Canned Chickpeas at the Outpost of El Corte Inglés in Havana

The private label products are sold at a considerably higher prices in Cuba than in Spain. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 17 January 2018 — The corner of San Rafael and Galiano in Havana is now a plaza with a wifi zone where everyone stares at the screens of their mobile phones; but long ago the famous store El Encanto was built there, a business that inspired the creation of warehouses in Madrid called El Corte Inglés, which landed in Cuba this January, like a prodigal son, with some of its private label products.

“Everything is very expensive and although they look good in comparison to the domestic products, these are products bought by foreigners or people who have a private business,” said Katia María, mother of two teenagers who was looking at the cans.

The containers fill the shelves in a scene that is barely remembered by the customers of the La Puntilla Mall west of the city. The economic problems, which have worsened in recent years, have made one of the best-stocked stores in the capital a site with almost empty shelves and poor quality products.

“These are things that I can do without and that I only buy once a year for a special occasion, but I could not do it frequently

Now, with the arrival of the Spanish giant, there are cans of tuna, cans of the typical piquillo peppers, canned pasta and chickpeas. Customers walk up and down the aisles where the green triangle with cursive letters appears that announces the merchandise coming from the other side of the Atlantic. This Tuesday nobody put anything in a cart, they just looked, as if in a museum.

The effect has been seen immediately on market shelves. “We have had hard months because when there is toilet paper, there is no chicken or milk,” points out a customer of the shopping center who preferred anonymity. “I come to Miramar, although I live in Centro Habana, because this is an area of ​​diplomats, so sometimes the stores are better stocked.”

The shopper was surprised to see the new product line but declined to buy anything. “These are things that I can do without and that I only buy once a year for a special occasion, but I could not do it frequently,” he says.

At the end of a shelf, an employee was still stacking some of the newly arrived products. “This is a type of merchandise that is usually slow-moving,” she says. “You can see that they are of good quality but not of first necessity and here people are looking for basically the most important ingredients to cook: oil, tomato sauce and canned meat or fish,” she says.

The prices do not help much either. “This can of tuna in sunflower oil costs more than what I get as a monthly pension,” says Irma Junco. However, this pensioner says she can allow herself a “taste” because she has just sold her apartment and moved to a smaller property and “the difference in money is for me to eat better, because I am bored eating rice with hot dogs and chicken.”

If in a market of El Corte Inglés in Spain a box of pasta Farfalle costs 1.46 euros, in Havana its price of 2.50 CUC is equivalent to 2.11 euros

The prices of the new products have also “swelled” quite a lot in their long journey from their origin. If in El Corte Inglés market in Spain a box of Farfalle pasta costs 1.46 euros, in Havana its price of 2.50 CUC is equivalent to 2.11 euros. Something similar happens with a 6-portion package of yeast powder, which has gone from 0.63 euros in Spain to 1.65 in Cuba.

The contrast becomes greater in those products that in Madrid are presented in packages and in Havana are sold by the unit. If a package of three cans of sweet corn costs Spaniards 2.09 euros, Cubans must pay 1.10 for each can. When the administration of La Puntilla is asked about this the answer is always: “We do not choose the prices, they are already determined,” in a clear reference to the management of the Hard Currency Collection Stores (TRD).

Cuban consumers have complained repeatedly about the lack of transparency with regards to the percentage of profit that the State takes on the products it sells in the TRDs. However, studies done independently put the amount at between 50% and 240% of the initial purchase cost in the international market.

As excessive regulations stifle the agricultural production of the island, the country must import more than 80% of the food that it consumes, which means an expense to the national coffers of more than 2 billion a year.

The canned corn, canned fruit, or ground coffee that are now marketed in La Puntilla are part of a huge bill that the island spends on the purchase of cereals, rice, beans, corn, soybeans, milk powder and chicken to sustain both the rationed market and the retail network.

A package of three cans of sweet corn is sold in Spain at 2.09 euros, while in Cuba a single can costs 1.30 CUC. (14ymedio)

In the last two years, with the economic crisis in Venezuela and the decline in oil shipments at a preferential price from that country, paying for this flow of imports has become very difficult. The lack of liquidity, in the face of the loss of profits from the resale of the oil, has caused Raúl Castro’s government to have to cut imports.

The name Aliada, another of the private labels of El Corte Inglés, is also printed on several packages of pasta that fill the shelves. Products of both private labels come to the island through the Italian company Farmavenda and are sold exclusively in the TRDs managed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces. So far only two stores in the Cuban capital offer their products, although there are plans to extend them to others this year.

Also arriving in Cuba in recent months, with less media hype, is another brand of food, this one marketed by Alcampo, the Spanish subsidiary of the French group Auchan.

The arrival of El Corte Inglés in Cuba via its imported food is an event charged with symbolism. The establishment was inspired by the sales techniques of the new El Encanto stores, founded on the island by the Spanish brothers José and Bernardo Solís.

The establishment was inspired by the sales techniques of the new El Encanto stores, founded on the island by the Spanish brothers José and Bernardo Solís

Two of their employees from Asturias, César Rodríguez and Ramón Areces, settled in Madrid after working for decades in the famous Havana store. There they founded, in 1935, the great department stores, to which they brought their experience in selling by departments, advertising campaigns and the design of the stained glass windows that had so much success among Cuban customers. To this day, the giant is still the most powerful in Spain despite its falling profits and its problems with the Treasury.

Its predecessor in Havana suffered a different fate. With the coming to power of Fidel Castro in January 1959, El Encanto was nationalized and in 1961 two firebombs burned it down. The Revolutionary government accused the CIA of being behind the action, in which the famous militia woman Fe del Valle died. The place where the property had been was turned into a park that now bears her name.

Despite its sudden end, El Encanto is still a recurring memory that comes up when talking about the island’s republican past.

“Now they are the ones who send products to us,” laments Irma Junco, a 78-year-old retiree who inspected the shelves of La Puntilla on Tuesday after learning about the arrival of the products from El Corte Inglés. “We were pioneers in a lot of things and now we are in the caboose of the train,” she says sarcastically, while holding a can of fruit cocktail with the logo of the Spanish brand.

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

“Yes, It’s Really a Bus”

The passengers enjoyed the air conditioning and seats of a bus designed to minimize damage to the environment. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 29 November 2017 — The buildings pass by, a piece of blue sky, trees and some newspaper stands. Through the window of the only all-electric bus running through Havana, the city seems different. “This is the future,” the driver tells the passengers of the vehicle that serves route 18 between the Palatino terminal and Avenida del Puerto.

This Tuesday, getting on the shiny bus was much more than a trip. The modern technology from the manufacturer Yutong gives the vehicle a range of up to 180 miles. Although its usual fare should be 40 centavos (less than 2 cents US), yesterday no one returned change to those who paid with a full Cuban peso. continue reading

The equipment, with tinted windows against the sun and lightly padded seats, was the target of jokes and speculations throughout the day.

At the first stop, near the Vía Blanca, the young people at a nearby high school gathered to enter as a group through its wide doors. The E12 bus is eco-friendly with Zero Emission, moves at a maximum speed of 40 miles per hour and has Michelin tubeless tires.

But none of this seemed to matter too much to the teenagers. Their conversation after sitting down wasn’t about the batteries or the fact that the bus does not consume fossil fuel, but about the efficient air conditioning that keeps the interior cool.

In a country where most of the year the thermometer climbs over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it is no small thing to be able to move around the city without fat drops of sweat trickling down in a sweltering public bus. The lack of crowding in the aisles and the fact that on the walls of the vehicle no one has yet marked it with phrases in the style of “Claudia loves Maikel” also seems strange.

“Soon there will be some self-employed guy renting out overcoats,” jokes a young woman. Beside her, in the blue high school uniform, a classmate is skeptical: “This will not last long.” Most of the conversations passengers share across the seats are expressions of regret for the deterioration that, inevitably, the vehicle will suffer.

The suspicion that cleanliness, air conditioning and comfort cannot withstand the passage of time, in the face of apathy and the lack of control that reigns on the island, dominates the conversations. “Here everything starts well and ends badly,” says an old woman who pinches the seat covering to see what it is made of.

“They say it has cameras and sensors in the back door,” warns a dark-haired man. “That is so that nobody leaves without paying,” the young woman who travels next to her responds. “And the seat is intelligent,” he adds, “that means you sit and it takes care of you, you can pass your hand over it and other things…” he says with a mischievous look.

A woman comes on with a string of onions she just got after “walking all over Havana.” From the bundle, thin layers fall off and land on the spotless floor. “Compañera, be careful, you have already started messing it up,” her seatmate scolds her, asking her where she bought the onions, because “they’re impossible to find.”

The driver’s assistant, in addition to collecting the fares, insists that nobody travel standing up and stares across the bus from one side to the other like a police officer. In the middle of the trip a lady climbs on with a ten-year-old girl and gets upset because she can’t stand next to her daughter. “Are you going to take care of the depraved ones who want to take advantage of her?” she asks the employee, who insists that she cannot stand in the aisle.

