Streets Turned to Rivers in Trinidad

Some rivers, such as the Caracusey, overflowed and four dams have had to open as they exceed their normal water levels. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 9 October 2019 — The streets have become rivers in Trinidad this week. Although October is traditionally the wettest month of the year in Cuba, the first week has left shocking images. The colonial historic center, which has a terrible infrastructure to channel the water, is collapsed by rainfall that, on this Monday already accounts for 167% of the historical average of the month.

The city, which given its tourist focus has some 2,000 guesthouses  and more than a hundred restaurants and paladares (private restaurants), generates a lot of garbage. But the fuel shortages, says environmental activist Dennis Valdés, has meant that it’s been days since the garbage trucks have gone by, so the neighbors take advantage of the force of the current and throw waste of all kinds on the street so that the water can drag it away.

“It looks like a river, literally, it looks like Venice, people can’t go out in the streets because the water takes them away. The worst is when the water level drops and, at the end of the street, on the edge, there is a huge amount of trash.” continue reading

Some rivers, such as Caracusey, have overflowed and four dams have had to be opened after exceeding their normal water levels. Tuinucú is at 103%; Siguaney 106% ; Aridanes 111% and Banao II 106%.

In Condado and Caracusey there were heavy rains this Monday, registering 102 and 111 cubic millimeters, respectively, while it measured 81 in the historic center of Trinidad.

Sancti Spíritus is not the only province affected by rainfall, although it is the most affected. In Camagüey it has rained throughout the week, constantly. “As always happens, the streets are flooded and traveling on the road becomes a headache,” residents say.

“It has not happened for more than 30 years, it rained for more than 10 days,” said Ricardo Fernández, a 14medio contributor in that province. “It is a problem to go out, there are no umbrellas in the stores and those that are selling them now charge 13 CUC.”

In Old Havana, although the rains were not so torrential, many families spent the week worrying about the roof of their houses. “I slept with my heart in my mouth, this building has shoring everywhere and the rain gets in through some walls that are cracked.

I have a room full of basins and I had to send the girls to my mother-in-law’s house so they’re not in danger. Until the rains stop, I won’t bring them home. Ugly things have happened with some partial collapses that we have suffered here and it is better to prevent it,” said a young woman who lives in a building “in danger of collapse.”

In Holguin, the rains caused problems in several locations and caused the Mayarí river to rise. Something similar to what happened in Guantanamo, where rainfall caused the overflow in some of its river basins and dams; already at 50% of their capacity last week, 12% more than last month, they continued to increase their level.

The forecasts, as of today, are more optimistic and the showers, which are expected in some provinces, will, at least, be isolated.

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

The Morning Has Already Passed

Cuban ration booklet (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 11 October 2019 — “The Revolution is not a struggle for the present, the Revolution is a struggle for the future… It always has been and is now.” Miguel Díaz-Canel, October 10, 2019, quoting a speech by Fidel Castro from July 1962

One afternoon in 1962, when I had not yet turned 15, my parents enrolled me in the new ration book system. My precocious revolutionary consciousness led me to think that the limitations that this implied were a fair price to pay, as the poets said, to “anticipate the future.”

Fifteen years later, on a hot morning in August 1977, I went to the Guanabo Office of Control for the Distribution of Food, east of Havana, to enroll my daughter in the rationing system. When I saw her name on the central page of the booklet I turned to another poet, then considered controversial and I asked myself, “How long until the future?” continue reading

It was just another 30 years later when that daughter of mine gave me have a bad time telling me the sad news: “I already put your granddaughter in the rationbook.” Joaquín Sabina had not yet recorded Lágrimas de mármol (Marble Tears) but I already realized that the future was “increasingly short and the hangover long.”

In what hidden fold of time was that luminous future they promised my generation stranded? Have I been so blind not to see it, so ungrateful as not to recognize it?

When they don’t have to answer to the voters for their management, the politicians can give themselves the luxury of making promises they’ll never keep.

To have the right to a present has not been a counterrevolutionary slogan nor a selfish longing. It is not the platform of Cain. The morning of that enthusiastic teenager who delightedly tightened his belt has been left behind. Now this skeptical grandfather refuses to silently accept the same empty promise.

I demand a present for my granddaughters.  I want it right now.

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

Two Hypotheses About Baby’s Death in Cuba After an MMR Vaccination

The triple viral MMR vaccine is one of the few that is not manufactured in Cuba, but Tresivac has passed all the WHO controls.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 October 2019 — While a commission of the Ministry of Public Health investigates the causes of the death, on October 9 in Havana, of Paloma Domínguez Caballero, and the hospitalization of four more children, experts point to the two most likely hypotheses: a manufacturing defect in the mumps, rubella and measles vaccine given to the one-year-old baby; or a failure to preserve the product.

In the first case, the responsibility would fall on the world’s largest vaccine producer, Serum Institute of India. In the second, the fault would be on the Cuban side.

Although this company is endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO), its name is associated with the death of three other children in Nuevitas, Camagüey, in 2002. On that occasion the use of a non-sterile dissolvent. Also in 2004, another minor died due to “a breach of the rules” in the application of the vaccine. continue reading

“The deaths of all those killed on that occasion were due to mishandling with the dissolvent” a pediatrician insists to 14ymedio speaking about what happened 17 years ago in Nuevitas. “The dissolvent was damaged because the recommended practices for its use were not followed and all the children who died were vaccinated at the same health center,” he says.

The pediatrician points out that “there were other children with adverse reactions but they stabilized and managed to survive.” At that time “social networks did not exist and the information circulated very little, among doctors and their families, as well as in Nuevitas where the families of dead children lived,” he continues.

But, unlike what happened with Paloma Domínguez, “there was no official note and what was heard in the streets were rumors. The Ministry of Public Health never confirmed what happened,” he says. According to this doctor, the medical personnel involved in the error received “fundamentally administrative sanctions but no legal sanctions.”

Outside of Cuba there is another precedent that involves the same company. Tresivac, the brand of vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India was involved in 2008 in the death of a 17-year-old in Ukraine and, two days later, 60 people were hospitalized after being immunized with it. UNICEF then denied problems with the firm and claimed that the septic shock that caused the adolescent’s death “was not related to immunization.” The investigation revealed that there had been at least six violations in the immunization process.

