14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 20 May 2017 — Havana has always been female in every millimeter, edifice or cracked wall. This city could have any of the female faces that the fine artist Moisés Finalé displays this Friday at the Hispanic-American Center of Culture under the title, “The Weight Of Her Body.” A show where ovaries reign and vaginas rule.
Finalé is carried away by the female body. He represents figures with an unleashed eroticism that betrays his obsessions and his preferences. Pressed between thighs and caught between two breasts, thus appear each of the works created by the artist born in Matanzas in 1957, one of the most prominent names of the generation of the eighties. continue reading
To connect with Finalé – and the women of his paintings – dozens of friends and followers of his art came to the imposing building on the Havana Malecon with its caryatids looking out to sea. On the walls, witness to reunions and toasting with a pinch of rum, the feminine forms concentrated on the truly transcendent: love, life, conception and death.
The artist knows well of hugs and distance. Although he frequently participates in exhibitions on the island and maintains Studio Finalé-Art in Vedado, he spends much of his time in Paris. More than once he has had to pack the eroticism and carry it in the suitcase with which he crosses the Atlantic. That is why the maidens of his paintings come a little bit from here, and others from there and many from nowhere.
The painter’s references are diverse, he calls on the Japanese print as well as Egyptian symbols while drawing on expressionism and the very Cuban avant-garde. In painting, as in sexuality, daring is rewarded, his brushes tell us. So in his pictures African masks and mythological allusions appear.
“These pictures belong to my personal collection, they have been with me for a long time, some since the mid 90’s,” Finale tells 14ymedio. He says it is as if he fears that some have forgotten him. They are infinite canvases like wide and fecund sheets: beds without limits.
The curators of the exhibition, Rafael Acosta de Arriba and Yamilé Tabío, have succeeded in compiling those beloved or dreamed of women who haunt the artist. Women who look, lick, hide behind a mask, desire or copulate. Perishable bodies trapped in the immortal sensuality of a brushstroke.
Finalé has ended up creating his own cosmogony, a universe of sensual beings that are born and perish without leaving the cycle of love. A universe caught in a spasm, where the artist takes refuge and allows viewers to enter.
The scenes of lasciviousness and desire are prolonged when, when descending the wide staircase of the Hispanic-American Center, one enters fully into a sensual and impudent Havana. A city that, like the women painted by Finalé, long ago that lost its modesty.
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 18 May 2017 — Seen from the Venezuelan opposition as an army of occupation and from the Venezuelan government as soldiers of socialism, tens of thousands of Cuban professionals live a situation that is complicated day after day in convulsive Venezuela. The Cuban government has asked them to stay “until the last moment,” but misery, fear and violence are overwhelming athletes, doctors and engineers.
“We are not soldiers and we did not come to Venezuela to put a rifle on our shoulders,” says a Cuban doctor from the state of Anzoátegui who asked for anonymity for fear of reprisals.
According to the physician, who has been working for two years in the country, Havana has asked them to remain “with honor until the last moment,” in a clear allusion to the possible fall of the Venezuelan government. continue reading
“We are working under a lot of pressure because the Medical Mission is adept at continuing to insist that services not be closed and that we maintain our position here in spite of everything,” he adds.
“We are afraid every day about what could happens to us. Sometimes they throw stones at us or they yell all kinds of insults at us. Every day there are demonstrations in front of the medical unit and nobody protects us”
In Venezuela there are about 28,000 health workers and thousands of others who are sports instructors, engineers, agricultural technicians and even electricians. The model of paying for Cuban professional services through the export of oil to Cuba has never been clearly exposed by the Venezuelan government.
According to Nicolás Maduro, since Chavez came to power, more than 250 billion dollars have been invested in the so-called “missions.” The former Minister of Economy of the Island, José Luis Rodríguez, published last April that Cuba received 11.5 billion dollars a year in payment for professional services rendered abroad, most of which comes from Venezuela. Other sources consider, however, that this is a very inflated number, although Havana’s profits are undoubtedly very high.
“We are afraid every day about what could happens to us. Sometimes they throw stones at us at the CDI [Centro de Diagnóstico Integral, doctor’s offices] or they yell all kinds of insults at us. Every day there are demonstrations in front of the medical unit and nobody protects us,” explains the doctor.
“So far they only attack us with words. They shout at us to get out of here, that they do not want to see themselves like us and other atrocities,” he adds.
The doctor, however, assures that those who work in the missions also do not want to be in that situation, but they are forced by the Cuban Government, that exerts pressure through diverse mechanisms.
“If we leave, we lose the frozen accounts maintained for us in Cuba. Also, if you leave the mission you are frowned upon in the health system and you have no possibility of being promoted,” he explains.
The Cuban government deposits $200 a month in a frozen account that at the end of the three years the mission lasts in Venezuela, totals $7,200. If the professional maintained “proper conduct and did their duty,” they can withdraw that money upon their return to the island. If they return before the established period or their participation in the mission is revoked (among other reasons for attempting to escape) they lose all that money.