The first discussion of the day begins with an incident involving a dozen neighbors all willing to explain the dangers of a minor traveling alone and “the squaring of the circle,” according to a young man, who talks about bureaucratic regulations. “Coming or going here, now it is forbidden to travel standing,” he mocks.

A gentleman of advanced age, with worn out clothes, can’t bear even three minutes inside the vehicle. “Let me get off, it is very cold,” he says, yelling at the driver to open the door. “Get used to it, this will be the public transport of 2020,” the driver manages to tell him before a man gets on with a wireless speaker blasting reggaeton.

The bus runs without incident along Calzada del Cerro. When all the seats are occupied it does not even slow down at the bus stops, always crowded at that time of the morning. As they pass by, people on the street open their eyes, point and comment about the shiny body. “That, that’s the one they put on the television,” one hears when the door opens.

A couple of tourists take a photo at the insistence of their informal guide who “sells” the wonder of being able to spot the first bus of that type in all of Cuba. “You will not see this anywhere else in this country, it’s pure novelty,” he emphasizes.

The vehicle is about 40-feet long, 8 feet wide and 10 feet high, with 35 seats, five of them for people with disabilities, and a wider aisle that allows 70 passengers to stand, despite the ban from yesterday.

At the top of Infanta Street, a young mother approaches with her seven-year-old son, loaded with packages. “Mommy, this bus is new,” exclaims the boy excitedly. “This really is a bus,” he repeats as he runs his hand over the handrails and the edge of the seats.

The euphoria is painted on his little face, until a man who travels two stops further shouts: “I’ll trade you the bus for your mother.” A collective laugh fills the interior of the gleaming bus before the driver’s grim gaze. “No, because the mother is mine and this bus is not yours,” the boy replies, adding a curse that remains floating in the air.

When it reaches the end of the route, there is another line of people waiting on Avenida del Puerto to make the return trip. New comments emerge as the passengers board. No one comments on the benefits of this transport to the environment or the fuel savings. The first one to board starts off with a joke: “How much do I have to pay for the electricity?”

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

Letter to a Threatened Journalist

Luz Escobar has worked for 14ymedio since its founding in 2014. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 17 January 2018 – Luz, you have had an incredible “privilege”: To see up close the true face under the Fantômas mask.

In your police interview this Monday those State Security agents showed you, with complete self-confidence, who they really are, what is hidden behind the discourse of supposed ‘Revolutionary ethics’ and ‘defense of the country.’ In reality, under their clothes they are ‘mafioso’ whose methods mimic the worst style of the Camorra.

They have threatened you, they have warned you that the people closest to you will pay the consequences, they have even asked you to become one of them to betray your colleagues. All this, using the only tool they know: repression.

Your life will become more difficult from now on. Many friends will stop calling you, others will cross to the other side of the street when they see you, dozens of acquaintances will say you’ve gone crazy or that you are brainwashed, others will advise you to leave the country as soon as possible, to shut up, to stop writing. Some relatives will tell you to think about your daughters, while the fence around your house, your neighborhood, your person, will become suffocating.

They themselves, with the characteristic abuse of power, will spread the word that you are a ‘mercenary’ or, in the worst case, that you work for the ‘apparatus’ as an ‘undercover agent’. Distrust will rise like a wall around your work. These campaigns of defamation and demonization will affect every detail of your existence, from who knocks on your door to sell you a little milk, to the phrases the teachers repeat in your daughters’ classrooms.

However, from today, you will also feel a strange lightness, as if a weight you had been carrying on your shoulders for years has been lifted. They, without planning to, have given you the best argument to continue your career in journalism, because they have shown you that ‘up there’ nothing remains of respect for the citizen, for ethics, morality, sincerity, integrity… and much less for COURAGE. Of which you possess oceans.

Welcome to your new life. Enjoy it and be free.

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

Cuba’s Official Press Criticizes Scarcity and Quality of Subsidized Menstrual Pads

To the problems of supply is added the “terrible” quality of the domestically manufactured product, according to the complaints collected by Juventud Rebelde. (Escambray)

14ymedio biggerEFE / via 14ymedio, Havana, 16 January 2018 — The small amount of sanitary pads that the Cuban State gives to women of childbearing age each month, their “terrible” quality and the irregularity in deliveries are currently the source of criticisms in the official press of the Island, where many turn to the black market to cover this need.

An extensive report in the newspaper Juventud Rebelde notes that this is a recurring problem that “over and over again” has led to “the same complaints” and maintains that, although it is a heavily subsidized article, it is used for “a basic hygienic need that does not understand delays in production or obsolete machinery.”

In Cuba, all women of childbearing age are entitled to receive a pack of ten pads per month, for which they pay 1.2 Cuban pesos (just under 5 cents US). continue reading

Several women interviewed by the newspaper are annoyed that ten “intimates,” as this product is known in the country, it is not enough to cover the entire menstrual cycle, and criticize that deliveries are often delayed for months.

Meanwhile, the product never fails in the black market, where it is offered at a price more than ten times higher: “In normal times up to ten pesos and when there is a crisis, it’s up to 15 to 20 pesos in Cuban pesos,” says Marta Valdés, 34.

Another alternative is the state stores that sell in hard currency, where a packages of pads are sold at prices from 1 CUC (equivalent to a US dollar 02 24 Cuban pesos), a high cost for  someone living on a Cuban average salary, that does not exceed 30 CUC.

“The black market should not be the solution to acquire the demanded product,” says the state newspaper, which titled the story Intimate Tragedy.

The article also cites experts, such as gynecologist Arelis Leon, who explains that the ideal is to change the hygiene pad every four hours during the menstrual period, which means using six pads a day and an average of between 18 and 42 pads for each cycle.

To the problems of supply is added the “terrible” quality of the domestically manufactured product, according to the complaints collected by Juventud Rebelde.

In Cuba there are three factories that make this product and all stopped doing so for lack of raw materials, since of the ten materials used in the production, eight are imported from countries such as Spain, Italy and China, said Emma Hernández, the general director of the state manufacturing company Mathisa.

The delay in production accumulated by this stoppage, makes it “impossible for the company to catch up on the loast production during the months in which the factories were stopped.”

The company also attributed the defective products to “human errors,” because the quality review and packaging are done manually.

“There are still no definitive solutions, at least in the coming months,” the newspaper said.

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

Once Banned in Cuba, Musician Paul McCartney to Get Statue There

El Morro restaurant, in Santiago de Cuba, has known how to exploit McCartney’s visit 18 years ago by using it for promotion. (Tripadvisor)

14ymedio biggerEFE / via 14ymedio, 11 January 2018 — A life-size statue of English musician Paul McCartney, a former member of The Beatles, will be inaugurated next Saturday near Castillo del Morro in Santiago de Cuba — the only colonial fortress in eastern Cuba — which was visited by the composer and his family 18 years ago.

The sculpture will be located in El Morro Restaurant, on the outskirts of the popular tourist attraction of Santiago, where the author of Let It Be had lunch on 14 January 2000 with his two eldest sons, apparently attracted by the superb view of the Caribbean and the Sierra Maestra.

Paul McCartney is represented full-size and seated, using marmoline to look like bronze, explained the creator, Mariano Frómeta, who was quoted Thursday by the state-run Cuban News Agency. continue reading

The statue will be placed next to the table where the Beatle ate in the restaurant, which has preserved and exhibits the furniture and crockery used by the musician during his short visit.

On that occasion, McCartney and his children ate vegetable omelettes and drank the typical Piña Delicias cocktail, as well as the local Mayabe beer.

The words “Very good, I’ll be back,” written by the legendary guitarist on a napkin — which they also treasure — keep the workers of El Morro hoping for a possible return.

Long before the “thaw” between Cuba and the United States made it fashionable to travel to the “forbidden island,” Paul McCartney surprised passersby and musicians in Santiago de Cuba, the cradle of son and vieja trova.

McCartney toured the Castillo del Morro and visited the Pepe Sánchez Casa de la Trova in the city, where from the first row he enjoyed the a performance of traditional music and dared to play the claves, a small percussion instrument made of wood that marks the characteristic rhythm of the “clave cubana.”

Those present say that the musician went home with several albums by Cuban artists, among them the Santiago-born Eliades Ochoa, winner of a Grammy.

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

A Lawyer Sees Salvation in Brazil’s New Immigration Law for "Deserter" Doctors

Some Cuban doctors complain that with all the money they’ve given to the Government, they could afford to pay for their medical education several times over.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, November 24, 2017 – The new immigration law which takes effect this Wednesday in Brazil could benefit hundreds of doctors who have escaped from the Mais Medicos (More Doctors) mission in this country.

According to André De Santana Correa, a lawyer who represents 80 doctors from the Island who abandoned their mission, “the new law allows several types of protection for a Cuban doctor who is considered a deserter, on humanitarian grounds.”

