Detentions and Threats to Prevent a Demonstration in Front of the Yara Cinema

The zone around the cinema, at the corner of Avenue 23 and L, in the center of the capital, threatened to be overrun by agents of the Ministry of the Interior. (Facebook/Jesús Jank Curbelo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, June 30, 2020 – Several activists have denounced detentions and threats this Tuesday after being prevented from attending the demonstration called for 11:00 in front of the Yara cinema in Havana, to request justice for the murder of Hansel Ernesto Hernández at the hands of the police this past Thursday.

The zone around the cinema, at the intersection between Avenue 23 and L, in the center of the capital, threatened to be overrun by agents of the Ministry of the Interior, according to several witnesses. One of them said that in the streets next to the theater, there were several buses with soldiers inside, one of them with only women, dressed in green.

The artist Tania Bruguera was detained early in the morning by agents of State Security when she left home, according to her Facebook page. continue reading

“Tania Bruguera was taken (we still don’t know if it was by soldiers or police dressed as civilians – a kidnapping) leaving her house at this precise moment (6:17 Cuban time) to prevent her presence at the peaceful demonstration that will take place today in several points of the country against #PoliceViolence,” said the publication.

Other activists, artists and independent journalists also reported on their networks, with the hashtag #30JunioCuba, that they were surrounded at their homes or received warnings from State Security to not go out in the street today.

The writer Ariel Maceo Téllez says that two State Security agents woke him up to tell him that he was under house arrest for eight hours without clarifying the reason. In the same way, the independent journalist María Matienzo said on her social networks that a “supposed Major Alejandro” knocked on her door to prohibit her from leaving for the whole day.

The activist Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna, coordinator of the Citizens Committee for Racial Integration, said on his Facebook page that the night before, he went to throw out the garbage and was “kidnapped” by agents of State Security and a police official and taken to the police station.

“Now at 5:30, Major Alejandro interrogated me to tell me that my movement was limited, that I wasn’t to leave my house today, that they’re not going to allow the protest, that there won’t be rebelliousness of any kind, and that whoever protests today will be detained even for “propagation of the epidemic,” he said.

He says he was “escorted” to his home and they warned him that he could be criminally prosecuted “under the Law in Time of Emergency and War”.

The journalist of the digital magazine El Estornudo, Abraham Jiménez Enoa, also said that he is under “house arrest.”

“Several State Security agents dressed in civilian clothing and a patrol car with four officers were stationed on the ground floor of my house to prevent me from going out to cover the march protesting the death of Hansel Hernández,” the reporter complained.

The film maker, Carlos Lechuga, wrote this morning: “I woke up smoking an exquisite cigar so that the smoke would keep away the fat agent they had stationed outside my house.”

The organizers of the protest are asking for justice in the case of Hansel Ernesto Hernández, but also for the activist, Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, who will speak this Thursday at the headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, and for Silverio Portal Contreras, a member of the opposition organization “Cuba Independent and Democratic,” and a prisoner since 2018, for humanitarian reasons due to his health.

Besides the concentration in Havana, the promoters have called on people to come out in every province.

Hernández’s death was discovered last Thursday when his aunt reported the facts on social media. The young man, 27 years old, had an altercation with the police, who went beyond what was necessary, and he was killed by an agent’s gunshot.

According to the official version, published in Tribuna de La Habana three days later, Hernández was caught robbing spare parts from a bus. A patrol tried to intercept him, and he responded by throwing stones, after which the police discharged a weapon.

According to the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH), with headquarters in Madrid, although the official version was adjusted to the facts, there was no proportionality in the police act.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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Human Rights Group Asks Cuban Government for Transparency in Case of Young Black Man Killed by Police

Hansel Ernesto Hernández Galiano resided in Guanabacoa and was 27 years old. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 June 2020 — The Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH), based in Madrid, has demanded transparency from the Cuban Government in the case of the death, at the hands of the Police, of the young black man Hansel Ernesto Hernández Galiano.

“The version given by the Ministry of the Interior confirms that Hansel Ernesto Hernández Galiano died as a result of police shooting. The story, which is intended to justify police action, is hardly credible and has significant discrepancies with the versions of the facts at the popular level which affirm, for example, that he was shot in the back,” said the OCDH.
Hernández’s death happened last Thursday when his aunt denounced the events, which were reported by the independent press.

The Government, through the official local newspaper Tribuna de La Habana, acknowledged what had happened although, according to their account, the victim was “a citizen who had stolen parts and accessories from a bus stop” caught “red handed” by a police patrol which tried to catch him and, during the chase, Hernandez threw stones at them and was then shot, causing his death. continue reading

The OCDH emphasizes that, even sticking to the official version, “it is very difficult to justify the alleged proportionality in the response” of the agent who shot the young man dead. “We wonder how Hernández Galiano went from fleeing to avoid being captured to becoming a real and imminent threat to the life of the police officer, what the other officer was doing in the meantime, or what other method of neutralization they used before going on to shoot.”

The human rights organization believes that in the government version there is an attempt to “discredit the victim with real or alleged criminal records” and rejects the bellicose official language.

“We also do not understand why the official statement in one part refers to the police as ‘the military’ and in another part speaks of ‘our combatants’, when it is not a fact the Army which intervened and, to our knowledge, the country is not at war,” it stresses.

The OCDH recalls that last year, in June 2019, another black citizen Raidel Vidal Caignet, 27, was killed by the police in Holguín.

“The death of these citizens is closely linked to the repressive scenario that the country is experiencing, where the police act with impunity with methods that are currently questioned throughout the world,” they lament.

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A Young Man Dies in Guanabacoa Presumably at the Hands of the Police

Hansel Ernesto Hernández Galiano. (Facebook/Maykel Osorbo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 June 2020 — The death of Hansel Ernesto Hernández Galiano, allegedly at the hands of the police, has shocked the La Lima neighborhood in Guanabacoa in the city of Havana. According to the deceased’s aunt, Lenia Patiño, the 26-year-old was hit by a bullet fired by men in uniform.

“We, the family members, ask for mercy that this cruel act at the hands of our supposed national security may in no way go unpunished,” Patiño demanded in a text that she published on her Facebook profile on Thursday afternoon. However, the woman did not specify the initial reason for the altercation between Hernández and the agents.