In Cuba 250 dollars a month are deposited that can be withdrawn when the professional on the mission visits the Island once a year. Meanwhile, in Venezuela, they receive 27,000 bolivars, less than 10 dollars a month.
“If we leave, we lose the frozen accounts maintained for us in Cuba. Also, if you leave the mission you are frowned upon in the health system and you have no possibility of being promoted”
In the case of health technicians, Cuba pays them 180 dollars in a current account and another 180 dollars a month in an account frozen until the end of the mission.
A Cuban radiologist who is in the Venezuelan state of Zulia explains that for months they have no “Mercal,” a bag of food delivered by the Government of Venezuela.
“We live in overcrowded conditions with several colleagues and we do not even have potable water,” he adds.
“Thanks to some patients we can eat, but they are having a very bad time. We are repeating something like the Special Period that we experienced in Cuba,” he says.
Although he fears for his life because of the situation in the country, he says he is determined not to return to the island. “We have to endure until the end. It is not fair to lose everything after so much sacrifice,” he says.
Following the outbreak of the protests in Venezuela, Cuban aid workers have been directed not to leave their homes and have experienced reduced communications with their families in Cuba.
Following the outbreak of the protests in Venezuela, Cuban aid workers have been directed not to leave their homes and have experienced reduced communications with their families in Cuba
“The internet is very bad, you can not even communicate. We have been forbidden to go out after six o’clock in the afternoon, as if we were slave labor, and on television they broadcast news that has nothing to do with what we are living through,” he explains.
Julio César Alfonso, president of Solidarity Without Borders, a Miami-based nonprofit organization that helps Cuban health personnel integrate into the US system, says the exodus of professionals has increased in recent weeks.
“Even without the US Medical Professional Parole Program, which allowed doctors to obtain refuge in the United States, they continue to escape because of the situation in Venezuela,” said the physician.
Alfonso added that his organization is lobbying to re-establish the Parole Program, eliminated by former President Barack Obama in January, and allowing more than 8,000 Cuban professionals to enter the United States.
Eddy Gómez is an critical care doctor who worked in the state of Cojedes in western Venezuela. He decided to escape because he was afraid of the difficult conditions in which he was forced to work.
“We had to work in dirty places, without air conditioning, exposed to the fact that even the patients insulted us because we nothing to treat them with,” recalls the doctor who now lives in Bogota and acts as spokesperson for dozens of other professionals who escaped medical missions.
“We left Cuba looking for a better life, but in Venezuela we discovered a real hell”
“After the end of Medical Parole program people have continued to escape and come to Colombia. There are more than 50 professionals who left Venezuela after President Obama’s decision to eliminate it. We hope that Trump will admit doctors again,” says Gómez.
To escape Venezuela, the Cubans have to pay the coyotes about $650 to take them to Colombia. The path, full of dangers, includes a bribe to Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Guard that protects the borders, and to whom they must be careful not to show their official passports issued to them by the Cuban government because they would immediately be deported to the Island.
“There are many Cubans who have died violently in Venezuela, but the Cuban government does not tell the truth to their families, nor does it pay them compensation,” explains the doctor.
“We left Cuba looking for a better life, but in Venezuela we discovered a real hell.”
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 18 June 2017 — The regular readers of the official press have learned that the most innocent headlines can hide the most interesting news. Phrases such as Notice to the population or Information note, which defy any elementary lesson in journalism, alert those initiated into the special “granmer” of the Granma newspaper that, behind the candid title, there could be hidden some threat, a hope, or the apparent fulfillment of a formality, so that no one can say that this or that detail was never published in the press.
On Thursday, the Directorate of Identification, Immigration and Immigration (DIIE) published an “Information note”in the official media in which it announces to Cubans permanently resident in the country that its offices will be open to “update the address from where they will exercise their right to vote.” continue reading
The note then invokes Electoral Law No. 72 of 1992 to specify who has the right to active suffrage.
The real information that underlies all this, is that the first steps have now been taken to initiate the elections that will result in the final departure of Raul Castro from the job of President of the Councils of State and of Ministers. Perhaps even more significant, is that this process will begin without the new electoral law having been promulgated, regardless of the fact that the coming of the new law was announced by the president himself in February of 2015, at the conclusion of the Tenth Plenary of the Communist Party Central Committee.
There is no permanent entity on the island that governs the electoral processes, so the preparation of the Register of Voters is a task that falls on the Ministry of Interior through its offices of the DIIE. This is where it is registered whether a citizen resides in the national territory and whether or not he or she is under some legal sentence that limits his or her rights.
Oddly, the Information note makes it clear that people will be able to go to the relevant offices in any of the municipalities in the country “regardless of their place of residence,” but does not clarify if voters can exercise suffrage in the specific district where they physically reside, even if that is not the legal address recorded on their identity card.
Thousands of people throughout the country are living as tenants in private homes without being “properly registered”; many of them, especially if they live in the capital and are from other provinces, are prevented from finding a job, even with private employers, because they can not show “an appropriate address” in their identification document.
