It was a kind of circus. How could I imagine it? That half hour showed me that the dictatorship can be unpredictable and knows how to shuffle its cards well.

Of course, having a regime opponent inside a university is not the same as being expelled “washing their hands,” of me as they did. They told me openly that the reason was because my statements, ideas and attitudes were against the principles of the Cuban Revolution. In addition, I was told that I used my knowledge and intelligence based on that negative influence.

Unfortunately, students do not decide, or do not have the courage yet, to pronounce openly.

14ymedio. What did you teach them?

Tan Estrada. The subject of Hypermedia Journalism, in the day course, to journalists; and that of Digital Language and Hypermedia Communication to social communicators, in the course for meetings for workers.

14ymedio. What did those young people think of your expulsion?

Tan Estrada. Many sent me messages of support, standing against the measure and the way it was taken. They tell me that I will continue to be their professor, as I said on Facebook. I posted those messages to show them what my “bad influence” on students consisted of. If I were so bad, they wouldn’t have sent even a message. I am very attentive to them and if something happens to them I will report it.

14ymedio. Don’t the most innocent “other jobs” that they offer you have a kind of humiliating intention?

Tan Estrada. Humiliating, crushing, repressive. A low intention and blackmail. I am sure that both the provincial director of Labour, the Human Resources and the dean of my faculty knew that none of those places have to do with my profession. The intention was to lower myself from graduate to technician. They want to shut me up and overshadow me. It’s normal.

14ymedio. Does the radicalism of the State and its “educational arm” force it to be more radical?

Tan Estrada.  The radicalism of the State consists of repressing everyone who wants to unmask it. If you have a photo [on Facebook] and don’t use a fake profile, they increase the  repression. And then you’re forced to increase your fight against this dictatorship. They force you to separate yourself from your friends, from your students, from everything you have built.

My commitment, my strength, is with the Cuban who has to fight to see what to wear, how to dress, what to eat. Those stories that the regime silences and hides, through my weapon, which is journalism, I need to make known.

14ymedio. Can you expect an awakening from university students?

Tan Estrada. University students are already waking up. Camagüey, with the famous “conga” of protest, was a clear example. Without fear, everyone, more than a thousand young people, rushed to demand water, electricity, food. They don’t believe in the Revolution or in student organisations, even less in the Party. They are disappointed and don’t see a life project in thiis country. They don’t see their future here. This dictatorship doesn’t not have the capacity to guarantee a life for a young person.

The reality is direct, it is raw. University students are no stranger to it.

14ymedio. How do you evaluate the scenario of the Cuban press, both the official and the independent?

Tan Estrada. The official Cuban press is far removed from the real problems of Cubans. The Cuban public agenda does not correspond to the media agenda. They are nothing more than means of propaganda of the Communist Party, where a tweet from Díaz-Canel determines the headline of the news. They put the most absurd degree of pressure on critical journalists, those who think, because they are unacceptable for their press media.

The official press is “mechanized”; no one believes in their triumphalism or propaganda anymore. It lacks, of course, the basic standards of journalism

That is where independent journalism plays an essential role, it has been in charge of showing the world the reality of the country. Truthful, accurate, direct and timely information, which does not mask reality. Despite the limitations and danger, it is the only one that reflects the day to day.

14ymedio. Do you think the regime’s pressure will make you go into exile?

Tan Estrada. I don’t know. There are many examples of independent journalists, opponents, activists whom the regime has repressed and censured, even with the threat of imprisonment and death, which has forced them to leave. My only plan now is to fight for Cuba and denounce the arbitrariness that the regime commits on a daily basis.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Newspaper Readers Denounce the ‘Ruthlessness’ Against Sancti Spíritus in the Distribution of Blackouts in Cuba

“Let’s stop fooling ourselves, we all know the almost obsolete state of Cuban thermoelectric plants, built more than 30 years ago,” says an ’Escambray’ reader.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 2 December 2022 — The call this Thursday of the Escambray newspaper to its readers to leave a “question, reflection or opinion” for the Sancti Spíritus Electric Company immediately had angry responses.