“Because a police officer, a uniform, does not give the right to murder anyone in such a way,” added the woman in a text that immediately accumulated hundreds of comments. Some of the Internet users said that Hernández worked at the Guanabacoa bus terminal and that he was a “very calm” young man. A neighbor, who works in the same workplace as the father of the deceased, confirmed this information to 14ymedio. continue reading

“Why then did they have to go to their firearm and take a son from a mother, a father, a nephew from his aunt, a brother from his younger sister,” questioned Patiño, who insisted that the young man “was never armed.”

According to other sources, the bullet that the young man received entered him in the back “near the left kidney and came out from the right side of his chest.” The wake was held the same Wednesday night at the Guanabacoa funeral parlor. Witnesses present at the scene tell of a fight between the relatives of the deceased and some police officers who approached to give their condolences.

Several commentators demanded that the national television report the incident, as it did with the death of two police officers and the injuries suffered by two others a few weeks ago in Calabazar, south of the Cuban capital. “Put it on TV as they did with the one who killed the police,” demanded Internet user Lisandra Navarro.

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For the First Time Cuba Sends a Medical Mission to a French Territory

The Cuban medical mission arriving at the airport in Martinique. (Twitter/@CTM_Martinique)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, June 26, 2020 – A brigade of 15 Cuban doctors arrived this Friday for the first time in a French territory, the island of Martinique in the Antilles, to strengthen the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The President of the Martinique Collective receives on the airport runway the Medical Brigade of Cuba that arrived on this territory to offer medical assistance to confront Covid-19,” the Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Cuban Chancellor, Eugenio Martínez, informed the local press.

The mission will last three months and will cover the lack of specialists in areas like pneumology, infectious disease, radiology and intensive medicine, according to Martinique authorities. continue reading

The daily France-Antilles published on its front page that the delegation of Cuban health workers arrived in Martinique at noon on Friday, on a special flight of Air Antilles Express, and was received with honors by the President of the Executive Council, Alfred Marie-Jeanne.

The newspaper explained that the doctors, “expected since April,” would work in the University Hospital Center in the Saint-Paul Clinic on the island.

The French Parliament approved, last year, a project to reform the health system that included a process whereby the territories of the French Antilles could contract doctors and health workers outside the European Union, in order to facilitate the recruitment of Cuban specialists. At the time, they expressly mentioned the sponsors, the senators from Guadeloupe and Martinique, Dominique Théophile and Catherine Conconne, respectively.

In addition to the contingent sent to Martinique, Cuba sent this Friday another two medical brigades of its “Henry Reeve” international contingent, to Anguilla, in the Caribbean, and to Guinea-Bissau, in Africa, State media reported.

The brigades that will provide service in Anguilla consist of five health workers, while the one going to Guinea-Bissau has 23 health professionals who will be added to another Cuban brigade working in that country, according to the Cuban News Agency.

Havana has 29,000 health workers in 59 countries, including some 3,300 who participate in the battle against Covid-19 in 29 nations. Last Saturday, one of the doctors, who held an important position in the brigade deployed to Andorra, defected along with a nurse.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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At Least 16 Ships Carrying Venezuelan Oil Navigate Without Direction on the High Seas

The United States has threatened to increase its list of sanctioned entities if they collaborate in the commerce and transport of oil from the Venezuelan state enterprise, PDVSA. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Havana, June 27, 2020 – At least 16 vessels transporting a total of 18.1 million barrels of Venezuelan crude and fuel are trapped in the waters of several countries, according to what Reuters published this Saturday with data from Refinitiv Eikon, a financial analysis platform.

The buyer countries avoid them to prevent possible sanctions on the part of the United States, which is hardening its pressure in order to reduce exports of oil from Venezuela, the principal source of income for the government of Nicolás Maduro.

Last week, for example, Washington imposed sanctions against two Mexican companies, among them Libre Abordo, under the accusation of “transporting petroleum robbed from the Venezuelan people,” and helping the regime of Maduro to get around the restrictions. The Treasury Department, in addition, has threatened to increase its list of sanctioned entities if they collaborate in the commerce and transport of crude from the Venezuelan state enterprise, PDVSA. continue reading

The United States also penalized five captains of Iranian ships with the blockade of activities in United States territory and the prohibition of operating in its waters, for having delivered 1.5 million barrels of oil to the South American country.

With things as they are, some ships have been on the high seas for more than six months, says Reuters, without being able to unload in any port, since the petroleum “rarely is offloaded in tanks without having a defined buyer.” While they wait, each vessel incurs heavy charges for delays. According to a shipping-line source in the British agency, the tariff for the delay of a ship that transports Venezuelan oil is at least 30,000 dollars per day.

Former clients of PDVSA, affirms Reuters, are worried because sanctions are imposed even for completing permitted transactions, like the payment of debt with oil or the exchange for food.

The difficult situation of exports from Venezuela is aggravated, concludes the agency, by the over-supply of the market, which  permits buyers to acquire crude that is less-risky than the Iranian or Venezuelan.

Last February, Venezuela denounced the United States before the International Criminal Court for the sanctions, accusing Washington of committing “crimes against humanity.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The Risks and Insecurity of Being a Doctor in Cuba

In training sessions, doctors are warned about publishing images that could slander the health system. (flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Cynthia de la Cantera, Havana, June 23, 2020 — Ernesto is considered an “old dog” in his profession as a primary doctor. However, he still remembers how he and his colleagues were “tattooed with fire” after the authorities warned them during a training session about Covid-19 protocols. “Be careful about publishing a photo or information that doesn’t agree with what is official, because notice will be taken at the highest level of what is said.”

The “inappropriate” photo or information refers, in his opinion, to the precariousness of the health system and the working conditions for medical personnel. The polyclinics don’t have bathrooms or rooms in a condition where doctors, who dedicate seven days a week to their jobs for barely 1,600 pesos a month, can rest, and this hampers the performance of all health measures. In addition, once they leave the hospital, the doctors encounter the same problems as the rest of the population: shortages and lines.

Access to medical sources and hospital centers in Cuba requires permission from the Ministry of Public Health, which already has been denied to the independent press under normal conditions. Now that health personnel are at the center of media attention, a public statement with the author’s identity can propitiate a sanction or expulsion from the health system, depending on the seriousness of the offense. continue reading

Ernesto, who uses a pseudonym, explains how his day usually goes. It begins at 7:00 in the morning in an apartment with three rooms, one for a nurse and two for consultations. “We don’t have water in the bathroom; nor in the sinks or the toilet. We have to get it in buckets.”