In the interest of reducing the number of people who do not vote, the state might be willing to overlook – for the purposes of voting only – what it will not tolerate with regards to finding work or enrolling one’s children in school.
No doubt the upcoming elections will be as uninteresting as any others have been. The absence of a new law indicates that the Candidacies Commission will continue, and that it will be these bodies that prepare the lists of aspiring deputies, while maintaining the prohibition against any of these candidates from presenting a political platform.
As has been the case to date, voters will have to be satisfied with nothing more than biographical data (prepared by the commissions, not by the candidates themselves), along with a photo. They will have to vote for their representatives without having any idea whether or not these individuals are in favor of foreign investment, if they want to increase or decrease non-state forms of production in the country, or if they are likely to be for or against it if the day comes when acceptance of same-sex marriage is introduced. They will not even know if their preferred candidate wishes to allocate the nation’s budget to build sports stadiums or theaters.
Of course, there will be no polls speculating on what will be the name of the person who will occupy the presidential chair in February 2018. Who are they going to put forward? It is the question that the majority of those few people interested in the subject at all tend to ask. Perhaps we will have to wait for another Information Note to get a clue about this great unknown.
14ymedio, Havana, 16 May 2017 — The digital site of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement has now joined the list of pages censored on the servers of the Cuban Telecommunications Company (ETECSA) which supply public WiFi. The leader of the organization, Eliecer Avila, links this measure to “the growing influence” of the site among the younger generation.
The government is “very aware of the statistics of who reads our blog and from where they are reading it,” says the opponent. “They have simply detected that the site is a threat to the system’s monolithic discourse,” he told 14ymedio on Tuesday. continue reading
“The blocking is the clearest sign our site is effective,” he adds. “We are trying to make a video tutorial of how it can be accessed despite censorship” and for months “we have had a weekly newsletter that is sent by email.”
The independent movement has been subjected in the last months to strong repression that includes the arrests of its members, police operations around the homes where they meet and a raid on Avila’s house, who is being prosecuted for an alleged crime of “illicit economic activity.”
The independent movement has been subject in recent months to strong repression that include the arrests of its members,operations around the homes where they meet and a raid on Avila’s house
Officialdom maintains censorship over several dozen critical pages, as well as blogs and opinion sites that shed light on Cuba’s most serious social problems. Among the sites shuttered in this way are 14ymedio and the news portals CubaNet, Diario de Cuba and Martí Noticias, among others.
Until the middle of last year the popular classified ad site Revolico.com also was blocked on the national servers, but in August access to that page was restored.
Cuban authorities have copied the Chinese model of filtering digital sites by their content. A situation that Internet users are struggling to overcome through the use of anonymous proxies, the so-called “virtual private networks” (VPNs), and other tools such as the Android operating system app Psiphon and the Tor browser.
Freedom House recently produced a report in which it identified 66 countries in which it believes that the free right to information is not exercised. Cuba ranked among the top ten, in a list headed by North Korea and Turkmenistan.
In September 2016, 14ymedio published an investigation into censorship of words and phrases in text messaging in the cell phone network. The state monopoly of telecommunications maintains at least fifty blocked terms, among which the name of the organization Somos+ stands out.
14ymedio, Havana, 16 May 2017 – A singular pyramidal structure – with metal bars painted red – attracts hardly any attention in a park on Avenida 26, almost directly across from the Acapulco Cinema in Havana. The composition includes a pedestal on which rests the bust dedicated to the Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, virtually unknown to the youngest Cubans.
These days the monument is surrounded by the bustle of restoration in anticipation of the 127th birthday, on 19 May, of the man his supporters affectionately call “Uncle Ho.” The revitalization comes amid a climate of relaunching of relations between the island and Vietnam, following the signing this past March of a bilateral cooperation plan on defense. continue reading
Both governments, despite the differences that separate them economically, still have much in common. In April, the Vietnamese regime signed an agreement with Facebook where the social network giant committed to censoring content that violates the laws of the country and erasing accounts that publish “false content” about the authorities.
Very few nationals would spend one minute of their time on-line to find out who was the man of that lonely bust on 26th Street
On the island, meanwhile, the government of Raúl Castro gives access to the network in dribs and drabs through Wi-Fi zones with high navigation prices, censored sites and an unstable service. While Cuba lags with regards to connectivity in cyberspace, Vietnam has more than 45 million users of social networking.
In this world marked by hyperconnectivity, and despite the limitations of access, very few Cubans would spend one minute of their time on-line to find out who was the man of that lonely bust on 26th street. The most they know of him is that he had a reputation for being straightforward, that he wore sandals and that he never imagined the effect that the new technologies were going to have on the system he built.
14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 16 May 2017 — Hanging from the rearview mirror, the compact disc shines with the sun and swings with every bump in the street. From being highly valued as a platform for digital content, CDs and DVDs are becoming mere decorative objects, symbols of a technological era that is ending.
“Every day I sell fewer discs,” says Julian, who for almost five years had been dedicated to the trade in TV shows, movies and musicals on CDs and DVDs in Havana’s Diez de Octubre district.