Cuba has an immunization rate of over 98% according to data from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). To comply with the program, the Island uses domestically manufactured vaccines with the exception of the BCG against tuberculosis, the polio vaccine and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR), precisely those vaccines involved in these cases.

Nations fundamentally acquire their vaccines through two agencies that mediate and provide funds, the Unicef Supply Division (between 80 and 100 countries) and the Revolving Fund, integrated into the Pan American Health Organization (about 41 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean).

These channels also allow countries to obtain medicines at a lower price, since by acquiring huge volumes and guaranteeing payment through international organizations, they can negotiate under more advantageous conditions. Cuba joined the Revolving Fund in April of last year; before that it was Unicef that acquired the vaccines for the Island.

Unicef has been buying MMR vaccines from the Serum Institute of India Ltd. since at least 2006, which ensures that the company’s products meet the acceptability criteria required by the United Nations. The involvement of Unicef and the Revolving Fund are precisely the guarantees that nations do not randomly choose suppliers. According to the UN agency for children, they can show their preferences when choosing a provider but they can only select prequalified vaccines.

What could have happened in the case of Paloma? The national director of the Maternal and Child Program (PAMI), Dr. Roberto Álvarez Fumero, phoned her mother, Yaima Caballero, to offer his condolences and told her that the cause was not related to the vaccine “because it had been used in the rest of the country without incident.”

However, he added, “something happened” in the polyclinic where it was administered to the girl. According to a Cuban doctor specializing in primary medicine, a break in the chain of refrigeration may be behind the matter.

“The process required by vaccines to maintain an adequate temperature is called the cold chain. In the conditions in our polyclinics that process cannot occur efficiently,” he explains.

“This process has always had problems at the national level. In most polyclinics there is no specialized equipment to store vaccines, so they are stored in domestic refrigerators. Nor are there specialized thermometers that go inside the refrigeration equipment for vaccines that let you know if the temperature has exceeded 8 degrees Celsius. So keeping vaccines at an optimal temperature is a utopia,” he says.

This situation could have been further complicated by the fuel crisis if the appropriate measures were not been taken. “To that it is added that the majority of the vaccines come in packages of 10 doses and the bulb is taken out of the cold 10 times. Nor are there the thermal cellars necessary to transport the bulbs and many nurses carry them in an ice pack,” he adds.

However, Cuba is fit according to the Gavi Alliance with regards to the criteria for effective vaccine management and its cold chain capacity.

Gavi is currently the largest financing channel for immunization in the world. Founded in 2000 by a group of donors, international organizations and part of the industry, it is a public-private organization that works to accelerate the implementation of new vaccines and improve immunization coverage.

The Alliance works in cooperation with Unicef and the Revolving Fund and provides five-year financial assistance to countries that meet certain requirements, including a gross national product per capita of less than US $1,500, corrected for inflation.

The countries that are admitted to receive help from the alliance enter a five-year program during which the total price of the vaccine is financed in the first year with the support decreasing progressively until in the fifth year the country must bear the total cost.

Countries that do not receive these grants also get the drugs through Gavi, but at higher prices. Cuba receives three types of vaccines through this fund, among which the MMR vaccine is not included.

However, Gavi audited the Cuban refrigeration system for the 2014-2019 program and, in its report, concludes that at the central level there were two storage chambers, one for conservation with a capacity of 2793 cubic meters for medicines, reagents and vaccines, and another freezer capacity of 200 cubic meters.

At the provincial level, 20 refrigerated chambers of 2,640 cubic meters with a temperature between 4ºC and 8ºC were counted, for a storage period of more than 6 months and 80 cold boxes of 20 liters each, distributed in the 15 provinces of the country and the municipality of Isla de la Youth.

Since 2016, Cuba has obtained the MMR triple viral vaccine fundamentally through an agreement between Iberia and Unicef. The Spanish airline created a microcredit campaign in 2013 where travelers, when buying a ticket, could donate money to UNICEF for immunization campaigns in the world. In the last three years the program, initiated in Chad and Angola, was extended to Cuba and in the past year alone 95,000 Cuban children were vaccinated against MMR, 80% of those under one year old.

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

"They Killed My Daughter," Denounces the Mother of the Girl Who Died After a Vaccination in Cuba

Little Paloma Domínguez Caballero, who died after being vaccinated in Havana. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 12 October 2019 — The denunciation of Yaima Caballero Peralta is hard, very hard. “They killed my daughter.” This was reported all day yesterday on social networks. “Yesterday I spent 24 hours in the day, 23 making complaints and now I need a break,” she tells 14ymedio on Saturday via phone.

His story is bleak. Last Monday, October 7, she took her daughter Paloma Domínguez Caballero to get vaccinated in Alamar, on the outskirts of Havana, without imagining that a nightmare would begin, one that still hasn’t ended.

“I went with my one-year-old girl to get the vaccine that is given to all children of that age against measles, mumps and rubella [MMR]. We went to the Enrique Betancourt Neninger policlinic in my area. Before giving the vaccine, the family doctor always examines them and determines if the baby is in a position to receive this vaccine because she has to be completely healthy to be able to receive it because they are very strict in these cases so that there is no adverse reaction,” the mother told this newspaper. continue reading

She explained that after that physical examination the doctor was able to determine that the girl was “totally healthy” and they give her the authorization to get the vaccine. “About 10 am she was vaccinated and two hours later the nightmare began. She vomited the first time at 12 noon and then again and again. I got scared and called a doctor friend who recommended I go to the polyclinic to get gravinol to relieve these symptoms,” she said.

When she arrived at the polyclinic the vomiting was decreasing but she says that the girl’s skin “began to get a little red” and she decided to go, without a referral, to the Luis Díaz Soto hospital, known as “The Naval” [as in ‘navy’].

There they did a urinalysis and blood tests, and after half an hour “the tests came back fine,” explains Caballero.

“The doctor who treated us did not want us to go home because she had a fever and now there is a lot of dengue fever out there so despite the good test results it could be something was not going well and that is why he suggested that I go to a pediatrician.

Yaima Caballero Peralta and her daughter Paloma Domínguez Caballero in an earlier image. (Courtesy)

So, also by her own efforts, she went to the Borrás-Marfán Hospital in El Vedado, and there they treated her little girl “with the best care” and when the doctors arrived “they were alarmed that the color of her skin and the swelling of her feet” were due to the vaccine she had been given.

