Police Accuse Journalist Boris Gonzalez of "Harassing Tourists"

Boris González during a time when he was on a scholarship in Germany. (Akademie Schloss)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 March 2018 — After 24 hours in detention, independent journalist Boris González is still in a dungeon at the police station in the city of Pinar del Río, where he was taken under an alleged “tourist harassment” violation, according to his wife Juliette Fernández.

The activist was arrested on Thursday morning when he went to the Municipal Court of Viñales, in Pinar del Rio, to cover a trial against several defendants for invading the property of biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, according to blogger Regina Coyula, speaking to this newspaper.

The activist was arrested on the morning of this Thursday when he went to the Municipal Court of Viñales, in Pinar del Rio, to cover a trial against several defendants for invading the property of biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, according to 14ymedio the blogger Regina Coyula.

González, who has also served as spokesperson for the #Otro18 (Another 2018) campaign, which seeks a democratic change on the island through electoral mechanisms, collaborates with several independent media and is the author of the digital blog Probidad Cuba.

In 2015, the journalist was expelled from his job at the International School of Film, Television and Video (EICTV) in San Antonio de los Baños because of his links with groups of activists from independent civil society.

The oral hearing González was going to cover this Thursday was about the accusations made by Ariel Ruiz Urquiola and his family against several residents who allegedly invaded his property and caused damage in the land located in the Sierra del Infierno, belonging to the Park National Viñales.

Oscar Casanella, Urquiola’s colleague, confirmed to this newspaper at the end of the trial that the defendants Yendry Álvarez and Yoel Álvarez (brothers) were acquitted of the crimes of which they were accused, including threats and coercion.

Urquiola settled in Viñales to carry out an investigation into the origins of life in the area, managed by the university of Havana and Humboldt University in Berlin. However, due to his activism and his closeness to government opponents, the Cuban side cut off its link with the project.

The house located on the plot is owned by Urquiola and the land is managed under a form of leasing known as usufruct and an agroecological farm has been developed. In 2008 the Government of Raúl Castro began the delivery of idle state lands in usufruct to try to revive the agricultural sector.

Urquiola has repeatedly denounced the raising of wild pigs in the area where his farm is located, a situation that has produced a negative environmental impact in a park with high natural and tourist value.

Their denunciations have been directed to the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of the Interior and the authorities of the People’s Power of the zone.


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

"The Problem Comes When You Remain Silent"

Frank Mitchel Chirino at a concert at La Marca. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 3 March 2018 — Recording a record at age 18 is something that doesn’t happen every day among troubadours. Frank Mitchel Chirino has joined that short list, overcoming censorship and family resistance — his father defined trova as a “chernas (homosexuals) thing” — and has now released the album Bodies of Water.

“Since I started playing in places linked to government institutions I heard the same thing: ‘this or that is censored’,” he recalls now with a mischievous smile on his lips while he talks with 14ymedio.

“Sometimes they made it clear to me that I could not invite certain artists to my performances, like Jorgito Kamankola, and other times they warned me about some song I could not play, then I said to myself, I do not want to live behind this fence.” continue reading

The artist opted for the independent way that opens a path, in spite of the limitations in the Cuban reality. Last year he won a scholarship, A Muleta Música, awarded by Galería-Estudio La Marca to promote young and independent art and, according to the promoters, an opportunity for the “production, management and positioning” of his work.

Chirino believes that the scholarship arrived for “a little bit of luck,” because the designer Roberto Ramos, organizer of La Marca musical space, heard him at troubadour Noslen Porrua’s club in Bejucal and that led to them considering him for the scholarship. At that time his artistic life took a favorable turn and he was able to afford to record several of his songs.

“In the beginning we were going to make the album with just the guitar, nothing else, but then the musicians appeared and together we made the arrangements,” recalls Chirino.

In its beginnings, the musician played in some clubs but later joined others to form the band Náufrago (Shipwrecked), which came to perform regularly at the Old Havana House of Poetry. “It did not last long due to censorship, fear and lack of organization,” he laments, in reference to the guidelines issued by the institutional media about what can and can not be sung.

Censorship also dogged the heels of Chirino on the radio and at festivals. On several stations where he sang he was always warned that some of his songs could not be played. “Everything that is new and seems outside the norm disappears,” complains the young musician, with regards to the prohibitions placed on those musical themes with elements of social criticism.

The clashes with the institutions reached their climax at a trova festival in the city of Bayamo. Before going on stage, Chirino and another troubadour were summoned to the office of a cultural official who demanded that they sing before him, and before going onstage, the songs they had prepared.

For the artist, this constituted a lack of respect but it served to cement his opinion about the official media and the circuit of places where artists can perform. He also believes that the spaces to promote trova in the official media only work for authors who sing “in favor” of the system.

According to his vision, television programs such as Cuerda Viva already “have nothing to do with the idea of those who are starting out” and now “the same faces are always seen.” He considers that the producers have fallen into “mediocrity” and points again to the fear of event space managers about “the consequences” they may face if they move away from what is allowed by the authorities. “It’s a real fear but you have to fight against that,” he emphasizes.

Part of those experiences with officials, terrified cultural promoters and informers, are reflected in the theme “Échate pa ’allá”  included in his recently finished album.

“Censorship persecutes us by stabbing bodies, they are assasins of a sleeping freedom” he warns in one of the verses of this theme that hs considers “an amulet” against this phenomenon. “I was hooked on the truth and the truth is that I do not let go,” says the author of compositions such as Palenque and After the Smoke.

“Rest assured that I do not want to have anything to do with the government and less with the bureaucracy,” he explains in the interview, evoking the feelings that led him to compose the song with Kamankola. “It’s to scare off all of that and to get the powers that be off my back.”

His song circulates in the alternative networks of musical distribution as a kind of hymn against the snitch, the figure of the informant who is so present in Cuban life. “There are many people who do not live their lives, who are just waiting for others to live,” says Chirino.

Trova enjoyed privileged media coverage in the ’80s, but in the last two decades other genres such as salsa and reggaeton, which are more commercial, have been prioritized. Programs such as Cáscara de Mandarina that promoted genres such as trova and rock from the island disappeared from television, while others such as Piso 6, which mainly promote international music, salsa and Cuban pop are shown endlessly on national TV.