The official media announced that the state company will appear on December 7 in its newsroom “to clarify, as far as possible, the doubts, concerns and disagreements” of the citizens, given “the delicate energy situation that Cuba has been experiencing for months.”

“I have several questions, the first is why Sancti Spíritus, being the least densely populated province in the central region, suffers the worst blackouts,” says Ricardo, who says that he is aware of “another reality” in other provinces and also questions whether there is “ruthlessness” with some of the “blocks” into which the distribution of scheduled blackouts is divided and which suffer more than others from power outages.

The reader Rey follows the same line, but is harsher: “The electric company has social networks, telephones, etc. They have communication channels to give answers to the population. Do you think it is necessary for the press to be a mediator? If you analyze only this, you will already realize that everything in the electric company is malfunctioning.”

The man from Espiritu makes a request to the provincial newspaper: “You, as the press, should be a little more on our side. For example, investigate why the current is not turned off in Havana, publish about it, and ask for answers. Should we from the field assume the entire deficit?” And he concludes: “This is not the time for photos and explanations, it is time to have light. Almost a whole year of blackouts that instead of being solved are getting worse. December has arrived. It will be another broken promise.”

“Blackouts and alumbrones* are the main topic of daily conversations, and no matter how much the corresponding entities explain in terms of limitation in thermal generation, capacity deficit, units under maintenance, breaks, lack of fuel… of the only thing Cubans understand is the 10 hours or more that goes by without power,” says Maydelis, who asserts: “The situation Cuba is experiencing with fuel is not a secret to anyone, but let’s stop fooling ourselves, we all know the almost obsolete state of the Cuban thermoelectric plants, built more than 30 years ago, which no longer can be maintained.”

For the reader Chino, Escambray’s call is useless: “What is the point of posting questions in this way if the Sancti Spíritus UNE [Cuba Electric Union] has a channel and a Telegram group with more than 51,000 members and they keep it private, that is, that we cannot comment or publish anything? In the end we all know that the country’s energy situation is not going to be resolved or improved considerably before December 31.”

*Translator’s note: Alumbrone is a word coined to mean the often unexpected times when the electricity is on.

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

About to Turn 100, Cuban Actress and Playwright Herminia Sanchez Dies

The actress graduated from the Dramatic Arts Seminary of the University of Havana in the 1950s. (ANC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 December 2022 — Cuban actress and teacher Herminia Sánchez Quintana, National Theater Award winner in 2019, died this Thursday in Havana at the age of 99. Her imprint on the island’s dramaturgy, cinema, radio and television accredits her as one of the most notable faces of the Cuban scene.

Born in Barcelona in 1923, Sánchez graduated from the Havana University’s Dramatic Arts Seminary in the 1950s. She worked at the National Theater, the National Dramatic Ensemble, and the Estudio Theater.

From her youth, her performances in Electra (1951), by Sophocles, and in La casa de Bernarda Alba (1953), by Federico García Lorca, are remembered. She is also known for her founding work at the Escambray Theater, where she wrote and premiered her first play, Escambray mambí (1968), which stages various passages from the diary of General Máximo Gómez and from the Episodes of the Cuban Revolution, by Manuel de la Cross.

The historical theme and the sociological study as tools of theatrical fiction would mark Sánchez’s work as a playwright at the Teatro de Participación Popular. With this group, the actress promoted different initiatives in the coastal neighborhoods of Havana, together with her husband, the actor Manolo Terraza, which had their synthesis in the staging of Loma del Ángel (1975), based on the homonymous novel by Cyril Villaverde. She shared the stage with Rosita Fornés, Adolfo Llauradó, Raquel Revuelta and Abelardo Estorino. continue reading

During the 1980s, she worked as a teacher at the Instituto Superior de Arte and worked in film, television and theater. He acted in important films like LucíaHello Hemingway and Habana Eva. As for her writing, she published the volumes TeatroDe pie and Monólogos teatrales cubanos.  