“As of that time no other cases were known and they thought it was that her body had rejected that vaccine that we all know are viruses, all are made with viruses. Well, there they decided to keep her under observation for 48 hours and they admitted her, but little by little I saw that she was getting worse,” she said.

“She started having diarrhea, vomited again and although she drank a great deal of water she didn’t urinate anything and that’s why the swelling,” adds the mother, who is trying to get away from her neighborhood these days, from her routine and everything that reminds her of her daughter.

An hour after being admitted they gave her an IV to hydrate her because she was dehydrating. “Then the fever started because the dipyrone they put her on did nothing and I had to lower the fever with a compress that I applied to her for about two hours.”

Caballero says that doctors never stopped checking on her daughter. “But nobody saw how much it was getting worse, I was scared, very very scared the tell truth,” she confesses.

At five in the morning on Tuesday a doctor passed by who could “see how badly she was doing” who called everyone and they decided quickly to put her in intensive care.

The news fell like “a bucket of cold water” but says she said was filled with courage and went with her daughter as she watched her get worse and worse.

The area where Paloma Domínguez Caballero was vaccinated became red, then swollen and became hard. (Courtesy)

“She was swelling all over and her feet were changing color from red to purple. She had very smelly diarrhea several times in a row and I could see that her arm where she was given the vaccine was red and it was swelling too much and it was very hard and it hurt. It caught my attention and they told me to put cold packs on it but it was getting worse.”

The doctors told her she had to wait outside because her daughter had become “very serious and was in critical condition.”

The wait became “an agony” thinking that she would not see her daughter again. The specialist came out to ask her for permission to open the girl’s arm to drain the infection inside. “Of course I accepted, whatever they did, as long as she was saved.”

She improved a little after the operation but, a few minutes later, “she stopped urinating again and her kidneys were failing and her feet were swelling more and more.”

At seven o’clock on Wednesday night, doctors gave her a blood transfusion and dialysis because “she was very sick” and “her life was in danger.”

“It was only an hour, maybe, when they told me she had died but there was no explanation, only that they had done everything possible and I believe them because I did see them coming and doing everything, even the impossible.

“All the specialist there came together to help her but, well… I had to go in later, like any mother, and say goodbye to her and pick up my things and I decided to have her cremated.”

The mother asked for an autopsy to study and determine what caused her daughter’s death. They told her she would only have to wait two hours at a funeral home in Alamar.

“Many hours passed and finally my little girl’s body arrived and from there we could go to the crematorium and then to her funeral. I am waiting for the Ministry of Health to give me some explanation or, at least, condolences. As of now we know only that she was killed, that’s it. But here I am, standing… I don’t know how.”

Paloma’s mother insists that she has no complaints against the doctors who treated her. She also considers that “it is very unfair” that the nurse who vaccinated her daughter was fired from her job because “she is very competent” and she “does not manufacture the vaccines.”

A few hours after Caballero gave her testimony to this newspaper and almost three days after the death of his daughter, the Ministry of Public Health reported on Saturday that a commission is investigating the causes of the “unfortunate” event.

The health authorities admitted in a statement published on their digital site that between October 7th and 8th three one-year-old children were diagnosed “with an adverse event” associated with the MMR vaccination and that all those children had been vaccinated on 7 October at the “Betancourt Neninger” Polyclinic in the municipality of Habana del Este.

The statement added that “immediately after” the symptoms appeared, “they were admitted and received medical attention by professionals of high scientific level in the pediatric hospitals Borrás Marfán and Centro Habana.”

The health authorities also report that “through active research” that included all children vaccinated in that health district, two more children were detected “with symptoms” and were also admitted.

This vaccine is given in Cuba twice during childhood. The first when the child turns one year old and the second at age six. The latter is almost always injected at elementary schools to first grade students.

In 2018, more than 95,000 children were immunized on the Island with the triple viral vaccine (MMR), a figure that the United Nations Children’s Fund highlighted favorably. Currently Cuba has a vaccination coverage of over 98%, with 11 preparations that protect against 13 diseases. At the same time, the “anti-vaccine” trends have not gained space in Cuba as they have in other nations in the region.

In 2002, three deaths occurred on the Island that were classified as errors during the campaign for the elimination of measles when using a non-sterile dissolvent and in 2004 there was another death due to non-compliance with the rules for vaccine delivery, according to reports by that entity.

However, these data can only be read in official reports sent to international health-related organizations; they were never published in the national press. As a general rule, the Government hides and maintains a strong secrecy around any event derived from medical malpractice, the poor state of drugs or unfavorable reactions to a drug.

In the face of the silence of the health authorities and the official press Paloma Domínguez Caballero is writing letters to send to “every place possible” to get an answer.

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

The Radicalization of Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra. (Archivo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, Miami, October 12, 2019 — The Madrid newspaper El País recounted it. Mario Vargas Llosa expressed the opinion, publicly, that perhaps Fidel Castro would not have become radicalized if the CIA, in conspiracy with United Fruit, had not ousted Colonel Jacobo Árbenz in a coup d’etat in 1954.

Fidel Castro, Vargas Llosa reminds us, at that time subscribed to a social democratic program. This happened at the press conference at which our Nobel laureate in literature was presenting his latest novel, Fierce Times, which tells the story of that coup d’etat, in his judgment the starting point of the rebellion of many young people and intellectuals against the United States.

I suppose that, in general, Vargas Llosa’s assessment is true, but I’m not sure that Latin American anti-Yankeeism originates in this episode. The Kremlin was employing enormous resources in stimulating that conduct via the “Congresses for Peace,” in addition to the atmosphere of the Cold War. Árbenz was ousted as a consequence of this episode. continue reading

I do not go into the novel’s theme because I have not yet read it. I imagine it will be splendid, like the other 18 published by the author of Conversation in the Cathedral, some more and some less, but all good. The fact that he is 83 years old does not take away merits from the book. It’s the other way around. With time prose improves (except in the case of Carlos Fuentes, who became increasingly illegible year after year).

What we disagree on is the moment at which Fidel Castro radicalized, something that has a certain lateral importance. It was not in June of 1954, the month in which Árbenz renounced the presidency after the aerial bombardments secretly organized by the CIA. It happened somewhat earlier, at the end of the forties, when Fidel was studying law at the University of Havana.

