Iliana Hernandez, Victim of Decree 370

Iliana Hernández can become the first journalist prosecuted by this law. (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 February 2020 — Less than a year after Decree 370 went into effect, regulating the use of the Internet in Cuba, Iliana Hernández will be prosecuted for “disseminating, through the public data transmission networks, information contrary to the social interest.” Along with Boris González and Nancy Alfaya, hers is one of the first cases of independent reporters to whom this rule is intended to be applied.

Hernández has denounced the imposition of an illegally imposed fine of 3,000 Cuban pesos, which could double if she does not satisfy it before Thursday. In addition it is already official that her cell phone and her computer were confiscated, as she reported to 14ymedio.

At the police station they told her that this measure was under the scope of Decree Law 370 and that it had nothing to do with the crime of “reception” for which they intend to prosecute her. continue reading

“Yesterday a lady came from the fines office to very kindly tell me that if I did not pay the fine on February 13, it would be doubled to 6,000 pesos because a month has already passed. But the point is that I am in criminal proceedings now, I showed him them the bail  and everything and they can’t condemn me twice for the same thing, I didn’t even know that about the fine because I didn’t sign anything at the station. The lady says she doesn’t understand it either but she tells me that the fine is there and I have to pay it,” the reporter explained.

On January 8, the police conducted a police search of Hernández’s house during which she was arrested and threatened. At the end of the search the officers confiscated several personal and other work items.

“They already took my phone and the computer under that law [370], they didn’t give me any receipt, which is totally illegal. I only know that my complaint is number 1305. And then they have taken my things it’s the same as if it were a case of receiving, ” she explained.

“I am going to denounce that, it is not going to be of any use because we live in a dictatorship, but for the record that there are no rights for anyone in this country. There is already too much abuse and one is totally helpless, they will not silence me ever, they have already done it to Nancy Alfaya, Boris González, they will not stop.”

On January 13, the reporter presented the authorities with several documents that give account of the unlawful seizure of her computer, cellphone and the other objects confiscated during the search, but in the police station the officers did not want to accept them.

“It is obvious that they do this because of my work with independent media, it is what they do with us, repress, always repress,” she denounced.

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) called on the Government to immediately withdraw the accusations against the reporter and to have her work equipment returned.

“The Cuban authorities must immediately withdraw their false charges against journalist Iliana Hernández and stop threatening to file a criminal proceeding,” said Natalie Southwick, the coordinator of the CPJ Central and South America Program.

“Working for independent media and possessing basic equipment to practice journalism is not a crime. The Cuban authorities must return Hernández’s computer and telephone, and allow her to work freely,” Southwick said.

Since December 2018, Iliana Hernández has been a contributor to CiberCuba, and also presents live broadcasts on the networks of that portal to comment on the news.

Decree 370 establishes broad control by the Government over the internet. It does this through regulating the use of new technologies, greater supervision over wireless networks and strict limits for online content publishing. The sanctions include not only the fine, but also the confiscation of the equipment and means used, the removal of the license authorizing the provision of network administration services temporarily or permanently, and the closing of the facilities.

When Decree 370 went into effect it set off a broad condemnation by international organizations linked to freedom of expression and also numerous criticisms from activists and independent journalists. Especially, among those media that have taken advantage of the emergence of new technologies to create a news space parallel to the official press.

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

Three Dead and Eight Injured in Another Accident in Santiago de Cuba

The vehicle overturned in Fray Juan, Altos de Titi. (Sierra Maestra)

14ymedio biggerEFE / 14ymedio, Havana, February 3rd, 2020 — Three people were killed and another eight injured after a truck that was in use as a makeshift bus crashed on a highway in Santiago de Cuba.

The accident happened last Saturday on a stretch of road near Alto de El Titi, on the Laguna Blanca highway, in the Contramaestre area, according to information published in the official Sierra Maestra newspaper.

The fatalities were two men and a woman of 19, 40, and 44 years of age, and three of the injured were taken to Orlando Panoja de Contramaestre hospital with life-threatening injuries.

The photos published show that the vehicle left the highway, but, up to now, there are no further details. continue reading

It’s only two weeks since the last fatal traffic accident in the same province. On the 20th, two people were killed and another 22 injured when a Kamaz truck turned over, after hitting a Maz-500 truck (both are Russian-made vehicles) travelling in the opposite direction on the Central Highway, between Dos Palmas and Yarayabo.