As a competent digital native, Chirino considers new technologies essential because they allow him to independently disseminate his work. “If I had to subordinate myself to the conditions of a label, I would never have been able to make Bodies of Water.

“The problem comes when you stay silent, what happens is that people do not want to say what they feel because they are afraid” but “the duty is to relate, in a more direct way, what is happening.”

However, he believes that he began his career in a “hard” way to make it clear that he is not planning to moderate his art or censor his lyrics to win “an institutional space.”


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

Security Employee Investigated for Theft of National Heritage Items

The stolen mirror and brush of the Birthplace of Ignacio Agramonte and found by the General Customs of the Republic. (AGR)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ignacio de la Paz,Camagüey, 13 March 2018 — A security employee remains in prison for a robbery committed at the Ignacio Agramonte y Loynaz Birthplace in Camagüey. A Mexican tourist was intercepted at the provincial airport trying to get some of these pieces out of the country, but others remain missing.

An employee of the Ignacio Agramonte Birthplace, who preferred anonymity, told 14ymedio that “the thefts took place during several nights in the art warehouse” to avoid their being noticed. A security employee of the institution has been arrested and is being prosecuted for his alleged involvement in the crime, according to the worker. continue reading

On February 2, coinciding with the anniversary of the founding of the town of Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe, as this city in the center of the island was initially called, local media announced the theft of valuable national heritage objects from the museum dedicated to the most distinguished independence hero of the region.

The media classified the articles as “unique, priceless and irreplaceable” and the museum specialists also considered them “jewels” valuable for their antiquity and for being a part of the national heritage.

Four days later, the General Customs Office of the Republic (AGR) found two of the objects stolen in the robbery in the luggage of a Mexican traveler: a mirror and a hairbrush. The tourist was about to leave from the Camagüey International Airport to the United States when the pieces belonging to the museum’s collection were found.

Both objects were returned to the museum after an intense investigation in which all museum workers were questioned and a thorough review of the inventories conducted revealed the absence of other objects that have not yet been found.

Another stolen monument was dedicated to mothers donated by the Great Order of Perseverance to the city of Camagüey. (14ymedio)

“The police figured out that the night guard tampered with the security seal to enter the warehouse,” explained the employee of the institution. A common practice in state institutions that store goods of some value is to place a string on a piece of plasticine at the door to later determine if there was unauthorized access.

“The warehouse did not have bars or a padlock although now they have installed one,” explains the worker. “Nor do the employees know the list of stolen objects because it is kept secret,” he explains, although they have also detected the absence of “a set of silver spoons and alpaca objects.”

The guard arrested is in preventive detention without bail and awaiting trial. Police investigators are in the midst of the process of collecting evidence to determine if an accusation is appropriate, this newspaper was able to confirm.

“Now they are trying to determine if he acted alone or had a network of accomplices to be able to get the objects into the hands of interested foreign buyers,” a police officer involved in the case told 14ymedio. “The priority is to find what is missing,” he says.

“The place was not violated and there was no sign that the thief or thieves had arrived from outside the institution, so everything indicates that the robbery was carried out in collaboration with someone inside,” adds the official of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR).

The director of the museum has asked the workers not to comment on the investigation and has clarified that none of the stolen property belonged to Agramonte or his family, but were objects from his time, to provide context.

The theft joins a long list of valuable national heritage items stolen in Camagüey in recent years. Among them are several early printed books, volumes from Julio Antonio Mella provincial library, the bronze eyeglasses from the monument to the Spanish aviators Mariano Barberán and Joaquín Collar, as well as numerous funerary sculptures from Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje General Cemetery.

Also stolen were pieces of the monument dedicated to the mothers donated by the Great Order of Perseverance to the city of Camagüey, which was located in the Casino Campestre sand park, and the silver bells of the catafalque of Santo Sepulcher from La Merced Church.

The customs authorities have warned that with the increase of foreign tourism that has been occurring on the island in recent years there has also been an increase in the illicit trade in objects that are considered heritage assets.

In 2014, UNESCO strongly condemned several acts of this type that occurred on the island and added that they jeopardized the integrity of the patrimonial pieces and left them at the mercy of the illicit traffic of cultural goods.

According to an official statement issued in February of that year by the National Council of Cultural Heritage of Cuba (CNPC), a significant number of pieces of art were stolen from one of the warehouses of the National Museum of Fine Arts, in Havana, without access to the premises being violated.


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

Cuban Government Establishes New Restrictions on Imports of State-Owned Companies

The measure aims to prevent “external indebtedness from continuing to grow”. (Pixabay)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 March 2108– Cuban state companies intending to import goods valued at more than $100,000 must obtain a letter of credit from the Central Bank, “at a time when the country is struggling with a liquidity crisis and growing debt,” Reuters reported on Tuesday.

According to Central Bank Resolution 19/2018, which came into effect this month, the measure seeks to ensure that companies have the resources to meet their obligations and to prevent “external indebtedness from continuing to grow.” continue reading

“Other Latin American countries have adopted similar measures in the past, such as Argentina, but those were market economies not controlled by the state,” a Western banker told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

This source believed that the initiative “would lead to a short-term fall in imports and a slower procurement of supplies, as well as the closure of non-essential and insolvent companies.”

According to government data, imports went from 13.9 billion dollars in 2014 to 10.3 billion in 2016, while in the same period Cuban exports also fell from 17.8 billion to 13.6 billion.

“Cuba reported its debt for the last time in 2014, when it stood at 18.9 billion dollars,” the article notes, which points out that, although the island has since restructured much of its official debt, state companies owe more than one billion dollars to suppliers, according to diplomats and foreign businessmen.

According to Reuters, the island “has suffered from the implosion of the economy and the oil industry of its ally” Venezuela, but also a fall in productivity throughout the country due to electricity cuts.


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

Paya Prize Awarded Without Honorees, In An Event Cuban Government Calls a "Provocation"

About twelve people were able to attend the Payá Award, among whom were diplomats from the US Embassy in Havana and also from the Czech Republic. (Facebook)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 8 March 2017 — The Oswaldo Payá prize was presented this Thursday, in a symbolic way, to the IDEA initiative, after Cuba refused entrance on Wednesday to the presidents of Colombia, Andres Pastrana, and of Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga, who came to receive the award in an act seen by the Government of the Island as a “provocation.”