With the expansion of the private sector, the streets of the country filled with stands and stores that began to offer entertainment of every kind. Colorful shelves, filled with every kind of product, have become a part of the urban landscape. continue reading
“Most of what I sell I copy directly from the computer to the device that the customer brings,” says Julian
The outlets dedicated to the trade in audiovisuals have been an alternative to the boring and ideologized television programming, but the technological advances and the saturation of the market are forcing many to close or convert to selling other things.
The competition from the Weekly Packet is tough and the CD/DVD sellers have a hard time keeping a current set of offerings. The alternative has been to go from selling CDs and DVDs to offering customers copies of materials on removable devices such as USB drives and external hard drives, but the rules governing self-employment does not encompass that form of the business.
“Most of what I sell I copy directly from the computer to the device that the customer brings,” says Julian. In a small room, located in the portal of a half-demolished house, the shelf with the disks also houses a laptop equipped with a three-terabyte hard drive.
“Here I have it all,” he details proudly to 14ymedio, while caressing the drive that “a brother living in la yuma,” (the US) brought him. The buyers can choose the amount of content they want and the subject matter.
“In this neighborhood four other places where CDs and DVDs were sold have closed,” says Julian. “We have been kept afloat thanks to direct copy,” he says.
He makes the copies “left and right” without worrying about the intellectual property rights of national and foreign artists.
On the Island, copyright is addressed in Law 14 of 1977 and applies to “scientific, artistic, literary and educational works of an original character” whatever its forms of expression, content, value or destiny. But in practice these provisions are not upheld.
Copies are made “left and right” without worrying about the intellectual property rights of national and foreign artists
An investigation carried out at the University of Granma by Marianela Paneque Mojena concludes that “sellers of reproducible CDs violate copyright with respect to the positive faculty of disclosure of the work.” Meanwhile “the copyright holders do not receive any remuneration for the CD with their authorship.” The National Copyright Center is responsible for managing intellectual property registrations and ensuring that these rights are not violated, but in practice it is nothing more than an inventory of works and authors.
This situation coexists with “an ignorance and lack of control on the part of the government bodies responsible for overseeing the work done by the sellers of reproducible discs,” assures the study.
Julian cares less about the issue of intellectual property and more about the profits from his business. “It is becoming increasingly difficult to buy the discs, because the stores are all out of them, and even the black market doesn’t have them.” An additional reason to go with another media.
The entrepreneur believes that his work is still “a business,” because it falls within the simplified tax schedule with a fixed tax of 60 Cuban pesos a month. In addition to this he contributes to social security and pays a tax for posting a sign visible in the street.
However, he believes that the business “is no longer the same, because many people download the materials from the wifi or share them for free.” He is sure that in a short time “all these disks that are now on display, will only be the images of what can be copied from the laptop.”
“What flies off the shelves are the telenovelas, first-run feature films, musicals and reality shows,” he comments. Although he also has customers who ask for “science documentaries, courses, videogames and mobile apps.”
Julian is lucky. In Havana, inspectors are still turning a blind eye to those who copy content instead of selling it already burned on CDs, but in other parts of the country it’s different.
In Havana, inspectors are still turning a blind eye to those who copy content instead of selling it already burned on CDs, but in other parts of the country it’s different
In the city of Guantánamo these sellers have been forced by the local authorities to remove from their signs the offers to “load discs or memory devices.” Many of them continue to do it, but secretly.
The main risk is losing one’s license to be a “buyer and seller of discs.” An occupation that, under the law, only includes trade in discs that respect the author’s copyright.
“Here I have everything, except pornography,” says another seller who has his stand in Infanta Street. “I work with fixed clients and I make them a folder tailored to their tastes,” he adds.
“The discs are going downhill because every day more people have a television that you can connect to a memory device,” he laments. The informal market is filled with offers of modern flat panel televisions that enter the country with travelers or mules.
“There are still people who are using a CD or DVD reader, but they are fewer and fewer, because the world is moving forward and no one wants to be left behind,” he says.
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 15 May 2017 — The artist Danilo Maldonado, known as ‘El Sexto’ (The Sixth), announced his desire to reside in the United States, although he will remain attentive to what happens in Cuba to be able to denounce the arbitrary detentions.
Maldonado, whose girlfriend, Alexandra Martinez, is a US citizen, declined to respond to a request from 14ymedio to confirm his decision to remain in the United States. For her part, Martinez said that the artist was not going to give statements on the matter. continue reading
El Sexto recently concluded the exhibition Angels and Demons in San Francisco, where he staged a three-day performance in which he was enclosed in a replica of the punishment cell in Havana’s Combinado del Este prison where he was held.
The artist has been arrested three times for political reasons.
In 2014 he tried to stage a performance titled “Animal Farm,” in which he intended to release two pigs with the names Fidel and Raul painted on their sides. Although he never managed to stage the performance, it cost him 10 months in Valle Grande prison, on the outskirts of Havana.
The artist has been arrested three times for political reasons
“This can not be a one-day protest, right now this is happening in many countries, even our neighbors, and we have to report it,” Maldonado told EFE in reference to repressive actions against dissidents and human rights activists.
