The Crisis Comes to Propaganda

Normally, the billboards remain an average of three or six months, but the terms are lengthening. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernández, Havana, 26 September 2019 — The ‘coyuntural’ — temporary situation — has reached propaganda. Government machinery aimed at extolling the Revolution and the dissemination of its slogans has always been a key piece in which resources are invested, but this time the shortage has everything and both the billboards that run through the Island and the official press are depleted.

“Normally a billboard may be in place for three to six months without change, depending on where it is located, whether it is a current issue or if there is some urgency,” an employes of the Communist Party Publisher in Havana told 14ymedio . “In the Cuban capital we have dozens of billboards, distributed in all the municipalities, but right now we are only succeeding in replacing the more central ones,” he admits.

In the municipality of the Plaza of the Revolution, a huge sign shows a pole vaulter next to a text rejecting of the Helms-Burton law, but the billboard has been there for so long that the red background has lost its brightness without anyone having done anything to fix it. continue reading

“What affects us most right now is that we don’t have the fuel to deploy workers on the ground, remove old posters and put up-to-date ones,” the employee adds. “But we are also having a hard time getting the varied inks that are needed for this, because there is no hard currency to buy them.”

Every year, when the Government presents the report of the impact of the blockade (i.e. the American embargo) on the national economy, a campaign is launched throughout the country, which this year has been greatly affected. “Nor have we been able to fulfill the advertising plan that we planned for the celebration of Havana’s 500th anniversary,” he laments.

In the newsrooms of the official press, another of the sources of the strong propaganda of the regime, the situation is not very different. The cuts in the supply of fuel have led to local and national media to reduce their coverage in the street and to ask their employees to use their own vehicles and pay for gasoline to travel.

“I am lucky, because a year ago I bought an electric motorcycle and with that I am managing to cover some events and news,” a photojournalist who collaborates with a Havana media tells this newspaper. “I am doing this from my pocket, because when there’s a breakdown or I have a technical problem, the newspaper does not give me anything, but it is that or staying at home; and then I cannot earn any money,” he says.

The head of the medium in which this photojournalist works has asked employees to make an “effort” to avoid having to reduce the frequency of publication. “The digital version is being privileged, but that also difficult to produce, because in the office we are not allowed to turn on the air conditioning and no one can work in that heat,” he explains.

Not far from there, the Youth Labor Army agricultural market on Tulipán Street is also a true reflection of the situation of the Cuban economy. This Wednesday afternoon, most of the stalls were closed and those that were still open only had green bananas. “Only two trucks arrived today,” says Heriberto, an employee of the establishment.

“Cooperatives and state farms are bringing very little merchandise because they don’t have the fuel to transport it,” he says. “Without oil and without gasoline there is no way to get the products out of the field and bring them here.”

A seller of dry wine and vinegar, who works in a small private business where they also make pickles and jams, explains to the media that the trips they made to look for containers and stock up on fruits have had to be reduced by half because they don’t have gasoline. “I’m selling today because my husband brought me the bottles on a tricycle, if he hadn’t I wouldn’t have been able to open.”

___________________

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

"We Will Not Permit a Single Subversive Attempt," Warns University of the East

Professor René Fidel González García has spent three years appealing the decision through official channels and demanding that he be returned to his position.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 October 2019 — Scandal is once again shaking Cuban universities. This Tuesday, the University of the East defended the expulsion of a professor for publishing texts of an “ambiguous” character. René Fidel González García was removed from his position three years ago and recently received a sanction that prevents him from working in any other center of higher education on the Island.

At the center of the controversy for similar previous cases and a turn of the screw in the ideological discourse in schools, the text exposes that since 2012, González’s publications on digital sites like La Joven Cuba, Rebelión, Sin Permiso, and Cuba Posible “were radicalizing to the point where they became the most controversial, contradictory, and disrespectful.”

The declaration considers that starting with the revocation of his status as tenured lecturer and his university professorship he has created “a defamatory campaign” against his alma mater in the east, the “officials of the institution and the Ministry of Higher Education” who do not know “the true elements of the case.” continue reading

The declaration comes a few weeks after the publication of an open letter repudiating ideological censorship and discrimination for political reasons in Cuban universities. The document, dated in August, was signed by almost 4,000 educators and students demanding the end of this type of “punitive sanctions.”

Without alluding to the letter, the text signed by the Board of the University of the East insists that the academic’s publications were creating “confusion for readers about philosophical and political terms, because of the ambiguous and obscure character” they had.

Additionally, the document accuses González of causing students to “affiliate themselves to his positions out of confusion” and attributes to him a negative influence that, in their opinion, prove the focus of the final assignments turned in by students of the class Sociology of Democracy.

The Scientific Board of the University then agreed to exclude those texts or essays from the list of the “results” of González’s research work because they were published in scientific journals that are not registered on “databases of international prestige.”

For their part, “political organizations and organizations of the masses, in their debates and pronouncements, indignantly rejected the position of the educator, his negative impact on professional training and the prestige of a collective firmly committed to the Revolution, like the Faculty to which he belonged,” it adds.

González lost his tenure for committing “acts of moral or social nature” that damaged “his prestige,” specifies the text, which warns that the process was carried out “in strict compliance with the law.”

The professor has spent three years appealing the decision through official channels and demanding that he be returned to his position, from the Attorney General and the Ministry of Higher Education to the president of the Republic, but until now he has not received a response and he has now exceeded the statutory deadlines. His perseverance has found broad support on social media, where professors and students have stood in solidarity with González.

But in their text, the university authorities insist that the professor “maintains a constant will to denigrate and ridicule” the university authorities and the Ministry of Higher Education, which makes clear to the Board that “he didn’t have, nor will he have, the conditions to be a university professor.”

