Mexico Deports 91 Cuban Migrants / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Cuban migrants on the border between Mexico and the United States. (Networks)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Chiapas, 20 January 2017 — The Mexican National Institute of Migration (INM) issued a press release Friday stating that 91 Cubans had been repatriated to the island after the end of the wet foot/dry foot policy that would have allowed them to obtain asylum on reaching the United States.

“In compliance with the provisions of the Law of Migration, 91 foreigners of Cuban origin were sent this morning, from the airport of Tapachula, Chiapas, to their country, after Cuban authorities granted them recognition of their nationality*,” explains the press release.

The group was composed of 20 women and 71 men who, according to the INM, were waiting for the departure office to allow them to reach the US border. Continue reading “Mexico Deports 91 Cuban Migrants / 14ymedio, Mario Penton”

González fears that on his return, life in Havana, where he is from, will become “a hell”

Yadel Gonzalez Sagre is one of those Cubans. He had been interned in Tapachula for 19 days, waiting for the document to continue to the United States, but in the early hours of this Friday he was forcibly removed from the “21st Century Immigration Station.”

“Suddenly they told us that they were going to deport us and they took us all out of there. It was terrible, they beat us and threatened us. Then they shoved us into vans and from there we were taken directly to the airport and they have been sending us on airplanes in small groups,” he says through the app Messenger.

González fears that on his return, life in Havana, where he is from, will become “a hell.”

“We live in a country with no rights,” he says.

According to the INM, the 91 Cubans “were returned to their country of origin in a plane belonging to the Federal Police.” However, both González and other Cuban migrants claim that they have been transferred in civilian aircraft, which could indicate an even greater number of returnees.

Since the end of the policy dry feet / wet feet, hundreds of Cubans have been stranded in Mexico when they tried to reach the United States

The INM notes that the departure office, provided for in the Migration Law, “is a facilitation measure that is provided to foreigners who do not have their nationality recognized by the authorities of their countries. It gives them permission to travel legally in the national territory for 20 days so that they can [have time to] regularize their migratory situation in Mexico or leave the country.”

In the case of Cubans, the consulate general of that country agreed to recognize the nationality of 91 of its citizens, applied for by the Mexican immigration authority to facilitate the return.

Since the end of the wet foot/dry foot policy, hundreds of Cubans have been stranded in Mexico when they tried to reach the United States. According to unofficial data, there are 300 Cubans at the “21st Century Migration Station” in Chiapas in southern Mexico and several hundred more in the cities bordering the United States.

*Translator’s note: Cuba refuses to automatically recognize the Cuban nationally of people who leave the country illegally.

Fire, Neglect and Bureaucracy Sink the Moscow Restaurant / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Complaints about the problems caused by the ruins of the building have been repeated each year in the “Accountability Assemblies”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 20 January 2017 – A bird has his nest on a fragment of wall and a creeper peeps over what was once the sumptuous door of the Moscow Restaurant. Almost three decades after a fire extinguished the sparkle of the downtown location, its ruins are a headache for its closest neighbors and city authorities.

“I asked my wife to marry me under that decorated wooden ceiling,” Waldo, a 67-year-old retiree from the Cuban Radio and Television Institute, tells this newspaper. Like many of his contemporaries, he thinks that the Moscow Restaurant “was the pearl in the crown of this city” until the end of the 1980’s. Continue reading “Fire, Neglect and Bureaucracy Sink the Moscow Restaurant / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar”

After Fidel Castro came to power and the nationalizations happened, the property stopped housing the famous Montmartre casino and cabaret. At the end of the 1960’s, the place was re-named Moscow, a nod to the Soviet Union. Bolero nights came to their end, and Solyanka soup and Russian salad took over the place.

“The food was good, and they had workers trained in the old style who treated customers with friendliness and without today’s cheek,” says Jose Ignacio, a nearby neighbor from 25th Street who assures that the complaints about the problems caused by the building’s ruins “have been repeated each year in the People’s Power Accountability Assemblies*.”

The place remains closed, with entrances covered and vegetation growing between its walls. With the years, the situation has become untenable for the neighbors. “There are a lot of mosquitoes, because when it rains, the water accumulates,” complains Monica, mother of a months-old baby who must “sleep with mosquito netting in spite of being in the city’s very downtown.”

Officials from the Provincial Administration Council commented this week on television news that “given the damage caused by the fire” and the years of neglect, the ruined property can only be demolished. “There is no chance of saving it for restoration, therefore it must be demolished,” they pronounced.

The work of taking down the building necessitates 260 cubic meters of wood for support, and no fewer than two full-time cranes hired for a year, specified the two interviewed officials. The total amount for the operation is calculated at four million Cuban pesos, but it is not a priority among the investment plans assigned to the city.

In Old Havana other more ruinous properties have been restored and function as hotels or cultural centers, but the Moscow seems to be cursed. “In an attack here they killed Antonio Blanco Rico, chief of Fulgencio Batista’s Military Intelligence,” says Gustavo, a nearby neighbor and one who proclaims himself “familiar with every inch of this city’s history.”

More than three decades after that event a voracious fire destroyed the place, and since then it has been closed. “I was born in the middle of the Special Period in the 1990’s, and I only heard stories about the Moscow Restaurant from my parents,” says a young shoe and wallet vendor at the 23rd Street Fair.

Next to him a lady listens to the conversation and evokes the restaurant’s golden age. “They were times when a worker could pay for a meal in such a place with his salary,” she remembers. “But shortly after the Moscow burned, the USSR also came down, and all that turned to smoke and ashes.”

*Translator’s note: Regular meetings held by deputies at different levels of government with their constituents to hear from them and be “held accountable” for their performance.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Cuba Expects To Receive 4.2 Million Tourists In 2017 / 14ymedio

Tourists ride in a horse carriage in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 19 January 2017 — Cuba is preparing to receive 4.2 million foreign tourists in 2017, with priority for investments in new and higher quality facilities for tourists, according to projections announced Wednesday by management of the island’s Ministry of Tourism (Mintur).