That, at least, is what José Ignacio Rasco (Fidel called him Rasquito), his classmate in high school at Colegio Belén and later at the University, said. For José Ignacio, and he told it to me personally, there wasn’t the least doubt: “He was seduced by Leninist theses; he would recite from memory entire pages of What Is to Be Done?, the essay in which the Russian describes the taking of power.” Even Fidel himself, after insisting that the Government would not be able to escape from his hands, came to say that “he was Marxist-Leninist and always would be.”

But there are other direct witnesses. The lawyer Rolando Amador, classmate, friend of Fidel Castro and first in their class, used to relate it in luxurious detail after leaving Cuba at the beginning of the revolution.

In 1950 Fidel, in order to graduate, asked him to go over some subjects that he was taking for free. Fidel was intelligent and had a great memory, but he had neglected his studies. So the two shut themselves away in a hotel to that end. While they were studying, a delegation arrived from the Popular Socialist Party (PSP), the communist group, consisting of Flavio Bravo and Luis Mas Martín. They came to tell Fidel that he had been accepted in the Party.

There were three kinds of activist in the Party. The “open,” the “companion” who generally “was entering” some other political party or State institution in order to inform and influence, and the one that received training and orders directly from the Soviet intelligence services. Flavio Bravo and Mas Martín were in that third category that Osvaldo Sánchez was directing in the shadows. One cannot forget that the function of the Communist Parties all over the world was to protect and help the USSR. For that reason the Kremlin was financing them.

Fidel was a “companion.” His function was to “enter” into the Orthodox Party, from which he came to be a congressional candidate, a social democratic (and anti-communist) party, as happened with Eduardo Corono and Martha Frayde, and radicalize it from within. The idea that Fidel was too “Fidelist” to submit himself to a partisan discipline ignores the circumstance that Stalin was, before all else, “Stalinist,” and Mao “Maoist,” noted leaders who at the beginning seemed docile, until they were able to show themselves as they were and demonstrate their true caudillismo.

Fidel didn’t become anti-Yankee because of the poor conduct of the United States in Guatemala. He recounted it in a letter to his friend and lover Celia Sánchez written in the Sierra Maestra in 1958: fighting with his gringo neighbors was his destiny. Like in the story of the scorpion: “it was his nature.” He couldn’t avoid it.

Editors’ note: Carlos Alberto Montaner will soon publish his personal memoirs, Sin ir más lejos / Without Going Further, with Debate Publisher.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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

For the Cuban Opposition the Elections Were a Pantomime

The almost unanimous figures from the parliamentary votes confirmed what was expected, Miguel Díaz-Canel was ratified as president of the Republic of Cuba and Esteban Lazo will be in charge of the National Assembly and the Council of State. (ACN)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 October 2019 —  “We knew this was going to happen and it happened,” says Juan Moreno, leader of Candidates for Change, speaking about the election on Thursday for the upper echelons of Cuban power. If the results have met the expectations almost millimetrically, nor has the reaction of the opposition been new.

The only voters were the delegates to the National Assembly of People’s Power, and the only choices were to ratify a single candidate for each position.

All members of the State Council are members of the Communist Party of Cuba except José Ángel Fernández Castañeda, a law student and member of the Young Communist Union (UJC). With the departure of the writer Miguel Barnet, the Council of State runs out of artists although it does have the presence of an intellectual, the historian Eduardo Moisés Torres Cuevas. continue reading

Dissidents and activists consider the voting a performance piece. “There is no change, it is as they have been announcing in their speeches, this is continuity and continuity in all aspects,” adds Moreno, whose organization promoted the presence of independent delegates in the last elections and promoted observation of the February constitutional referendum.

Cuban economist Mauricio de Miranda Parrondo, resident in Colombia, lamented on Twitter the closed nature of the process. “There is no valid reason why this election has not been enshrined in the Constitution as a universal, direct and secret suffrage,” said the academic, who recently published a series of recommendations to refloat the economy of the Island.

Dagoberto Valdés, director of the Center for Coexistence Studies, in Pinar del Río, told 14ymedio that the process was “the ratification of the continuity of a conservative political model” and he said that he believes that this “reinforces the idea that Cuba needs a change.”

Even more critical is the economist and opposition journalist Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, who considers the process of this October 10 “a great farce” and “a mockery” of Cubans.

“I was struck by the announcement made by Esteban Lazo [President of Parliament] that Zunilda García Garcés, from the Isle of Youth, is joining the National Assembly. This tells you how this Government mocks the people of Cuba. This woman was not even elected, it is not known where she comes from. As some members of the Assembly are missing, because they are people who have been shown the door, then they begin, according to their own internal regulation, to install substitutes that the people did not vote for.  Simply, the only ones who vote to put people in these positions are members of the National Assembly, not the people, if the person no longer holds the position,” said Roque Cabello.

René Gómez Manzano, president of the Agramontista Current, does not believe that what happened on Thursday qualifies as an election and believes that it will not imply “any change for the country” at this time.

“As long as there are not several candidates to choose between, they are not elections. What they call elections has the property that there is nothing unexpected, the result is what was already known would occur, the unanimous promotion of the proposals. It is a rehearsed script, prepared in advance, it is already known that the person they propose is the person who will be elected, there are no alternative candidates, there is one candidate for each position to be filled and therefore everyone is elected,” said the opponent.

On the street, apathy characterized a day whose chronicle was already written ahead of time. In social networks, critics wofth the authorities had been illustrating the absence of expectations with humor through memes for days. The almost unanimous figures in the parliamentary ballot boxes confirmed what was expected.

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

Elections in Cuba: The Curtain Falls

Without surprises, continuity prevailed during the day. Miguel Díaz-Canel was elected president of the Republic. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 12 October 2019 — The staging was studied carefully. This October 10 in Havana, every detail of the extraordinary session of the National Assembly obeyed a script rigorously written and, probably, many times rehearsed. In political dramaturgy, the election of a president of the Republic was the climax to consolidate the transfer of the helm of the national ship to a younger generation, under the tutelage of its predecessors.

As in a play whose ending they knew in advance, Cuban citizens watched what happened on Thursday at the Palace of Conventions with apathy and without expectations. At the end of the day it was just a formality, a set with the deputies of Parliament as actors. With the ratification of the Constitution last February and the subsequent implementation of a new Electoral Law, the positions of President of the Republic and Prime Minister, once unified to grant full powers to Fidel Castro, were separated on the Island. This Thursday was the day to begin to split these powers and to give the president of the National Assembly the reins of the State Council.