For the last several years, traffic accidents have been the fifth cause of death in Cuba, where one is reported every 55 minutes, there is a fatality every 15 hours, and an injury every one hour and fifteen minutes, according to a recent report by the Department of Transport.

Major accidents occur with particular frequency in the eastern part of Cuba, where it is normal for trucks to be adapted to carry passengers, owing to the scarcity of public transport.

From January up until the end of October 2019, 7,800 traffic accidents were reported in Cuba, leaving 5,735 injured and 490 dead, according to official data.

Inadequate vehicle maintenance, ignoring rights of way on the road, speeding, and driving under the influence are among the most frequent causes of accidents.

But the high rate of accidents on the highways and on urban streets is also due to the advanced age of the vehicles (most of them are over 20 years old and many of them over 60), and their poor maintenance, often carried out on a DIY basis.

Translated by GH

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

Stores Will Have No Cleaning Products Throughout February and March, Cuba’s Internal Trade Minister Announces

Detergent, soap and chicken are scarce on the shelves in Cuban stores. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 February 2020 — While National TV broadcasts constant calls to strengthen our personal hygiene to prevent contagious diseases, the Minister of Internal Trade, Betsy Díaz Velázquez, announced on Tuesday in Villa Clara that the Government will not be able to meet the demand for cleaning products in the country until April at the earliest because of “serious financial limitations.”

“Based on some decisions taking by the country’s leaders and the Ministry, which have been looking for variable and alternative financial sources, and have signed new agreements with our suppliers, we think that in April the supply of the main cleaning products and will stabilize, along with other products in high demand such as chicken,” Díaz Velázquez told the official press.

She acknowledged that cleaning products “have been missing in the month of January. We are not going to have the demand satisfied in February or March, but we hope that with several measures that are being taken, we can stabilize the production of these products by industry, and offer them to the population,” she explained.

The official justified this situation by saying that the State had redistributed its resources and prioritized the purchase of food, medicines and fuels. “Today our finances have to be used to overcome the adversities of the crude ‘blockade’ [the American embargo] and to be able to acquire fuel from other regions… The main priorities for the available finances are fuel and food,” she added.

This statement is belied by the situation of continuous and cyclical shortage of basic foods that Cubans have experienced in recent months. Detergent, soap and chicken are scarce on store shelves, while on pharmacy shelves many products have disappeared including condoms, thermometers and many medicines such as pain relievers, antibiotics and antidepressants.

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

Guillermo Farinas Released But Will Not be Allowed to Leave Santa Clara in the Coming Days

Fariñas has been detained for two days and will not be able to travel to Europe, as planned. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 February 2020 — Guillermo Fariñas was released this Thursday after spending two days in detention during which he received support from the international community. Despite his release from detention, he will not be able to leave Santa Clara in the next few days, according to the authorities. The opponent was arrested in Santa Clara, where he resides, on Tuesday, when he was leaving for Havana to collect a visa he needed to travel to Europe, where he planned several to attend several events.

His wife, Wendis Castillo, reported his release and denounced that State Security has warned him that he will not be able to leave Santa Clara until after February 20 since they will not “allow him to sabotage relations between Cuba and the EU.”

David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, had interceded for him a few hours before asking for his release and joining the voices of several Members of the European Parliament, who spoke out before the Italian. “I call for the immediate release of Guillermo Fariñas, winner of the European Parliament’s 2010 Sakharov Prize, arrested in Cuba. Freedom of thought is a right that no person should be deprived of,” he wrote in his Twitter account. continue reading

The opponent’s mother, Alicia Hernández, was able to visit him the day before to see him and bring him food. “They did not let him leave, he exited the house and went a few steps and they picked him up,” she said.

“They picked me up and brought me back [from visiting him],” she said, adding that her son, “is in good spirits, calm and waiting to be told why he cannot go to Havana,” she added.

The journalist Boris González Arenas was also released this Thursday after being arrested at his home in Havana, according to his wife Juliette Isabel Fernández, who  denounced the arrest on Facebook.

“Three men in civilian clothes, headed by the one who presented himself as Captain Pavel of the Police, told him, without even a poorly prepared written citation like the ones they usually present, that he had to accompany them to speak with his superior,” Fernandez wrote.

“Boris had to explain some of his failures to respond to previous subpoenas. Then they violently grabbed him, forcibly removed him from the house and took him in handcuffs. I only managed to demand the second man not to squeeze his neck with his arm. An hour later and our children would have been present,” she laments.