As part of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, she negotiated several cultural contracts with the countries of the Soviet bloc and appeared as a lecturer in Germany, the US, Bulgaria, Spain and Latin America. She was also invited to participate as a jury in the Casa de las Américas Award and in various contests organized by the Armed Forces.

Having been born in Spain and carrying out her cultural work on the Island, she received the title of Distinguished Emigrant by the Society of Spanish Residents, as well as that of Adoptive Daughter of Old Havana. She also received the Alejo Carpentier Order and the Distinction for National Culture, in addition to the Caricato Award, in 2017, and the National Theater Award, in 2019.

Sánchez’s death was announced on the official Twitter account of the University of the Arts, where she worked as a tenured professor. Her book De ella Teatro de fuerza y ​​candor, a kind of autobiography, summarizes her almost hundred years of life and her passion for theatrical fiction.

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

Saudi-Financed Fidel Castro Museum Has Few Visitors

Entrance to the luxurious Fidel Castro Ruz Center in Havana. (Centro Fidel Castro Ruz)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 November 2022 — Though the Fidel Castro Ruz Center celebrated its first anniversary on November 25, the museum has little to celebrate. Its website states that the facility, located on the corner of Paseo Avenue and 11th Street in Havana’s Vedado district, has received some 77,000 visitors from 140 countries in the 365 days that it has been open.

Government media outlets’ own numbers, however, are at odds with these figures. On Friday Escambray reported that the museum has seen 2,646 foreigners from more than 70 countries. Adding to the confusion, Prensa Latina quoted its director, René Gonzalez, saying that “more than 80,000 people” have visited the center.

Even assuming that the most optimistic figure of 80,000 is correct, it seems clear that the museum has not attracted a lot of interest, either from tourists or from Cubans. The lack of statistical transparency in Cuba prevents an adequate assessment of the contradictory numbers. But if the Che Guevara Mausoleum in Santa Clara is any guide, the late guerrilla leader is putting his former comandante to shame.

According to official figures, during its first twenty years of operation, more than five million people visited the memorial where the government claims the remains of Ernesto “Che” Guevara are buried. In 2019, the state-run press reported that, in the two decades following the inauguration of the sculptural complex dedicated to the late Argentinian revolutionary, it received an average of 684 visitors a day. In 2016, a year when four million tourists visited the island, official sources reported that the Villa Clara monument received 374,900 visitors, which translates to 1,024 people a day.

With respect to the Fidel Castro Ruz Center, if one assumes the highest official figure of 80,000 is correct, that means that 219 curious individuals a day would have visted Castro’s shrine. This presumably would include students visiting the center as part of their program of studies. continue reading

The figure pales in comparison to the Santiago de Cuba mausoleum where Castro’s remains lie. The official communist party newspaper Granma reported that, in the first two months after the former president’s ashes were interred in the Santa Ifigenia cemetery, 150,000 people — both Cubans and tourists — visited the site, an average of 2,500 people a day.

Although 2022 has so far proven to be a disastrous year for tourism, with barely 1,198,402 foreign visitors as of the end of October, the comparatively small number of those curious enough to visit Castro’s “cathedral,” as Escambray dubbed the museum a few days ago, is striking, especially considering that it is in the capital and admission is free. Moreover, given the fascination that the revolutionary leader holds for a large part of the world’s population, the small number of visitors must have come as a surprise.

The museum is located in a mansion built in the last decade of the 19th century for a captain who fought in the war of 1895. It is surrounded by a large garden which contains more than 11,000 plants from Cuba as well as other countries, such as Venezuela and Argentina, that were important to Castro. Its interior houses a large museum dedicated to the life of Fidel “from his childhood to his physical demise,” as one guide working there described it to 14ymedio.

Its walls display objects and images of Castro during the Revolution as well as interactive exhibits where visitors can read and listen to writings and long speeches by their leader as well as hear tributes to him from famous like-minded personalities.