Pastrana and Quiroga were to receive, on behalf of the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA) — an organization made up of 37 former heads of State and Government — the prize that bears the name of the late dissident Oswaldo Payá (1952-2012), which was first  awarded last year by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, directed by Rosa María Payá, daughter of the late opponent. continue reading

In the absence of a reaction from the government, the official press, which frequently serves as a state platform to publicize its position, emphasized on Thursday that the presidents knew in advance that they were not welcome in Cuba, and they were intending to participate in what the press called a “failed anti-Cuban provocation forged from Washington.”

“Only a dictatorship feels provoked by the fact that two democratically elected ex-presidents would come to receive an award for their work in favor of democracy, invited by free citizens of that country,” said Rosa María Payá in the symbolic award ceremony at his family home, where none of the international invited guests were able to be present.

According to Payá, at least six guests — among them IDEA legislators and former presidents, as well as the secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro — tried to travel to Cuba, but were not able to enter the country, or to board their planes or even to obtain a visa.

Within the Island there were also people who were not able to attend the event. The artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, told 14ymedio that he woke up this Thursday with police surrounding his house to prevent him from attending the award ceremony. A text message from his mobile phone had previously been sent inviting several people to the ceremony.

About twelve people were able to attend the event, among whom were diplomats from the US Embassy in Havana and also from the Czech Republic. The activist Iliana Hernández, the opposition Librado Linares, former prisoner of the so-called Black Spring, the blogger Lía Villares and Sayli Navarro, an activist of the CubaDecides initiative, also attended despite the measures taken by State Security.

Agents were also stationed outside the home of Iliana Hernandez but the activist was able to deceive them to get to the event by car.

Rosa María Payá (right), promoter of the dissident group Cuba Decides, explained that the award to IDEA award is for their “direct action” for the rights of the Venezuelan people. (Facebook)

Payá, promoter of the dissident group CubaDecides — which is part of the Latin American Network — explained that the award to IDEA is for its to its “direct action” for the rights of the Venezuelan people and to spread democracy in Latin America, which has seen a “setback” in recent years due to the “interference of the Cuban regime, especially in Venezuela.”

“Ending the threat that the Cuban intelligence system and Castroism represents for democracy throughout the continent is an urgent task that begins with supporting democracy in Cuba,” said Payá, speaking about CubaDecides, which demands a binding plebiscite on the Island to change the political system and achieve “free, fair and plural elections.”

Despite not being able to attend the award ceremony in Havana, Pastrana sent a message of thanks in which he expressed the commitment of the former presidents who are members of IDEA to join with the Latin American youth of the Network to “continue fighting to defend and promote the democracy.”

In this second edition of the “Oswaldo Payá: Freedom and Life Award,” the Venezuelan opposition leader Antonio Ledezma — exiled in Madrid for months — received a special mention and also sent a message of gratitude that was read this Thursday at the event.

The former mayor of Caracas explained the reasons for his absence in Havana: “In my case, the guardians of the Venezuelan regime would have turned me over to their cronies to submit me again to the torture of a rigged judicial process.”

Luis Almagro, who was recognized with the Payá Prize last year in his first edition, was also unable to attend that year’s event, when the Cuban authorities denied him permission to enter the Island.

This year he again asked for a visa, but as of Wednesday he had not received a response, so he chose not to travel to Cuba, although he also sent a message to the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, in which he praised its work for freedom and human rights.

“The worst form of interventionism that exists in the international community is to give impunity to a dictatorship, to silence the voice of the people, to prevent them from deciding their future, and  revolutionaries or leftists do not do this,” said Almagro.

In his opinion, “the left that is a reference is the one that faced dictatorships demanding the rights of the people,” while accusing the Government of having “stripped its citizens” of the fundamental principles of freedom and independence that their independence heroes defended.


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

Long Lines at Cuban Banks For Fear of Monetary Unification

As April 19 approaches, when a new president is expected to assume office, uncertainty about ending Cuba’s dual currency system grows in the streets. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, 15 March 2018 — The last weeks have been like a heart attack for Luis, the employee who guards the door at the Metropolitan Bank (Banmet) on Galiano Street, in Havana. The flood of customers doesn’t give him a minute’s rest because “people are going nuts changing and saving money” out of fear that monetary unification is coming, he says.

Long lines in front of the bank branches are part of the Havana landscape, a city with more than two million inhabitants which receives thousands of tourists every day, who are forced to change their currency into Cuban pesos (CUP) or convertible pesos (CUC). But the demand seems to have increased in the last month. continue reading

“A lot of people come who have money saved in CUC,” says Luis, who organizes the line into several parts from early on. “The businesses are over here,” he says pointing to those who have gathered outside the branch. “Those who have come to get cash I put on this side here, and those who have personal paperwork to do with the bank on the other side,” he explains.

Most of the line is in the area for those who are going to do some operation in their bank account. “I have come to deposit about 500 CUC because I have been told that the money that is in the bank will be respected,” explains a lady who is third in line.

Last year the authorities warned in an official statement that the process of monetary unification will respect “the principle of the trust of the people who have kept their savings in Cuban banks in CUC, other international currencies and CUP remains intact.”

Julio César Reyes, general director of Banmet’s Electronic Banking, acknowledged in statements to the official press that since the beginning of this year there has been “a gradual increase in transactions” in its branches and ATMs, but the number of the latter is still insufficient to meet the demand.

Last December, during a session of the Parliament, Raúl Castro insisted on pointing out that addressing the problem of monetary duality can not be “delayed any longer.” After those words, speculations about an immediate unification of the two currencies on the Island were unleashed, after a quarter century of the dual monetary system.

As April 19 approaches, the date a new president is expected to assume office, uncertainty grows on the streets. Among the signs are private sellers that do not accept CUC for fear of devaluation, and published classified ads that display prices in dollars.

Elías Amor, a Cuban economist based in Spain, does not think it is likely that Raúl Castro will be able to carry out the unification process before he leaves power. In his opinion, the authorities know that the process is not as simple as establishing one of the two as the only official currency. It will be necessary to attend to “the mechanisms of price formation, the salary levels of the population, the purchasing power of wages,” among other factors

At the beginning of the revolutionary process, the banking entities suffered successive nationalizations, and forced and traumatic currency exchanges, which generated a particular distrust towards banks among Cubans. However, now many believe that the money circulating will be worth less after the devaluation that is expected to accompany the unification.