González Arenas was released at 8:00 pm outside the San Miguel del Padrón police station, after being held under arrest for almost eight hours, Fernández told this newspaper.

The Cuban Observatory of Human Rights condemned the detention of the reporter and described it as “violent and arbitrary.” Boris González Arenas, who in addition to being a freelance journalist is a member of the Democratic Action Unity Coalition, has explained that all the citations he has received lacked the basic requirements and did not comply with the law. Sometimes they were badly printed, others are only signed by people without specifying clearly a name and surname.

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

Hundreds of Chinese Travelers Remain Stranded in Cuba Because of the Corona Virus

The Chinese authorities have taken drastic measures that also affect a large number of tourists in Cuba (14ymedio).

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 3, 2020 — It’s lunch hour, and several restaurants in Havana’s Chinatown are packed with customers. They speak in anxious tones, consult their phones, make calls and constantly look at their watches. Most of them are Chinese who are now stranded in Cuba after numerous flights were canceled because of the corona virus that is hitting their country.

The outbreak in Wuhan has led many airlines to cancel their flights to China. With more than 300 deaths and some 17,000 cases confirmed with the illness, local authorities have taken drastic measures that also affect a great number of tourists on the Island.

Jiang is a young man of 28 who was supposed to return to his country through a combination of flights from Havana to Paris and then by Air France to Peking, but for now the trip is canceled and he has to remain in Cuba. “I’m running out of money, and if there is no solution by Monday, I’ll have to go to the embassy and ask for help. They’ve told me I can fly to Paris and wait there until the connection is reestablished, but I’d rather stay here,” Jiang says. “There is still an option with Aeroflot but I’m not in a hurry to get home because classes have been suspended since the New Year’s vacation .” continue reading

The young man rents in a private home in Old Havana where they offered him housing before this happened. “The owner told me I could stay some extra nights at half-price but all this is very inconvenient for me and my friends, because we came for three weeks of vacation and now we are trapped here.”

Business people in the zone aren’t very bothered by the situation. “With the decline in tourism, at least now this place is full,” says a waiter in one of the restaurants in Chinatown that is popular because of its traditional Chinese cooking.

“They come here not only to eat but also to meet and talk about what they’re going through,” he clarifies. “Although many came on tourist packages and the companies are taking care of them through this, others are not doing well with this whole situation.”

In 2018 Cuba was the seventh destination in Latin America for Chinese tourism, with more than 48,000 visitors, and in 2019 the Island went up to fourth place in the region, a growth that was also noted in tourism offers and commercials focused on Chinese travelers.

“They are very interested in the history, the architecture, the music, but also want the beach and sun,” a private guide specializing in Chinese tourism told 14ymedio. He studies at the Confucius Institute of Havana and alternates his classes with walks and activities designed for groups coming from China.

“Recently I’ve had to help a lot of people with their travel arrangements, but most still haven’t been able to leave the country because the flights to mainland China are canceled, and between going to Europe or the U.S. where they’ll waste much more time waiting, they prefer to stay here,” he said.

“The bad news is that it seems this might be extended for a lot longer. Those who now are considered tourists can soon be in a situation almost of humanitarian emergency, and then the authorities must have a plan to house and feed them,” he adds.

For now, the Chinese Embassy in Havana hasn’t activated a specific protocol for these cases, according to a source who works in the headquarters in Vedado, but “each case is analyzed personally, and Chinese citizens have every right to solicit help and support in this circumstance,” he adds. “They can come and speak with an official.”

There is nothing posted outside the Embassy that contains additional information for tourists who are stranded on the Island because of the corona virus.

From Europe, SAS, Swiss Air, Finnair, Lufthansa and Air France have canceled flights to China. As for KLM, flights are being canceled as the situation with the coronavirus deteriorates.

The airlines aren’t the only ones taking extreme precautions. Cuban authorities are equipped to protect the country’s borders, “to contain the arrival of sick travelers (…) in addition to assuring strict compliance with measures of supervision and control over them, originating from areas with transmission after they have arrived,” said the official press.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

"Saint Western Union" Builds Houses in Cuba

If remittances are the blood that keeps hundreds of thousands of Cuban families alive, the premises of the Western Union are the hearts that beat and expand the vital resource. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernández, Havana, 5 February 2020 —  You hear the sound of hammers and a wheelbarrow that comes loaded with mortar to finish building the bathroom. At the home of Olivia, age 28, there is an incessant movement of builders but the sound of the works can stop at any time.