Cuba’s Deputy Minister for Tourism, Mayda Álvarez, speaking on a state TV program dedicated to the sector, said that the record of 4 million international visitors to the island in 2016 represented a growth of 14.5 percent compared to 2015, in a state television program dedicated to the prospects from the sector. Continue reading “Cuba Expects To Receive 4.2 Million Tourists In 2017 / 14ymedio”

But she noted that there “dissatisfactions” remain and there are “challenges” to improving the quality of services, the effectiveness of investments to ensure the vitality and image of tourist facilities, improve marketing and achieve greater diversification of tourism products.

José Reinaldo Alonso, investment and development director of Mintur, explained that among the plans this year is to promote activities linked to nature, heritage and cultural tourism.

With regards to this, he mentioned that Cuba ended last year with 66,547 rooms, and expects to have an increase in capacity of another four thousand in 2017.

Cuba closed last year with 66,547 rooms, and expects to have another four thousand ready in 2017

The official said that by the year 2020 the country expects is expected to add 20,000 new rooms to reach a total of 104,000 by 2030, in order to meet the high demand in the main tourist centers of the Caribbean country such as Havana, Varadero, Holguin, Cayería Norte and Trinidad.

He indicated that tourism is currently the sector with the largest foreign investment, with 110 new projects approved. However he is determined to streamline the bidding process and for this purpose has introduced management contracts with financing.

Officials said that in the previous year’s growth the North American region remained the largest supplier of travelers to Cuba, with Canada as the leader, followed by the United States; with the latter not having eased travel restrictions and authorized direct commercial flights to the island, although traveling to the island solely as a tourist is still formally prohibited.

Donald Trump’s Diatribes Hit Latin America / 14ymedio, Andres Oppenheimer

President-elect Donald Trump of the United States. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14medio, Andres Oppenheimer, 19 January 2017 — When people ask me if Donald Trump will be good or bad for Latin America, I usually respond that so far he has been bad, because his aggressive speech against Mexico and his harangues against free trade are driving away investments in the region. This week, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) partly confirmed my fears.

In its first economic forecast for 2017, the IMF said that the world economy will increase its growth rate to 3.4 percent this year and 3.6 percent in 2018. But the exception will be Latin America, it said. Continue reading “Donald Trump’s Diatribes Hit Latin America / 14ymedio, Andres Oppenheimer”

The IMF revised downward its previous economic projections for Latin America, saying that the region will grow 1.2 percent this year and 2.1 percent in 2018. In addition to slower-than-expected growth in Brazil and Argentina, the IMF cited what it diplomatically described as “an increase of the winds of uncertainty related to US policies in Mexico”

About 80 percent of Mexican exports go to the United States, and Central America depends to a large extent on family remittances from its migrants in the United States

Curious to know more, I called Alejandro Werner, head of the IMF’s Western Hemisphere Department, and asked about the economic impact of Trump’s promises to build a wall on the Mexican border, revise the free trade agreement with Mexico, and Canada and annihilate the TransPacific Partnership Agreement among 12 countries that include Japan, Mexico, Peru and Chile.

Werner told me that it is premature to speak of a negative psychological impact throughout the region, because several countries like Brazil have not grown more for internal reasons. But he added that Trump’s proposals have already affected investments of Mexico, the second largest economy in the region, and could affect Central America.

About 80 percent of Mexican exports go to the United States, and Central America depends to a large extent on family remittances from its migrants in the United States

“The mere fact that there is uncertainty about future US trade policies leads many companies to postpone their investments in Mexico,” Werner told me. “It is holding back the investments”

Trump’s economic plans are also putting pressure on US interest rates, Werner said.

Trump’s economic plans are also putting pressure on US interest rates, Werner said. That may affect investments in Latin American countries and make it more expensive to get foreign loans.

When I asked him what would be the best scenario for Latin America under Trump, Werner said that if the US economy grows, whether through healthy economic policies or short-lived populist measures, Latin American commodity exporters will benefit. “If there is more infrastructure construction in the United States, that will help Latin American exporters of steel, copper and other products,” Werner said.

Other economists see another potential advantage for the region: they say that if Trump decided to focus its protectionist policies on China rather than Mexico, and place higher import tariffs on Chinese products than on Mexican, many manufacturers might decide to move out of China to Mexico and other Latin American countries.

My opinion: Trump’s diatribes against free trade – “They’re killing us” – and his threats to dramatically increase undocumented deportations have already had a negative economic impact on Latin America.

It is time for Trump to try to strengthen, rather than weaken, Latin American economies

It is time for Trump to try to strengthen, rather than weaken, Latin American economies. He needs to move from tweetocracy to diplomacy. On the contrary, his populist demagoguery will be counterproductive: it will provoke an economic crisis in Mexico and in other countries, which will result in more illegal migration to the United States, more drug trafficking and a new outbreak of anti-American sentiment.

Postscript: The decision of about 60 US legislators to boycott Trump’s inauguration is a mistake. It is true that Trump won partly with the help of Russia and the director of the FBI, and that for five years Trump himself led a disgusting campaign to delegitimize President Obama claiming – falsely – that he was born in Kenya, but so far no branch of the US government has declared Trump illegitimate. As long as that does not happen, we have to accept that, whether we like it or not, Trump won the election.

_______________

Editor’s Note: This article has been previously published El Nuevo Herald. We reproduce it with the authorization of the author.

First Laptops Arrive in the Hands of Artemisa’s Doctors / 14ymedio, Bertha Guillen

Doctors wait outside the store to buy their Asus laptops at a subsidized price. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Bertha Guillen, Candelaria, 19 January 2017 – “After a long wait I have my laptop,” affirms Amaury Rodriguez, a doctor who is a general practitioner in Guanajay, Artemisa, with satisfaction. The laptops are being distributed at subsidized prices to the public health sector in Artemisa, an initiative that is not without its critics.