But the big mystery is how much the museum cost and who paid for it. At its official opening, which was attended by the international press, the head of Documentary Heritage Preservation for the Palace of the Revolution, Alberto Albariño, refused to answer this question when one journalist posed it. The only thing he would say was that a substantial part of the costs were covered by “donations that were received from other [unnamed] countries” and that, therefore, it had not required a large expenditure of state funds.

A source at the Office of the Historian of Havana told 14ymedio that part of the money came from Saudi Arabia. “It was supposed to be used for housing but they took some of it for the center and also for the Capitol,” she says. In 2017, Cuba received a 26.6 million dollar loan from  the Saudi Fund for Development to be used by the Rehabilitation and Construction of Social Works Program, from which funds for the pharaonic project were set aside.

The independent digital news platform Cubanet also reported that executives from the Iberostar and Meliá hotel chains provided generous donations to get the museum up and running. One official went so far as to say that Miguel Fluxá, the president of Iberostar, provided five million euros himself in one lump sum and even offered to ship materials to the island that were difficult to obtain due to the embargo. The company is reported to have put up roughly twelve million euros in total, a little more than Meliá (the size of whose donation was not specified) and much more than the French firm Accor, which put in another two million.

There is also the money contributed by ICAP (Institute of Friendship between Peoples), which Cubanet estimates could be roughly fifteen million dollars. The current return on investment must certainly be demoralizing.

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

Cuba Removes a Coach From the National Team After Accusing Him of ‘Illegal Exit’

Donal Duarte retired last April at the Capitán San Luis stadium in Pinar del Río. (Guerrilla)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 November 2022 — The experienced baseball player Donal Duarte, El Lobo Mayor, was excluded at the last minute from the coaching staff of the Cuban team that will participate in the 2022 Caribbean Baseball Cup in the Bahamas. The National Commission accused him of “illegal exit” from the country, an argument that the athlete rejected. Duarte told Pelota Cubana magazine that he “would request his removal from the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (Inder).”

Duarte denied that alleged abandonment, as well as “a fight” in which he allegedly participated. “Both things are completely uncertain,” stressed Duarte, who is also director of the Pinar del Río Under-23 team. “It’s disrespectful what they just did to me.”

The coach was considered on the preliminary list of the national team, hence his surprise when he saw that Ricardo Eizmendiz appeared in his place, and that he was also accused of indiscipline. “I’m one of the few left in this country, I live for baseball and look what they do to me,” he said.

“What was the use of playing baseball in Cuba for 18 years? What was the use of working so hard? They are alleging things against me, I really don’t deserve it, I can’t admit it,” Duarte lamented. continue reading

The journalist Francys Romero described this as an “injustice,”  since Duarte “had no illegal exits either as a player or after his retirement.”

“Let’s hope that the Cuban baseball authorities will publicly pronounce on this new injustice. It is something that the fans demand,” published Swing Completo. “To trust the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB), you have to be part of its circus and paint your nose red,” it said.

For its part, the magazine Cubana Pelota denounced that the baseball player “does not deserve that treatment… You can’t play like that with the figures of this country in the field of sport,” the outlet stated.

The official press limited itself to announcing the Cuban roster for the Bahamas Caribbean Baseball Cup 2022, which highlighted “three catchers, six infielders, five outfielders and 10 pitchers, among the youngest and most talented players in the I Elite League.”

The summoned are the receivers Yunior Ibarra, Iván Prieto and Richel López. As infielders are Guillermo Avilés, Santiago Torres, Rangel Ramos, Luis Vicente Mateo, Cristian Rodríguez and Rodoleisis Moreno, as well as outfielders Leonardo Argüelles, Héctor Labrada, Yoelkis Guibert, Yasiel González and Alexquemer Sánchez.

For their part, the pitchers are Ariel Zerquera, José Rodríguez, Alexander Valiente, Yunier Castillo, Pavel Hernández, Andy Vargas, Javier Mirabal, Franklin Quintana, Leodán Reyes and Yeudis Reyes.