During the 36 hours of the performance in San Francisco, titled Amnesty, El Sexto remained without food in solidarity with the Cuban political prisoners Eduardo Cardet and Julio Ferrer, among others. The artist also dedicated his hunger strike to Leopoldo López and the other Venezuelan political prisoners.
Maldonado took the pseudonym El Sexto (The Sixth), with which he signed his graffiti on the streets of Havana, as an ironic response to the Cuban government’s campaign for the return of the so-called “Cuban Five,” five spies who were then in prison in the United States.
14ymedio, Havana, 14 May 2017 – This Sunday Cuban State Security prevented Yoandy Izquierdo, a member of the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC), from boarding a flight to Sweden to participate in the Stockholm Internet Forum (SIF). The car in which the activist was traveling to José Martí International Airport was intercepted by the police, according to Dagoberto Valdés, director of the CEC, speaking with 14ymedio.
The police released him after the plane began its take-off procedures. Izquierdo told this newspaper that State Security justified his brief detention on the grounds that they suspected that “the driver [taking him to the airport] was operating the trip without having the license to do so.” continue reading
Izquierdo was detained in the police unit in Los Palacios, a municipality of Pinar del Rio. The vehicle was stopped while driving from the city of Pinar del Rio to the Cuban capital. The driver who drove the car in which Izquierdo traveled was forced to follow a police patrol car until arriving at the station.
Minutes after the detention, Izquierdo was able to make some phone calls to alert others about what was happening and to let them know that his phone might be taken from him at any moment. After talking with several colleagues, they found they could not call his cellphone because it was “off or outside the coverage area.”
Arrests to prevent dissidents from leaving the country are a common practice on the part of State Security. Recently the car carrying the activist Lia Villares was intercepted when she was going to the José Martí International Airport to travel to the United States. An officer forced her to get into a National Revolutionary Police (PNR) patrol and drove her away from the air terminal until her plane took off.
Villares described the “kidnapping” and “forced disappearance” but managed to travel to the United States a day later.
Arrests to prevent dissidents from leaving the country are a common practice on the part of State Security
Previously, other government opponents such as Claudio Fuentes and Ada López have also suffered similar repressive procedures.
The most recent report of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) has denounced this situation. The independent entity reports that Raúl Castro’s government is using “preventive repression in the form of police threats and other systematic intimidating actions” more and more frequently.
“The prohibitions on travel within Cuba or abroad, home searches, arbitrary confiscations of possessions, means of work and money” are among the most frequent practices in the work of State Security against the opposition.
The arrest of Izquierdo is added to the escalating repression against members of the CEC that has intensified in recent months. Several of its promoters have been subject to pressures, warnings and interrogations.
Last January the house of the economist Karina Gálvez was raided by numerous police officers and their personal belongings were retained for weeks. The publisher is being accused of an alleged crime of tax evasion and the police are keeping her house sealed, leaving the family unable to access it.
The Coexistence Studies Center organizes training courses for citizenship and civil society in Cuba. The entity functions independently from the State, the Church and any political group. The magazine of the same name emerged in 2008 and is published bimonthly.
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escober, Havana, 15 May 2017 — On 11 May a new law went into effect in Cuba that imposes a determined price on the buying and selling of housing. The simple announcement, a month earlier, set off a frenzy in the notary offices to complete the paperwork for pending sales before the new rules went into effect. Some classified ads even included the date as the deadline to close the deal.
Since November 2011, when Raul Castro’s government allowed citizens the right to buy and sell their homes, an obligation was imposed on both buyers and sellers to pay the state a tax of 4% on the transaction. continue reading
In most cases, this levy was not calculated on the amount of money actually paid for the property, but on the basis of the price that the state had assigned to the home, which is recorded in the property document.
The Housing Act of July 1985 converted all tenants who were renting into owners. The value of the properties they took possession of was calculated by multiplying one month’s rent by 240, the number of months in 20 years.
Those who acquired a house as of from July 1 of that year, without making any up front payment, paid the bank, within 20 years, the price of their new house, which was calculated taking into account the square meters of living space.
It does not occur to anyone to sell for 10,000 CUP a house for which they can ask 30,000 CUC (that is 75 times more money), much less to refer to the real price when they can take advantage of the price shown on the initial title when paying the taxes.
In the cases of those who had paid rent before 1 July 1985, it is very difficult to find a home whose price as stated in the property title exceeds 10,000 Cuban pesos (about $400 US), because as a rule the monthly rent did not exceed 10% of the renter’s salary, and at that time almost no one earned more than 400 Cuban pesos (CUP) a month. And the values, calculated based on square meters, almost never reached 20,000 CUP.
That law, which boasted that it converted leasers into owners, did not allow the newly created owners to sell the property, so the prices inscribed on the title were evidence of the “character of fairness of the Revolution,” in giving the most humble workers the opportunity to legally posses a home. To put it in the language of the time, this was a “political matter.”