Perhaps in an attempt to prevent a single man from changing the system from above, the ‘historical generation’ divided the decision-making between several figures who, for now, are absolutely faithful to the legacy of the bearded men who once descended from the Sierra Maestra. Calculating their approaching biological end, the now octogenarians of that distant deed fear that concentrating command in one individual is a risky bet and they have chosen to put several wolves in charge of the pack so that, as a side effect, they will keep an eye on each other.

Without surprises, continuity prevailed during the day. Miguel Díaz-Canel was elected president of the Republic, if a process in which parliamentarians can only ratify a single candidacy for each of the positions can be called an “election.” Esteban Lazo remained at the head of Parliament although all political bets had pointed to the end of his leadership in the National Assembly, while the State Council was restructured with some inclusions and some departures.

In this careful representation, officiating as master of ceremonies was former president Raúl Castro, who was the first to exercise the right to vote in a clear gesture to mark the real order of relevance and the capacity of decision-making. With the control of the Communist Party in his hands, in addition to economic power and the Armed Forces in the hands of his family clan, the veteran general prepared the script to send a public message of the system’s solidity and continuity. There was just one detail he couldn’t control: the public.

In Cuban streets, the crisis in fuel supplies, the difficulties in transport and the problems in the food supply stole the starring role. So much care preparing the set and the actors of this “electoral process” turned out to be of little use; most people took advantage of this October holiday to continue looking for the exit, to find the door that leads away from this stage, be it indifference or emigration.

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

Diz-Canel Elected President of the Republic in a Process Marked by "Continuity"

The designation of Díaz-Canel as President of the Republic was in line with predictions. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, October 10, 2019 — This Thursday continuity marked the Cuban electoral process to designate the highest positions of power on the Island. Unsurprisingly, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez was elected as President of the Republic in a vote that generated few hopes among citizens.

The Extraordinary Session of the National Assembly this October 10 coincided with the anniversary of the beginning of the wars of independence in 1868, and began with the vote for the head of Parliament, a Government body with more than 600 representatives and marked by the absence of political diversity.

Remaining at the head of Parliament is Esteban Lazo, a figure who analysts predicted would retire but whose permanence in the position reinforces the idea of continuity that has marked this electoral process. His candidature was ratified by 579 representatives of the 580 valid votes that were counted. continue reading

As vice president of the National Assembly, Ana María Mari Machado extends her mandate, and once again elected secretary was Homero Acosta Álvarez, who amply stood out during the drafting process of the new Cuban Constitution and who some had predicted would become the head of Parliament.

The designation of Miguel Díaz-Canel and Salvador Valdés Mesa as President and Vice President of the Republic, after their candidacies were approved by 579 and 569 votes respectively, was in line with previous predictions of observers. Both names were used in the voting pools in a country without public opinion polls.

In accordance with the limit of two terms of five years for high political and governmental positions, the time that has passed since last April 19, when the current president of the Republic took possession from his previous position as president of the Councils of State, will not be counted in this possible decade of mandate ahead.

The first to vote in the Council of State election was the ex-leader Raúl Castro Ruz, who continues to be a representative and remains at the head of the Communist Party, the political force at the helm of the nation according to Article Five of the recently ratified Constitution.

The new Council of State keeps 15 old members in their positions, adds 6, and leaves out 16. The majority of those excluded are because they hold ministerial level positions, some because of advanced age, and others because they were looking to reduce the number of members from 31 to 21.

After the exit of figures like Ramiro Valdés, 87, and Guillermo García Fría, 90, the last members of the so-called “historic generation” who remained in this ruling body, the average age of the Council of State lowers significantly. The Minister of the Armed Forces, Leopoldo Cintra Frías, 78, has also left.

Among the additions, one name that stands out is Eduardo Moisés Torres Cuevas, a 77-year-old historian, along with Yanci María Bravo O’Farrill, chief comptroller of Havana, José Ángel Fernández Castañeda, law student and president of the University Student Federation, and Alexis Lorente Jiménez, a doctor and president of the Municipal Assembly of Popular Power in Sancti Spiritus.

The new positions point at an attempt to distribute Executive power against the model that reigned for decades in Cuba with practically all authority concentrated in the figure of Fidel Castro.

According to the schedule announced by Díaz-Canel, the next step will be to designate a prime minister and make public the new composition of the Council of Ministers before the end of this year.

The almost nine million citizens with the right to vote in Cuba didn’t know the names included on the list drafted by the National Commission of Candidacies until after 11 in the morning on October 10. The parlamentarians themselves only found out about this list a little before placing their ballots in the ballot box.

The Assembly session this Thursday was not transmitted live on official television as had been announced, and Cubans could only follow its development via certain official digital sites that reported in writing what was happening in the Palace of Conventions. Around noon television showed a prerecorded recording with fragments of what happened.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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

Structural Crisis and “Elections”: It Won’t be Easy for The Designated One / Miriam Celaya

Díaz-Canel at the 1st National Conference of the Culture Union. 2018 (granma.cu)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 9 October 2019 – There is just one day left before the 600 deputies that make up the National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP) “elect” who will be the country’s president and vice president for the next five years, re-eligible for a second term, as the new Electoral Law (Law No. 37) reads, approved last July in ordinary session of Parliament.

However, the millions of Cubans who are part of the so called sovereign people as well as the deputies themselves, who will obediently tick the boxes corresponding to each position and to “applicant”, previously selected by the true power, still ignore who the candidates to lead are, at least in name, the always precarious directions of the nation.

It is fair to say that the subject doesn’t interest hardly anyone either. The most widespread opinion among Cubans in Cuba is that it matters little who holds the title of president when it is known that those who truly rule in the country are the surviving members of the historical (de)generation and their closest heirs and collaborators, directly responsible of the whole disaster generated over 60 years. continue reading

Whoever those designated for such responsibilities are, they will be puppets without real power and without sufficient courage to undertake the essential changes, beginning with the general transformation of a system that is clearly obsolete. 

The only certainty derived from the experience of four generations who have barely survived the six decades of crises and hardships labeled under the deceptive heading of the Cuban Revolution, is that if the promises of the future were not fulfilled by now, not one of the ones they put in place will solve anything. Such conviction weighs like a tombstone on the popular spirit, as if, at the unconscious level, people have finally begun to internalize an unquestionable truth: Cuba’s evil is not cyclical but systemic.