His first job is to fill out a sheet of paper, writing down the names of patients who are waiting by “medical groups,” a system of categories implemented by the Ministry to classify the population according to risks and vulnerabilities. “I have to see a minimum of 20 patients a day. If I don’t, my work isn’t considered productive.”

At 9:00 am, the medical students arrive and perform their surveys. Ernesto distributes forms and they must visit all the houses to learn how many people live there, their ages and symptoms. This system is based on the epidemiological vigilance that already was done for zika and dengue.

“After the first weeks the neighbors were calling me because the students weren’t coming by every day (as they were supposed to), but they were still handing in daily reports. Falsifying them is easy: first they fill out a complete questionnaire, well done, with all the data, and before handing it in, they take a photo. Then they use this as a template and visit the houses only a couple of times per week,” he laments.

Ernest tried to rotate the students to avoid the trap, but the faculty agreed that they should investigate in fixed areas to get to know their patients, with a maximum of 40 homes. “As you might understand, there are times they go and times they don’t,” he says.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of Ernesto’s patients has gone down, and he is already beginning to note the return to normality. “Most are older adults who come for prescriptions. They request the same thing two or three times, because there is a lack of medication and their prescription expires.” The doctor complains that the authorities haven’t approved extensions for prescriptions as they have for other things. “If I haven’t written 100 expired prescriptions, I haven’t written any. It’s a waste of time and incalculable resources since this country is so poor,” he complains.

Among the most requested medicines are analgesics like dipyrone and naproxen, antibiotics like gentamicin and triamcinolone, and sedatives like lorazepam, which aren’t available.

After lunch, Ernesto visits nearby patients who live alone and those who have declared symptoms to visitors or by the mobile application. “With these last, I have gone by and sometimes arrive and they tell me there’s nothing wrong with them, they’re bored, or they only wanted to see if the application really worked. Almost all are elderly adults. I ask them to imagine how it would be if they really needed me and I was visiting another person that falsified symptoms,” he says, although the application itself indicates that giving false information is subject to sanctions imposed by the law.

When he finishes his paperwork in the polyclinic, he concludes his day and lingers with his colleagues, chatting during the hour or hour and a half he spends waiting for the bus that drops off the medical personnel. Some of them, according to the municipality where they live, must wait for two or three hours.

Ernesto thinks he contracted coronavirus a couple of months ago after coming into contact with an Italian woman from Bologna. One week later, he was at the polyclinic with fever, a headache and fatigue, and they sent him to the Luis Díaz Soto military hospital in Havana. “The doctor looked at me and said, with a straight face, ‘What you have is tonsillitis. Go home’. He knew that I was a doctor because of the referral. The following day they disinfected my house, and I spent 21 days in quarantine. They didn’t do an analysis; I never knew what I had.”

The doctor believes that cases like his allow them to improve the statistics, although he says he doesn’t know of other cases of apparent omission of registering someone contaminated by the virus. “I don’t like to speak about politics, because everything is always misinterpreted, but the way they have of defending the system is by saying ‘look how we are managing the pandemic’.”

In this country they have already reported two outbreaks of contagion in hospital centers, both in Mantanzas. A local media gave details about the working conditions and lack of hygiene, and the scarcity of protective equipment that contributed to the outbreak in the Comandante Faustino Pérez hospital. The floor where the focal point originated had lacked water from more than a year. In addition, with all the personnel isolated in the hospital to avoid new contagion, the number of doctors available in the province was reduced, and the workload of the rest was increased, until a brigade from Mayabque had to be sent to help.

Milena is a medical student, in her last year, and she practices on the front line, but she fears for her pregnancy. “It really gets ugly when you begin to count between 25 and 30 ambulances a day that bring in patients with respiratory symptoms. They authorize specific consultations for them, so they enter on the other side of the hospital. They put me in the emergency room, but still, occasionally, suspicious cases arrive that way, and you have to examine them to do a pre-diagnosis.”

The young woman notes the influence of the international missions on the loss of professionals in Cuba. The Government maintains personnel in 59 countries, 3,300 in the 29 nations where they participate in the struggle against Covid-19, adding up to a reduction of some 29,000 health workers in Cuba.

“They formed groups to go relieve them. The intensive care specialists, internists, gynecologists and pediatricians were obligated to go, but the rest of them went voluntarily. After they took doctors for the missions they had to create more groups because there weren’t enough. No one knew what was going to happen,” she remembers.

“I was really afraid because the security measures weren’t great. They only gave you one cloth mask, the green kind, for the whole shift of 24 hours. They didn’t give out gowns or caps, not even eyeglasses. Only after the donations [of the Chinese Government] did things improve a bit. But still we were worried that some patient would arrive who didn’t have symptoms, coming for something else, and that one of us would get infected,” she says. She brings from home four or five masks, two protective suits, a pair of gloves and a surgical cap.

The Ministry of Health retired personnel over 60 years old with 60% of their salary because they were a group at risk, but not anyone pregnant, since it hasn’t been determined that the virus causes anomalies or severe complications, but Milena is afraid because the immune system is depressed during gestation. “In the case of Covid-19, you can have pneumonia or bronchial pneumonia, which is very dangerous for the life of the mother and the baby,” she says.

These fears have led some health workers who still haven’t reached their second trimester to present medical certificates that permit them to be absent until their due date. Then they extend them to week 34, when they can benefit from paid leave. But Milena had to go back after the first expiration date because she’s a student. “If I don’t fulfill the requirement of 80% attendance, I lose the right to my diploma,” she explains.

Mariela, a family doctor who practices in the Havana municipality of Revolution Plaza, is worried about the Program of Infant Maternal Attention. “The pregnant and lactating women take a series of courses each trimester, a level of monitoring that is one of the most exhausting there is.” This means more tests, more consults, more follow-ups, more information and reports. There’s no rest.

Before she was working from Monday to Friday and Saturdays until 12:00, but now she also has to work on Sundays, for the daily surveys. “No one expected this. And it’s not considered overtime. If we don’t do it like that, cases occur. But from my point of view, you get exhausted, because it’s not just Covid-19. You have a population with other diseases and follow-up programs. In addition, there are medical emergencies, the elderly, those who live alone, the following of contacts and those whom you have to see every day,” she says.