At a cost of 668 Cuban pesos, about 25 dollars, and without the ability to pay in installments, the computers are allocated to any doctor who obtained a diploma before the end of 2015. The list of beneficiaries also includes those who have served on a medical mission abroad. Continue reading “First Laptops Arrive in the Hands of Artemisa’s Doctors / 14ymedio, Bertha Guillen”

“My salary is 1,295 CUP from which they deduct 5% for the payment of social security and any other invention that arises, which leaves me approximately 1,240 CUP,” Rodriguez told this newspaper. The health professional estimates the cost of the laptop to be “more than half” of his monthly salary.

The approximate take-home pay of doctors is around 1,240 Cuban pesos, meaning the subsidized the laptop costs more than half a month’s salary

Nevertheless, in spite of the juggling he has to do to make ends meet with the new expense, Rodriguez is content. “It’s about time they remembered us,” he says, referring to the medical profession.

Cuban Public Health employs a total of 262,764 people, of whom 87,982 are doctors, according to data from the 2015 Statistical Yearbook.

The doctors earn the highest wages in the country, equivalent to a total of between 50 and 70 dollars per month, but also have to deal daily with a working day marked by very long hours, the material deficiencies that affect the hospitals, and the dissatisfaction of their patients.

In Artemis, the physicians can acquire a laptop at a store that caters to public health workers, located in the provincial capital, a situation that has led to long lines outside the premises, where impatience mixes with the desire to obtain the desired piece of technology as soon as possible.

The store’s administrator, Roberto Gallardo, told the provincial newspaper, El Artemiseño, that “once the sale of the laptops is concluded,” there will be offerings for “uniformed nurses, lifeguards, anti-mosquito campaigners and physiotherapists.”

Gallardo, who works for the Provincial Logistics Company (Epola), said they are trying to pay more attention to health care workers and so among the things that might be offered are, “home appliances, and supplies for personal grooming and the home.”

In Artemisa, the doctors can buy laptops in the store for public health workers located in the provincial capital. (14ymedio)

One of the workers from the store told 14ymedio that the sale of computers will continue throughout January, although they initially planned to end it in the first half of the month. “So far we have sold, in Artemisa, San Cristóbal, Candelaria and Guanajay, but we still have towns to cover,” explains the employee.

“We started with the hospitals and then the doctors in the clinics, which is a large number,” said the employee, who preferred to remain anonymous.

The computers distributed are mostly ASUS brand, from Taiwan, and have a two-year warranty, but only on condition that the user does not change the version of the Microsoft Windows operating system that comes with the computer.

The price of one of those notebooks in the informal market is between 200 and 300 Cuban convertible pesos (equivalent to about the same in dollars), so some doctors are not waiting to resell them to get cash, and others to buy a machine with better features.

Rubén, a computer engineer in the area, points out that other little-known brands are also being sold. In his opinion, “the computers are only a token,” because the quality is not good and he considers the integrated battery a limitation, since it makes it difficult to replace it in case of damages.

The price of one of these laptops in the informal market oscillates between 200 and 300 CUC, so some doctors aren’t waiting to resell them for cash

Ana, a doctor in the provincial hospital is not satisfied. “We Cuban doctors are accustomed to surviving from the charity and gratitude of our patients,” she complains. “The bad conditions under which we work are a secret to no one.”

Nor is she satisfied with the quality of the computer compared to “the millions of dollars the Government earns through the sale of medical services abroad.” The official Granma newspaper itself has revealed that each year Cuba collects more than 8.2 billion CUC (roughly equivalent to the same in dollars) through “exporting health services.”

Roberto, another doctor in Artemisa, does not share the opinion of his colleague. “I’m happy with mine, and I can connect via Wi-Fi,” he tells this newspaper. “Maybe the machine is not the best, but it’s cheaper than you can buy on the street, and anyway, I didn’t have one,” he enthused.

However, the physician is more cautious about the other possible benefits announced for the sector. “The story that they are going to give us access to the internet is a trap.” He also distrusts being the idea that he will be able to obtain an affordable car and sees it as something unattainable “for those who have to go to work every day on a bicycle.”

The Mummified Corpse Of A Rafter, Witness Of The Migratory Drama / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Video of the disappeared rafters building the raft

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 19 January 2017 — A picture of the Virgin of Regla, the identity cards of two brothers and a mummified corpse of a Cuban moored alongside the remains of a raft is the only evidence that remained of the six men who escaped from Cuba’s Isle of Youth to Central America This summer looking to reach the United States.

Missing for six months, the discovery of the remains of a man on the beaches of Corpus Christi last fall shocked his relatives, most of them humble fishermen on the Isle of Youth.

In early October a shrimp boatman from Port Aransas informed the US Coast Guard that he had found a raft with a body, as reported to Entravisión a local television channel. Continue reading “The Mummified Corpse Of A Rafter, Witness Of The Migratory Drama / 14ymedio, Mario Penton”

Authorities attempted to contact the Pupo Pupo family in Cuba for sample comparison, but the Cuban embassy in Washington did not facilitate communication

The authorities were able to confirm that it was a man in an advanced state of decomposition. In the pockets of the victim they found the identity cards of Juan Antonio Pupo Pupo and Amauris Pupo Pupo, next to a picture of the Virgin of Regla.

Heraldo Peña, a forensic investigator in Nueces County, explained via telephone to this newspaper that, because of the condition of the body, it was not possible to identify the victim, but DNA samples were kept for comparison to relatives who might appear later.

“We could see that it was a man and we determined that he died because of the lack of food and water,” said Peña, who also added that because of the saltpetre the remains were mummified.

“It was not possible to conclude if the corpse corresponds to any of the identifications that he carried,” he says.

An official related the case, who did not want to be identified, said that since the first clues were known about the possible Cuban origin of the deceased, the authorities tried to contact the Pupo Pupo family in Cuba to make the comparison of the DNA samples, but the Cuban embassy in Washington did not facilitate communication.

“It is not allowed to speak about the role of the Cuban Consulate in the investigation because now we want to have better relations with Cuba,” said the official, adding that everything possible was done before burial of the body in a graveyard for the indigent.

“It is not allowed to speak about the role of the Cuban Consulate in the investigation because now we want to have better relations with Cuba”

This version does not agree with the statements of Hugo Vega, officer in charge of the US Border Patrol’s Missing Migrant Initiative.