“I am waiting for the money that my sister will send me; if it does not arrive I have no way to pay the masons,” says this resident of Havana’s Cerro district. The “Western Union neighborhoods” live waiting for the remittances, prospering with dollars that arrive from the North and falling behind if they fail to arrive.

A few yards from where Olivia lives, on the corner of Ayestarán and Boyeros, is one of the more than 300 Western Union offices in Cuba. If remittances are the lifeblood that keeps hundreds of thousands of Cuban families alive, these places are the veins that distribute the liquid. continue reading

Olivia is lucky because her house is located just three blocks from that Western Union office, one that “almost never has a line,” she says. The issue of the line is vital, because in other more central offices, such as the one located in the Carlos III Plaza, people can wait hours to collect a remittance. “Between the time my sister calls me to tell me that she sent the dollars and and the time I collect the convertible pesos they give me, not an hour goes by,” says Olivia.

By a family agreement, the second floor of the house under construction will be for Olivia’s sister, so she sends an average of 200 dollars a month that guarantees her a place to stay if she visits Havana or returns to live on the Island. It has the clearest “Western Union” style: a bathroom with black tiles and a golden border, a large bathtub, a tiny balcony with a balustrade in the shape of small woman’s torsos and a cement lion at the entrance.

Unlike the architectural glamor of the areas built to the west of the city in the first half of the twentieth century, neighborhoods rebuilt through remittances often combine marginality and coquetry; streets deteriorated for decades and without paving, lined with facades of bright colors and floors that grow on narrow foundations like towers that stretch towards the sky. Some remain half-done for years, if the flow of dollars needed to finish them is cut off.

Many families use remittance money to remodel their homes. (14ymedio)

Although the US authorities recently imposed a limit of $ 1,000 per person per quarter for remittances to Cuba, most of those who live on that money on the Island do not need to exceed that amount. “When I started construction, they had to send me more money to buy the materials, but it’s very easy, one part was sent to me by my sister, another by my brother-in-law and the rest by the mother of my brother-in-law,” explains Olivia.

In the neighborhood where this young woman lives — who “neither studies nor works,” she says almost proudly — you can guess which are the homes that receive remittances. “This one across the street has two children in Miami and in the one on the corner with the newly painted balcony, only the grandparents remain in Cuba,” Olivia offers.

In this neighborhood there is no sound  more precious than that of a telephone announcing the consignment. “Sometimes I’m like a crazy person waiting to be able to pay the electricity or to buy some food and then my mother calls me and my soul returns to my body,” says Samuel, 34, an engineer who became a bicycle repairman, who also resides in the vicinity of the remittance office.

“Since my children were born, their grandmother sends them the money it takes to maintain the supply of milk and food. They are the children of Western Union because without that I don’t know how we could raise them and ever since they were little they have gone with us to collect the money, so they recognize the office even with the light off,” he jokes. “Here, those yellow and black colors are the colors of economic relief.”

In El Cerro, near the Western Union office, some houses are repaired with remittances and others wait for better times. (Butforthesky)

Walking along Calle Primelles, also en el Cerro, is like traveling a route along which the remittances flow from the nearby Western Union office. “This house used to be wonderful but the owners do not receive money and it’s falling over,” explains Damian, 41, as, like an ancient guide, he points out the details of the buildings on the busy road where he lives. “This room is barely a closet because only one person can live there but they’ve made it like a dollhouse with the money the owner sends,” he adds.

Faded facade: no remittances; a freshly varnished wooden door: a recipient of dollars. A fence full of rust: no family abroad; a bright blue plastic water tank on a rooftop: relatives in Miami. One could travel the whole street and identify, with a large percentage of success, who does and who does not frequently go to the office to collect a money transfer.

The giant Western Union is not only the global leader of money transfers and a very popular path in Latin America to receive remittances from migrants based in the United States, but, in the Cuban case, it is through these offices the the largest amount of the 3.5 billion dollars that annually cross the Florida Straits arrives, according to data offered by The Havana Consulting Group, based in Miami. However, it is impossible to assess the total money that arrives in Cuba in the form of remittances, because a large part comes in informally with travelers and ‘mules’ who frequently make the journey between Cuba and the United States.

The campaign known as the January break , arising from the exile, promoted a temporary cut in remittances, trips to the Island and telephone recharges during the first month of the year — as a way to put pressure on the regime to change. But the initiative does not seem to have yielded the expected results. “We have continued to have a good flow of remittances and this place has customers the entire time it is open to the public,” says the employee of a Western Union office in Old Havana.