De Santana told 14ymedio that he counsels all Cuban doctors who have an expired temporary visa for Brazil that they request “permission for residence with a temporary visa on humanitarian grounds.” The authorities can take into account that these professionals are prohibited from returning to Cuba for eight years, because they are considered deserters there. continue reading

“The Cuban Government’s decision to consider doctors who abandon their missions as deserters is much more than political persecution. It’s the most merciless cruelty because of what can happen to a human being who is taken away from  loved ones and his native land and, in addition, is left completely powerless, as if his life isn’t worth anything,” adds De Santana.

The new Migration Law guarantees the same rights to foreign residents as to native-born Brazilians and also facilitates the arrival of qualified workers in the country. The legislation replaces the Foreigners Statute, which dates from the time of the military dictatorship (1964-1985). It allows foreigners with higher education or the equivalent to work in Brazil without needing to have a formal employment request from a company in the country.

Official statistics state that between 2010 and 2015, the number of foreign employees increased some 131%, going from 54,333 workers to 125,535, less than some 0.5 percent of the formal work market.

“We hope that with this new law our process will continue. There are many Cuban doctors in Brazil who need this country to recognize that we are health professionals who have equal status with the doctors of other countries who are in the More Doctors program,” says Ernesto Ramírez, a health specialist who left Havana’s supervision.

Noel Fonseca, who has spent more than 20 years as a doctor and decided to stay and live in Brazil, said that he is hopeful about the new law. He, as well as his wife, were expelled from the More Doctors program for not supporting the Cuban Government. The authorities in Havana, in addition, told them that they couldn’t return to the country for eight years, and that Brazil wouldn’t allow them to work as doctors because of pressure from Cuba.

“The Cuban Ministry of Public Health threatened the Brazilian Government so that they wouldn’t permit us to stay in the More Doctors program if we deserted the mission. In turn, the Ministry of Health pressured the municipalities to not give any type of aid to the doctors,” explained Fonseca, by telephone.

While the Cuban Medical Professional Parole was in effect, the United States allowed doctors who abandoned Cuba’s official missions to emigrate legally to the U.S. During that period (2006-2016), more than 8,000 doctors benefited from the program, which was eliminated in January, 2017.

Cuban Healthcare Personnel Taking Advantage of US “Cuban Medical Professional Parole” program that allows them to settle in the United States (14ymedio)

Diana Quintas, a lawyer from the Fragomen firm in Brazil, told Agencia EFE recently that the new law “has gaps,” and that in matters such as work, the joint action of several ministries would be required.

In addition, in order to seek employment without a work offer in the South American giant, professionals from Third World countries would have to have a university degree in “professions strategic for Brazil,” without specifying what these professions are.

Many other analysts criticize putting this legislation into effect at a time when unemployment is increasing in the country and when, in practice, many of the essential services that they want to offer to immigrants Brazilians themselves don’t have.

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

Turmoil Previously in Front of US Consulate in Havana Moves to a Quiet Street in Miramar

Part of the strict security routine that was deployed around the US Embassy is being transferred to the Colombian consulate. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 11 January 2018 — Jimena yawns and says she has barely slept since leaving San Juan y Martínez, in Pinar del Río province, to be on time Wednesday at the Colombian consulate in Havana. The quiet street in Havana’s Miramar neighborhood where the consulate is located has become a hive of activity this week.

Quick off the mark, the residents around the diplomatic site have not missed the opportunity to put together a network of businesses to meet the needs of the hundreds of Cubans who arrive every day. From the water sellers, the residents who charge a fee to use their bathrooms, to those who rent simple accommodations, all are doing a brisk business in this ’off-season’ of the year.

Since Washington drastically reduced its diplomatic staff in Cuba and canceled the handling of visa processing in Havana because of the alleged acoustic attacks, thousands of Cubans have been left in limbo in the middle of a process to emigrate or visit the United States. continue reading

The despair set off by the interruption in processing visas is now felt in every inch of Calle 14 between 5th and 7th in Havana’s Playa municipality, near the Colombian consulate. People are arriving from all parts of the Island, hoping to travel to the US Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia, where they must go to get their permission to enter the US.

Every face is one of anguish as they wait more than 50 yards from the consulate entrance. The police have placed an improvised set of fences and gates to keep the applicants away from the embassy entrance. The street is closed to traffic and no vehicles are allowed to park in the block.

The authorities have also deployed personnel from State Security, who, although dressed in civilian clothes, are easily identified by those waiting based on their military hairstyles and the way they constantly observe the line, which grows as the morning progresses.

“Our routine has been destroyed,” laments José, a retiree who works guarding the entrance of a prosperous house that rents rooms to tourists. “Customers can’t get here by car and when they come from the airport they have to get out of the taxi in the next block and lug their suitcases,” he laments.

The neighborhood, with several embassies and diplomatic residences, is experiencing a shock. In several places people have put down cardboard to sleep on through the night so as not to lose their place in line. “They urinate in the garden,” laments José, for whom the most difficult part is that “the police are everywhere and now you can not even buy an egg ‘under the table’.”

The line for US travel documents ordinarily formed in the park at Calzada and K, in Vedado, a place that traditionally had hosted “the line to leave,” jokes José.

Now, the sea of people has moved to this street in Miramar, where the well-oiled infrastructure of services created by local entrepreneurs around the US embassy does not yet exist. The commercial network ranged from coffee shops to places where self-employed workers charged people to fill out the forms for the visa process.

In the new location everything seems improvised and disconnected, beginning with the small number of personnel in the Colombian consulate that is trying to manage the avalanche of people, the haphazardness of the space for people arriving and waiting, and the lack of food services for those who must wait for hours, in a neighborhood where things generally cost more than they do elsewhere in Havana.

“An egg sandwich cost me 3 CUC in a private coffee shop, because almost everyone who lives in this part of the city has money, or earns it from renting [to tourists] or is a foreigner,” complains a man who says he arrived from Remedios, in Villa Clara. “If I have to stay another day here I’m going to have spent all my money,” he says.

Beside him, a woman describes the journey she made from Las Tunas and complains loudly that for the second consecutive day she has not been seen. “I have all my papers and my appointment for the US visa is scheduled for the end of the month in Bogota, but the doorman says they are only serving those who are traveling this week.”

The guard raises his arms and asks for silence. The human chorus of laments and demands is silent for a moment. The man, overwhelmed, clarifies that only requests from those with the earliest appointments in Colombia are being processed.

“You must be calm, as far as we are concerned, a great effort is being made and so far nobody has been unable to travel but it is important to organize the entrance, which can only be by date of the first summons,” says the man without managing to calm the spirits.

He then selects the group that will enter the consulate. Several policemen accompany the official and are in charge of stopping the vehicular traffic on the cross street so that people can cross to the other side. The line of the chosen ones covers the distance in silence, while those who remain outside watch them with a mixture of envy and resignation. The conversation breaks out again when the police move away.

Manuel Perdomo says he wants to see his son in Miami. He shares with the others what he knows about the procedures in Colombia. “It is necessary to take a certificate of vaccines and a summary of your clinical history to facilitate the medical check-up,” says the man, who expects to receive a US residence premit under the family reunification program.

“Anyone who is missing a vaccine is going to have to pay for it there,” he says, with his finger pointing to that distant and dreamed of place that Bogotá has become. Perdomo exchanges advice on what awaits them in Colombia because he believes they should help each other. “We are the ones affected,” he says.

This video is not subtitled, but gives a sense of the scene around the consulate

A few yards away, a neighbor on the block charges 5 Cuban pesos for access to his bathroom. “I have toilet paper, soap and a little cologne for those who want to clean up,” he promotes his service. “If someone wants to take a shower you can do that too, but that costs more,” he clarifies.

The bathroom is small and the mirror over the sink is broken. Near the sink, on some tiles that lost their shine years ago, they have stuck a sign that announces that in a nearby house “forms are filled out.” The splashes of water have blurred the phrase, but you can still read the house number and a telephone number.

The most common complaint heard alludes to the lack of information about the new procedures. Jimena is worried about having to connect to the internet to complete some form. “They told me that they will give me the printed forms here, but what if it’s not true?”

Her son has warned by a fellow resident of Pinar del Río not to pay 20 Cuban convertible pesos for the service to fill out the consular documents. “He told me that he is going to take care of everything from Miami, because I do not have the slightest idea of how to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot,” she says.

“You can not be here, señora, you have to go to the corner and wait for the official to review the papers,” a uniformed man tells a woman. The man turns and yells at an independent journalist, telling him that photographs are not allowed. He also tells a young woman to turn off her phone before entering the room.

Little by little, part of the strict security routine that was deployed around the US Embassy is being transferred to the Colombian consulate.

Jimena’s fears do not end in Cuba. His biggest nightmare is to arrive in Bogotá and be asked for a document she does not have. The mere idea that she might have to return to the Island to look for a paper robs her of her sleep. “Just in case, I’m taking everything, even what is not necessary,” she says, and shows a pink folder cluttered with papers.

At noon, the the nearly fifty people still standing in line wilt with fatigue. The rest have gone to have lunch or doze under nearby trees.

The guard, who until last December yawned in his booth overcome by  boredom, stares at the line. “Señora you can’t be here,” he warns a Cuban woman living in Miami who approaches the consulate door to try to enter. The woman complains that she has come to help her daughter obtain the Colombian visa and that everything is very badly organized.