Vega maintains that the Cuban consular section promised to provide fingerprints and information that would enable identification of the alleged Cuban.

“We try to get the deceased migrants identified by their relatives,” says the official from the state of Texas. Since the case was heard, the Border Patrol agent contacted Noyri Muñoz, the sister of one of the rafters residing in Spain.

14ymedio contacted the press office of the Cuban Embassy in Washington via email in order to confirm this information but received no reply.

Approximate route of the rafters who disappeared after leaving Cuba

The identity cards carried by the body found south of Corpus Christi correspond to two brothers of the Pupo Pupo family, who along with four other rafters have been missing since last July.

The group, initially composed of 13 men, left the Isle of Youth on a precarious boat to try to reach Mexico or Central America and from there to continue their journey to the United States.

After about 15 days of navigation and the breakdown of the engine, they decided to separate. The boat was made of boards and truck tires, so according to the testimony of Guillermo Ramirez, the only survivor of the crossing who is in the United States, they divided the raft in hopes of being found more easily.

According to Ramírez, at least four boats passed by and did not help them

Ramirez, like the rest of the survivors who were repatriated to Cuba from Mexico, does not want to respond to questions from the press. The only testimony about what happened he told a family member this summer.

A group of seven men stayed in half the boat and six others headed off in the other half to increase the chances of a boat finding them.

According to Ramírez, at least four boats passed by and did not help them. The group of seven drifting rafters were rescued by the supply vessel MV Fugro Vasilis, 130 miles from Arrecife Alacranes, north of the Yucatan peninsula. Of the other six nothing is known at the moment.

The names of the disappeared are José Armando Muñoz López, Luis Velásquez Osorio, Rafael Rives Rives, Yoendry Rives del Campo, Amauri Pupo Pupo and Juan Antonio Pupo Pupo.

“We don’t know anything of my husband,” the wife of Amauris Pupo Pupo said by telephone from the Isle of Youth. “We all consider him dead, it is better not to continue with this tragedy,” she adds.

According to the woman’s statements, they have not received any official communication about the finding of the corpse, but through other relatives they are kept informed of the case..

“Their mother is the one who has suffered most through all this. She will end up in a hospital with so much suffering,” she adds.

“We know nothing of my husband,” said the wife of Amauris Pupo Pupo. “We all consider him dead, it is better not to continue with this tragedy”

For Noyri Muñoz, sister of José Armando Muñoz López, hope is the last thing that is lost.

“I have brought my nephew to live with me in Spain. He did not have the opportunity to see videos about the rafters and the migratory drama in Cuba, and every time he does he gets very ill,” says Muñoz, 48.

Muñoz’s mother remains on the Isle of Youth with her sister-in-law.

“At least I have the consolation that wherever he is, my brother will be happy to see that his son was able to leave Cuba, which was why he launched himself into the sea: to have freedom and prosperity,” she says.

Thousands Of Cubans Stranded Along The Continent Put Their Hope In Trump / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Elisabet Casero (right) defected one day before the United States eliminated the Cuban Medical Professional Parole program. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 18 January 2017 — Abandoned to their fate on islands, in jungles and at borders, thousands of Cubans have not recovered from the surprise measure of Barack Obama’s administration that frustrated the trip for which they sold their few belongings in Cuba to venture to reach American soil.

With a soft voice, sometimes broken by emotion and sadness, Elisabet Casero Fernández, a Cuban dentist who fled Venezuela a week ago, laments the situation in which her compatriots have been left.

Casero escaped one day before the United States eliminated its Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) program – through which doctors who deserted their missions abroad were allowed to settle in the United States – and the policy of wet foot/dry foot, by which Cubans who touched land in the United States were allowed to stay and become legal residents. Continue reading “Thousands Of Cubans Stranded Along The Continent Put Their Hope In Trump / 14ymedio, Mario Penton”

Cuban doctors go abroad with an official passport, which is why on the border between Colombia and Venezuela they are easily identified and handed over to the Cuban authorities

“We believed in American legality, in the opportunity to rebuild our lives away from a government that does not allow us to be free and that clings to not changing,” she says from Bogota.

Cuban doctors go abroad with an official passport, which is why on the border between Colombia and Venezuela they are easily identified and handed over to the Cuban authorities, who will forcibly repatriate them and retaliate.

“I had to cross the jungle on a motorcycle. It was the only way to circumvent the surveillance that doctors are subjected to,” she explains.

Leaving is expensive. Dr. Casero earned barely 27,000 bolivars a month (less than 10 dollars when exchanged on the street) while working in the state of Carabobo. In order to flee, she had to save as much as she could from her meager salary.

“The Cuban medical mission also did not give us money for water and gas, we had to rely on the ‘solidarity of friends’,” she told us.

In practice, the Cuban authorities asked their doctors to have Venezuelan patients pay for the cost of these basic services.

The decision to travel to Venezuela was also made under pressure, according to the doctor. “They told us that we should go on a mission. If you refuse, you can lose even your career because they call you a counterrevolutionary,” she says.

According to Casero, once in Venezuela she understood the urgency of the Cuban Ministry of Health.

“You are a mainstay of the medical mission,” they were told. The reality, according to this young woman of 24 years, is that Venezuela “pays more” for dentists than for other doctors, so they had to work more hours and were carefully monitored to enforce the statistics of consultations in exchange for which the Venezuela Government pays Cuba in oil.

“I did not even have the opportunity to finish my residency,” she adds.

The doctors are carefully monitored to enforce the statistics of consultations in exchange for which the Venezuelan Government pays Cuba in oil

With the recent changes, even Cuban doctors who have already applied for the CMPP program will be treated like any other migrant, so the dentist’s hopes of resolving her case are increasingly distant.

“When I arrived at the US embassy in Bogotá, they told me that I could no longer ask for asylum. Now that I have deserted I cannot enter Cuba for eight years and if they catch me, I will end up being retaliated against,” he says.