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

Fire Destroys a Load of Tobacco on a Train from Pinar del Rio

The Fire Department and residents of the Los Palacios municipality, in Pinar del Río, helped put out the fire on the train loaded with tobacco. (Radio Guamá)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 30 November 2022 — A fire that occurred on Tuesday afternoon consumed the load of a wagon with tobacco on a train from Pinar del Río, the province that produces the best cigars in the world. The authorities confirmed that the fire was extinguished by the Specialized Fire Forces, but they have not offered data, for the moment, on the possible causes or how much the losses amounted to.

The incident occurred in the municipality of Los Palacios, in Pinar del Río. The Accidents and Trucks Facebook group reported that the train was heading to Havana loaded with tobacco, while the local radio station Radio Guamá added that to control the incident, the help of the neighbors was required to support the firemen.

In videos shared on social networks, firefighters are seen putting out the fire from the roof of the wagon. The photographs of the local station also show the damage to the tobacco bales that were removed from the unit before the fire consumed them.

Pinar del Río was the province most devastated by the passage of Hurricane Ian, where it was exactly the necessary infrastructure for tobacco cultivation that was greatly affected. According to the local press, there was damage to 14,000 of the 33,000 tons of leaves stored. continue reading

The Empresa de Transporte Agropecuario, a division of Tabacuba, indicated at the beginning of November that it was an urgent task to safeguard some 6,000 tons of raw tobacco before it spoiled, for which it was planned to transfer most of it by train to the provinces of Sancti Spíritus, Matanzas, Villa Clara and Cienfuegos.

Emilio Triana Ordaz, general director of the Agricultural Transport Company, explained to the Guerrillero provincial newspaper that each train could store up to 300 tons, with a loading time of four days. According to estimates by the authorities, these tasks would take a month if there were no delays.

The tobacco sector is facing one of its worst moments. In addition to the losses due to the hurricane, the item came from one of its lowest production cycles due to the lack of basic supplies, logistical problems and machinery breakdowns.

At the end of last October, tobacco planting began in some 6,300 hectares of Pinar del Río , a product destined for export. This process will last until January 31, 2023. During these three months, the work will be concentrated in the municipalities of San Juan y Martínez, San Luis, Pinar del Río and Consolación del Sur, considered the “tobacco massif” of the province that produces half of the highest quality tobacco leaf on the Island.

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

Fears Are Justified as Cuba’s New Penal Code Takes Effect

Is it the intention of the dictatorship, from now on, to severely penalize any discrepancy? (Cuba debate) 

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 30 November 2022 — There are at least three ways to analyze Cuba’s new Penal Code that comes into force this first of December.

The first is paralyzing and ends in the acceptance of the idea that everything a citizen does that deviates one millimeter from what is convenient for the Government or the Communist Party represents a reason to be sentenced to prison. Here, especially inscribed, is the gaze of those who are political opponents, social activists or independent journalists.

This analysis pays attention to Article 119, which punishes with the death penalty anyone who uses force to change the system; Article 120, which penalizes anyone who demands the same but exercising “arbitrarily any right or freedom recognized in the Constitution of the Republic” with up to ten years in prison; and Article 143, which also punishes with ten years anyone who receives funds or finances for activities against the State and its constitutional order.”

The second way of reading the new Code is based on the optimistic belief that the principle of social injuriousness (Article 1.3) will be fully applied, through which, “in order to impose a sanction, it is required that the act produce an injury to legal property of entities protected by law, or endangers them or risks causing it.” If the damage caused is not demonstrated in court, there will be no crime for which to be convicted.

This point of view pays attention to Article 180, which penalizes the official who maliciously promotes the persecution of a person “whose innocence is known,” or to Article 181, which punishes the public official who “applies or orders the application of a security measure without an order from the competent court,” which is supposed to nullify the prohibitions against leaving the country or the limitations on movement to which dissatisfied people are arbitrarily subjected.

The third way of facing the Code is from the point of view that regardless of what is written in the document, “these people,” those who are in charge in Cuba, will always do whatever they want, and it makes no sense to try to determine the degree of threat or relief that the new legal body represents.