In fact, the civic orphanage of an entire peoples blames itself in the daily language of the so-called ordinary Cuban. In any moderately democratic society and in the middle of the electoral stage, nobody would think of referring to “the one they are going to place,” rather they would say “the one I am going to vote for.” This, of course, after public knowledge of the respective government programs of each candidate and which party they represent.

In Cuba, on the contrary, the single party and the dictatorship have been legally consecrated — not “legitimately” — in the new Constitution; and so also, after 43 years of training in social compliance under an electoral system barely modified since 1976, the recently passed Law 37, in open contempt of the popular will that reclaimed direct participation in the election of the president of the country, constitutes a true armor to avoid fissures in the official filters that could eventually allow the rise to power of candidates unwanted by the privileged elite.

Thus, the Electoral Law Draft formally presented on July 2019 to the parliamentary commission designated “for discussion and approval,” made rampant omission of direct elections, one of the most important demands of Cubans during the so-called popular consultation process that preceded the unanimous approval of the Constitution now in force.

Nevertheless, it was unanimously approved by Parliament, in the same way that the “election” of the president and vice president will be approved on the morning of this October 10, 2019, under the protection of a paradoxical legislation that was renewed with the sole purpose of perpetuating a system anchored in the past.

Perhaps the few “innovative” brushstrokes of these supposed elections are summarized in factors that right now do not seem very relevant, but of which it would be wise to take note.

Namely, they are the first votes in which none of the members of the historical generation will be part of the candidacy — although they will continue to hold the Royal Power until nature takes its course.

Secondly, it is to be assumed that, in the course of five years, their survivors  will disappear or completely lose their already scarce capacities and, consequently, end their pernicious symbolic or real influence on the decision-making of the direction of the country.

And thirdly, with marked importance, to maintain the current deepening of the crisis of the system, the “new” government will have no more than two alternatives: to implement economic changes that would eventually result in the transformation of the “model” itself or to face chaos which would derive from social discontent over the accumulation of problems in all areas of national life, thus assuming the consequences of the mistakes made by the “historicals.”

Nor should we discard the importance of new leaderships that may emerge in the independent civil society and that would join the already known groups with long experience in resistance. Recent times are showing a rebound in sectors pushing for spaces of freedom and participation within the Island. Presumably, such growth will be sustained and they will diversify their proposals and demands to the extent that political power in Cuba is not even capable of generating a plan to alleviate the structural crisis of the system.

Meanwhile, expectations must be moderate. The Cuban landscape offers no reason for optimism but rather the opposite. The increase in repression, the sharpening of the crisis, the retreat, in terms of openings of the private sector and the ideological entrenchment, are some clear signs of the cupola’s lack of willingness to change; a situation from which there is no glimpse of an exit and whose solution does not depend at all on the X’s that will mark the ballots of the deputies in the electoral farce that will take place next Thursday.

It is clear that the president will not inherit the power, but will inherit the responsibility for what happens in the future: he will need to dare to move things or accept the role of accomplice and scapegoat of the dictatorship. It won’t be easy for him.

Translated by Norma Whiting

A French Town Seeks Cuban Doctors To Reopen Its Maternity Ward

Maternity ward in Privas, in Ardèche, closed now due to lack of professionals. (Radio France/Pierre-Jean Pluvy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, October 10, 2019 — The maternity ward in Privas, a French town with about 8,000 inhabitants, closed on September 25 due to lack of medical personnel, but its authorities haven’t lost hope and are looking to Cuba to save the center.

François Jacquart, counselor of the department of Ardèche for the Communist Party, has planned a meeting for October 25 in the Cuban embassy in Paris to consider a temporary alliance to be able to hire doctors on the Island who can reopen the maternity ward.

“The senate has opened the possibility to overseas regions, like Guyana. And according to constitutional law, what is allowed for a French territory should be possible for the rest of the territories,” argues the counselor, who invokes precedent and thus attempts to dispel the idea that there is an ideological relation. continue reading

Laurent Wauquiez, president of the Auvernia-Ródano-Alpes region, asked the Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn via Twitter to reconsider her decision to close the center, to which Jacquart responded: “Finally, is president Wauquiez ready to follow me and bring Cuban doctors to Ardèche?”

Hervé Saulignac, socialist representative for Ardèche in the National Assembly, has complained that Wauquiez, from the Republicans, has taken so long to notice. “For at least twenty years the maternity ward in Privas has been under threat and now Mr. Wauquiez discovers it. The problem is that the service is now closed, everything is finished.”

Olivier Amrane, regional councilman for Ardèche for the Republicans, is prepared to support Jacquart’s proposal and, although he will not join the Communist counselor at his Paris meeting, is also working on the option to hire Cubans. “We aren’t closing the door to any opportunity, the important thing is to maintain the service,” he affirms.

The French Parliament approved in June a project to reform the health system which included a small article allowing the territories of the French Antilles to hire health workers from outside the European Union. Senators from Guadeloupe and Martinique thus managed to get the exception that Guyana already had extended to their territories. Since 2005 there has been an ordinace in the territory that allows it to hire personnel from other countries on a temporary basis.

Overseas French territories have used their distance from Europe — and proximity to Cuba — to get the approval of these laws, but it remains to be seen if a territory a few kilometers from Nimes, Marseilles, or Montpellier can do the same.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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

With Neither Pain Nor Glory, Neither Frights Nor Fiestas

The deputies will have a few minutes, or at most a couple of hours, to decide; although this will suffice. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 30 September 2019 — As if it was news, on Monday the official media finally announced that the State Council of the Republic of Cuba arranged for the holding of an extraordinary Session of the National Assembly of Popular Power on 10 October 2019 at 10:00 AM at the Palace of the Conventions to elect the president and vice president of the Republic, in addition to the three highest positions of the Parliament — president, vice president and secretary — and the remaining members of the State Council.

The almost nine million citizens with the right to vote in Cuba are still unaware of the names that will appear on the list drawn up by the National Nominations Commission. Nor is there any need for them to know, because those who will mark a cross next to each name written on the ballot will be the deputies of Parliament.