Her money that, as a stimulus, the Cuban Government deposited in an account in a bank in Cuba, has already been expropriated, she learned directly from her mother, whom she had lived with.

In Colombia hundreds of doctors are waiting for a favorable decision from the US embassy. An indeterminate number are in Brazil where, in 2016, 1,439 doctors benefited from the CMPP.

But doctors are not the only ones affected. There are also dozens of emigrants who are transiting Central America after their departure from Ecuador and Guyana. They seek to reach Panama by going through the Darien Gap, one of the most dangerous jungles in the world.

In Trinidad and Tobago, of a group of 15 Cubans detained by the immigration authorities, there are only six left. All the others have been forcibly repatriated to Cuba.

“The Cuban embassy is involved in this and we are desperate. There were political refugees among us, but they did not care,” explains Baldomero Despaigne speaking from that Caribbean country.

“They are preparing everything to return all of us who are still here. We need help,” he says.

In Suriname, another group of Cubans, including women members of the Ladies in White with their children, are asking for clemency to reach the United States.

In the Caritas hostel in Panama, in less than a week more than 230 refugees have arrived, waiting for the American administration to grant a grace period

In the Caritas hostel in Panama the presence of Cuban migrants has increased significantly. In less than a week more than 230 refugees have arrived for the US administration to grant a grace period that allows them to reach their destination.

“They are calling by phone to indicate that they will continue to arrive from the jungle. At least 70 migrants are announced for the next few hours,” said Deacon Victor Berrío, who is in charge of the institution.

However, the director of Panama’s National Service of Migratio, Javier Carrillo, announced that undocumented Cubans must leave the country. “The law is clear, they must leave the national territory,” Carrillo told this newspaper.

Some of these migrants have not stopped at the announcement of the end of the policy of wet foot-feet and continue their way towards the American border. On Tuesday, the presidential adviser Ben Rhodes said the US does not host the Cubans who were on the border of that country and Mexico.

“We are not going to stop, we will continue to the border, we have spent a lot of time to escape from Cuba and we have no desire to go back, we have no house or money or anything,” says Yuniel Ramos, a migrant who left everything and crossed Central America from Ecuador. Now he is about to cross Mexico.

“The Siglo XXI Migrant Station in Tapachula is full of Cubans, people do not want to go there because they leave you in jail,” says Miguel Antunez, another Cuban who is in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

This situation of defenselessness makes migrants the victims of scammers and corrupt officials

“The lines are long to get the safe passage and cross Mexico. They gave me an appointment for the second week of February,” he adds. This situation of defenselessness makes migrants the victims of scammers and corrupt officials.

“An attorney with connections inside Migration is giving Cubans papers for $500. Even the Migration officials themselves tell you that if you give them money they will move your turn up to the next day,” adds Antunez.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Cubans continue to arrive from Central America. Next to the US border dozens of Cubans wait to see what the new White House tenant will do.

“Trump is the only hope we have left,” says Antunez. “Obama has betrayed us, and he went to Cuban to become the friend of Cubans. Trump is the only hope left to us,” says Antunez.

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This article is part of an arrangement between 14ymedio and El Nuevo Herald.

Karina Gálvez: “I Knew a Lot of People Were Watching Over Me” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Karina Gálvez, editor of the magazine Coexistence in Pinar del Río (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 18 January 2017 — When she got home, she kissed her mother and took a long, intense shower, like the one she dreamed during the six days she was detained. Karina Galvez let the water run to take away her weariness and the hopelessness that the imprisonment had caused her. Outside her home, neighbors welcomed her with hugs on Tuesday, after she was released on a 2,000 Cuban peso bond, still facing charges of alleged tax evasion, linked to the purchase of a home.

During his first hours out of the cell, Galvez knew that the Cuba he had left a week before had changed. She learned, only then, of the end of the United States’ Wet Foot/Dry Foot policy and she knew that the international solidarity around him had been much greater than she could have imagined. Surrounded by her friends and trying to recover every missing minute, the economist answered some questions for 14ymedio via telephone.

Yoani Sanchez: What is your current legal situation? Is there a date for a hearing?

Karina Gálvez: They haven’t told me a date for the trial. The only thing I have is the document known as the “auto” that describes the case, so I can name a lawyer. Continue reading “Karina Gálvez: “I Knew a Lot of People Were Watching Over Me” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

Yoani Sanchez: What were the main emotional supports you had in your days of confinement?

Karina Gálvez: I confess I had moments when I felt emotionally broken. I had never slept in a cell before. The anguish of being unaware of what was happening outside, of being cut off, was quite strong.

At one point I asked God to give me a sign that he was there with me and a few minutes later Major Odalys came in and brought me a bible that my sister had brought me. I was very shocked by that moment.

It has been one of the most difficult things I have ever experienced, although I felt sure of solidarity

It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever experienced, although I felt sure of solidarity. I knew a lot of people were watching over me and that my family was not alone.

Yoani Sanchez: And on leaving did you confirm that impression?

Karina Gálvez: I fell a little short in my calculations… last night when I left I found out that the solidarity had been immense. Support has gone beyond friends. I have to thank all those who supported me and tell them that all the energy of knowing that people were with me helped me a lot in there.

Yoani Sanchez: What were the conditions of the place where you were detained?

Karina Gálvez: I can not complain about my treatment, because it was – within the injustice that I was there – respectful and without offense. But the material conditions were difficult. Especially the bathrooms, water and food, which are difficult anywhere in Cuba. On the other hand, in an situation of anguish I found it difficult to eat. Although I was willing to so as not to get sick and to preserve my health.

Yoani Sanchez: The arrest took place a few days before the second part of a meeting of the Coexistence Studies Center, this time in Miami. Will you be able to participate?

Karina Gálvez: No, because I have a pending case I cannot leave the country.

Yoani Sanchez: Have you been unable to access your home from where you were arrested?

Karina Gálvez: The house is still “occupied,” with a seal placed on the door and almost all things that are inside are also “occupied.”