At the time the right to buy and sell houses was granted, the consequences of the country’s system of two currencies – Cuban convertible pesos and Cuban pesos – were already in place. The most notable feature of this system is that workers are paid in the “national currency” – Cuban pesos – but almost everything that has real value must be bought in “hard currency” – Cuban convertible pesos, each of which is worth 25 times a Cuban peso. Housing did not escape this rule.
That evidence of fairness, reflected with a symbolic number in the property titles, could not be brutally reversed by the Revolution. But when citizens become cunning, the state cannot play the fool.
It does not occur to anyone to sell for 10,000 CUP a house for which they can ask 30,000 CUC (that is 75 times more money), much less to refer to the real price when they can take advantage of the price shown on the initial title when paying the taxes. That evidence of fairness, reflected with a symbolic number in the property titles, could not be brutally reversed by the Revolution. But when citizens become cunning, the state cannot play the fool.
This is how the new “reference prices” came about.
The new methodology does not take into consideration how many years of salary a worker must invest to pay the new prices and also does not indicate the square meters of living space. Now the value of a housing unit is calculated by a set of factors. Among these is the number of rooms and whether it has parking, patios or gardens. The construction characteristics of the homes are identified depending on whether they have masonry walls, heavy or light roofs, or if they have been constructed with other materials.
And the most significant factor is where the property is located. There are five groups and each corresponds to a “location coefficient,” where the word coefficient has the meaning given by mathematicians to a multiplicative factor. Therefore, once the housing value is established, the resulting number is multiplied by 7, 6, 5, 4, or 1.5 depending on where the home is located.
This onerous multiplication is not accompanied by revolutionary slogans or theoretical considerations about social justice.
Obviously, the state does not care what anyone spends to buy a house, but it does care how much it can raise through that 4% tax on the reference value.
Paternalism is over. That time when a local assembly (a political entity) assigned a home to worker based on his or her “social virtue” and “labor merits” is a thing of the past. The state no longer gives, it only takes away. Consequently, the citizen no longer feels that he must surrender, but rather he must defend himself. That seems to be the signal of the new times.
14ymedio, Miami, 13 May 2017 – The Canadian government has responded to a request for refuge made by the Democracy Movement on behalf of thousands of Cubans who were stranded at several locations in the Americas after the decision by the United States last January to end the wet foot/dry foot policy.
The response letter, released this Friday by the president of that Cuban exile movement in Miami, Ramon Saul Sanchez, assures that the petition has been carefully reviewed and forwarded to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, for his consideration. continue reading
On February 1, the Democracy Movement had asked the Canadian government to welcome thousands of Cubans who were stranded in Mexico and Central and South America after the sudden cancellation of the wet foot/dry foot policy that used to allow them to enter as refugees upon reaching U.S. soil.
Canada each year offers thousands of refugee visas to people who suffer persecution on the basis of politics, race, religion, nationality or gender.
Since January of this year, the Democracy Movement, together with other groups from Cuban civil society in the United States, have been organizing food shipments for their compatriots stalled in Mexico.
14medio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 13 May 2017 – Three employees circulate among the tables, so similar that they seem cast from the same mold. “I want to give a good image to the place,” says the owner of a flourishing cafe on 26th Street in Havana. Like him, many private businesses are imposing a standard on female employees: “Young, pretty, white and childless.”
With the boom of self-employment, new businesses are emerging everywhere, much more efficient than state services. However, there are also discriminatory patterns that privilege the physical appearance of the hired staff, above their professional abilities. continue reading
The waiters and other employees of the most prosperous businesses in the capital are mostly under 50, thin and white, and among them there is also an abundance of single women, blond and blue-eyed. The current legislation only requires that the contractor must be more than 17 years old and be a permanent resident on the Island.
The success of a business seems to be measured not only by the number of clients or revenues, but by a refined casting to choose the faces of those who serve the public. Many prefer physiognomy over the skills to serve a table or run a cash register.
The waiters and other employees of the most prosperous businesses in the capital are mostly under 50, thin and white, and among them there is also an abundance of single women, blond and blue-eyed
Behind the scenes, physical abilities seem to fading in importance. For the positions in the kitchens the “image” demands are less, but they don’t go away. The entrepreneur is obsessed with showing “an image of success” through appearances, often gleaned from magazines and movies.
Luisa is 59 and her monthly pension doesn’t stretch far enough to support her for one week. A few months ago she decided to find a job cleaning in some of the prosperous B&Bs in Old Havana where she lives. “I thought it was a question of being healthy and doing a good job,” she told 14ymedio.
After four interviews with the owners of several rental properties, the woman was no longer so convinced that the most important thing was her efficiency. “They looked a lot at my physical presence and one told me very clearly that she would not hire anyone with dentures.” Another potential employer asked if she was “dieting” to look “better.”
The Labor Code in force since 2014 addresses this subject, but the law is useless in most cases. The right to employment is governed by “equality” and “without discrimination on the basis of skin color, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, territorial origin, disability and any other distinction detrimental to human dignity.”
The deputy director of Employment of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, Idalmys Álvarez Mendive, says that self-employed workers “can request and receive the advice of the authorities” about their rights, but in practice very few do so.