Another factor is that all the banks in the country are managed by the State and in the past numerous clients with significant savings were also branded as “pots” (new rich or hoarders) and legally prosecuted. An antecedent that those with more memory recall when they consider the dilemma of keeping their money in the banks or leaving it at home.

The urgency has touched the pockets of many. “I have no choice but to believe that having the money in the bank will be the best because I can’t go around buying dollars to keep under the mattress,” Yuraimy González, one of the Banmet customers on Galiano street waiting to deposit money this Wednesday, tells this newspaper.

“What I do not want to happen is that they carry out the unification, and I’m left with cash in chavitos (CUCs) and that money loses value,” explains this 38-year-old from Havana. She is a self-employed worker in a hairdressing salon, with husband who has emigrated and sends her remittances, and she is committed to “putting everything in the bank and waiting to see what happens.”

The economist Pedro Monreal believes that the unification of exchange rates in Cuba, and especially the accompanying devaluation, “should be conceived as part of a broader set of measures.” The specialist believes that if unification and devaluation were “disconnected” events with respect to other measures, “it is likely that they will not work well.”

Depositing CUCs in a bank account can only be done through a teller’s window at a bank, because in the entire capital there are only seven ATMs where cash can be deposited in Cuban pesos (CUP) and none that do that function in convertible pesos.

“Banks are overburdened because there has also been a significant reduction in the number of currency exchanges (Cadecas) in this area of Centro Habana,” laments Luis, the guard at Galiano Street. The Cadecas, where a CUC is exchanged for 24 CUP, have decreased in number and opening hours in recent years.

In mid-2017, 26 branches of the 93 Metropolitan Banks in the capital extended their service hours to cope with an increase in operations. The traditional schedule of Monday to Friday, and alternate Saturdays, from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm, was extended to 7:30 pm in at least one branch per municipality.

However, in a tour of several branches, this newspaper confirmed that the closing time is seldom respected. Electricity cuts, closures for fumigation or for priority attention to customers from state companies significantly reduce the time allocated to private users.

“The end of the month has not yet arrived, which is when branches become busier because pensions start to be paid to retirees,” warns the administrator of another local Metropolitan Bank located on Belascoaín Street, who preferred anonymity. “We’ve had weeks when at closing time there are still many people outside who have not been able to do their transactions,” he says.

“The largest number of operations we are doing are deposits, the exchange of foreign currency and the sale of stamps for legal procedures, but many people simply ask if we know the date of the unification, but we do not have an answer,” adds the worker.

“If this is the case now, at the end of the month we will have to ask for reinforcements to organize the lines and to serve the public, because we can not cope.”


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

Exodus of Drivers Leaves 700,000 Havanans Without Transport

Public transport is a sensitive issue in Cuba, especially in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE, 14ymedio, Havana, 14 March 2018 — The exodus of drivers who work in public transport “seriously affects mobility” in Havana, where each day 700,000 fewer passengers are transported, which translates into a deficit of 600,000 Cuban pesos (about $24,000), according to a report from directors of the state-owned Provincial Transport Company (EPTH) issued on Wednesday.

Currently the capital is short 86 bus drivers, resulting in 500 missed trips a day, on average, according to Juan Julián Caballero, General Director of Transportation in the city, speaking to the local press. continue reading

The “unprecedented departure” of these qualified professionals is due to the fact that they receive “more tempting offers of salary and schedules in other work centers,” together with the increase in demands and inspections, Caballero acknowledged.

Despite the responsibility and specialization required of drivers of public transport, mostly composed of large articulated buses, the basic salary of these drivers often does not exceed about $29 per month which is the average in the country .

In addition, they are required to meet quota of revenue per trip to obtain a bonus at the end of the month.

The terminals most affected by this “migration” are those located in the outlying neighborhoods of Alamar, San Agustín, Guanabacoa and Diezmero, according to a report published in the state newspaper Juventud Rebelde on Wednesday.

To alleviate this problem, the general director of the Provincial Transport Company of Havana announced that in the coming weeks a contingent of drivers from other regions of the country will arrive in the Cuban capital.

He also insisted that they keep open the call for all those who have the qualification and wish to enter this line of work.

Caballero stressed that despite the “economic limitations of the country, investments are maintained for the repair and restoration of buses and terminals.”

According to official data, more than one million passengers travel on public transport in Havana, where a one-way trip costs 40 cents CUP (Cuban peso; less than five cents US).

Public transport is a sensitive issue in Cuba, especially in Havana, where more than 2.5 of the more than 11 million inhabitants of the Caribbean country live.

On the island it is not usual for each family to own a car, so hundreds of thousands of people depend exclusively on state buses and private services, the latter of which are much more expensive due in part to high fuel prices and the high sums that the self-employed who rent cars must pay the Government.


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

Cuban Banking System Lacks Infrastructure to Service Remittance Market

In the last eight years, the use of remittances has diversified to cover more of Cubans’ needs. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, 7 March 2018 — The Cuban banking system lacks the necessary infrastructure and technology to provide services to the overseas remittance market, which in 2017 totaled 3.575 billion dollars from the United States alone, according to a report issued on Tuesday by a consultant specializing in the Cuban economy.

The Miami-based Havana Consulting Group (THCG) released a report highlighting the “accelerated transformation” experienced by the Cuban remittance market since 2008, which is focused primarily on providing family support as well as footwear and clothing needs. continue reading

In fact, in the last eight years, the use of remittances has broadened to cover some of Cubans’ other needs, such as the costs of mobile phones, internet accounts, vacations and business investments.

Today even the purchase of cars, spare parts, mortgage payments, medical insurance and private tutors for college entrance exams are necessities that are paid for with remittances from the US, where more than 90% of them originate.

THCG predicts that remittances from the United States will rise to 5.285 billion dollars in 2025.

However, this economic landscape of family remittances — characterized as one of “transformation, diversification and growth” — is impacted by a banking system that lacks the infrastructure to offer adequate payment services and delivery channels.

“More than half a million private sector Cuban business people generate thousands of financial transactions daily that do not go through Cuban banks because the conditions do not exist to handle them,” writes Emilio Morales, president of THCG, in the company’s extensive report, which sheds light the Cuban consumer market.