When health workers are tired, Mariela points out, they stop fulfilling the protocols with the same rigor, and now she can only rest in the days following emergencies in the polyclinic, four times a month.

“Have they told you when you could officially rest?”

‘No, I don’t know; I suppose it’s when all this ends.”

Francisco Durán, the head of the Department of Epidemiology of the Ministry of Public Health, has explained that the epidemic would be considered concluded 28 days after the last positive case, the time that corresponds to two periods of incubation of the new virus.

Meanwhile, Havana is full of posters that highlight the triumphant battle against the pandemic. Some include photographs of Fidel Castro and José Martí. There is one where several doctors appear with green masks keeping a distance; the first of them holds a Cuban flag.

It’s very probable that the photo was taken at the time of farewell for a medical brigade leaving on their mission. The text says: “For Cuba, together we will win.” The message is repeated in the State media to remind us that they are our heroes: those who wear the white coats. And really they are, but not for their unconditional support and discipline, but rather because they work without adequate means, without pay for extra hours, without days of rest and without being able to enjoy their families.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The Absurd "Surnames" / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, Havana, 29 June 2020 — I have always been struck by some state agencies and institutions that add the “surname” “revolutionary” to their functional name. I am currently referring to the National Revolutionary Police, the Revolutionary Armed Forces and, sometimes, when in a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Revolutionary Government is improperly written.

In 1959, the letter “R” was added to the organizations and institutions inherited from the Republic, meaning “revolutionary,” to identify them with the new times. Thus we had CTC-R, FNTA-R, SNTC-C and many others. With the passage of time, the “R” disappeared, as only unique organisms and institutions remained, without competition, under the absolute control of the State. It was only maintained in the cases indicated above.

These “surnames,” valid between 1959 and 1976, corresponded to the so-called “stage of revolutionary precariousness,” but, from 1976, with the “approval” of the Constitution and other Laws, the country began to institutionalize itself as a Socialist State, therefore, the “surname” should have disappeared, because the entities who continued to use it, it is assumed, do not respond only to the interests of the “revolutionaries,” but also to all others, including the “non-revolutionaries.” In short, all citizens, with our work and the payment of taxes, are the ones who finance them, since the armed organizations do not produce wealth. continue reading

If this is so, the police should be called the National Police and the military the Armed Forces, without the need for any ideological “surname.” Ultimately, as I have already stated, both serve the Republic and its citizens in general, regardless of their political, economic, social, religious, sexual differences, etc.

My concern goes beyond whether or not to maintain a simple, absurd and unnecessary denomination. It happens that, in the popular imagination, the “surname” in question has always been understood as a “privateering patent,” which has sometimes been used to disregard the provisions regarding citizen rights.

This has influenced some members of the police who, when acting, consider themselves above the Laws, sometimes due to natural arrogance and other times due to ignorance of their rights and those of the citizens, due to their low level of legal training and lack of professionalism.

It would be healthy to amend these absurdities, if we want some of the articles of the New Constitution to be something more than a dead letter and, even more so, if, as is intended, we want to talk about the existence of a Rule of Law.

With Castro, When the Crime Was Committed

Fidel Castro and French journalist Jean Daniel at the Riviera Hotel on November 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. (March Riboud/L’Obs)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jacobo Manchover, Paris, June 20, 2020 — An article by French journalist Jean Daniel, “Avec Castro, à l’heure du crime” (“With Castro, When the Crime Was Committed”), figured in a 1978 investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Commission of Inquiry into Political Murders. The article was first published in French in the weekly news magazine L’Express on November 28, 1963 and in English in The New Republic* on December 7, 1963. It was later picked up by about twenty other publications and in numerous languages. Was this a international scoop? Or simply an alibi?

Jean Daniel died in February 2020, at the ripe old age of ninety-nine, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. He had been co-founder and editor of the news weekly L’Obs, formerly Le Nouvel Observateur and, before that, France Observateur. A few months earlier an interview with him was published in the October/November issue of the pretentiously titled La revue pour l’intelligence du monde (The World Intelligence Review), headed by his friend Béchir Ben Yahmed. He later appeared in a documentary broadcast by the France 5 television network in early February 2020.

Even in the final months of his life, he still spoke with pride about the time, almost six decades earlier, that he happened to be present when Fidel Castro was told by phone of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. At no point did it occur to him that perhaps it was too coincidental. Could it have all been stage managed? continue reading

There was a detail that should have caught the attention of experts on the subject. The interview took place during a lunch with Fidel Castro, a nocturnal animal when it came to his encounters with foreign personalities, whether they were politicians or journalists. Why was a reporter able to enjoy such privileged access?

For his whole life Jean Daniel wanted to be an emissary of peace in different parts of the world, especially in the Israeli and Palestinian territories. On one occasion he met with Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Algeria. Though he had been born there, Jean Daniel was a supporter of Algerian independence. The meeting with Che convinced him that he could be the man to reduce tensions between the United States and Cuba.

With that in mind, he met several times with Fidel Castro after having interviewed John F. Kennedy a few weeks before, on October 24, in the Oval Office. The White House meeting lasted about twenty-five minutes. In his opinion the message Kennedy was conveying through him was of utmost importance. He wanted to bring back an encouraging response from Castro on maintaining secret contacts in light of the extreme tensions created in October and November of the previous year by the Missile Crisis.

Castro’s first meeting with the French journalist took place in a hotel room at the Riviera Hotel along Havana’s Malecón on the night of November 19 to 20, between 10:00 P.M and 8:00 A.M*. Castro’s arrival was completely unexpected since it had not been previously announced. The commander-in-chief came dressed in his ubiquitous combat uniform and a black beret.

Jean Daniel and his future wife Michele were resting, faces down, with their shoes next to the bed. The scene was more reminiscent of a vacation trip than a diplomatic mission. Also present were Castro’s personal physician and right-hand man until his death in 1969, Commander René Vallejo, and a translator, Juan Arcocha. During the meeting Vallejo, who was also dressed in battle fatigues, fell fast asleep, as was perfectly understandable given the time of night.