The deputy director of Employment of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security says that self-employed “can request and receive advice from the authorities” about their rights, but very few do so
Yaimara hid her pregnancy as long as she could. “When the belly began to show the owner called and told me that I could not continue working,” says the employee, who worked for two years in an exclusive restaurant near the Habana Libre hotel. “They never made it clear to me that it was because of the child on the way, but it was obvious.”
The young woman was entitled to a maternity leave and a postnatal break period guaranteed by law, but confesses that with that money she received monthly on that benefit she could not buy “a single baby bottle.”
In the private sector, it is common to use “determined” contracts, which have a start date and an end date. When Yaimara concluded her maternity leave, she could only return to the previous job if the employer wanted her back, but her job was already occupied by another “younger and childless worker,” she said.
Of the more than 535,000 self-employed in the country, 31% are young people between 18 and 35 years of age and 32% are women, according to official data. But the figures published do not report details with regards to race and much less with regards to other physical qualities more difficult to measure.
“Many owners of private restaurants and coffee shops do not want to hire women with small children,” says Yaimara. “They are afraid that later there will be absences because the child is sick.” She recognizes that with having a family “everything becomes more difficult because in a private restaurant it is normal for an employee to work up to twelve hours each day and almost no one asks for a vacation.”
A lawyer specializing in labor issues confirmed that so far she has never received a case of litigation for the violation of the rights of a self-employed
The new Labor Code also states that “the daily working day is eight hours and on determined days there can be one additional hour per day provided it does not exceed the limit of 44 hours a week.”
A lawyer specializing in labor issues, who preferred anonymity, confirmed to this newspaper that so far she has never received a case of litigation for the violation of the rights of a self-employed. “That does not mean it does not happen all the time, but people feel that in the private sector anything goes.”
The National Labor Inspection Office has the power to impose fines of up to 2,000 Cuban pesos on offenders, in addition to closing the premises and temporarily or permanently suspending the license to operate. But, “it is not applied because workers in the non-state sector do not appeal to that mechanism,” says the lawyer.
“We must work on laws that are more closely related to what happens and that guarantee better protection for the self-employed, but the most important thing is the business culture of the owners,” she says. “They should seek efficiency and quality in employees beyond physical characteristics,” she says.
However, from dreams to reality still seems to be a very long way. “We are looking for a young, woman with a university degree with a good presence”, says an ad on a crowded classified site. In addition, they want “no children, no physical limitations.”
14ymedio, Havana, 5 May 2017 — “Cuba is waiting for changes,” said Archbishop Dionisio García Ibáñez Friday on Radio Vatican; he has also said that “the Cuban people can live in better spiritual and material conditions.”
The statements of García Ibáñez, collected in Spanish by ACI Prensa, came after Pope Francisco received a delegation of Cuban prelates in the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican, a meeting that was part of a broader visit to the Holy See Headquarters that began on April 25 and ends Friday.
According to ACI Prensa, “the presence of the Cuban prelates in the Vatican aroused great expectations, bearing in mind the importance that different pontiffs have contributed to relations with the Caribbean island.” continue reading
The press agency recalls that John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis have traveled to Cuba in 1998, 2012 and 2015, respectively.
Regarding religious freedom on the island, García Ibáñez stated that “there is an opening in the sense that there is a greater understanding of religion, and the people can express their faith.”
“We are working with the state because after 50 years in which the population has grown we can have the spaces for worship that we need,” said the archbishop, who also expressed his hope that the process will continue.
However, he has pointed out that “there are no parish houses with their pastoral structures, but nevertheless the Church lives.”
The meeting this Thursday was also attended by the archbishop emeritus of Havana, Jaime Ortega Alamino, the current archbishop of the island’s capital, Juan de la Caridad García Rodríguez and the president of the Cuban Episcopal Conference and archbishop of Camagüey, Wilfredo Pino Estévez.
The trip of the Cuban ecclesiastics had as itsm ain objective the Ad Límina Apostolorum (‘to the threshold of the Apostles’) visit to the tomb of the apostles Peter and Paul.
During their visit to the Vatican, the prelates wrote an epistle addressed to the faithful of the island, in which they explained that the visit “is a clear and public manifestation of the communion between all the bishops of the world and the bishop of Rome, and an effective means to reaffirm that communion.”
14ymedio, Havana, 8 May 2017 – The number of political prisoners has doubled this year, according to the most recent report from the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), which counts 140 people charged for these reasons in April, compared to 70 for the same months in 2016.
The organization’s monthly accounting puts the number of arbitrary detentions for political reasons of at least 475, which includes 43 more detentions than in March.” In addition, there were also 11 physical assaults, 9 cases of harassment and 2 acts of repudiation against activists. continue reading
The organization most affected by politically motivated imprisonments is the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), which has a majority presence in the eastern part of the country and to which 54 inmates belong.
The CCDHRN also denounces the situation of the “thousands and thousands of innocent people who languish in the nearly 200 prisons, labor camps and criminal settlements” of the island.