At several points, employees have posted a sign with an email to clear up doubts and get an appointment, but most of those who arrive prefer to be “present in body.” The anguish that they have lived for weeks, since the relationship between Washington and Havana began to get complicated, is not calmed with an email.

“I’m staying here until the Colombian visa is stamped on my passport, so I have to sleep overnight in the street,” says José Carlos, a Havana resident who has been waiting for two years to reunite with his children and his wife “on the other side of the puddle.” And he adds, “Anyway, I already sold my house so I’m renting and no one is at home waiting for me.”

As evening starts to fall pessimism falls over the line. “There are no guarantees that the United States will grant us the visa,” says a female voice that comes from a corner of the group. “All this can be for nothing and a tremendous loss of money,” she adds. José Carlos silences her: “Do not be a wet blanket, when you get to Yuma you will not remember any of this.”

The guard continues to watch the group closely, while darkness settles over busy Calle 14 in Miramar.

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

“We Will Be Watching You”

The police offered Luz Escobar better treatment if she collaborated so that the Government could influence the editorial line of ’14ymedio’. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 January 2018 — Two State Security officers threatened the journalist Luz Escobar on Monday with prosecution for a common crime and making her life hell if she continues her work as a journalist for 14ymedio. “We are going to be watching you, because everyone here [in Cuba] has to buy something on the black market,” warned one of the interrogators.

Escobar received a summons, the second in less than five weeks, to attend an “interview” at the Zapata and C Street police station in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, on 15 January at 1:00 in the afternoon. The meeting lasted an hour and 20 minutes and included several warnings.

“They threatened to tell my neighbors that I am a counterrevolutionary, to not let me leave the country and to prosecute me for a common crime,” adds the reporter, who in the last four years has published dozens of chronicles and reports in the pages of this newspaper. continue reading

“They gave as an example the case of the economist Karina Gálvez,” a member of the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC) who was prosecuted last year for the crime of tax evasion. “The same thing can happen to you”

“They gave as an example the case of the economist Karina Gálvez,” a member of the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC) who was prosecuted last year for the crime of tax evasion. “The same thing can happen to you,” the officers threatened.

Escobar, who previously worked as a theater producer, has been working as a journalist since the beginning of 2014 when she joined 14ymedio’s initial team. Since then she has specialized in cultural and local coverage; highlights of her work are her interviews with artists and her chronicles of daily life in Havana.

“They were particularly annoyed by the article I published last week about the situation outside the Colombian embassy in Havana, where visas are processed so that Cubans can continue the consular procedures for visas to United States in Bogotá,” she said.

“The official, who identified himself as Lieutenant Amed, reproached me for going there and gathering information from Cubans who were waiting to enter the consulate,” Escobar said. “He told me that I had to notify State Security whenever I wanted to cover news of that type.”

The “interview” cycled between threats and an offer of collaboration for the journalist to help the political police to “influence the editorial line” of 14ymedio, because right now “it is a newspaper that receives instructions from abroad to subvert the Revolution,” they told her.

“Among the warnings there were clear hints that they will put pressure on my family and even alluded to my daughters, telling me that they might not have me around as they grow up,” said the reporter, who has decided to continue with her work. “It’s what I want to do with my life,” she says flatly.

The agents asked the journalist to help the political police to “influence the editorial line” of ’14ymedio’,because right now “it is a newspaper that receives instructions from abroad to subvert the Revolution”

The officials insisted that the United States Government financially supports this digital newspaper, but did not reference public information on 14ymedio’s finances; in its four years of existence the newspaper has not received funds from any governments or political parties, or from any organizations linked to any nation’s executive branch.

“Lieutenant Amed avoided mentioning the transparent finances of which this newspaper boasts,” said the director of 14ymedio, the journalist Yoani Sánchez. “He is lying, because we have created our own business model with the resources derived from memberships, reporting agreements with other media, private donations and the work we do in academic centers or other information spaces,” she adds.

“Amed wants to blame us for something that is totally false and is committing the crime of defamation crime by saying that we receive resources from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) or the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), when we are a project with total economic and editorial autonomy,” she reiterates.

A few weeks ago, this newspaper inaugurated a membership system for Internet users to help support the costs of maintaining a newspaper in a country where the independent press is penalized. “We have managed to involve readers so that they can support, with their monetary contributions and solidarity, the work we do every day,” says Sánchez.

Thank you all for the solidarity. The “interview” was full of threats from State Security to get me to quit my work as a journalist on the digital newspaper 14ymedio. 15 January 2018

Since the founding of 14ymedio, in May 2014, members of the editorial team have received constant pressure to abandon their work as journalists. The website is blocked on national servers and residents on the island can only access it via anonymous proxies or VPN.

“Arrests, threats and interrogations have been our day-to-day reality, but we have tried to prevent that repressive atmosphere from distracting us from our reporting,” Sánchez emphasizes, “however, the situation has reached a point where we fear for the integrity of our reporters and it is time to call on the solidarity of journalism organizations in the region and human rights organizations to alert them to what is happening.”

At the end of the interview, Luz Escobar received a new police citation for next Wednesday, 17 January, at the Police Station on 21st and C streets in Vedado.

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

The Platform Of The Innocents

Sign: “Market Leased to Self-employed Workers.” The self-employed sector thought it would benefit from the supposed measures disseminated on the Internet, but the whole thing was actually a joke perpetrated for the Day of the Holy Innocents. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 15 January 2018 – On the final Thursday of last year, the young journalist Norge Rodríguez posted on his Facebook wall the new measures that the Cuban government would supposedly take as of this coming February to “get out of the economic crisis affecting the country for nearly three decades once and for all.”

Those who read the posting to the final line were told they could find more details through a link that led to the Wikipedia listing for the Day of the Holy Innocents, a date on which, in almost all Latin America, jokes of all kinds are made, including in the media through the broadcast of false news.

Those who did not read until the end ventured to reproduce what was, in fact, a “joke of the Innocents” in social networks, blogs and information sites. Nor was there any lack of “analysts” who devoted their time to speculating on the likelihood of some flexibilizations that were spread within the Island through emails, printed sheets and USB memories. continue reading

The owner of a restaurant received one of those papers, from the hands of a customer, clipped to the Letter of the Year with the predictions of the babalaos. A member of the Communist Party could not resist the temptation to ask his neighbor, an independent journalist, if he had heard about the new measures; while a plumber accompanied his teenage son to connect to the internet to get more details about the “reform package.”

In a few days, the joke went viral throughout the country as if it were authentic information, fueling illusions, exciting entrepreneurs and becoming the center of conversations in parks, sports clubs and at family tables.

In an unusual exchange of telephone calls, everyone who felt they would benefit consulted their “frequently well informed” sources about the veracity of the news. These, in turn, went to their usual informants located in the upper echelons of power, in search of signs regarding whether the changes were actually coming.

The supposed measures covered four areas of public interest: self-employment, migration policy, land ownership and Internet access. The document suggested that others were also expected, including ones regarding the press, citizen participation, transparency and democratic governance.

Entrepreneurs welcomed with enthusiasm the elimination of the concept of “permitted activities” and cheered in a low voice the granting of legal status to entities that would be able to “associate with foreign companies and capital.” Their eyes shone when they read that they could import products of a commercial nature and export their products or services.

The private sector, with more than half a million workers, trembled with optimism when they read that a fund was being created for the development of self-employment and fiscal incentives for cooperatives. The offices of the National Tax Administration Office (ONAT) began receiving numerous calls to learn details about the openings.

Cubans settled outside the country shared their joy when they “learned” that the passport extension process was going to be eliminated and that the document would be valid for 10 years, at a cost of 120 dollars abroad and 60 CUC on the island. The emigrants also welcomed the disappearance of the concept of “repatriation.”

The measures, which circulated from hand to hand, included a new Agrarian Reform so that the farmers would become the legitimate owners of the lands they worked and the concept of leasing in usufruct would be abolished. At the same time they were going to be allowed to import supplies, machinery, tools and also to export their products.

The appetite for electronic access was satiated in the novel flexibilizations because, as of March, the internet service would be extended to all households, without time restrictions and at reasonable prices. Along the same lines, it was also stated that foreign telecommunications operators could establish themselves in the country.

From the sociological point of view, the most striking of these “jokes of the Innocents” is the enthusiasm sparked, given that the fictitious package straddled the fence with a foot on each side: on one side the moderate opposition, and on the other the place where the boldest await reforms from the official spheres.

Some dissidents who read the document regretted that the decriminalization of thinking differently, the openness to free association and the freedom of expression were not included. While the most radical began to dismiss it as another attempt by the nomenklatura to perpetuate itself in power, a step to buy the consciousness of the emerging middle class.

Among the most orthodox followers of the ruling party, few believed in the truthfulness of the measures that everyone was talking about on the street. A simple review of the most recent party and government accords made it clear that everything would have to be false, unless an “unacceptable betrayal of the principles” was in the process of being developed.