Belkis Cantillo Launches A New Fight From Santiago De Cuba / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Belkis Cantillo (center) in a march of Citizens for Democracy in the celebration of the Charity of Cobre. (UNPACU)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 17 January 2017 — Talking with Belkis Cantillo these days can be an impossible mission. With her home raided on several occasions, a daughter about to give her her first granddaughter and the foundation of the new Dignity Movement, the life of this woman is a whirlwind. A resident of Palmarito del Cauto, Santiago de Cuba, the activist is looking forward to better days for Cuba, but she is not ready to fold her arms to wait for them.

With her voice breaking up, Cantillo speaks through the telephone line about her projects and the new organization she has created to support the prisoners who populate the prisons of the Island. She clarifies, to anyone who asks about the origins of the new group, that many of the women who comprise it were part of the Ladies in White. “We were also the group Citizens for Democracy (CXD) and most of us have a great deal of knowledge about this struggle.” Continue reading “Belkis Cantillo Launches A New Fight From Santiago De Cuba / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar”

The activist is looking forward to better days for Cuba, but she is not ready to fold her arms to wait for them

For Cantillo, life is a perennial battle. Last Friday at dawn she crossed the mountain to avoid the police siege and shorten the distance that separates her house from the Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Charity of Cobre, patroness of Cuba, whom Cubans affectionately call Cachita. Although she considers herself a devotee of Cachita, this time it was not only her faith that moved her. Some 16 women gathered there to announce the birth of the Dignity Movement.

“The repression was so great that only some of us made it here,” she tells 14ymedio. The fright from what she experienced has not yet passed, but Cantillo is a “battle-hardened” woman. Under her leadership are now grouped around 60 companions of the struggle, three-quarters with a history of activism and experience in opposition from eastern Cuba, the area of ​​the country most tightly controlled by State Security.

“We entered, 14 of us, and later, at ten at night, two more,” Cantillo explains. The surveillance agents also arrived and they threatened them, telling them to withdraw without waiting for Sunday Mass. The women insisted in remaining in a nearby shelter, managed by the church, but in the end they had to return to their homes.

“They didn’t let us eat, nor even drink water. They’d never seen anything like that there, they even called the police to get us out,” she remembered. But the people who were pressuring them didn’t know they had given birth to a new group.

The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, has words of encouragement for the movement that has just been born. “I see as good every person who fights against the regime,” she emphasizes. “Any movement that is willing to fight the regime, for me, is valid and effective in this fight,” she says. However, she disagrees with what happened on Saturday: “We have to respect the churches, that’s their discipline.”

At the center of her critique is the crime of “pre-criminal dangerousness” – a “crime” for which it is possible to imprison a citizen on the mere suspicion that they may commit a crime in the future.

Cantillo is now focused on the future. Her effort and that of the rest of her colleagues is focused on the common prisoners, a sector that few speak about and whom many avoid representing. “We chose these prisoners to help them and their families with the social and legal attention they need and do not have,” the woman said. At the center of her critique is the crime of “pre-criminal dangerousness” – a “crime” for which it is possible to imprison a citizen on the mere suspicion that they may commit a crime in the future.

In the middle of last year, the United Nations Development Program estimated that Cuba had 510 people in prison for every 100,000 inhabitants, a figure that places it at the head of the region. In 1959 the island had 14 prisons, the figure now exceeds 200, according to estimates by Elizardo Sánchez, president of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN).

For its part, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has denounced that, after El Salvador, Cuba is the country in Central America and the Caribbean with the highest rate of overcrowding in prisons. Between common and political prisoners, the prisons are estimated to house more than 80,000 Cubans, 80% of them black or mixed-race.

The activists are seeking to extend their actions to all provinces but, for the moment, feel comforted to have been able to get this far. “We have succeeded, now we will continue,” says Cantillo, with that direct and brief way of speaking of women accustomed to the rigors of rural life.

“All those who initiated the movement have been threatened by the political police, house by house,” she reports. However, “my family has always been very supportive of me and has had to be strong not to become divided.”

“All those who initiated the movement have been threatened by the political police, house by house”

The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), her husband, knows Cantillo’s determination well. José Daniel Ferrer looks positively on the formation of the new entity of the civil society. “It seems to us positive that women and men, in this case women, are concerned about the problems that most affect our nation, our society.”

“The only thing we had not recommended was to change the name, they already existed as Citizens for Democracy and had been known for two years,” he reflects.

Cantillo also leaves a space for premonition when she says in a firm tone of voice: “Soon my first granddaughter will come into the world and she will be very strong because she has experienced the repression since she was in the womb of her mother.”

Economist Karina Gálvez Released On Bail, After Six Days Of Arrest / 14ymedio

The independent economist Karina Gálvez, editor of the magazine Coexistence. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 January 2017 — On Tuesday night, economist Karina Gálvez was released after her family paid a bond of 2,000 Cuban pesos. The editor of the magazine Convivencia (Coexistence) thanked the solidarity of all those who denounced her arrest on 11 January, according to her statements to 14ymedio.

The activist met with her family and friends outside the place where she was detained, at kilometer four and a half pn the road to San Juan, in Pinar del Rio. The authorities did not inform her of an upcoming date for questioning or trial.

Gálvez’s release took place a few hours before Dagoberto Valdés, director of the independent publication, was subjected to an interrogation about the accusations against Galvez. Continue reading “Economist Karina Gálvez Released On Bail, After Six Days Of Arrest / 14ymedio”

“Major Odalys led me to an interrogation room with a video camera,” Valdés said at midday. “There she told me that if I lied I could be charged with perjury.” The official told him that he had been summoned to State Security headquarters – at four and a half kilometers on the road to San Juan, Pinar del Río- for being “a witness to an economic crime that has nothing to do with the project of the Coexistence Study Center.”

However, Attorney Wilfredo Vallín, president of the Cuban Legal Association, says that “it is the court that must have the last word about whether or not a statement is true and whether it is a perjury offense.” So “the law gives the person the opportunity to change his statement as often as he understands, but the final statement will be the one he makes before the court.”