The organization, dedicated to the denunciation of human rights violations, reports that in the last year “political repression has had an evident mutation” and has become “more selective and less noisy.”
Raul Castro’s government has more often used “preventive repression in the form of police threats and other systematic intimidating actions,” the report points out.
“The prohibitions on travel within Cuba or abroad, home searches, arbitrary confiscations of possessions, means of work and money,” are among the most frequent practices in the work of State Security against the opposition.
“Espionage and defamatory campaigns, as well as the imposition of abusive and disproportionate fines,” complete these strategies of pressure.
The text of the CCDHRN devotes special attention to “the expulsion, for clearly political reasons” of Professor Dalila Rodríguez González and student Karla Pérez González from the Central University of Las Villas.
The CCDHRN figures exceed 467 arbitrary detentions during the month of April, documented by the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH), based in Spain.
14ymedio, Havana, 11 May 2017 — Karla Pérez González, the student expelled from the University of Las Villas for her membership in the dissident organization Somos+, arrived in San José, Costa Rica, this morning after receiving an offer to continue her studies there.
“This opportunity came to me through the journalist Mauricio Muñoz in (the Costa Rican daily) El Mundo,” the young woman said before her departure. “He phoned me, as did many other journalists, after my expulsion.” During the conversation, the reporter offered her a chance “to go to that country to study and practice and in this way to get training in the profession,” she told 14ymedio.
Perez Gonzalez contacted the director of the newspaper, Yamileth Angulo, by e-mail, and she reiterated that her colleagues “are delighted to collaborate because it is humanitarian.” continue reading
Speaking to 14ymedio, Angulo says that she knew what had happened to Karla through “the principle media in the world.” Then they interviewed her for their newspaper and wanted to help her, “if she was permanently expelled” with an internship in Costa Rica” and payment for the University.
The young woman says that her plan is to return to Cuba and practice journalism in this country.
“The cost of this scholarship is being fully covered by the Costa Rican newspaper El Mundo,” says Angulo. “We have no connection with any political organization, nor with any government or party. We are simply a means of communication very committed to freedom of expression and that is why we extend our hand to the girl.”
Karla is not the only intern at El Mundo. “There are seven students being supported in their studies,” says the director. “All the interns are from Costa Rica. We have also had them from Spain, because of the unemployment issues they had there, but now we only have Costa Ricans and, from now on, Karla,” she explains with pride.
“Our flag is that of freedom of expression,” said the journalist, who assures that her media is not linked to nor has anything to do with “anyone from Castro or anti-Castro organizations.” The solidarity gesture with Karla is born of the solidarity from their also having suffered “aggressions against the freedom of the press.”
“We do not put any conditions on Karla, if she wants to go back to the island or not, that’s her decision, and if she wants to stay in Costa Rica for a few more years, she’ll have no problem,” says Angulo. “If she decides to continue working in El Mundo, she will have a place. If she wants to return to Cuba, we will also support her.”
Upon arrival in San Jose, Karla will be received by several journalists from the newspaper and her press credential will be handed to her. Then the corresponding formalities with migration will be carried out to regularize her status and from that moment the university where she will study will be selected; among those she can choose from are University Latina or San Judas University.
In a recent interview with 14ymedio, Perez Gonzalez described her greatest dream. “What I want is to study, with capital letters” and “definitely here (in Cuba) I can not,” she said, adding that having a university degree is a point of “personal pride. They’re forcing me to leave,” she acknowledged in that interview.
El Mundo is the fourth most important media in Costa Rica and was founded three years ago. It has “a group of journalists very committed to the profession”, according to its director. “We have an audience of two million readers a month. Some 90% of our work is about political issues, we do not have sensational news or social stories,” he adds.
Karla María Pérez González was expelled from the University after being accused of belonging to the Somos+ Movement and “having a strategy from the beginning of the course to subvert the young.”
Her case aroused a wave of indignation and those speaking up in her favor even included voices from officialdom, such as singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez, who wrote in his blog: “What brutes we are, for fuck’s sake, the decades pass and we don’t learn a thing.”
14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 10 May 2017 — Meat has almost magical connotations in Cuban culture. When children get sick, the grandmothers make them a good chicken soup or a broth with a piece of beef. If someone feels weak they recommend eating a steak and there is no more recurring dream for these homes than to look out for a dish where they mix the masa de cerdo, ropa vieja and tasajo.
This fascination with the meat has increased due to the shortages of the product in the last decades. The deterioration of the national livestock industry and the restrictions on farmers trading directly in beef have made this an ingredient that is missing in kitchens and highly prized in the informal market.
Families are divided between those who manage to eat meat once a week and those who only see it pass by their tables a few days a month, or even year. On this island social differences are expressed in the form of cutlets, sirloin and fillets. There are those who can barely access products derived from pork and those a little higher on the economic scale and can be permit themselves a piece of beef.
While in other countries, vegetarians and vegans proliferate, many Cubans consider themselves carnivorous. A definition that is pronounced with a certain vibe, salivating and showing teeth, especially those fangs that are used a few times a year.