Nothing strange about that. Castro often gave interviews to countless reporters late at night, waiting until a few minutes beforehand, “for security reasons,” to announce his arrival. Snapshots of his meeting with Jean Daniel, taken by photographer Marc Riboud, were published in The New Republic, a magazine to which the reporter contributed articles, and in L’Express, immortalizing the rather informal meeting at the Riviera hotel.

Castro invited Jean Daniel to accompany him to the resort town of Varadero, about 130 kilometers east of the capital, on Friday November 22, where he was supposed to visit some new houses. Around 1:30 P.M., Cuba time (12:30 P.M in Dallas), it was announced that an assassination attempt on Kennedy had taken place. This time no photo of the historic moment was taken, at least as far as is known.

But why Varadero? Jean Daniel says it had something to do with his house on the beach. Officially, Castro did not own a house there, though there were countless “protocol houses” throughout the island at his disposal. Perhaps it was because Varadero had the advantage of being far from Havana and, therefore, from other sources of information who might contradict what Castro told the reporter.

Jean Daniel and Michele were chatting amicably with Castro through the interpreter, Juan Arcocha, when suddenly the phone rang. Commander René Vallejo, who was in the next room, and a security guard went to answer it. Castro was immediately told that President Osvaldo Dorticós wanted to speak to him. It was apparent something very serious had happened. Otherwise, it was inconceivable that Castro would be interrupted.

His reaction was one of astonishment: “How? An attack?” He listened to what the President was saying and repeated his responses three times and out loud so that his guests would hear and understand him, even if their understanding of Spanish was rudimentary: “That’s bad news. That’s bad news. Bad news.” In effect, Jean Daniel transcribed Castro’s emphatic reaction in his article.

But the phone call seems strange. In fact, President Dorticós’ position was only a ceremonial one. Real power on the island lay with Fidel Castro, who at that time was prime minister. It is inconceivable that he would receive the news from someone in a subordinate position rather than from his security services, or from his brother Raúl, who was minister of defense. Dorticós ultimately fell from grace, though he continued to hold a ministerial position, that of justice minister. In 1976 Fidel officially assumed the title of President of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers, with Raúl as his vice-president. Dorticós ended up committing suicide in 1983. Suicides among Cuban political, military, or police leaders are common, especially when they carry unspeakable secrets.

Between 1:30 and 2:00 P.M., Cuba time, those present at the Varadero house were tuned in to a radio station broadcasting in English from Miami, with Commander Vallejo roughly translating, when they learned of Kennedy’s death at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. Castro told Jean Daniel that he thought he would be blamed for what happened, even though they did not yet know the identity of the alleged assassin, who was still at large after he had shot police officer J.D. Tippit. He turned out to be Lee Harvey Oswald, who had gone to the Cuban consulate in Mexico City to apply for a visa.

Jean Daniel realized then and there that his role as an intermediary between Castro and Kennedy, whom he had planned to see again upon his return to Washington, was over. Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson would automatically assume the presidency and nothing would be the same again. But Jean Daniel still had the instincts of a reporter. He described how Fidel Castro learned, at the same time he did, of the assassination in Dallas. It is not known who — he or an editor at L’Express — came up with the odd title: “With Castro, at the Scene of the Crime.” Nor does it specify what the crime was. But the ambiguity of the wording leaves little doubt that the person responsible for the crime might have been Castro himself.

This is how Jean Daniel achieved international fame. Moreover, his article became the quasi-official account, endorsed by Fidel Castro himself in at least two speeches he gave on November 23 and 27.

Jean Daniel served as Fidel Castro’s sole emissary. It never occurred to him that he might have been manipulated into believing he was the only reporter to witness Fidel Castro’s reaction firsthand. It would not have been the first time the old guerilla had fooled someone, however.

Herbert L. Matthews, a New York Times reporter who was on vacation with his wife in Cuba in early 1957, casually described how Castro had tricked him in the Sierra Maestra mountains, convincing Matthews that he was leading a full-fledged rebel army when in reality it amounted to a group of about twenty men. Matthews went on to become a personal friend of Fidel Castro and the best propagandist for his policies in the United States. Jean Daniel must either have not been aware of Matthews’ story or did not much care. He believed he was, or wanted to be, the first.

What was in the message that John F. Kennedy wanted his go-between to pass onto the Cuban prime minister? In one of his articles, Jean Daniel reports that Kennedy told him that he and his brother Robert — then attorney general and later assassinated himself in Los Angeles in 1968 after winning the California Democratic presidential primary — had become deeply distrustful due to Castro’s “insanities” and Communist stance after the Bay of Pigs operation and the Cuban missile crisis. During that crisis Castro had sent a letter to Nikita Khrushchev asking the Russian premier to launch a preventive nuclear strike on a large American city, a request that Kruschev fortunately denied.

Kennedy knew Castro was capable of anything. He noted, however, that his guerrilla war against the government of Fulgencio Batista, which ended when Castro seized power in 1959, had aroused some sympathy in the United States, feelings which Kennedy implied he himself shared. But Castro’s misstep with the Soviet Union forced him to abandon any such feelings. The tension was obvious during the 1960 presidential campaign when Kennedy harshly criticized Castro. It culminated in the Bay of Pigs debacle, an operation whose planning had begun under the Eisenhower-Nixon administration. If Castro could return to his initial proposals, however…

By November of 1963 Cuba and the Soviet Union were not enjoying the closest relations, nor was the friendship between Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev at its best. Nevertheless, no American leader could imagine the relationship breaking apart. A few months later, in April 1964, Fidel Castro undertook a 38-day trip to the USSR, during which he was greeted with full honors by the senior leaders of the Communist Party. The quarrels with the great “brother country” ended or were swept under the rug for decades.

The importance of Kennedy’s message to Castro, like Jean Daniel’s interpretation of it, should be considered in context. The reporter had gotten his exclusive and, out of naivetee or vanity, had made his views known to the world: Fidel Castro could not have known of a possible assassination attempt on John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 since at 12:30 P.M., Dallas time, he was with the reporter in Varadero. And the whole world believed it.

This brief article arose out of a strange feeling I always had about Jean Daniel’s account of his meeting with Fidel Castro and the interviews I had with him shortly before his death. Those who knew firsthand the ways in which Castro wielded power could harbor legitimate suspicions.