The major repeated questions similar to those asked of Karina’s sister, Livia Gálvez, on Monday, and another member of the publication’s team, Idael Márquez, summoned last Saturday. The interrogation happened in the same place where the economist is being held and where Valdes was interviewed by the police last October and, warned that his life was going to be made “very difficult.

“Are you aware of the legal procedures around the sale of Karina’s property? Did you accompany her to the notary’s office to do the paperwork? How much money was given to complete the payment for the house?” These were among the questions asked by the director of the magazine Convivencia, who answered that he knew “absolutely nothing.”

The official blamed Valdés for being behind the transaction to acquire the property, an accusation that the layman rejected, urging the official to define whether the case was an “economic crime” or a charge with “political connotations,” related to the peaceful activism that the members of the Convivencia team maintain from the city of Pinar del Río.

“You have to participate as a witness in the trial,” Odalys told him, an assertion that has raised alarms over a possible cancellation of the right to leave the country for Valdés and other members of the team. Something that could negatively influence the presence of the members of the Coexistence Study Center during the upcoming meeting about education in Cuba scheduled for 28 and 29 in Miami, Florida.

U.S Deports 71 Cubans Detained Before Reversal of Wet Foot-Dry Foot Policy / EFE, 14ymedio

Cuban immigrants being repatriated by the U.S. Coast Guard.

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio) Miami , 16 January 2017 – A total of 71 Cubans were deported this Sunday after being detained in ­­­­­the Florida Straits seeking to enter the country days before the U.S government announced the change in immigration policy toward Cubans, the Coast Guard announced on Monday.

The immigrants were transferred to Bahía Cabañas, in Cuba, after being intercepted on five different operations between January 4th and 6th, dates prior to the White House announcing the end of the “wet foot/dry foot” policy. Continue reading “U.S Deports 71 Cubans Detained Before Reversal of Wet Foot-Dry Foot Policy / EFE, 14ymedio”

A statement by the Coast Guard said they carried out these operations in their function to protect the American border and to “prevent these trips by sea from ending up in tragedy.”

“We discourage anyone from going out to sea and attempting to reach U.S soil illegally. You are risking your lives with little chances of success,” said Captain Mark Gordon, of the Coast Guard Seventh District, who emphasized that navigating the Florida Straits could be “extremely dangerous,” especially with the bad weather currently in the area.

Gordon was categorical in saying the Coast Guard would continue these operations to “detain those who initiate the illegal, foolish and unsafe journey through the Florida Straits.”

He explained that once aboard the Coast Guard boat, the immigrants received basic medical attention, food and water.

Since October 1, 2016, when the current fiscal year began, at least 1,893 Cubans have attempted to enter the United States by sea.

On 12 January, the U.S. government announced the repeal of the “wet foot/ dry foot” policy,” which for 20 years granted preferential immigration status to Cubans able to reach U.S. soil, and granted them residency status after one year.

On the contrary, those intercepted at sea, even if only a few yards from shore, were returned to Cuba.

Due to fear of this policy ending there has been a notable increase of Cubans entering the U.S. in recent months, by land across U.S.-Mexico border, as well as by sea.

Last fiscal year, between October 1,, 2015 and September 30, 2016, 7,411 Cubans attempted to reach the U.S coast by sea, a significant increase from the 4, 473 that attempted the same in the 2015 fiscal year.

Translated by Chavely Garcia

A Park, A Dream / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta

A worker renovating Havana’s Martin Luther King Park

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta, Havana, 17 January 2017 — The neighbors of Martin Luther King Jr. Park have long cherished the dream of seeing a renewal for this piece of calm located in the middle of the hustle and bustle of 23rd Street in Havana’s Vedado district.

After years of deterioration, the small square began to be repaired in the middle of December, but the delay in the works prevented its being ready this Sunday, the 88th birthday of the United States preacher.

Difficulties in the supply of building materials and instability in the workforce have delayed the restoration beyond the date planned. A gardener from Community Services working in the green areas of the park told 14ymedio that new date could be before the end of this week, but did confirm the day.

The monument to Martin Luther King in the Havana park that bears his name

Martin Luther King Jr. has been an admired figure on the Island not only among Protestants and the Afro-descendant community, but also among dissidents. The park dedicated to him is a frequent meeting point for activists and a place to demand respect for human rights.

The park that bears his name is about to reopen, but his dreams of freedom and understanding seem far from being realized for Cubans.

The Melody of Money / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez

“Talk to me about money, not distance.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 15 January 2017 — A peculiar manifestation of freedom of expression can be seen in signs painted on the trucks used for passenger transport, the windshields of some automobiles or on the walls of private businesses. Some are cryptic, others explicit and not a few, rude. But everyone mixes some humor with some popular wisdom.

This young man, whose pedicab consumes exclusively human energy, does not want to be told “Take me to the train terminal” or “Leave me at the Carlos III market.” He is only interested in hearing how much the customer is willing to pay for a ride. Something that is clarified, explicitly, by the phrase painted on the back of the seat of his vehicle.

The call made by the driver also obeys an old relationship having to do with supply and demand on the island. Often those who offer a service do not put a price on their work, for fear that they will hear from the inspectors who regulate the rates, on the one hand or, on the other, of charging less than the customer is willing to pay.

If customers do not understand this dynamic, it can always be clearly written, in a huge sign like this one, and no one can say they weren’t warned.

Cuba’s Real Estate Market Shaken With End of Privileged Emigration to the US / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata

The real estate market has been largely fueled by homes whose owners have plans to emigrate. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, Zunilda Mata, 16 January 2017 – The sign is still hanging from the balcony. “For Sale,” it says in big letters that can be seen from the street. But Jorge no longer wants to auction off the apartment on Emilia Street in Santo Suarez. With Barack Obama’s decision to end the “Wet Foot/Dry Foot” policy, this 52-year-old Havanan has lost interest in obtaining, at any cost, the money to get him to the United States.