The neighborhood where Olivia, Damián and Samuel live also clearly manifests that the flow of the lifeblood of remittances has not stopped, a nourishing liquid that flows from the nearby Western Union office: “Saint Western Union” as some call it with a mixture of humor and resignation.

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

The Cage is Deteriorating

Right now, in this city and in this country, there are thousands of families who put their children to bed without knowing if there will be a tomorrow. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 4 February 2020 — I was born and spent part of my childhood in a tenement in Centro Habana. I remember those nights of going to bed and shaking out of my sheets the dust that fell from the deteriorated ceilings. I also remember the care I took when climbing the stairs because a piece of the wall threatened to break loose, the sticks used to prop up some areas, and the permanent small of dampness and sewage leaking from the pipes in poor condition.

The uncertainty generated by having lived in these circumstances remains for a lifetime. It is a tremor you feel while you sleep; one eye open that never closes because plaster from the wall can end up on your pillow and, also, a gratefulness when the day dawns and you are still breathing. Right now, in this city and in this country, there are thousands of families who put their children to bed without knowing if there will be a tomorrow, because a girder can give way, a ceiling can collapse or a beam can fall down.

To those who like to separate politics from everyday life, as if what happens in a “palace” does not affect every aspect of a society, we must remind you that many of these buildings would have had a very different fate if, decades ago, their inhabitants had been allowed to appeal to more than the official channels to solve the problems they faced every day.

But like a strict father, the Cuban state wanted to possess everything and secure everything. The result: half a century of buildings that were deteriorating and being destroyed without a contractor, a cooperative or a private company being allowed to stop the debacle or build new buildings. By the time they came to open a few cracks in that monopoly, it was already late and — to top it all — the small openings in the private sector are still weighed down by a lack of autonomy, excessive bureaucracy and an official omnipresence that does not yield.
All that, because the “great controlling father” that is the Plaza of the Revolution needed to make us believe that not only did it provide us our birdseed through the rationed market, and other distributions through political privileges and ideological meritocracy, but it also gave us the roof: a rough cage that is falling to pieces.

See also:
Condemned to Live Among the Ruins
Havana is Collapsing – A Photo Essay: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

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

Condemned to Live Among the Ruins

Flowers are still being left at the site where a balcony collapsed and crushed 3 schoolgirls to death. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 3 February 2020 — The “route” of the deterioration starts at any corner in Havana. If a map of the city marked with red dots the cornices about to fall, the broken balconies, the cracked columns, the map would look like it had the measles. An intense rash would cover Centro Habana, el Cerro and wide areas of La Habana Vieja and municipalities in the southeast.

Residents of the Cuban capital have been living among the ruins for decades, but the death of three girls on January 27 buried under a fallen balcony in the neighborhood of Jesús María has once again focused on the situation. continue reading

A project seeks to involve the residents themselves in pointing out a situation that is worsening over time and denouncing it through social networks, under the hashtag #PeligroDerrumbeCuba [DangerCollapseCuba].

Launched on Twitter by Norges Rodríguez, coordinator and co-founder of the YucaByte project, the hashtag has a certain air of a desperate scream. For Havanans who must travel the streets with extreme care to avoid the gaps in the sidewalks and keep track of the dangers that may come from the heights, new technologies are another route that adds to the traditional verbal or bureaucratic demands.

At the end of 2018, Vivian Rodríguez Salazar (General Director of Housing) reported that 39% of the buildings were in substandard conditions. “There is a deficit of 929,695 homes; about 527,000 of them have to be built and 402,000 rehabilitated.”

With the arrival of the web browsing service to mobile phones, in December 2018, there have been several citizen initiatives that have taken over hashtags and signature collections, but #PeligroDerrumbeCuba is perhaps the one that can involve a the greatest number of people throughout the Island and especially in the most populated cities.

Ernesto, a resident of Industria Street in Havana is one of them. “Here at the corner there is a building that could collapse any of these days. Those from the Government say that there aren’t any cranes but it hurts to see how for the hotel they are building there behind Obispo Street if there is a crane available there 24-hours a day,” regrets the young man, who has chosen to load his complaint to Facebook.

In a nearby tenement, the neighbors climb the battered staircase built at the beginning of the last century and propped up in several areas.