*Translator’s note: In The New Republic article, Jean Daniel says the meeting lasted until 4:00 A.M., not 8:00. A.M. The title of the article, “When Castro Heard the News,” also differs  from the one in L’Express.

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Anonymity and Cowardice, Cuban State Security Profiles on the Internet

When they fail to identify themselves they are labeled as lily-livered, especially because they fling mud on people using their names, surnames, faces. (Piqsels)

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14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 26 June 2020 — They can take the name of character in a soap opera, or that of any neighbor’s child, or use a warlike epithet, but the anonymous internet profiles of Cuban State Security agents always share a common denominator: cowardice. Hidden behind a pseudonym they carry out the work of the official machinery in the smear campaigns against the critics, but end up muddying their own manufactured character more than their victims.

I remember one of these characters from a few years ago — whose name I can’t remember — who was created to attack the alternative blogosphere and dissidents. They had an ephemeral life, because they were deactivated soon after, probably by the same people who had attempted to place them on the networks as a “voice of young Cubans.” It was disguise, the mask behind which an entire political police team was probably hiding, and was used with the same impunity as the hangman’s hood.

That character, who behaved with the pretense of being able to sink reputations and intimidate the bravest, ended up being discarded. Especially because little by little, and despite the initial aftertaste that can arise in a certain audience that follows these gossip-focused profiles, the fact that they are not real people and cannot show their faces ends up taking a toll. When they fail to identify themselves they are labeled as lily-livered, especially because they fling mud on people using their names, surnames, faces and even their identity card numbers. continue reading

Now, we are witnessing a new installment of these deplorables, with the addition that even the official press alludes to them from time to time, journalists close to the Government use them as sources, and more than one public face of culture comes out to defend them. It is still contradictory that an enthroned power, which controls Parliament, dictates laws and manages the Army, ends up defending itself by appealing to a secret entity. That is evidence only of their fear.

The current anonymous pro-government profiles that promote the destruction of the reputation of a deceased young man – calling him a criminal – as well as the gossip about the private life of an opponent, will pass in a few years and they will not even be remembered, most likely their accounts in social networks will be deleted for the convenience of those that created them. They have the ephemeral life of an unknown soldier sent to die on the front line, of whom not a single tombstone with their name will remain.

However, the flesh and blood beings who took advantage of the stories spread by these masked entities, those who used their hoaxes to judge others, spread their lies and used their gossip to socially stigmatize citizens… those will remain and they will have to answer to their conscience, that little voice that hammers everyone in the head and that should have warned them before: it is not a good idea to rely on hooded anonymity or cowardice to follow others under a pseudonym.

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The Cuban Doctor who Fled from Andorra is Considered ‘A Leading Man’ of the Brigade

Dariel Romero, the doctor who supposedly abandoned the mission, is shown on the left together with Andorran Minister of Foreign Affairs María Ubach. On their right is Alain González, the Cuban Consul in Barcelona, next to the Andorran flag. (Altaveu)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, June 25, 2020 — With military training and family members in political positions, Daniel Romero, the anesthesiologist who supposedly fled last Saturday from the Cuban brigade in Andorra, was a key element in the delegation of 39 health workers sent to this tiny European country to fight COVID-19. According to the local press, a nurse joined him in his petition for asylum in the neighboring country of Spain, where both have family.

A rapid review of press reports, in Cuba as well as in Andorra, since the arrival of the brigade in Europe at the end of March, reveals Romero’s leading role. The anesthesiologist appears in high-level meetings with the Andorran Minister of Health, Joan Martínez Benazet, and the Consul General of Cuba in Barcelona, Alain González, who coordinated an intense propaganda campaign about “solidarity” and “philanthropy” as motives for sending medical brigades to 59 countries on the planet.

Barely ten days ago, Cubadebate published a video from Prensa Latina in which an Andorran doctor, Raúl Cerro, thanked the Cuban brigade for its collaboration in the Nostrada Senyora de Meritxell Hospital, specifically acknowledging Dariel Romero and the nurse, Yaquelin Oliva, with whom he worked in surgery. continue reading

The identity of the nurse who left with him is unknown; the only leak is that she was one of the youngest people on the brigade.

Apparently, the doctor left behind in his room the Andorran telephone that had been assigned to him plus work documents and a collection of data that the Government had entrusted to him, states Altaveu.

According to what 14ymedio has been able to verify, Alain González, the Cuban Consul, traveled on Thursday from Barcelona to Andorra. Although he is, on a political level, the one who mainly monitors the brigade, and his trips to the Principality have been frequent, it’s presumed that he now is meant to supervise and deal with the situation.

It’s said that González made the health workers uncomfortable, and that those responsible for the brigade were more flexible. González, on his trips to Andorra, imposed restrictions on them. They weren’t supposed to have contact with the population or with Cubans living in the country.

The group of 39 health workers arrived from the Island on March 29 to give support to the Andorran Health Service by caring for those who were ill from coronavirus. The Cubans had worked as specialists in internal medicine in the intensive care unit of El Cedre, a convalescent center for the elderly and disabled.

On May 15, three members of the delegation returned to Cuba, and some days later, another 13 came back. The 23 who remained still had to complete the work mandated by the Government of Andorra until the end of June, after which, in spite of the decrease in patients hospitalized, their stay would be extended for some weeks. The Health Minister, Joan Martínez Benazet, justified the decision alleging that the Cubans were meant to cover different services to allow the local professionals to rest.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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Two Health Workers Escape From the Cuban Mission in Andorra

The Cuban health workers in the entrance of the hotel in Andorra where they are being lodged. (Cancillería Cuba)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, June 25, 2020 — A doctor and nurse have abandoned the official Cuban mission in Andorra and left for Spain to request political asylum. According to the Diari d’Andorra, those in charge of the brigade realized last Saturday that the two health workers had fled.

The group of 39 health workers from the Island arrived at the Principality on March 29 to help the Andorran Health Service by attending those ill with coronavirus. The Cubans had worked as specialists in internal medicine in the intensive care unit of El Cedre, a convalescent center for the elderly and disabled.