Morales adds that a large part of these transactions are handled through “payment networks of remittance agencies and other informal channels.”

A financial activity that, according to the expert, costs Cuban banks tens of millions of dollars in potential profits every year “because they do not have the technological and digitized infrastructure capable of offering these services.”

There is currently no banking transfer system between US financial institutions and Cuban banks, and Cubans have “limited access to tools” that allow them to receive money directly from their bank accounts.

In this context, Cuban banks have a “great opportunity to insert themselves into the remittance payment networks” and to “create formal channels for Cuban entrepreneurs to conduct commercial transactions through banks.”

In addition to the fourteen existing categories, the firm has identified seven new ones for the use of remittances in the next eight years: water, electricity and mortgage payments, cruise vacations, medical insurance, car purchase or rental, and payment of cable or satellite television.

In Morales’ opinion a number of new “modalities” will have “a strong impact on the market and represent a great oportunity for Cuban banking.”


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

Cuban Feminism Seeks a Space Outside of Institutions

Ramírez, a Cuban journalist of gender and culture, defines herself as a “radical feminist and social activist”. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 March 2018 — The debate on gender equality has reached Cuba and this time it is far from the official channels. Reporter Marta María Ramírez has drafted a list of more than 40 demands against patriarchy, including the redesign of educational policies, which has generated intense debate in Cuban networks. With this initiative, Ramírez joins the International Women’s Strike called for this March 8.

Ramírez, a journalist of gender and culture, defines herself as a “radical feminist and social activist,” and has drafted 42 specific demands so that Cubans can live “in equity,” as she explains in the introduction of the document, published on social networks. continue reading

“There are several reasons for going on strike, all responding to the exhaustion provoked by patriarchy and its ideology: machismo,” says Ramírez. “These are demands not only of feminist women, but of a plurality of women, when we look critically on our lives.”

The Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), the only female organization allowed in the country, has not joined the initiative despite the fact that this year groups of women from more than 170 countries have joined the international appeal.

With more than four million women in its ranks, the FMC has not  mentioned the strike through its broadcasting channels. The strike seeks to make visible the obstacles that still need to be overcome in order to achieve actual equality between men and women.

In most Latin American capitals a strike has been called for today and initiatives linked to art, politics and activism are also expected to be a part of the day’s events.

The approval of a new family code and laws against workplace harassment are some of the demands that appear in Ramírez’s list, which has numerous comments of support on Facebook.

Although several specialists have warned that sexual harassment of women in the workplace is a “problem with multiple silent witnesses,” the law does not provide for specific penalties for this crime and only requires the employer to maintain “due respect” toward the dignity of the worker.

The specific date of March 8 is inspired by the actions carried out by a group of textile workers in New York in 1857, in protest of the appalling conditions in which they worked.

Ramírez also calls for an end to “obstetric violence” and for the “right of fathers to participate in birthing rooms.” This latter is an old demand that is rarely met, under the doctor’s pretext of lack of space or lack of privacy.

Also on the lost of the journalist’s demands are improvements in the conditions in childcare centers and the extension of their hours to include weekends.

Ramírez demands that in the schools of the Island “education policies be established” that are not sexist or discriminatory and that “a sexual education program be considered as part of the curriculum, not as an optional subject, and [that it be taught by] qualified personnel.”

The activist demands the repeal of the Penal Code’s crime of “criminal dangerousness,” which is used to condemn women who practice prostitution even though the exercise of that profession is not proscribed in the Penal Code.

The list also calls for respect for human rights and freedom of expression to prevent women from being “considered enemies” or being “persecuted, intimidated, imprisoned or censured” for being feminist activists.

Ramírez goes further and raises the need for Cuban women to establish organizations based on common interests, because “women do not feel represented by existing non-governmental institutions.”

So far the official press has not acknowledge the 42 points, which are also circulating nationally via email. This Thursday, the official newspaper Granma stated the emancipation of the Cuban woman is an accomplished fact and insisted that “it would not have been possible without the birth of the FMC.”


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

The Evolution of the Cuban Press

15 years ago, in March 2013, Fidel Castro’s government dealt a hard blow to independent journalism in Cuba, sending 75 dissidents to prison, among them many reporters and columnists.


Journalists such as Raúl Rivero, Adolfo Fernández Saínz and Manuel Vázquez Portal were sent to prison for having exercised their profession, writing articles about the national situation and offering interviews to foreign media.

continue reading

It appeared that the non-government press had been completely extinguished with that repressive blow, but little by little new voices began to emerge that narrated an Island far from that aligned to the mastheads of the newspapers controlled by the Communist Party.


Fifteen years after that raid against the independent press, the ecosystem of autonomous media has grown and become extremely plural.


New technologies, blogs, digital publications and the timid flexibilizations of Raúl Castro’s government with regards to Internet access have contributed to the growth of independent media.


Thus, magazines that address cultural life have appeared, such as ‘Vistar’, or sports in the style of ‘Play Off’, entrepreneurship as in ‘Negolution’ ,or the world of fashion and good taste like ‘Garbos’.


The information choices have also expanded with the coming of daily publications such as ‘Cubanet’, a pioneer in reporting from the Island, ‘Martinoticias’, ‘Diario de Cuba’ and ’14ymedio’, among others.


The emergence of groups that report the violation of the rights of independent journalists, such as the Association for the Freedom of the Press (APLP), have also represented an important step in telling the world what is happening with news on the Island.
In this diversity of media standouts also includes media dedicated to reporting on the life of communities after natural disasters or environmental damage as ‘Periodismo de Barrio’, as well as sites that offer narrative journalism such as ‘El Toque’ and ‘El Estornudo’.


The official response to this expansion, diversification and increase in the quality of the independent press was not long in coming. Unlike in 2003, the government of Raúl Castro has not sentenced reporters to long prison terms, but has censored digital sites, arrested journalists and confiscated their tools of the trade. Sol Basulto and Henry Constantin, above, are among the victims of these practices.
The official press has also been forced to address certain issues it was previously silent about, in the face of evidence that the news is reaching the public through the ‘weekly packet’, illegal satellite dishes and the USB memory sticks.