The buying and selling and private homes was authorized in Cuba at the end of 2011, after having been prohibited for decades. Decree-Law 288, approved at that time, allowed the transfer of property between both “Cuban natural persons living in the country,” and “permanent foreign residents of the national territory.” Continue reading “Cuba’s Real Estate Market Shaken With End of Privileged Emigration to the US / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata”

After the authorization, numerous private real estate companies emerged, and a flood of classified announcements inundated the housing sections of digital commerce sites such as Revolico, Por el Techo, Cubisima and Casas Cubanas. Many of the property descriptions include, “Selling to leave, I’m in a hurry.”

“They are more likely to lower prices and accelerate the whole process, because they need the money as soon as possible”

“The housing market has been fueled largely by houses whose owners have plans to emigrate,” Juan Alberto Fonseca, an economist and manager of a small office in Vedado that helps interested people sell or buy a home, tells 14ymedio.

“That motivation makes them more likely to lower prices and accelerate the whole process, because they need the money as soon as possible,” says the specialist. The end of the program that allows Cubans to automatically obtain residence in the United States “will directly influence the number of houses in the market,” he says.

Since the implementation of the immigration reform in January 2013, some 671,000 nationals have traveled abroad. Of these, 45% have returned to the island, and of the rest, according to figures released this week in the daily official Granma, many have not yet been gone longer than 24 months, the maximum time away that had been set in the law if a citizen wanted to maintain the right to reside in Cuba. (Prior to the reforms the maximum time Cubans could remain outside the country while keeping the right to reside in the country was 11 months and, under the new agreement with the US, the Cuban government has said it will extend that time to four years.)

Official figures do not specify whether travelers or emigrants have paid for their departure from the country with the sale of a car, a house, land or other properties such as appliances, jewelry or a cemetery plot. It has become common in recent years to exchange one’s possessions for an amount that will allow emigrants pay visa fees, tickets, transportation and payment to the coyotes that lead to the US border.

“We have sold everything, we can not go back,” says Charly Medina, a Cuban who was stranded in Turbo this week and received “like a bucket of cold water” Washington’s announcement that it was eliminating the immigration privileges enjoyed by the islanders. “With the sale of our house in Santa Clara we were able to get here, but we do not have anything else,” he explains.

Charly’s story is also the story of many of those who have stayed on the road to the United States border. If they were deported to the Island they would face the harsh reality of not even having a place to sleep.

“So far we have not noticed a drop in the number of houses for sale, but we are preparing for this measure to have an impact on the market,” an employee of Zafiro Real Estate, located in the suburb of Miramar, tells 14ymedio.

The real estate agent predicts that many will remove their homes “from the listings, so it is possible that there will be a rise in prices in the coming months.” However, she believes that in the short term little will change. “The vast majority of those interested in emigrating do not yet believe that the United States will strictly uphold Obama’s provision,” she adds.

The latest official figures, which are for the year 2013, indicate that the emerging real estate market reached about 80,000 transactions that year, double that of the previous year, according to Aniuska Puente Fontanella, a specialist at the Registry Office for Property, Commerce and the Heritage of the Ministry of Justice.

The practice of two-part payments, the first in Cuba in convertible pesos and the second in dollars or euros in the destination country of the seller, has become common

The practice of two-part payments, the first in Cuba in convertible pesos (CUC) and the second in dollars or euros in the destination country of the seller, has become common in the national real estate market. The law, however, states that transactions must be made in Cuban pesos (CUP) or CUC.

Each property’s title establishes a minimum reference value in CUP for the dwelling. That is the value that is usually stated during the purchase transaction and, on that amount, the buyer pays a 4% tax on the transmission of goods and inheritance and the seller the same amount on personal income. However, the actual transaction is made for an amount that is often ten times the declared amount.

Economist Juan Alberto Fonseca explained to this newspaper that “many owners prefer that part of the money be delivered to their family in Miami, Madrid or any other city to avoid having to take too much cash through the airport if they are going to emigrate.”

Several Cienfuego Residents Hospitalized with Malaria / 14ymedio

The Damují River empties into Cienfuegos Bay and is an ideal site for the propagation of the mosquito that carries malaria. (collruiz)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Cienfuegos/Miami, 10 January 2017 – About a dozen people have been hospitalized at Gustavo Aldereguía Lima Hospital in Cienfuegos with a diagnosis of malaria detected in Rodas, a municipality in southern central Cuba.

The cause of the disease is plasmodium, a parasite that is transmitted to humans through the bite of the female mosquito part of the anopheles genus. It is potentially deadly and affects various areas of the planet.

“They are undergoing sanitation efforts. They have eliminated the source from the Damují River and we are in the middle of an intense fumigation campaign through the streets,” explained a nurse from a Rodas polyclinic who chose to remain anonymous in the independent press due to fear of repercussions. Continue reading “Several Cienfuego Residents Hospitalized with Malaria / 14ymedio”

“It is something that cannot be spoken about unofficially. The Health Minister himself, Roberto Morales Ojeda, has visited the province on various occasions in the past several weeks,” confirms the same source.

Morales, born in Rodas, was at one time the director of the Municipal Unit of Hygiene and Epidemiology of that town and the municipal director of health in Rodas and Cienfuegos.

According to a Rodas native who now lives in Miami, alarm has spread throughout the population, which totals about 30,000 inhabitants.

“Family members call and describe the situation they find themselves in, but when you look for information through the official press there is nothing to be found,” says the anonymous source.

Malaria is an acute febrile illness. The first symptoms, which include fever, strong headaches, chills and vomiting, begin a week after the mosquito bite.

According to the medical literature, if the disease goes untreated within the first 24 hours, some cases of malaria, such as the one propagated by the parasite plasmodium falciparum, can escalate, often leading to death.

Children may show symptoms of severe anemia, sometimes even affecting the brain. In adults there can also be adverse effects on various organs.

For the spread of malaria to occur, mosquitoes need to have an area where they can reproduce, specifically, sitting fresh water and big puddles. Rodas is known as “the village of the Damují,” due to the presence of the river in the lives of the inhabitants. The river, which empties into the Bay of Cienfuegos, has the perfect conditions for anopheles mosquito reproduction; hence, the river sanitation campaigns.

Translated by Chavely Garcia