The delegation was supposed to finalize the work mandated by the Government of Andorra at the end of this month, after which, despite the decrease in patients hospitalized, their stay would be prolonged for a few weeks. The Minister of Health, Joan Martínez Benazet, justified the decision by alleging that the Cubans would cover different services to allow the local professionals some time off. continue reading

With an area smaller than Havana and a population of barely 80,000, Andorra is a tax haven that shares borders with Spain and France. The Principality, which also makes a living from winter sports, has been significantly affected by coronavirus so that even with such a small population, there are 855 positive cases, 52 deaths and 797 recoveries.

Havana has 29,000 health workers in 59 countries, including some 3,300 who participate in fighting COVID-19 in 29 of them.

When a Cuban health worker “deserts”, according to the official terminology, he risks being penalized by being required to wait eight years before he can again enter the Island. Also, the part of his salary in Cuban pesos that he accumulated on the Island is confiscated by the State, and his family doesn’t have access to these funds.

The official Cuban propaganda calls these health workers who decide not to return “deserters”, but several international organizations consider them victims of human trafficking.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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Cuba’s State Telecommunications Company Yields to User Pressure and Lowers Prices for 4G Internet

The new Etecsa packages will come into effect as of June 25. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 June 2020 — On Monday, the Cuban Telecommunications Company (Etecsa) announced new mobile phone web browsing packages that will come into effect on June 25 with discounts for internet connection on the 4G network.

Among the new mobile data packages is 1 GB with an additional bonus of 1.5 GB to surf the Internet and 300 MB to access national sites, all for the price of 10 CUC (roughly $10 US, more than a week’s average wages). A package of 14 GB at 45 CUC was also implemented, with the national navigation bonus included, said the state monopoly on its Twitter account.

The rate that until now was charged for 10 GB will allow 14 GB, the highest volume package sold by the company so far. In addition, there will be offers from 1 GB at 4 CUC, 2.5 GB at 20 CUC, and 4 GB at 30 CUC, all with an extra bonus of 1.5 GB, 3 GB and 5 GB, respectively. continue reading

 Etecsa will keep the option of 1 CUC for the nauta.cu email service and also 1 CUC, for the 200 MB package to be consumed within 24 hours. The 600 MB package will have a bonus of 800 MB LTE plus 300 MB navigation of national sites and will cost 7 CUC; the 400 MB package, with the same addition, will cost 5 CUC.

This Monday’s announcement has divided customers between those who applaud the sale and others who feel disappointed by the price of the packages. “I like the action of improving plans, just a suggestion: Do it at least twice a year,” said a user on Twitter.

At 45 CUC, the price of the 14 GB package represents the monthly salary of a doctor and many customers depend on top-ups made by family and friends abroad in order to pay the high service fees.

Among the most repeated criticisms was from those who consider that the price of 45 CUC should include a monthly flat rate in which the user does not pay for megabytes consumed, a long-standing demand from the customers of the telecommunications monopoly.

Others regretted that most of the new offers are directed at the 4G network, which is still not working across the country. “Now what we need is a 4G base station in order to benefit us, in my area there are two nearby base stations that continue in 2G, in the municipality of Caimito, Artemisa,” René Alexander complained.

“Very good Etecsa, very good. For the next one, include more national megabytes that lately have had more demand from users. I congratulate you but I know you can do more,” asked another who identified himself as Marlom.

Last May, with the hashtag #BajenLosPreciosDeInternet (Lower Internet Prices), Etecsa users called on the state company to reduce internet connection rates from mobile phones, public Wi-Fi areas and domestic service from homes through Nauta Hogar. Etecsa described the promoters of the campaign as “mercenaries,” according to several tweets and articles published this week in official media.

The campaign, which has been going on for a year as of this June, achieved making the hashtag a trending topic within the Island within just 24 hours, and has remained present on the networks every Saturday, with more or less enthusiasm.

The arrival of mobile phone internet service in Cuba occurred in December 2018. The Island was the last country in the region to allow its citizens to surf the internet through their cell phones, due to the Government’s efforts not to lose control over information.

At the end of 2018, the President Miguel Díaz-Canel allowed the sale of the first navigation plans with data. Cubans were able to buy their first cellphone lines in 2008, following reforms promoted by former president Raúl Castro.

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Communisms

Marxism-Leninism Manuals (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 23 June 2020 — The first time I looked up the meaning of the word communism I did it in a little pocket dictionary my mother had. To my surprise, after the colon there was only one word: hunger. This occurred in mid-1959, when the Marxism-Leninism manuals produced in the Soviet Union were not yet circulating in Cuba.

A decade later I enthusiastically participated in university discussions where it was debated whether communism would succeed first in France, Germany, England or the United States. We were young and naive and we wanted the best for humanity, including world peace, free love and that stream full of material goods that would allow everyone to receive according to their needs.

Perhaps due to the delayed effects of those intellectual intoxications, every time I hear or read about someone commenting on the problems of communism in Cuba, I have the impulse to argue that this country is very far from establishing the social system that is called communism. But to make such a clarification is often confused with defending the system. It is as if to say “Cuba is already living in communism!” continue reading

In Das Kapital, Karl Marx warned that communism would be “a superior form of society whose fundamental principle is the full and free development of all individuals,” where work would become the first vital necessity of citizens. Behind this propagandistic assertion, it is supposed that there was a scientific basis backed by the discovery of “the contradiction between the social character of production and private ownership of the means of production.”

Although the final goal was the pretty face of communism, made up and exposed under lights in the announcement that “the earth will be the paradise of all humanity,” as the Hispanic version of La Internacional proclaims, it was necessary to pass through the ugly face, in which that supposed contradiction would be resolved by confiscating properties to allegedly socialize them.

In the decades that this social experiment has been carried out in different countries, it has been shown that in order to impose the system it is essential to deprive citizens of their liberties, because it is useless to seize property if the desire to own them is not also eradicated. And for this to happen, the state must also abolish the right to organize other parties, so that those who would seek to restore the right to property would never come to power or to Parliament.

The most grotesque deformities of this other face of communism are shown in the repressive apparatuses, without which it is not possible to strip away liberties or suppress rights.

The contradiction that neither Marx nor Marxists could see is the one that appears between human nature tending towards individualization and the fiction of socializing the ownership of the goods of production. The inefficiency of the system is, consequently, the result of a secret personal revenge of the individualistic character of human beings.