Today, fifteen years after that ‘Black Spring’ of 2003, and 126 since José Martí founded the newspaper ‘Patria’, the Cuban press is going through difficult but fertile times. Censorship, self-censorship and repression shape much of what is published but every day independent media are breaking the official monopoly on information.


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

Cuba’s Press Faces The Challenge Of New Readers

Censorship is not enough to explain certain news deficiencies that still persist in Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 14 March 2018 — “Hey, since when do you have wifi that you don’t buy my newspaper,” shouts a street vendor to a young woman walking along Tulipan Street in Havana. Despite the continuing monopoly of the Cuban press by the Communist Party, readers today have more news options thanks to the growing number of independent publications.

The road to get to this point has not been easy. In the process, thousands of articles were set aside unpublished, hundreds of careers in journalism were truncated, and an infinite number of stories never got told; but the main transformation in today’s news recipients is that they are increasingly demanding. continue reading

Long gone are the years when it was enough to tune into some prohibited station and listen to a citizen relating some complaint in their own voice through those microphones. Now, the information industry is expected to produce high quality professional work and to address a broader range of topics, among many other demands.

On this March 14, Cuban Press Day, we journalists, editors and media directors must be aware that our audience is watching us, that there is someone who is fed up with propaganda and expects to find the data to form their own opinion. They have not come to our site to read a manifesto, but rather a newspaper.

Journalists, editors and media directors must be aware that our audience is watching us, that there is someone who is fed up with propaganda and expects to find the data to form their own opinion

These readers can now choose between watching the news on state television or on the prohibited satellite dishes. They have in their hands the ‘weekly packet,’ with independent magazines in PDF format, news coming to them in text messages, and many listen to the traditional “lip radio” – news and gossip repeated face-to-face – to find out what is rumored on the streets.

Despite the high costs of web browsing, they also learn about news “published on the Internet” through acquaintances. When an official newspaper publishes a cryptic editorial, mentioning enemies or provocations, they appeal to a friend to help them read between the lines and fill in the references.

Censorship is not enough to explain certain news deficiencies that still persist in the nation, and repression should not be the justification to accommodate oneself to mediocrity. What we have suffered, the personal and social cost that each journalist has paid to perform his or her work, should not be a reason for lack of quality or boldness.

Readers, those severe judges who observe us, will not be convinced by our pain or by the wounds we have accumulated in our sides, but by the value and the veracity of the stories we tell.


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

Groups of Independent Observers in Cuba Denounce Repression on Election Day

The elections were held to ratify the 605 deputies to the Parliament and the 1,265 delegates to the 15 Provincial Assemblies of Popular Power. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 March 2018 – Cuban authorities prevented independent election observers from accessing vote counting in several polling stations in the country, according to complaints received by 14ymedio from organizations that tried to send observers to the polls.

Arbitrary arrests of opponents also marked the day, in which there were dozens of detentions.

The Cuba Decides initiative, whose most visible face is Rosa María Payá, denounced to 14ymedio that 27 people who collaborate with the project were detained until noon on Monday “to prevent them from observing the counting of votes or voting.” continue reading

Payá, who splits her time between Havana and Miami, said that of the boycotters, “22 belong to the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU)” and the rest are members of other groups or do not belong to any organization, as is the case of Adonis Milan, a young dramatist arrested this Sunday.

Among the UNPACU activists of who were arrested was the capital city’s coordinator of that opposition organization, Zaqueo Báez Guerrero.

According to Payá, the observers who support her initiative had planned to go to 65 polling stations, but “at least five teams were not allowed to enter or were denied the information during the vote, another 10 were ‘besieged’ ” – kept from even approaching the polls – “and at least 12 were arrested,” she said.

In addition, there were 14 cases of observers who could not vote after being expelled from the polling places. Individuals in plainclothes frightened them with statements such as “counterrevolutionaries do not vote.”

The observers were able to access 24 polling stations distributed across six provinces, where they observed that at least 36.68% of the voters annulled their ballots or did not go to vote. But in another 29 polling station they were forbidden to witness the voting.

The Cuba Decides project believes that this figure translates as “the rejection of the system” of Government and “the support for the campaign” promoting a plebiscite on a multi-party system with free and fair elections. This rejection was tangibly demonstrated by voters who wrote the word ‘plebiscite’ on their ballots.

Citizen Observers of Electoral Processes (COPE) denounced that some of its members were “cited, threatened or are now detained” for their observation work.

COPE lined up more than 170 members in the 15 provinces of the country and the special municipality Isla de la Juventud to be election observers, as explained in a statement from the organization.

The statement said that with the blocking of its observers, the Cuban government perseveres “in the punctilious destruction of its own legal and constitutional regime” when it excludes citizens who think differently.

According to Pedro Acosta, member of the Observers of Election Rights (ODE) group, about 60 observers of this initiative worked on Sunday, although five of them were blocked from fulfilling their mission.

Acosta laments the repressive climate that surrounded these independent organizations that sought to monitor and observe the election process. “Near the cubicles where voters fill out their ballots, there were people watching how long each person was delayed.”

The elections, with more than eight million Cubans qualified to vote, were organized to ratify the 605 deputies to the Parliament and the 1,265 delegates to the 15 Provincial Assemblies of People’s Power and are the last stage for the transfer of power that will end the presidency of Raúl Castro. At this stage of voting there is only one candidate for each open seat, and the ballot simply asks each voter to ratify the candidates. Voters can choose not to vote yes, leave their ballots blank, or annul their ballots by writing other things on them.

The independent civil society denounced the lack of plurality of the Cuban Parliament and some organizations, such as the United Antitotalitarian Forum (FANTU), led by Guillermo Fariñas, called on citizens not to join the “electoral farce.”


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

An Ordeal and More Than 6,000 Dollars to Get a US Visa in Columbia

Lisset López Rodríguez, a 38-year-old Cuban singer who lives in Miami, has spent four years in reuniting with her youngest daughter, Camila Guzmán. (José A. Iglesias)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Pentón, 7 March 2018 — The sound of a phone call broke into the monologue of Maydelin Alfonso Vázquez in the lobby of the Montecarlo hotel, about six blocks from the US embassy in Bogotá. Some of the Cubans staying there, waiting to get an immigrant visa to the United States, listened to the litany of difficulties to complete the procedures.