Beyond the views on the Code, the bets on what will happen with the new regulations move between two options: the dictatorship will severely penalize any discrepancy; or, simply, it calculates that the icy breath of a terrible threat will be enough to neutralize the opponents, reduce them to silence or incite them to moderation. We will know soon.

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

US Court Recommends Preventing an Undersea Cable Connection with Cuba

The existing undersea cable system in the Caribbean area.

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 1 December 2022 — On Wednesday, United States Department of Justice recommended to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it deny a permit for the installation of the first submarine telecommunications cable that would connect the United States with Cuba.

The Cuban government represents a “counterintelligence threat” to the US and, since Cuba’s state communications company Etecsa would manage the cable landing system, Havana could “access sensitive US data traveling through the new segment,” explained the Justice Department in a statement.

“As long as the Government of Cuba continues to be a counterintelligence threat to the United States and is allied with others who are the same, the risks to our infrastructure are simply too great,” Deputy Homeland Security Attorney Matthew G. Olsen said in a statement.

According to the Department of Justice, Cuba’s relations with other “foreign adversaries” such as China or Russia represent a risk for the US Government if such a connection existed.

Olsen pointed out that the US, however, “supports the existence of a secure, reliable and open Internet network around the world, including in Cuba.”

The ARCOS-1 USA Inc. undersea cable system applied to the FCC to adapt its network to include the first and only connection of its kind between the US and the Island.

The ARCOS-1 network connects 24 landing points in 15 countries on the continent, including the US, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua and Mexico.

The US has criticized the Cuban government for limiting internet access on the island, especially after the protests of 11 July 2021 (known as ’11J’), and the power outages this summer.

Havana alleges that the economic and commercial embargo of the United States “has prevented it from accessing any of the dozens of cables that pass through areas near its coasts.”

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

The International Boxing Association Owes Thousands of Dollars in Prizes to Five Cuban Medalists

More than a year after winning the gold medal in the World Boxing Championship, Julio César La Cruz has not received the $100,000 prize money. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 December 2022 — The gold medalists at the 2021 World Boxing Championship, in Belgrade, Julio César La Cruz, Yoenlis Hernández Martínez and Andy Cruz Gómez and the bronze medalists, Osvel Caballero and Herich Ruiz Córdoba, still have not received the cash prize offered by the International Boxing Association (Aiba).

La Cruz, Hernández and Cruz, who received the medal, earned $100,000, while for Caballero and Ruiz, the prize is $25,000. The reason for the delay, according to the president of the organization, Umar Kremlev, is due to the economic embargo. “The problem is complicated. There are many banks that cannot make the transfer to Cuba,” reported Play-Off Magazine.

Visiting Havana, the manager did not specify whether the money is granted directly to the boxer or is paid, as usual, through the Cuban regime. He limited himself to saying that the monetary part serves the athletes so that they “invest in their future and families.”

“I will share this money with my family. I think I will manage to spend it wisely and find a good purpose,” Cruz said after beating Turkey’s Kerem Özmen in the 63.5kg category.

A year after that episode in Serbia, Andy Cruz’s situation changed. He was expelled from Cuban sports and from the Domadores in July after being exhibited for his escape attempt and being repudiated for undisciplined. The champion in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is in the Dominican Republic where he is preparing for his professional debut.

The case of Herich Ruiz is similar, he escaped last March “after the weigh-in for his fight” against the American Arjan Iseni. The fight was part of the Continental Championship cartel, in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The bronze medalist at the 2021 World Boxing Championships in Serbia is owed $25,000 by Aiba for the bronze achieved in Belgrade.

Umar Kremlev did not elaborate on the $125,000 of these two fighters are owed nor did he deny the possibility that they will receive the prize. He trusted that the solution will be resolved before the end of this year. “Although I know that for Cubans the payment is not the most important thing, but the fact of getting into the ring and representing the country with its flag and anthem. That is the dream of every boxer.”

The next World Boxing Championships will take place in Tashkent, Uzbekistan from May 1-14, 2023. For this event, the gold medalist will be awarded $200,000, the silver medalist $100,000, and the bronze medalist $50,000.

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