“When I was a child, it was already like this and I thought that my daughters were not going to have to live with the terror that the building would collapse while they were sleeping, but I already have grandchildren and everything is the same and worse,” laments Clarisa, a resident of a damaged tenement on Zanja street near Infanta. The woman has taken photos of the interior of the building so that her teenage grandson can help her upload them to the internet.

“Here we have done everything, we have made demands of the delegate of the Popular Power, written letters to the State Council and even hired a brigade with our own money to help us with the most serious things, but this building is a ruin and it needs to be demolished and something else built,” the woman tells 14ymedio.

But neither relocation nor demolition arrive. At the entrance of the building two small children play outside under the fragility of the upper floor with dangerous cracks that run through the entire facade. “A few days ago part of the plaster fell from above and luckily at that time no one was passing but this is a time bomb,” laments another neighbor.

Along Zanja Street, many of the passers-by prefer to walk in the street despite the traffic. “No, I don’t walk along the sidewalk even if they force me, because at least I can see the cars coming, but if a piece of the wall falls from there, I have no way to react in time,” says a woman with two children who is working near Lealtad Street. “I have taught my children that they can’t stop looking up.”

While talking, she passes two tourists who are taking photos of building with art nouveau architecture with floral ornaments and some of its steel exposed by the deterioration. Visitors approach, look for their best angles and raise their cameras to take one of the many thousands, millions of images, of a city in ruins.

“They should warn tourists to be careful about collapses because they walk very calmly through these streets, but those of us who live here take precautions,” says a pedicab driver who expects new clients in the vicinity of Chinatown. “It seems like fun to them, but it’s one thing to pass by and another to live in one of those houses when you don’t know when it’s going to fall.”

The young man, from Ciego de Ávila, knows about the #PeligroDerrumbeCuba initiative through social networks. “As soon as I manage to buy a data package I will upload some photos that I have, because I spend the day traveling around the city and I know where the worst places are, although I also know where there is not even one collapse,” he says wryly.

The deterioration does not affect all neighborhoods equally. To the west, the areas with villas, mansions and gardens contrast with the overcrowding and deterioration of Centro Habana, Cerro, Luyanó, San Miguel del Padrón or Guanabacoa. When you live between the wide roads of Miramar or in the exclusivity of Atabey, the cracks in the walls and the busted septic tanks seem somewhat distant.

“That is the line of the Almendares [River]. It is not the same to live on this side here, where a balcony falls on your head or you fall into a hole and break a leg, as it is to reside on the other side,” details the pedicab driver. Beyond the river, where the wealthy classes live, the mapping of the deterioration mapping shows almost no red dots.

In the place where three days ago three girls died, buried under the huge stones of a collapsed balcony, the residents keep talking about that tragedy. All those who lifted those small bodies from among the stones could not sleep that first night, nor the second.

“I had to give my husband a pill that night, he couldn’t sleep,” said a young woman this Friday at the base of the wall where there are still gifts that many neighbors have left where that tragedy happened. “This has been very hard, it is necessary that nobody forgets what happened this January 27th in the neighborhood of Jesus Maria.”

Havana is Collapsing – A Photo Essay: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Havana is Collapsing – A Photo Essay, Part 4 of 4

There are cranes and resources to build luxury hotels.

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

Havana is Collapsing – A Photo Essay, Part 3 of 4

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

Havana is Collapsing – A Photo Essay, Part 2 of 4

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

Havana is Collapsing – A Photo Essay, Part 1 of 4

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The Cuban Government Lashes Out Against Bolivia for Receiving Rosa Maria Paya

Jeanine Añez and Rosa María Payá meet in the Palacio Quemado together with other Cuban activists. (Jeanine Añez)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Havana, January 22, 2020 — (EFE). On Tuesday, the Cuban Government reproached the acting President of Bolivia, Jeanine Áñez, for receiving the Cuban dissident Rosa María Payá and described the provisional executive members of the Andean country as “rebels who massacred the people” and “militarized the country.”

“Employees of the U.S. Government are rushing to embrace and support the Bolivian coup plotters who massacred the people, militarized the country, violated the Constitution and are rapidly trying to reverse the social advances in order to favor the oligarchs,” the Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez, wrote on Twitter.

In responding to this same publication, the Director General for Latin America of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Eugenio Rodríguez, noted that “the de facto President of Bolivia enters the miniscule club of authorities from Latin America that receives, under pressure from the U.S., those included on the payroll of U.S.A.I.D. to overthrow the popular Government of Cuba.” continue reading

Rodríguez also said that U.S. Government “employees” born in Cuba or of Cuban origin “only manage to be received by the coup plotters”.