“Why am I shouting? I just can’t do it anymore, I’m going crazy with this,” she says in a dramatic tone and begins to sob. Alfonso “moved heaven and earth” to get the visa to travel to Colombia in Havana. She has barely two days left of the 20 that Bogota authorizes for her stay in this country but has not completed the paperwork to meet her daughter in Miami, from whom she has been separated for eight years. continue reading

“All this has been an ordeal from the time I was told in Cuba that I should apply for a visa in Colombia until I arrived here,” says Alfonso. The lack of information about the visa process in Colombia, the expensive procedures and the tensions to travel to a third country have made the process of reunification even more difficult for many Cuban families.

After announcing that more than two dozen of its officials had been victims of acoustic attacks of unknown origin, the US State Department evacuated non-essential personnel from its embassy in Havana and suspended the delivery of visas from that office. Weeks later it announced that it would process immigrant visas through its embassy in Bogotá.

“After the announcement from the United States, everyone went to the Colombian embassy in Havana, but there was no organization,” says Alfonso. The woman from Santa Clara insists that she had to go to Havana five times to process her visa to Colombia, which she only managed three days before traveling.

“What we have gone through has been very hard, more than 300 people endured an intense downpour in front of the Colombian embassy in Havana, with no place to protect us. Thanks to a lady who carried an umbrella and protected my papers I did not lose everything,” she says.

To travel to Colombia, Cubans residing on the island must present the invitation from the National Visa Center of the United States for the interview in Bogota. They are also required to have a passport-sized photo, and a photocopy of the main page of their travel document, a round-trip air ticket with a limit of 20 days that includes the stay for 10 days before and after the appointment.

Finally, Colombia requires, in order to demonstrate economic solvency, the presentation of bank account holdings for the value of 2,000 dollars or a notarized letter from the economic guarantor of the trip in the Colombian consulate in the country where they are located.

For Yackmar Domínguez and his wife Malena Fernández, the costs of the political struggle between the United States and Cuba are once again borne by families on both sides of the Florida Straits. (José A. Iglesias)

At the end of January, the Colombian embassy in Havana had delivered more than 1,100 visas to Cubans, according to statistics provided by the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to 14ymedio. Of these, almost 900 were intended for people who needed to be interviewed in Bogotá. However, the Colombian foreign minister stopped helping Cubans seeking to travel between March 2 and 12 due to legislative elections and consultations between parties in Colombia. The authorities have asked the migrants to register for their consular appointment at the US embassy in Bogotá.

“Getting here has been an ordeal,” says Lisset López Rodríguez, a 38-year-old Cuban singer who lives in Miami, and who has spent four years trying to reunite with her youngest daughter, Camila Guzmán. “The day I heard that they had canceled the procedures at the US Embassy in Cuba, I went crazy because I thought Camila was going to stay there,” she says.

Like most Cubans, Lopez learned of the decision of the United States to process visas in Bogotá through the news and had never traveled to Colombia. “I went to the Colombian consulate in Miami and they did not want to help me, I had to go back for several days and after a lot of paperwork they approved my tourist visa to accompany my daughter,” she explains.

In her opinion, throughout this process, information and transparency have been lacking. “Nobody guides you on what you have to do or helps you to make the procedures simpler, not to mention the costs,” laments López, in the absence of associations that advise for free.

“The appointment is given approximately one month in advance, you have to pay the passage to Colombia for you and your family member, including the return to Cuba, which is a ticket that is wasted if you already have an American visa. In addition, you have to pay in advance for accommodation in Bogota for 20 days, and for food and transfers, which must be done by taxi,” explains López. Along with these logistical expenses you must also pay for the medical exam which costs 220 dollars.

In total, Lopez and her daughter spent more than $6,000 on the entire process. “I never thought I would have to go to Colombia, nor spend this amount of money, but a mother’s love can do everything, at least now I’ll be with my daughter,” she says through tears.

For this Havanan, the decision of the United States to process visas in Colombia has been unfair to those residing on the island. López does not question the arguments of the State Department, but compares the current situation between the two countries with what happened during most of the Cold War. “Before there was no embassy, but the US had a consular section to help people get out to freedom, but now they don’t have even that,” she adds.

The State Department told this newspaper that they chose Bogota as the site to process visas for immigrants from Cuba because it is one of the largest embassies in Latin America. The area where it is located, in the neighborhood of Quinta Paredes, is a middle class nucleus in the Colombian capital.

“There are a lot of Cubans around here,” says Henry Caicedo, owner of a food-service business in the vicinity of the US embassy. The merchant affirms that the massive arrival of Cubans has favored local commerce. “Thanks to the Cubans, my place is full of people who are looking for good and cheap food,” he adds.

The Monte Carlo hotel and the Ambassador are mostly occupied by Cubans. The same thing happens with a good share of the establishments in the area. “This neighborhood has grown thanks to the people who come to do their paperwork at the American Embassy,” explains Luis Carlos Mogollón, an ex-military man who has become a taxi driver. “Ten years ago there were only three hotels, today you find more than one on every block,” he says.

The price of one night in a Quinta Paredes hotel usually ranges between 40 and 80 dollars. Most of the establishments offer a transport service for the procedures related to the American Embassy.

Some Bogota entrepreneurs have taken the opportunity to create travel packages. For example the Santa Cruz hotel offers: “American Visa Plan for the Cuban Community.” This hotel provides accommodation, transportation and advice for 10 days for 820 dollars.

“The attention has been good here,” Yackmart Domínguez says about the hotel service.

“Having to travel to Bogotá to do the procedures so that my family meets me in Miami has been difficult, all the money I had saved to get them established [in the US] has gone to in the passages and the stay in Colombia,” says this 38-year-old Cuban.

His wife, Malena Fernandez, who for the first time left Cuba to travel to Colombia, said she felt “shocked.” “It has been four years of pain, sadness, anguish and separation, and when I knew that I would have to postpone the interview because it would not be done in Havana, I felt like the world was falling down around me,” she adds.

Fernandez believes that the costs of the political struggle between the United States and Cuba are once again borne by families on both sides of the Florida Straits.

“If I have to go to the ends of the earth to be with my loved ones I would do it, no money can pay the value of a family,” she adds.