When it got to the level of the press and the journalists of the ruling party it appeared as if it might necessary to publish a denial describing the event as “a new campaign against Cuba,” but in the end they opted for silence so as not to add fuel to the fire of the rumors.

The most skeptical detected the hoax from the beginning, noting the government’s maxim that any reform should lead to the “perfection” of socialism and realizing that the measures were like corrosive acid on a system that privileges the advantage of the State over private initiative. While implementing such measures would not bring the “overthrow” of the regime, it would deal devastating blows to it.

For two weeks, that list of flexibilizations tested the credulity of a society anxious to hear good news and also offered a warning: If a new electoral law is approved in Cuba, one that would allow candidates to run on proposed platforms – which is strictly forbidden in the current system which allows candidates to offer only their biographies (and forbids any campaigning at all) – anyone who dared to offer such platforms would be swept away at the ballot boxes.

But the platform of the innocents would win, no doubt, among those who read the deceiving joke and believed it was true.

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

Prejudices Put the Brakes on Bike Culture in Cuba

The lanes on the right, exclusive for bicycles and which were so common two decades ago, have been phased out. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 15 January 2018 — The first Sunday of each month they meet in a park in Centro Habana and ride through the capital on a route that varies to avoid boredom. They are the members of Bicicletear La Habana (Havana Cycling), a group of cyclists that promotes the use of bikes as a means of healthy transport and respectful of the environment, a task that in Cuba involves breaking down the stigma of unreliability attached to this means of transport.

The problems with the oil supply and the shortages during the Special Period, in the 90s, negatively affected the image of this transportation mode which, in Europe, is experiencing an era of splendor due to its positive impact on the economy and the sustainability of the cities.

A study published this Monday by the European Union’s PASTA Project (Physical Activity through Sustainable Transport Approaches) estimates that if at least in 24.7% of trips were made by bike, more than 10,000 premature deaths could be avoided per year.  In addition, the results show that by increasing spending on the cycle path network by only 10%, the estimated economic benefits of avoiding premature mortality are enormous. continue reading

“Getting people out of cars produces great health benefits. A combination of measures that make the car unattractive and policies focused on converting public transport and cycling into more attractive modes would be the best way to improve health and welfare in European cities,” the study concludes.

The restoration of the bike lanes in Cuba is not discussed, even though it is the measure most in demand by those who cycle.

In Cuba, the public commitment to promote the use of the bicycle is conspicuous by its absence. Last December, transport minister Adel Yzquierdo Rodríguez told the National Assembly that repairs to “some capital arterials” are planned for this year, but Wilfredo Vázquez, a 55-year-old electrician, believes that “we should also invest in parallel roads and smaller streets that could be a less dangerous alternative for cyclists.”

However, the restoration of the bike lanes in Cuba is not discussed, even though it is the measure most in demand by those who cycle.

In 2013 the economist Marino Murillo, known as the “Tsar of Economic Reforms,” made an announcement that excited some and robbed others of their sleep. The new plan to revitalize the use of the bicycle was aimed at alleviating transport problems and offering a healthier option to the population, Murillo explained at the time.

“In Cuba, one could say there are no bike shops, although there is a store in Miramar and another in another municipality”

The announcement set off alarm bells for many Cubans who saw in it a possible return to the hardest years of the 90s economic crisis.

“The application of below-cost pricing for the sale of parts for [bicycle] maintenance will be evaluated,” Murillo added then, but almost five years later there has been mo increase in sales of bikes or bike parts, nor has there been an increase in the availability of bike parking or bike repair shops.

“In Cuba, one could say there are no bike shops, although there is a store in Miramar and another in another municipality,” reflects Yasser González, from Bicicletear La Habana.

And this is not the only problem. The exclusive bike lanes on the right-hand sides of streets, which were so common two decades ago, have been phased out. On some streets, cycling has been prohibited altogether and the government no longer engages in a massive importing of bicycles, as it did during the Special Period to address the lack of other means of transport.

The architect Miguel Coyula believes that “in Cuba, bicycles are seen as a necessity imposed by extreme economic circumstances.” The specialist wrote an article in which he said that “Havana lost a golden opportunity to become a truly friendly city” for cyclists.

Although the data are not as alarming as those of other Latin American capitals, Havana already suffers from pollution levels that should be reversed.

Havanans give very little thought to the sustainability of their city or their health. In 2014, an investigation determined that nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and dust particles are causing a worrying environmental deterioration in the capital’s air quality. Although the data are not as alarming as those of other Latin American capitals, Havana already suffers from pollution levels that should be reversed.

But the majority of Habaneros consulted by this newspaper reject cycling because it is very hot, the streets are in very bad condition, it is dangerous and they don’t believe their nutrition is adequate for the effort required. Some people also fear their bikes will be stolen or there is no parking near their homes or work.

The cyclists who have joined Bicicletear La Habana pass in a multicolored row in front of Havana’s doorways, leaving curiosity in their wake. Passers-by and drivers sometimes call them “the crazy bike people” for moving on two wheels when in the collective memory “pedaling” is still something closer to sacrifice than pleasure.

“Sometimes I have seen the group pass in front of my house and the truth is that I do not understand why they spend so much energy in that, if along this same route there are almendrones (collective taxis) running,” says María Elena, a retired teacher who lives on Infanta Road, near the departure point of the members of Bicicletear La Habana.

The woman traveled on two wheels when she was working, but no longer cycles because her knees are “in very bad condition.” The aging of the population is leading to a future where “in 2030 older adults will constitute 30% of Havana’s population,” which is another reason Miguel Coyula gives for the decline in cycling.

Among drivers, the opinion of cyclists is quite negative. The drivers refer to them with derogatory phrases, they shout insults and there are few displays of courtesy towards those on two wheels. Along with the tricycles known as pedicabs, bicycles are the lowest link in the Havana traffic food chain.

The Cuban Statistical Yearbook only mentions this type of accident when it is due to “violations by cyclists,” but not when they are the victims.

“I make the trip every day from my house in La Víbora to my work in Vedado and I have to be very attentive because the drivers cut me off or park unexpectedly in front of me without warning,” laments Wilfredo Vázquez.

The cyclist says he has been “in the saddle for almost 30 years” and has never had a serious accident, although several falls that he blames on “imprudent drivers.” However, the Cuban Statistical Yearbook only mentions this type of accident when it is due to “violations by cyclists,” but not when they are the victims.

According to data from the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI), in 2016 cyclists were responsible for 57 accidents with 5 deaths and 53 injured, an incidence lower than that recorded in 2015, when there were 69 accidents, with 10 deceased and 62 injured.

“They always blame us for interfering with traffic and saw we are a headache for taxi drivers and guagueros (bus drivers) but most of the time it is the other way around,” Vázquez complains. “They do not take us into account and without exclusive bike paths, they see us as if we were intruders on the road.”

The experienced cyclist believes that “the state of the streets doesn’t support cycling very much either.” In Havana “there are very few roads that are not full of potholes, with the asphalt broken down by the heat and with bad signals,” he says.

To make matters worse, the bicycle market does not support cycling as a means of transport. Unlike the 90s, when the streets were full of Chinese bicycles – the Flying Pigeon models and the popular Forever Bicycle – today the few rolling along the streets show a greater diversity of styles because they come from the personal imports or the tourists who, after using them, give them away to some Cuban.

Bicicletear La Habana promotes the idea of small private businesses who rent bikes by the hour. The informal market also often makes up for the lack, although the bicycles offered on classified ad sites are poor quality, this paper has confirmed.

“The most popular bicycles are the electric ones, because people do not want to pedal,” says Wilfredo Vázquez, who considers himself “a passionate cyclist.” He says, “I do not understand that, because having a bicycle is choosing to a healthier lifestyle and for that you have to do the exercise,” he argues.

Vázquez believes that “sooner or later” cycling will be common in Cuba’s major city. “Because it is untenable to move more than two million people on public transport and the city is very congested with cars.” However, “first you have to overcome people’s prejudice.”

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

Raúl Castro Concludes A Week Of Funeral Rites

Raúl Castro participated in a ceremony at the mausoleum of the ‘Frank País’ Second Eastern Front, the location of the niche where he himself will be interred. (Granma)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 14 January 2018 – On Saturday, Raúl Castro ended a week in which he participated in several funeral ceremonies in eastern Cuba. With his presence at the mausoleum of the ‘Frank País’ Second Eastern Front, the site of the niche where he himself will be interred, the ruler added a new act to his intense “obituary” route of last year.

Four months before leaving the presidency,on January 13 Castro, 86, attended the burial ceremony of 104 soldiers of the Rebel Army column that fought under his direction.

The official ceremony held in the former headquarters that was led by Castro, was attended by the highest echelons of the government, including first vice president Miguel Díaz-Canel, who is expected to succeed the current president this coming April. continue reading

Two days earlier, the president presided over a similar act in the Mausoleum of the ‘Mario Muñoz’ Third Eastern Front

As he passed through that part of the island, several opposition activists denounced house arrests and an increase in surveillance, according to reports that arrived in 14ymedio’s Editorial Office from Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey.