The mystery has been revealed not even to these, and they will have only minutes, or at most a couple of hours, to make their decision; the time between the moment they are handed the ballot and the solemn act of depositing it in the ballot box. It should be noted that they will not have to choose their preferred among several candidates, but only approve those that appear on the list. continue reading

They know that they should not delay too much within the space where they will fulfill their electoral obligations, in supposed privacy. Loyalty and discipline are part of the merits that led them to occupy a seat in the National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP) and this is one of those acts where their obedience will be tested. If there were a single box to mark their acceptance of all the candidates, they would choose it as a “patriotic, revolutionary, continuity” option.

You can bet that the one who will be elected president of the Republic will be Miguel Díaz-Canel. If this decision were taken in a democracy, political analysts would be weighing the positive effects of the recent rise in wages against the negative consequences of the current energy situation that threatens to paralyze the country.

In any nation where voters elect their president the chances of success of the candidates are measured by their successes and failures and by the credibility they earn from their voters. In Cuba it is difficult, even, to speculate, because everything can depend on the mood of an old man who has the power to change everything at the last minute.

In the midst of the uncertainty in which a population lives, in which nobody knows if tomorrow their workplace will continue to work, what goods will disappear, what bus routes will cease to circulate or how many hours the electrical service in the homes will last, it is likely that this call to a special session of parliament will pass with neither pain nor glory, neither frights nor fiestas.

The few interested in the subject are inclined to shuffle names for the positions of vice president of the Republic and head of the ANPP. They hope that Esteban Lazo will be retired and that figures that have stood out in recent times will be promoted, such as Homero Acosta, Mercedes López Acea and Inés María Chapman. Others wonder where in this redistribution of powers will fall such figures such as Marino Murillo, Roberto Morales Ojeda or Salvador Valdés Mesa, but these disquisitions are nothing but entertainment for connoisseurs.

If, on October 10, we learn that the positions “in dispute” will be filled by other strangers, no one will be surprised… who cares about the result of this staging?

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

Cuban Phone Company Extends 4G Network to All Customers Who Meet Requirements

Until now, customers of Etecsa, the state telecommunications monopoly, had to wait to be selected by the company to use 4G. (Flickr / Duncan R.)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 October 2019 —  The progress of 4G in Cuba has been slow and this week has taken a new step. The Telecommunications Company of Cuba (Etecsa) announced through its Twitter account that as of this Wednesday prepaid cell phone customers “may request authorization for access to the 4G / LTE network.”

Until now, customers of the state monopoly had to wait to be selected by the company to receive a text message (SMS) that informed them of the possibility of using the 4G network. With the new announcement, the user can request that service as long as they meet the technical requirements to navigate at higher data rates.

The customer only has to send a message to the service number 2266 with the acronym LTE. The SMS is sent at no cost to the user, who will receive a confirmation if their mobile phone meets the technical conditions for the use of the 4G. continue reading

Among the requirements that must be met is to have a telephone device that works on the frequency of 1,800 MHz, band 3, and that has a USIM card. However, 4G coverage is not yet available throughout the Island, so meeting these technology requirements may not be enough.

Just this week, the official press reported that in Ciego de Ávila province the first 13 radio bases had been installed in the provincial capital for the use of 4G technology, also known as fourth generation. Other provinces are still waiting for this technology to begin to expand.

The USIM or Universal Subscriber Identification Module is a chip for mobile telephony that allows connection to the 4G network, supports the making of video calls, has the capacity to store a greater number of contacts, in addition to providing security and protection to the Internet traffic.

This card is for sale at the Etecsa offices for 3 CUC, but customers complain that the stock of USIM cards are frequently sold out in a good part of these commercial points or that the lines to acquire them are long and it may take hours to be helped.

This Wednesday’s announcement has been well received by those who had been waiting for months to be included in the 4G tests that were carried out in various parts of the Island, but it is also generating doubts and questions.

Several Internet users complained on Twitter that their mobile models, especially the Xiaomi and Samsung brands, despite complying with all technical requirements, were not accepted for the 4G service. “I sent the message from my cell phone, a Xiaomi Redmi 7A and I received a negative response although my cell phone supports the frequency of 1,800 MHz,” one user lamented.

Others, such as Jean Carlos Romero, applaud the measure that “the acquisition of the right to surf faster is now something more transparent and not handled with the same secrecy as before.”

The 4G network was activated in March this year, at a time of growing discomfort among thetelecommunications company’s customers due to the poor quality of web browsing from cell phones. The 3G service began on December 6 and, since then, complaints about the low speed and poor quality of the connection have been frequent.

The 4G network was initially being tested and until this October only users who generated traffic greater than 1.5 GB could connect at the same rates or packages valid for mobile data through 3G.

This requirement could only be met by users with higher incomes,  since the navigation service costs 0.10 CUC (roughly 10¢ USD) per megabyte, although most users choose the option of purchasing one of the four data packages available, ranging from 600 megabyte for 7 CUC up to 4 gigabytes for 30 CUC (roughly $30 USD), which is the equivalent of the monthly salary of a professional.

Earlier this year, Etecsa had 5.4 million active lines and the average monthly growth was 50,000 new lines, according to official data. Forty percent of mobile phone users “generate data traffic of some kind,” either through the use of Nauta mail, MMS or web browsing.

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

Reporters Iliana Hernandez and Boris Gonzalez Detained in Havana

Photo of an earlier event where the Cuban police detained Iliana Hernández and Boris González Arenas during the independent LGBTI march on May 11 in Havana. (14ymedio / File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 October 2019 — The independent journalist, Boris González Arenas, a contributor to Diario de Cuba, was arrested this Wednesday at noon by State Security when he entered the building where he lives.

Arenas González’s wife, Juliette Isabel Fernandez, told 14ymedio she learned what happened because a neighbor who was present during the arrest told her about it.

According to the testimony gathered by González Arenas’ family, it was “two civilian-dressed agents” who forced him into a police car, and did not allow him to call to notify his wife.

“We learned of the arrest by chance, if the neighbor hadn’t told me I wouldn’t know and as always happens when the hours pass and he does not come home I start to be alarmed. Right now I do not know anything else, his phone is off, he had gone out on a personal errand,” she explained to this newspaper and added that his whereabouts are unknown as are the authorities’ reasons for the arrest. continue reading

“I have had to go through this experience too many times already, like so many relatives of independent journalists, activists and members of civil society. It seems that the repressive forces want October 10 and tomorrow’s elections to be almost invisible,” Fernandez wrote on her Facebook account. “Stop kidnappings and arbitrary detentions of independent journalists and activists,” she added.