The appearance of a bureaucratic caste acting from the State to represent the role of owner that supposedly corresponds to society, not only generates the usual corruption and inevitable nepotism, but together with this caste, or better, under it, it leads to a mass of workers disinterested in producing, even more alienated than in capitalism.

The ruling caste tries to surround itself with privileges: it obtains scholarships for its children to attend the best universities in the world, it receives medical treatment in private hospitals in capitalist countries, it organizes trips abroad and it spends its exorbitant per diems acquiring the latest goods from the consumer society it demonizes.

The mass of workers, not without ambitions but devoid of opportunities, simulates submission so as not to attract attention, while using for their own benefit the time, materials and resources that the State puts in their hands for the fulfillment of the State’s own plans. The only recourse the workers have is to try to balance the gap between their salaries and the cost of living.

Moving among those who command and those who pretend to obey, we see the ruthless repressors, the unscrupulous inspectors who suck the blood from the entrepreneurs, the administrators who do not risk carrying what is stolen themselves, but look the other way in exchange for their cut, and a bunch of opportunists in the “intermediate levels,” always ready to give up and to escape as soon as they get the chance.

If what has been happening in Cuba in the last six decades fits in this brief description of the ugly face of communism, then it is not necessary to clarify that the country has not yet reached that upper echelon of society promised by the demagogues and yearned for by the delusional. Yes. This is communism.

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“The Man With the Flag” Protests in Front of the Cuban Embassy in Guyana

The activist, Daniel Llorente, “the man with the flag”, in front of the Cuban Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana. (Cortesía)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, June 23, 2020 — Daniel Llorente, known as “the man with the flag” after interrupting the May Day parade in 2017 by unfurling a United States flag to protest against the Government, had to move away from the door of the Cuban Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana, where he was demonstrating.

The motive of his protest, according to what the activist told Radio Television Martí, is that the diplomatic seat is “promoting the dictatorship” and doesn’t care about its citizens in Guyana.

Cuban officials notified the police that they asked Llorente to leave because “he couldn’t protest” owing to the “power” of his words. The dissident explained to the Miami chain that an employee of the Embassy suggested that he go protest in front of the American Embassy, but he refused. “You’re stupid,” replied Llorente after the Cuban official closed the door, putting an end to the brief exchange. continue reading

In May of 2019, Daniel Llorente reported that he had been forcibly exiled to Guyana, where he’s been for more than a year. His feat during the Workers’ Day march, protesting in front of Raúl Castro and the upper elite of the Communist Party, in addition to the accredited international press, made him internationally known, but it also involved his being sent to a psychiatric center for a year.

When he left the center last year, Llorente was pressured by State Security. In one of the interrogations to which he was submitted, they warned him that if he persisted in his attitude, he would have to choose between leaving the country or prison.

Days later, two agents came to his home and took him to buy a ticket to Guyana. “Before getting into the car they told me, ’Daniel, we’re advising you not to come back. Since you say the Americans are your friends, go tell them to help you. Don’t return. If they don’t help you, continue living there, because you’ll regret it if you come back,’ ” he told 14ymedio at that time.

Llorente’s intention always has been to travel to the U.S., and he has repeatedly requested asylum, but up to now he hasn’t received a response.

The activist has legalized his immigration status as a political refugee in Georgetown, but his economic situation has been very precarious, and he’s been sleeping on the street, according to what he told Cubanet last year.

Although his recognition as a political refugee by the United Nations allows him to receive aid, the amount remains limited for facing expenses like rent and daily living.

Guyana doesn’t request a visa for Cubans to enter its territory. For this reason, many travel to this country with the hope of continuing their route to the United States.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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San Antonio de los Banos Runs Out of Water

“They’re only prioritizing the delivery of water in water trucks, for families who have ill, bedridden members.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, June 22, 2020 — Entire neighborhoods in San Antonio de los Baños, in Artemisa, have been without running water for more than a week. The frequency of delivery has been deteriorating for several months, and the only response those affected receive is that “the water table is dry”.

“The water system in our zone has presented problems for several months. We began having service one day on and one day off, then every 72 hours, but in these last 10 days, we don’t have service at all,” explains Pilar, one of the neighbors.

San Antonio de los Baños is the most important municipality in Artemisa, because it’s where the Ariguanabo River flows for 14 kilometers. Traditionally, water delivery in the zone has been supplied from the river basin, especially from springs and wells next to the river, but the drought, industrial residue and overexploitation have severely damaged its flow. continue reading

“Water delivery, in water trucks, is prioritized for families that have ill, bedridden members, says another neighbor, who notes that the most affected zones are Nodarse and Palenque. Families have to carry water in tanks and buckets long distances in order to perform domestic chores and maintain the hygiene measures recommended to prevent contagion by the coronavirus.

“This town is known for its river and its waters, but now we should change the name, because nothing remains of the “baños” [baths], and the river is almost dead, and there is no water in the houses,” explains an employee of the Las Yagrumas Hotel. “We have a bedridden old woman in my family, and in all these days we’ve only received 20 liters of water to be able to wash her.”

For farmers in the zone, the lack of water is also a problem, although several of them interviewed by this newspaper benefit from private wells. “I use a well in the courtyard for the whole field and the crops, but in the house, water normally comes to us from the street, and in 12 days we haven’t even seen one drop,” says Raudel Ramos, a farmer who lives on the periphery of San Antonio.

“The whole aqueduct network is very damaged and deteriorated,” adds Ramos. “For years here we’ve had problems with water that arrives dirty, contaminated, and even with a bad smell, because the plant hasn’t been maintained for a long time.”

The network of the San Antonio de los Baños aqueduct began construction in 1894 and initially took water from a spring of the Catalina in the Quintica together with the Ariguanabo River. “The whole structure is very old, and now we’re paying the price.”

In light of the complaints of the residents, the local radio station, Radio Ariguanabo, last week interviewed the provincial director of Acueducto y Alcantarillado de Artemisa [Water and Sewerage of Artemisa], Miguel Jiménez Álvarez, who explained that the prolonged drought of the last years has dried up the water table and service will continue to be unstable for several months, also owing to repairs in the infrastructure.

The situation, faced by the almost 49,000 inhabitants of the municipality and their constant complaints brought about on June 12 the emergency meeting of a Temporary Work Group, created by the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources for hydraulic regularization of the Ariguanabo River Basin, but the service has not improved nor have there been new explanations.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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