State TV broadcast images of the mausoleum, located in the mountains of the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba, totally covered by a strong haze early in the morning.

The event began with the arrival of uncovered vehicles that brought the 104 urns to the mausoleum, where family members, officers of the Cuban Armed Forces and former combatants of the Rebel Army that had been led by the late Fidel Castro (1926-2016), were already waiting.

the program listed the names of the soldiers and the military grades they held in the rebel army along with those they held at the time of their deaths.

During the main speech, the ruling Communist Party of Cuba’s number two man, José Ramón Machado Ventura, mentioned that the ceremony was taking place more than a year after the death of Fidel Castro, the “commander-in-chief” of the insurrection.

Machado Ventura, who was also a member of the Second Eastern Front, added that it was the leader of the Cuban Revolution who had the idea of ​​creating the Fronts of the Rebel Army, to extend the struggle of the eastern mountains to the whole country.

“The decision to turn the dream (of freedom) of several generations of revolutionaries into reality brought to these mountains more than a hundred compañeros, whose ashes, by their own will, will rest here, in the place where the transcendental moments of their lives took place,” he added.

Of the 104 combatants interred, only six fell in combat and the rest spent their remaining lives supporting the “revolutionary process,” said Machado Ventura.

Before leaving, Raul Castro visited the great monolith – similar to that of the tomb of his brother Fidel – marked with the names of Vilma and Raúl, where the remains of his wife Vilma Espín (1930-2007) are already resting and within which the current president has decided to be interred when he dies.

On 11 January of this year, the Cuban president presided over a similar ceremony at the mausoleum of the ‘Mario Muñoz’ Third Eastern Front, also in the territory of Santiago de Cuba, where the remains of 33 former combatants were deposited.

There he paid tribute to the deceased leader of that column, one of the ‘historic generation’ of the Revolution, Juan Almeida (1927-2009).

Raul Castro, who must leave power this coming April after completing two five-year terms, also attended, last October, a solemn ceremony to commemorate the relocation of the remains of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and Mariana Grajales, famous figures of Cuba’s nineteenth century wars of independence.

The remains of both patriots were relocated to new monuments in the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in the city of Santiago de Cuba, where they had already been interred, to locations closer to the tombs of the national hero José Martí and ex-president Fidel Castro. The re-interment ceremony did not include observance of the rituals that would normally be carried out in keeping with the Catholic faith of the long-deceased, and thus generated intense controversy among Catholics, as it did among the descendants of Céspedes and Grajales, who were not consulted or even informed in advance about the relocation of their ancestors’ remains.

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

‘Che’ Guevara, The Faded Myth

It does not matter if his face continues to be reproduced on countless T-shirts, flags or ashtrays all over the planet, because the more it becomes known what kind of person he really was, the more his myth fades. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 14 January 2018 — Almost four decades ago, when I was learning the alphabet, I had to say my first political slogan, the same one repeated every morning by thousands of Cuban schoolchildren: “Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che.” The only thing that has changed is that, today, the figure of the guerrilla is sharply contested in many parts of the world, but not in Cuba.

The man who posed for so many photographers, who was immortalized in a portrait with his beret and lost gaze, is not escaping the judgment of History. Now, when violence and armed struggle are increasingly publicly condemned, the details of his excesses are coming to light and the victims of those years are finally beginning to be heard.

Times are not good for Ernesto Guevara, the Argentinian who has captivated filmmakers, writers and journalists. It does not matter if his face continues to be reproduced on countless T-shirts, flags or ashtrays all over the planet, because the more it becomes known what kind of person he really was, the more his myth fades. The truth floats while he sinks. continue reading

The material voracity of his heirs, the unscrupulous use made of his name by his own compañeros in battle, and the frivolity of the consumers of ideological relics add corrosive acid to his legend

The unrestrained commercialization that has taken over that image with its thin beard and prominent brow also contributes to his descent. The material voracity of his heirs, the unscrupulous use made of his name by his own compañeros in battle, and the frivolity of the consumers of ideological relics add corrosive acid to his legend.

Che has become a business, a good business for nostalgics who write books about those utopias so lacking today. They are tomes to deify a man who would have persecuted many of his current admirers for wearing a nose ring, having long hair or for the residue of marijuana in their pockets.

Like one of life’s ironies, the Guevarian cult spreads among people who could never have fit into the strict mold that the Argentinian designed for the “New Man.” That individual had to be motivated by “hatred as a factor of struggle” and had to know, when the time came, how to become a “selective and cold killing machine,” he warned in his last public message in 1967.

In what way can Che appeal to the pacifists, environmentalists or anti-establishment types who today venerate him? How do those who claim to want greater spaces of freedom for citizens be in tune with a man who helped subdue an entire society to the designs of a few? At what point does their idealism connect with a man who wanted to change Latin America through the sights of a gun?

Guevara’s early death and his failure to age in power are not enough to sustain his legend. The complacent biographers who retouched every passage of his life have contributed to his deification, as have his former fellow travelers in need of a “martyr” for the pantheon of revolutionaries, a John Lennon without a guitar or a Jesus without a crown of thorns.

In October 2016, the image of Che Guevara which, for more than 30 years, had stared out over the main square of the National University of Bogotá in Colombia, disappeared from the wall of the León de Greiff auditorium. The erasure of that face provoked a bitter controversy among the students and soon after a group of the Argentinian’s supporters ended up repainting the mural.

The clash revealed something more than ideological differences among the students: it showed the clash of two eras. On one side, a moment when Guevara was seen as a Latin American liberator who, riding his motorcycle or holding his gun, represented a quixotic figure ready to face the imperialists’ machines. On the other, a time when the failure of the model that the guerrilla wished to impose has been proven.

There is nothing that gives a greater lie to the man who reached the rank of commander in the Sierra Maestra, than the rancid totalitarianism into which the Cuban Revolution sank

There is nothing that gives a greater lie to the man who reached the rank of commander in the Sierra Maestra, than the rancid totalitarianism into which the Cuban Revolution sank. No blow to his image has been as harsh as the pro-Soviet drift that Fidel Castro took after Che’s death and subsequent “concessions” to the market he was forced to make when the subsidies from the Kremlin abruptly ended.

Last year, just half a century after the death of Guevara in Bolivia, the liberal Bases Foundation began a campaign to collect signatures on Change.org to eliminate all monuments and other tributes to Che in the city of Rosario, where he was born. The Argentinian NGO called him the heir of the “murderous legacy of communism.” More than 20,000 people have signed the demand.

At the end of December, last year, the controversy reached France when the Parisian City Council, led by the socialist mayor of Spanish heritage Ana Hidalgo, hosted the exhibition Le Che à Paris. Several intellectuals and academics signed a protest letter written by the journalist and Cuban exile Jacobo Machover in which they demanded the immediate closure of the exhibition.

Machover, author of The Hidden Face of Che, recounts in his book several of the aspects most hidden in the official history. Guevara “attended the executions” carried out after summary trials in the first year of the Revolution and “the Cubans, who feared him, called him the butcher of La Cabaña,” he relates. In 1964, from the podium of the United Nations, he boasted of his actions: “We executed, we are executing and we will continue to execute as long as necessary.”

Hidalgo responded with a message on the social network Twitter that fired up the mood even more, where she said, “the capital city pays homage to a figure of the revolution turned into a militant and romantic icon.” The Parisian mayor closed her tweet with an emoticon in the form of a closed fist, in the old revolutionary way.

With her gesture, Hidalgo joined one of the most elaborate publicity campaigns that has emerged from the Castroist laboratory, one in which the past is distorted and Guevara is praised, while the extensive cruelty that characterized him is hidden.

For several generations of Cubans who have repeated from an early age the commitment to “be like Che,” all these polemics come as a shock. Like slaps, they bring us out of the hypnotic state engendered by the combination of ignorance and indoctrination.

However, the most devastating blow I have witnessed to the figure of the so-called “heroic guerrilla” came from a compatriot. In the midst of a party in Havana, a young university student realized that a German guest was dressed in one of those shirts with the famous snapshot taken by the photographer Alberto Korda.

“You could just as well put on a shirt with the face of Charles Manson,” the student said to the tourist, and the phrase remained floating in the air while the music seemed to stop. Nervous laughter and silence. No one defended Che Guevara.

Editor’s Note: This text was initially published in the Spanish newspaper El País.

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

Martín Domínguez Architect of Havana’s Focsa Building, Erased by Francoism and Castroism

Two dictatorships, that of Francisco Franco and that of Fidel Castro, condemned a liberal and upright man to oblivion: the Basque architect Martín Domínguez Esteban. (File Martín Domínguez Esteban)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Maite Rico, Madrid, 13 January 2018 — Madrid’s Zarzuela racecourse, with its spectacular grandstands and challenging cantilevered decks, is notable in the annals of architecture. As is Havana’s Focsa building, that “open book” of 39 floors, inspired by Le Corbusier, that dialogues with the bay and Malecon in Cuba’s capital city.