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

’Grl Pwr’, Cuban Designers and Activists Demonstrate Their "Feminine Power" With Tattoos

Several young people participate in the ‘Grl Pwr’ exhibition, a different and “our very own” way to celebrate Women’s Day in Cuba. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yeny García, Havana, 9 March 2018 — With the tattoo as an “weapon of empowerment,” Cuban designers and activists claim their right to do what they “want with their bodies” in the Grl Pwr show, an original and “our very own” way to celebrate Women’s Day on the Island.

Away from the official commemorations of March 8 — the day when Cuba usually praises the achievements of the Revolution without strikes or social demands — this exhibition of 15 feminist drawings “made by women to be tattooed on women” is the first of its kind in the country, the curator Yudith Vargas told EFE. continue reading

“I have taken as personal the times when I have felt discriminated against because of my tattoos; on the street most people think that being tattooed makes me a dangerous being, as if it reflects a deviant attitude but that’s not true,” she insisted.

The young activist explained that they chose Women’s Day “because it is time to reaffirm ourselves as owners of ourselves,” since for her the decision to get a tattoo is “one of the first acts of empowerment that can lead a woman to self-determination.”

Grl Power is the first action of the year of the cultural exchange Bridges Not Walls between artists from Cuba and the United States, promoted by Katherine Hurley and Jens Rosenkrantz, American artists based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Vargas, coordinator of the project on the island, highlighted the artistic value of tattooing as a bearer of a message, in this case feminist, something that resonates with the purpose of Bridges Not Walls to publicize Cuban talent and promote creative encounters between both countries, regardless of policy fluctuations.

Liz Capote, Diana Carmenate and Ana Lyem Lara are the creators of the illustrations, which will be on display until April 8 at Zenit Tattoo, the Havana tattoo studio where Lara works, one of the “very few” women who tattoo in Cuba.

The artist herself, an architect by profession and as of more than four years ago a tattoo artist, opened the initiative on Thursday, putting one of her designs on the skin of the rock singer Zammys, the first of fifteen who consider themselves fortunate to be spending a part of the month in the Zenit Tattoo chairs.

Volunteers chose between drawings with visual games using the phrases “I’m sorry if my body offends you,” “Self Love” and messages from famous feminist campaigns such as “Free the Nipple,” which denounce the discrimination between the body feminine and masculine in social networks.

“There are very few women tattooists in Cuba and I am proud to be one of them, I am looking for others to be inspired, it is not complicated to be a tattooist, you just have to be consistent and dedicate yourself to it one hundred percent, for me it is not a hobby,” stressed Lara.

For the young woman, “having a tattoo is a form of rebellion” although she emphasized that she constantly suggests designs “that contribute something or that have artistic value.”

“Something that increases your self-esteem, whether you’re a man or a woman,” she smiled without stopping work.

The 27-year-old lawyer Claudia González is concerned about the prejudices that are still associated with different professions, where visible tattoos are not looked on kindly.

“This will be my first, I wanted to do it a long time ago and this seemed like the perfect moment,” said Fernandez, who selected the design of legs with red heels, which she will avoid showing in her work place, although she admits that the stigma of inked bodies is fading little by little.


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

Transfermovil Starts Off On The Wrong Foot In Camaguey

A user tries to use the Transfermovil application for the Android operating system. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ricardo Fernández, Camagüey, 9 March, 2018 — The poor coordination between the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) and the Bank of Credit and Commerce (BANDEC) has meant that the activation of Transfermóvil, the mobile payment service, started off on the wrong foot in Camagüey. Individuals can not use it on their cell phones because, despite having the application, the state communications monopoly has not enabled the service.

“I downloaded the application directly from the it doesn’t work,” an employee of a downtown branch of this Camaguey bank affected by service problems told 14ymedio. As long as ETECSA is unable to register his mobile number and username, the only thing this employee can do is wait. continue reading

Transfermóvil is an application for smartphones with the Android operating system that was launched last year in other provinces of the Island. Since its arrival in Camagüey in January this year, the city’s banking offices have received hundreds of requests from customers who want to use this tool, but only ETECSA can register users for the mobile banking service.

“Initially we made a list of all those who requested mobile banking and for whom the service didn’t work; we sent their respective mobile numbers to the provincial address of BANDEC but they ignored the issue,” laments the bank worker.

After having been correctly registered by ETECSA, if a user wants to perform an operation with the application, they send messages through a USSD protocol and the state company responds to the subscriber’s cell phone via SMS to confirm the requested operation.

“When I learned virtual banking would start working in Cuba, I did not hesitate and set up my bank accounts to use it,” Yunior Jubitea, a young man who works in a private candy store in Camagüey, tells this newspaper. He has managed to make only a single payment in a fixed terminal of a branch, connected to the network, since he is still “not registered.”

A worker at BANDEC’s 5971 branch, in the historic center of the city, acknowledges that customers have returned with dissatisfaction because they do not receive the registration message that Etecsa must send.

“The answer I got at first was that the bank had no staff to process the applications at a national level,” explains Yusleysi, a manicurist in the neighborhood La Guernica who installed the application on her phone weeks ago.

“Later they told me that the problem was that BANDEC had not yet finalized the contracts with ETECSA,” complains the woman about the second version. Among the particular reasons that led her to join the service is to be able to pay her bills without spending so much time standing in line.

Despite its malfunction in the area, Transfermóvil “has almost the same functions as an ATM,” Julio García Trápaga, director of Development and Application Management of the Mobile Services Division of ETECSA explained recently to the official press. In 2017 there were around 20,000 mobile banking customers in the country.

Aside from paying bills for water, telephone and electricity, the tool also allows transfers between accounts in the same bank without the need to connect to the internet.

To use this service it is also essential to have a magnetic card, of which some 3.8 million have been issued so far. The goal of the banking authorities is to reach 7 million to alleviate the problems of scarcity of money in circulation and the long lines at ATMs to get cash.

The payment through mobile banking was enabled a year ago and is used jointly by the Banco Popular de Ahorro, the Banco Metropolitano and the Banco de Credito y Comercio. Its promoters assure that it is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“What always happens with technological advances in Cuba is that the state does not guarantee the infrastructure to support them,” the economist Karina Galvez of the Convivencia project told 14ymedio. “That discourages people and they continue to distrust everything that is not physical money.”


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