Áñez received on Monday in the Palacio Quemado de La Paz, the daughter of the deceased dissident, Oswaldo Payá, and the promoter of the project Cuba Decides, a platform for Cubans to decide in a plebiscite on the political system they want for the Island.

Other members of the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy also took part in the meeting, which was held according to the internal mandate to discuss “the situation of the Cuban people and the state of democracy in Latin America”.

“Thank you, Bolivia, for denouncing the criminal interference of Cuba in your country and for being the transition that inspires those of us who are still confronting dictatorships”, Payá wrote later on Twitter. She also met with Ex-President Jorge Quiroga.

Cuba and Bolivia were tightly allied when Evo Morales was President of Bolivia, but the foreign policy of the new President has been marked by distancing Bolivia from its former partner.

A short time after assuming power, when Morales resigned and left the country, the Interim Government broke off relations with Venezuela, and, although it presently maintains relations with Cuba, the ideological positions between La Paz and Havana are now antagonistic.

In November, Cuba withdrew for reasons of security more than 700 professionals who were providing services in Bolivia, mainly in the health sector.

The decision was the culmination of a discussion days earlier about the detention of several Cuban doctors by the Bolivian police. Initially they were accused of promoting protests in favor of Evo Morales, something that the Cuban Government vehemently denied.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Bolivia Suspends Relations With Cuba For Hostility And Constant Grievances

The government of Jeanine Áñez accuses the Cuban authorities of interference. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE / 14ymedio, La Paz-Havana | January 24th, 2020 – The interim Government of Bolivia announced this Friday that it is suspending diplomatic relations with Cuba, due to the “permanent hostility and constant grievances” of its Government, although it clarified that it is not a total rupture.

“This determination is due to the recent and inadmissible expressions of Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez and the constant hostility and constant grievances of Cuba against the Bolivian Constitutional Government and its democratic process,” highlights a statement read in La Paz by the acting Foreign Minister of Bolivia, Yerko Núñez

“The Cuban Government has systematically affected the bilateral relationship based on mutual respect, the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs, the self-determination of peoples and the sovereign equality of States, despite the willingness of the Government of Bolivia to sustain cordial relations,” concludes the note. continue reading

Núñez, who is the acting chancellor when interim chancellor Karen Longaric is out of the country, showed on local media a Twitter message from Bruno Rodríguez in which he denounces “vulgar lies of the self-proclaimed coup in Bolivia”, referring to the transitional president Jeanine Áñez.

In this regard, the acting chancellor argued that the interim government of Bolivia “has to enforce sovereignty,” before what he described as “slanders” of the Cuban Executive.

Bolivia’s embassy in Havana remains, although the ambassador and other diplomatic personnel are expected to leave, with only officials in charge of procedures to serve mainly Bolivian students in Cuba remaining, according to Núñez.

However, the agreements between both countries are paralyzed, he stressed.

The Bolivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained that the suspension of relations is a measure similar to the rupture, with only a minimum diplomatic representation maintained in Havana; not all staff will be  withdrawn, in order to attend to the “humanitarian affairs” of Bolivians with family in Cuba.

Bolivian former president Tuto Quiroga applauded the decision on Twitter. “Bolivia finally breaks with the gerontocracy Castro dictatorship. The Cuban embassies are centers of conspiracy and agitation in democratic countries; venues of vampire, colonial and repressive colonialism in Caracas; and offices of doctors’ enslavement.”

The president of Bolivia, Jeanine Áñez, revealed last Wednesday that the Government of Cuba kept 80% of the payments that Bolivia made for the work of Cuban doctors stationed in her country under the government of former president Evo Morales. She also said that only one-third of the Cubans were actually doctors.

“The program signed with Cuba that included the work of doctors, communicators and technicians, according to official statements, now reveals that less than a third were health professionals,” said Añez during a speech at the Government Palace on nation’s day.

“They had a salary of $1,040 USD, a stipend of 68 Bolivianos per day (USD $9.50), and air transportation expenses paid by the State, making a total of about 9,000 ($1,302 USD) Bolivianos for each of them,” She added .

Áñez regrets that only 20% of the money went to Cuban workers, since the other 80% was used to “finance Castro-communism, which has subjected and enslaved its people.”

The interim president also hammered the opacity with which the previous government treated Cuban doctors, without informing the State about the actual expenses on the island’s missions. According to the figures provided by the president, Morales handed over $147 million USD to Cuba as payment for doctors in his years of Government.