Behind these two emblematic works, so studied, so dissected, lies, curiously, a ghost. A name that does not appear in books or specialized publications. It is not a mistake. It is the oblivion to which two dictatorships, that of Francisco Franco and that of Fidel Castro, condemned a liberal and upright man: the Basque architect Martín Domínguez Esteban (1897-1970).

For decades, the racecourse, conceived in 1934 and opened in 1941, was officially attributed to the engineer Eduardo Torroja. The other co-designers, Martín Domínguez and Carlos Arniches, were erased from memory. The Focsa building is attributed to the architect Ernesto Gómez Sampera. Martín Domínguez is ignored in the guides of Cuban architecture, even in the one jointly published in 1998 by the Junta de Andalucía and the authorities of Havana. continue reading

Domínguez swelled the list of architects condemned to exile or ostracism after the Spanish Civil War, many of them purged, such as Josep Lluís Sert, Manuel Sanchez Arcas, Felix Candela, Carlos Arniches and Arturo Sáenz de la Calzada, in what entailed the dismantling of the vigorous Spanish architecture of the first half of the 20th century.

In the case of Martín Domínguez, the exile was double: first to Cuba, when he was 40, and then to the United States, when he was already 62. But his personal defeats in the face of totalitarianism never separated him from his commitment: to put architecture at the service of society. He died in New York in 1970. Today, the tenacity of his son, Martín Domínguez Ruz, also an architect, working with Pablo Rabasco, a full professor of Art History at the University of Córdoba, has allowed the reclaiming of a memorable legacy and biography.

Madrid: Frustrated Dreams

“Look at the arcs, they mark the rhythm of the whole building, the rhythm of a horse’s gallop.” A rhythm paced by the undulating roofs of the spectator stands. A few yards away, the pureblood’s hooves thunder along the track. Martín Domínguez Ruz is 72. At 23 he set foot on the Zarzuela Racetrack in Madrid’s Monte de El Pardo for the first time. It was 1968 and he and took some pictures that, once back in New York, he showed to his father, Martín Domínguez Esteban. The Basque architect, one of the three authors of that project, who had never been able to see the finished work, which had been in progress for two years when the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936. “My father went into exile and Carlos Arniches, who stayed behind, was censured and could not finish it.” Engineer Eduardo Torroja was able to continue and remained faithful to the plans.”

Martín Domínguez Ruz, in front of the stands of the racetrack, known is Spanish as the Hipódromo de la Zarzuela, the work of his father, Arniches and Torroja. (James Rajotte)

Like a good architect, Martín the son likes to talk about the philosophy that underlies the structure. The racecourse is a technical feat, yes, but also a way to understand a historical moment.

“My father and Arniches wanted to recreate the sense of a town celebrating fiestas, where the elite mix with the ordinary people, the traditional with the modern, a network of spaces that invites one to walk and come upon the jockeys and the horses, with the paddock in the center, surrounded by arcades, like in the bullfights in the central square of Sepulveda in the patron saint festivities.”

All this combined with a great technical challenge: the large reinforced concrete canopies that seem to wave on the grandstands and that are anchored with their own weight to the entrance hall.

The whitewashed walls and Arab tile roofs unleashed the orthodox criticism of the avant-garde. But Arniches and Domínguez did not want to break with the past. It was about heading into the future based on their own traditions, very much in the humanistic spirit of the Free Institution of Education and the Student Residence, where Domínguez stayed between 1918 and 1925.

His son draws a parallel with the La Barraca theatrical project of La Barraca by Federico García Lorca, a friend of his father. “They wanted to transform an agrarian and cacique society into a more just, more modern and more enlightened one through the architectural language.”

And now it is time to put things in their place. “The racetrack is a unitary work, the result of a dialogue between two architects and an engineer, who unite two contrasting constructive traditions.

There have been historians who have had the temerity to say that the stands were the work of Eduardo Torroja, and that was convenient because Arniches and Dominguez did not have the sympathies of the regime. The reality is that it was a joint work of three professionals who were respected, and memory speaks very clearly. Without Torroja it would not have been like that, but nor would it have been like that without the architects.”

Until 1936, the career of Martín Domínguez Esteban seemed unstoppable. Coming from a family of San Sebastian’s high bourgeoisie, he shared his studio, located in the Palace Hotel, with Carlos Arniches, whom he met in 1924.

Both participated fully in the modernizing movement that was making its way into Spain. They were involved in the construction of the Road Hostels of the National Tourism Board (the seeds of the Paradores Nationales – a series of luxury hotels created in historic structures), an initiative of 1928 to promote car tourism and to update the appalling hospitality infrastructure in the interior of the country.

They worked with agricultural villages and collaborated with their mentor, Secundino Zuazo, in the construction of the Nuevos Ministerios (government headquarters). And they turned their attentions to the project of educational renovation with the School Institute and the Kindergarten (today, the Ramiro de Maeztu Institute) and the Student Residence Auditorium on Serrano Street (destroyed at the end of the war and reconstructed, using part of the original, by Miguel Fisac as the Chapel of the Holy Spirit).

When war broke out, Domínguez offered himself to the Captaincy General to work with other architects on the plans for the defenses of Madrid,

which were to be built by unemployed workers. The labor unions rejected the plan. “My father saw that the war was lost, and he told Juan Negrín that,” recalls his son.

In December of 1936, Domínguez crossed the French border on foot. Lluís Companys had interceded with the leader of the CNT (National Confederation of Labor) to give him a safe conduct (“he has a friendly face, we let him out,” the union leader told him). He ended up in Antwerp and embarked on a ship bound for Veracruz. From there he planned to travel to the United States. The ship made a two-week stopover in Havana. And the architect changed his plans and decided to stay on the island. Carlos Arniches, on the other hand, is cloistered in an internal exile until his death, in Madrid in 1958. In those years he built the settlement colonies of Algallarín (Córdoba) and Gévora (Badajoz) and the Center for Tobacco Studies, in Seville.

Havana: The Golden Years

April 2017, Martín Domínguez Ruz speaks at the School of Architecture of Cuba about the process of creating the Hipódromo de la Zarzuela with the same slides that his father had used. He has not been in his native country, which he left as a teenager, for 58 years. The meeting provokes mixed sensations.

“I’ve never seen so many police and military officers in one place, but then you say … God, what a beautiful city, and the contact with unofficial people is so kind and so warm, I found very few people attached to the regime.”

He decided to return with Pablo Rabasco to look for the traces of his father, especially in the public housing he developed in several neighborhoods in Havana. But none of the experts will help them. “Their careers were in danger, it turns out that the one who developed those plans was not Che Guevara’s New Man, but a liberal and democratic man, who left Cuba and was later called a gusano, a worm. So now the designers have become the revolutionary architects of the National Housing Institute. Changing the story is going to be difficult.”

The Cuba that Martín Domínguez Ruz’s father knew was very different. An effervescent country, with a buoyant economy and a hectic cultural life. But there was a problem: the College of Architects refused to recognize his professional title.

“It was because of ‘corporatism’. On my birth certificate, dated 1945, I am the son of Josefina Ruz, secretary and domestic worker, and of Martín Domínguez Esteban, interior decorator. In spite of everything, Domínguez Esteban soon begins to stand out. He associates with other architects, signing plans as the treasurer or engineer.

With Miguel Gastón he builds the Radiocentro building in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood for the CMQ Communications Group, the most important in Cuba. Completed in 1947, it was the first multifunctional complex in the country, with shops, offices, radio and television studios and the Warner cinema (today, renamed the Yara Cinema). Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus School, praised him on a visit to Havana.

The Focsa is structured in two wings that take off from a central hinge and the number of stories was a technical feat. (Wikimedia)

Specifically to provide accommodation for the station’s employees, Martín Domínguez’s most audacious project in Cuba arose: the FOCSA building (Fomento de Obras y Construcciones, SA), undertaken with Ernesto Gómez Sampera. The building, which at 39 floors was at the time the second highest concrete structure in the world, was raised as a small self-sufficient city, following the parameters of Le Corbusier, one of Martín Domínguez’s great inspirations, whom he had met while working on the Student Residence in Spain.

The building was structured in two wings that take off from a central hinge and the number of stories was a technical feat. The FOCSA should have received the 1957 Gold Medal from the College of Architects, but the 26th of July Movement’s assault on the presidential palace that year caused the cancellation of the awards.

By then Martín Domínguez had been involved in the construction of social housing for unions, on land bought by the FOCSA company. After the triumph of the Revolution, the architect recommended that the owners to sell the land to the state, before it was confiscated.

“My father saw everything coming from the beginning, because of his experience on the Republican side [in Spain], he soon identified Fidel Castro’s speeches with those of La Pasionaria (Dolores Ibárruri), ‘I’ve heard it before,’ he said. He knew very well where this was going. My mother did not, but he did.”

The FOCSA group sent him to talk with Che Guevara who headed the Ministry of Housing and La Cabaña Fortress. “Every morning they were shooting people there, the blasts could be heard all over Havana. He negotiated with him to sell the land, below the purchase price, of course. Then Che invited him to dinner.”