Minutes later the independent journalist Iliana Hernández was live online denouncing the arrest of her colleague when she was also intercepted by two police officers.

Hernandez managed to keep her phone on while two police officers took her to the police car. You can see her already sitting in the vehicle, when a State Security agent dressed in civilian clothes and with dark glasses snatches her cell phone from her hands.

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

A Lonely "Cauldron": A CDR Party Lacking Enthusiasm

There is not much enthusiasm left in the neighborhoods to celebrate around the “common pot” of the poor. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 September 2019 — This Friday, September 27, was the date when the members of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) prepare a party, on the eve of the founding of an organization that over time has lost power in the neighborhoods. But, unlike other years, in 2019 the streets were almost empty and the famous “cauldron” (the soup of the poor, some call it) was only cooked on a few blocks in Havana.

In the El Cerro neighborhood, a huge and lonely cooking pot placed over a fire and planted in the middle of the street constituted the entire celebration, in which only three men and one old woman took the opportunity to remember “the old days” when the 28th was the scene of dancing and eating. There was no music, no rum, no snacks, cake or croquettes like in other years. Nor was the Cuban flag hanging from the houses, nor were there decorative paper chains or public events to deliver certificates to the outstanding cederistas (members of the CDR).

Some justify the lack of enthusiasm this year by the fact that in 2020 the organization will celebrate its 60th year and they want to “save all the energy and resources” for that moment, a cederista who also works as a cameraman at the Cuban Radio and Television Institute (ICRT) who is part of the audiovisual filming team to commemorate the six decades of the organization told this newspaper.

This is how this party imposed by decree was experienced in Havana, at a time when the whole country fears the return of the worst years of crisis after the fall of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. (14ymedio)

However, the little enthusiasm on this evening seems to point more to the lack of resources and the tense economic situation that the Island is going through. “Before they gave us a pig’s head and the neighbors contributed garlic, onions and some vegetables to make the soup, but this year nobody wants to give food or money,” says El Pinto, who lives in a 12-story building in Centro Habana.

“When I went around asking a lot of people what they could contribute, they responded by saying that ‘given the situation’ they could not give anything,” he explains. “Besides, what were we going to prepare the soup for if the people in this neighborhood are for something else. You couldn’t get the young people to come to a CDR party even if you tied them up.”

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

’Cubadebate’ Returns Discreetly to Twitter

Cubadebate’s new Twitter account still has very few followers.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 October 2019 — Cubadebate’s Twitter account has quietly returned to life. Last Thursday, 3 October, the profile published its first message in a new profile @cubadebatecu: #Twitter, we are back. #SomosContinuidad #Cuba The brief message was addressed to the zero followers of the newspaper’s account at that time, whose previous user was suspended by the American company on 11 September.

Cubadebate, which strongly denounced that blocking a month ago, has not given the same prominance to its return and now, five days later, only 600 people follow the account. The discretion is such that on Monday the newspaper published an article entitled Twitter blocks, Cubadebate does not give up signed by Randy Alonso Falcón in which, only in the last lines, it is noted that the newspaper has opened a new profile.

“On Wednesday, 2 October, exactly three weeks after the silencing operation, Twitter informed Cubadebate that it would not accept any more demands for the return of the official account of our digital portal, the one that had the most followers among Cuban communication media,” says the text. continue reading

The official media has decided to go to battle against the company’s refusal by creating a new account, but the reasons why it has barely promoted it are unknown. In the text published yesterday, Cubadebate devotes ample space to criticizing Twitter and accuses “the American special services (and other powers)” of having used the network “more than once in its operations around the world.”

Among these “operations” explicit reference is made to the Primaveras Árabes (Arab Springs) and the Zunzuneo program, a social network that, according to the ruling party, was funded by USAID in Cuba to “promote protests against the revolutionary government.”

Cubadebate says that it opened a Twitter account in 2009 to “combat media terrorism, confront the lies of the powerful, (and) spread ideas of peace and justice for the world,” which is why it has now returned to the social network. In some of the comments on the news, the readers, however, have suggested a boycott as users of the company, but also other deeper measures such as stopping it, in the manner of Russia or China or creating a Cuban version.

“We should do a kind of nationally independent twitter. It is logical to assume that using services outside the national territory is a danger to our privacy. Russia has taken a good path, we should take it as an example in that regard. Achieve technological independence, there are many talents here that can achieve it,” suggests a reader.

The Cubadebate account was suspended “for violating the rules of Twitter” when it had more than 300,000 followers. Other profiles affected by the decision were those of Granma, Mesa Redonda, Radio Rebelde, Dominio Cuba, Cubaperiodistas and Canal Caribe. Raúl Castro, Mariela Castro, Rosa Miriam Elizalde, first vice president of the Upec (official journalists union), Leticia Martínez and Angélica Paredes, of the Díaz-Canel press team, and Enrique Moreno Gimeranez, Granma  journalist, also lost their accounts, along with institutional profiles.

At that time, the Cuban press and the authorities raised their voices against what they considered intolerable censorship. “It seems a concerted operation of false allegations of abusive use and violation of platform policies. Surprising political bias, selectivity of affected users and opportunity (opportunism): when President Diaz Canel speaks,” Elizalde wrote.

Twitter reserves the right to suspend accounts that violate company rules, at the request of users who report them. Frequent reasons for the suspension, as indicated by the company itself, include abusive messages or ones that go against the rules, spam or security (prevention against possible hacking ). It is possible, and frequent, to recover the account following the procedure indicated on the company’s website.

However, according to company regulations, ” creating accounts to replace or imitate a suspended account” can be considered a serious violation of Twitter’s policy and the new account can be subject to closure.

In the following days, many of the suspended accounts were returned to their owners, along with the approximate number of followers they had. However, this did not happen with Cubadebate’s account, which was accused of violating the manipulation policy that consists of “the artificial amplification of information through several accounts at the same time.”

The Union of Cuban Journalists (Upec) intervened in the controversy and attributed the suspensions to “a policy of the State Department aimed at reviving the opposition’s online militancy.”

“What is new is the massive nature of this act of cyberwar, obviously planned, which seeks to limit the freedom of expression of Cuban institutions and citizens, and silence the leaders of the Revolution,” said the organization.

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