“With that money we could have performed 7,355 kidney transplants throughout the country, which would have represented half of the kidney patients in Bolivia,” said the president.

After Añez statements, the Cuban foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, responded angrily on his Twitter account. “Vulgar lies of the self-proclaimed coup leader in #Bolivia. Another sample of her servility to #EEUU. I should explain to the people that, after the [Cuban doctors] returned to #Cuba because of the violence they were subjected to, more than 454,440 medical appointments did not take place”.

The foreign minister added that “Two months without a Cuban medical brigade in #Bolivia translates into almost 1,000 women who have not had specialized assistance in their deliveries and 5,000 surgeries among those more than 2,700 eye operations not completed. They are not just figures, they are human beings.”

The Bolivian Foreign Ministry sent a letter to Bruno Rodríguez expressing his “profound annoyance for and rejection of” these words.

Translated by: Rafael (Tampa, Florida)

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

Xiomara Cruz Miranda Left Havana To Get Medical Attention In Miami

Xiomara Cruz Miranda upon her arrival in Miami this Tuesday. (Courtesy of the New Herald)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 of January, 2020 – The Lady in White Xiomara Cruz Miranda arrived in Miami on an American Airlines flight from Havana on Tuesday, to be treated for a disease she contracted in prison in the middle of last year without receiving effective medical care. Her relatives have reported constant irregularities in her diagnosis and treatment.

Cruz Miranda received a humanitarian visa after months of efforts, initiated on August 14th, as Berta Soler — leader of the women’s group — told 14ymedio.  Ángel Moya (Berta’s husband), has been another major activist on the Island.

In addition, on the other side of the Florida Straits she has had help from other fellow activist: exiled María Elena Alpízar, as well as Iliana Curra and Mercedes Perdigón, both political ex-prisoners, and from others in exile who started a petition addressed to the US congressman of Cuban origin Mario Díaz-Balart. continue reading

“Thank God she must be landing already, everything went well on this side, now we are awaiting her arrival. There is a team of doctors there, focused on improving her well-being and on getting her a diagnosis. The Cuban American National Foundation invited her and will take care of all expenses. An ambulance is waiting there for her and everything is ready to assist her as soon as she arrives”, indicated Soler.

“With everything that happened with Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas any activist is at risk when they enter a hospital, because State Security has doctors at their disposal, doctors who will always follow their orders. We don’t trust them and thus of doctors who do not receive orders from the Cuban regime,” she added.

At the airport, she was received by the Cuban doctor Alfredo Melgar. “First, will get a comprehensive diagnosis of Xiomara and then we will put her under treatment,” Melgar told the New Herald, who accompanied her to the hospital. The doctor asked the community for help to welcome Cruz Miranda and her daughter, who accompanies her on this trip.

Martha Beatriz Roque had also announced the news on her social media yesterday (on Monday): “With God’s favor she arrives tomorrow in Miami,” she celebrated.

the Lady in White’s state of health has worsened in recent weeks, with a last relapse that began on December 26th and extended until January 10th, but it remains unclear what disease afflicts her.

From the beginning, Cruz Miranda has been diagnosed with tuberculosis, but her relatives and friends have expressed doubts to the point of accusing the Government of having inoculated her with a virus to make it difficult  — or worse — to prevent her from continuing to exercise her political opposition. That suspicion aligns with that expressed by Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, who has been denouncing, for months, that the regime has infected him with HIV.

Xiomara was sentenced in 2018 to one year and four months in jail for “threats” in a trial described as rigged by Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White. The first prison she went to, was El Guatao (West of Havana), and  subsequently she was transferred to a prison in Ciego de Ávila.

Last August, the Government granted her conditional release when health problems arose, and she was transferred to La Covadonga hospital in Havana, where she was admitted into intensive care.

Relatives have also considered that the Lady in White has cancer, as mentioned by the Cuban Alliance for Inclusion and the Cuban Women’s Network in a protest note condemning the situation in which the Government held the activist and asking international organizations to take action for her safety and her defense.

“Her muscular pains worsened, as well as the intermittent fever. Doctors have confusedly declared, everything from a disease caused by an unidentified bacteria, to even mentioning cancer. Which has baffled relatives, friends and fellow activists, who request her release to take her to another country in order for her to receive proper medical attention immediately,” both women’s organizations were asking for last fall.

Translated by: Rafael (Tampa, Florida)

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