And there Martín Domínguez sealed his fate. Commander Guevara wants to know more about him. “Well, Domínguez, you are a Spanish Republican, and what are your ideas?”

“My ideas?”

“Yes, your ideas.”

“From the personal point of view I am conservative, and from the political point of view I am a liberal.”

After that conversation, agitators began to arrive at jis projects, to incite the workers to revolt. Meanwhile Dominguez, together with Gómez Sampera and Ysrael Seinuk, had presented the project for the Libertad Building, a spectacular 50-story skyscraper, to an official contest to commemorate the Revolution. “The jury of architects was going to give them the first prize. My father did not appear, of course, but when they told Fidel about the project he said he did not accept it, saying ‘this gallego is not going to build in Cuba’.”

Ithaca: End of the Journey

Martín Domínguez Esteban knew that the time has come to return to exile. He accepted a job offer from the prestigious Cooper Union University, in New York, and waited for months for a criminal background check certificate from Spain that never came.

At the end of April 1960, the architect leaves Havana on a boat bound for Miami, with his wife and son, aged 15, with a car, some clothes, photos, $150 per person and one book each chosen from the family library. The father chooses Manuel Azaña’s essays. The mother, a Spanish rice cookbook. The teenager, the complete works of García Lorca.

“We spent a night in Miami, I wanted to stay longer, we had family, but my father told me: ‘We are not staying a moment longer than necessary, your mother and I will never go back to Cuba. I do not want to live with yearnings and false expectations. We are not going to look back. Always ahead’.”

When they arrived in New York, someone else had been given the job at Cooper Union because of the time that had passed, but he got another teaching position in upstate New York at Cornell University, in the city of Ithaca, which he defined as “a Siberia with modernist airs.”

At this time, Martín Domínguez Esteban was 62. He reinvents himself again, he is happy to teach, he works as a consultant on housing programs in Latin America and designs the beautiful Lennox House, his final work. “My father faced the second exile with his sense of humor and integrity intact. He had an unusual strength of character. In Ithaca, despite the low temperatures, he continued to take his cold shower every morning.” But behind his humor and elegance, he always lived in that “constant hunger of exile” mentioned in the Greek tragedies, a hunger that, in the end, could never be satisfied.

An annual award with his name celebrates Martin Dominguez Esteban at Cornell University, which dedicated a great exhibition to him at the time. The award in Madrid is the second. “Our goal now is to have one in Havana,” says professor Pablo Rabasco enthusiastically. “It will be the best way to close the circle.” And erase oblivion.

Editor’s Note: This text was initially published in the Spanish newspaper  El País.

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

Ecuador’s Cuban Community is Involved in February 4th Referendum

At least 43,000 Cubans, many of them professionals, live in Ecuador. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 12 January 2018 — The division between correístas (supporters of former president Rafael Correa) and morenistas (supporters of current president Lenin Moreno) that runs through Ecuador, less than a month before the upcoming 7-issue referendum called by President Lenin Moreno is also reflected among Cubans residing in the country.

The polls maintain that the YES side, promoted by the current president who is asking voters to approve all seven measures, will win by a large majority, but among the Cubans consulted by 14ymedio opinions are not very clear.

“Among Cubans who reside here, there is a part of us who consider Moreno a traitor and would like to see the return of President Rafael Correa, but there is also a large group that wants change,” says Rolando Gallardo, one of the organizers of the National Alliance of Cubans in Ecuador, speaking from Quito. continue reading

The referendum called by the current president for Sunday, 4 February, includes five amendments to the constitution and seven proposals overall. Among these is the overturning the measure approved by the National Assembly at Correa’s request in 2015, which eliminated term limits for some offices, including that of president.

Among the other referendum measures are one to restructure the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control, one of the central powers of the State, and one that would bar from public office and confiscate the assets of those who commit corruption offenses.

Good news at the beginning of they ear: @MashiRafael [Correa] comes to Ecuador this week and stays all month to “burn shoe leather”, to “go back to the grassroots working door to door” to overcome the betrayal and say NO to the cheating and unconstitutional consultation. We shall overcome! – Ricardo Patiño (@RicardoPatinoEC) January 2, 2018 [Tweet from Correa’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, now Minister of National Defense]

Gallardo, a graduate in History from the University of Havana, does not hesitate to affirm that Correa “did a lot” for Ecuador, and took advantage of the oil boom to develop the country’s infrastructure. However, he rejects Correa’s authoritarianism and believes that his return to public office would do “a lot of damage to Ecuadorian democracy.”

“Having no term limits is for countries with a high level of political education, and in a nation like Ecuador, where the political views of the masses are emotional and ephemeral, it is a danger,” he says.

Some 13 million voters over the age of 16 are eligible to participate in the referendum, including foreigners with five years of legal residence in the country. At least 43,000 Cubans, many of them professionals, live in Ecuador but it is not known how many have the right to vote. They arrived starting in 2008 when Correa’s Government established the policy of universal citizenship and eliminated the visa requirement for people coming from most countries, including Cuba.

I am going to my homeland on January 4, to be with my colleagues in this fight against treason and partyocracy,’ Ever onward to victory! – Rafael Correa (@MashiRafael) January 2, 2018 [Tweet from Rafael Correa, who has been living in Belgium]

In 2015, Ecuador resumed the practice of requiring visas for Cuban citizens in response to the migration crisis that arose that year in Central America, when thousands of people left the island and headed to the United States by way of Quito, out of fear that the special migratory privileges enjoyed by Cubans under the US wet foot/dry foot policy would soon be terminated.

“Correa was the president who let us into this country and the one who cared most about Cubans. Ecuador was just a banana republic and ungovernable before he became president,” Jesus Curbelo says excitedly. Curbelo is a Cuban who has lived in Ecuador’s most populated city, Guayaquil, for five years.

“In Ecuador there is a lot of xenophobia, especially towards Cubans, because Ecuadorians believe that we have come to take away their jobs,” argues Curbelo, who graduated as a professor of mathematics on the island and who will vote against Lenin Moreno’s proposals.

“The social gains, the education and health programs that were achieved under Correa’s government will not be sustained if his legacy does not continue,” says Curbelo, who is close to the Association of Cuban Residents in Ecuador (ACURE), an organization sponsored by the Cuban Embassy in Quito.

Dr. Adrián Hernández Cruz, a Cuban living in Cuenca, believes that Moreno’s referendum provokes “sympathy among Cubans,” although he, personally, is not happy with the current president’s reforms.

Cubans entering Ecuador by year

“Lenin has maintained the same restrictions on Cubans as did the Correa government, such as the impossibility of achieving permanent legal status for many of those who came to Ecuador looking for work,” he explains. The doctor also distrusts the work of the Cuban ambassador, whom he accuses of interference in the internal affairs of the Andean country.

“Despite the fact that in the last few months there has been some opening to facilitate the process of legalization of immigrants, in the Cuban case the obstacles are maintained and, particularly in the case of professionals, they increase,” explains the doctor. “All this is just a political manipulation in order to gain popularity,” he says.

Michel Larrondo, another Cuban doctor who emigrated to Ecuador, believes that Correa supporters seek to “perpetuate themselves in power.”

“Even the former president came back from Belgium to campaign for the NO side,” he says. Although he is a supporter of the YES side, he regrets that the Cuban community “is apathetic in its great majority: many do not care about politics, it’s all the same to them whether it’s Correa or Moreno.”

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

Two Spanish Women Diagnosed With Zika After Trip To Cuba

The ‘Aedes aegypti’ mosquito, responsible for the transmission of the Dengue and Zika viruses, is not present in Europe, and so far all infections detected there are the result of travel abroad. (James Gathany)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio (with information from agencies), Zaragoza, 12 January 2018 – Two women from Spain who traveled to Cuba together and suffered numerous insect bites were diagnosed with Zika, according to an announcement on Thursday from the Aragón Government.

Three days after their return from the island, the women, age 36 and 65, went to a clinic with joint pains and widespread itchy rashes, according to the Aragón weekly epidemiological bulletin. Serum and urine tests were positive for Zika but negative for Dengue and Chikungunya.

The women were told to use condoms and to avoid pregnancy for the next 6 months, as well as not to donate blood until 28 days after the symptoms had passed. A Zika epidemic in 2015 focused attention on this virus,which is associated with microcephaly in babies of infected mothers and in some cases with Guillain-Barré syndrome. continue reading

Since the beginning of the outbreak, the Spanish Ministry of Health confirmed 325 cases of Zika infection as of the middle of the previous year. In 2017, 12 cases were detected.

The Zika virus is not endemic to Spain, so the general recommendation for women who want to get pregnant is to avoid trips to areas where it is present. Other groups most vulnerable to the virus are young children and those chronically ill with other diseases, such as HIV.

In Europe there is no evidence of the presence of Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can be a carrier of the virus, but Aedes albopictus, known as the tiger mosquito and capable of transmitting Dengue, is endemic in the Mediterranean area. This mosquito is potentially also a vector of Zika. However, no cases acquired locally have been detected on the continent to date.

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