The text regrets the solidarity of certain persons who have heard “a version of the events unfortunately wrongly told and manipulated by René Fidel González García” and others attempting to cut down the institutionalism of the Cuban State and Government.

On September 16, the Minister of Higher Education, José Ramón Saborido Loidi, confirmed the Ministry’s stance by supporting an article by Martha del Carmen Mesa Valenciano affirming that the Cuban university has as its mission to form “before all else, revolutionary and committed professionals.” Additionally, he cited Article 5 of the Constitution, in which it is declared that the Communist Party of Cuba is the top leading political force of society and the Cuban State.

A few hours after the declaration was published, there were already various reactions of protest visible on social media. José Raúl Gallego, a professor of journalism expelled from the University of Camaguey and one of the signers of the open letter in August, described the text as “shameful,” but he also believes that it is “something symptomatic.”

“They can only take out a declaration in the name of the Board, while René is supported by his students, his friends. The abstract, the nameless, the institutional versus the concrete, the selfless.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

___________________

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

"Learning to Demand Our Rights," the Message of a Competition in Cuba

The lamentable state of many homes is a source of maximum concern for Cubans. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, October 1, 2019 — The deterioration of homes, the increase in poverty, the lack of transport, and poor health were some of the daily problems most pointed out by Cubans who participated in the competition How to solve a problem in my neighborhood, organized by the Cuban Observatory of Conflicts (OCC) and the app Apretaste.

According to the organizers, more than 60% of the work was related to “the Government’s inability to solve problems in the neighborhood,” which is why many classify it as “inefficient” or “corrupt.” What also stood out was the message of one of the participants, who defended the necessity of “learning to demand our rights” and “not accepting promises without a date of completion and names of those responsible.”

The first prize, of $300, went to Pinar del Rio resident Rolando Pupo Carralero. The competition’s jury also awarded second prizes of $100 to Javier Torres, Miguel Álvarez, and Luz Martínez. continue reading

The high participation in this edition, with more than 500 works presented, was decisive for the decision to increase the prizes, awarding five of $50 and ten of $25.

The winners were: Kristian Calzadilla, Manuel Salina, S. Esgue, Alejandro Martínez, Elisa Hernández, Andrés González, Maivis de Fatima, Giordis Valentín, Susel Fernández, Rossio Suarez, Sandor Chaviano, Cira Vega, Jesús Silva, Frank Correa, and Zaray F. García.

In this second edition of the competition, open to Cubans living on the Island, participants were asked to apply the methodology of conflict resolution to problems they perceived in their neighborhoods.

Among the themes that emerged there were also references to the increase in violence, to restrictions on the self-employed, and to laws that make the development of private initiatives difficult.

The Observatory indicated that, although some Cubans attributed the problems in their neighborhoods to the blockade (i.e. the American embargo), the majority blamed them on the “internal blockade that prevents personal and community initiative to solve problems.”

The organizers are also satisfied by the increase, compared with the first edition of the competition, in proposals of solutions “through self-reliance and with motivation for civil society to find responses to diverse community problems.”

“It’s better to solve things with our own hands and not use our hands to wait for a solution,” they emphasize.

The Cuban Observatory of Conflicts has a mission to expose, educate, and empower citizens ready to take initiative to encourage solving problems that afflict Cuban society.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

_________________

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

The Extraordinary Resemblance Between Tourism in Nazi Germany and Communist Cuba

There is a government apartheid so that tourists do not experience the tough conditions of the lives of Cubans. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Valencia, 30 September 2019 — The Spanish newspaper ABC dedicated an interesting report to tourism during the third German Reich, and how Hitler fooled millions of tourists in World War II. All this comes from a book by Julia Boyd entitled Travelers in the Third Reich from the Atico Libros publishing house, filled with letters, documents and testimonies recovered from the summer of 1936, when nothing seemed to indicate that the atmosphere in Nazi Germany was going to be poisoned as much as it would be three years later.

The chronicle allows us to establish a striking parallel between tourism to Nazi Germany in those years and tourists traveling to communist Cuba in recent years. In those years there were no signs of war in Germany, the capital was preparing to host the Olympic Games and the National Socialist Party received massive support from citizens. Thus, tourists arrived in the country without worrying too much about what was already happening, but things were going downhill.

The book makes reference to the testimony of two travelers, Alice and her husband, who were surprised during their honeymoon when they arrived in Frankfurt, to see a woman who stopped their car, in which had a sticker that identified them as foreigners, to ask them a favor. continue reading

After talking with the newlyweds about the persecution of the Jews and the barbarities perpetrated by Hitler, she begged them to take her daughter to Britain. What would you have done? They, despite their perplexity, accepted. The testimony of this couple is one of many included in the book by the author Julia Boyd (aresearcher and member, among many other associations, of the Winston Churchill Memorial Foundation).

Germany under the reins of Adolf Hitler was a destination for tourists from all over Europe who, in many cases, ignored what was happening. it is more or less the same in Cuba, where tourists claim not to know the acts of repression that the authorities maintain over a population subject to the power of the single party, which has no respect for human rights. Two periods distant in time and seemingly different, but not so much.

It is interesting to interview the author of the book, who emphasizes, for example, a “certain solidarity” among tourists arriving in Germany, and a feeling of guilt over the consequences of the Treaty of Versailles and the harsh conditions that had been imposed on Germany.

She says that “believing in the Führer allowed them to avoid remorse.” A feeling shared by tourists who have been traveling to Cuba since Fidel Castro authorized the development of this activity during the Special Period, despite the “embargo or blockade” to which the Castro authorities continually refer, while showing a “solidarity” with the paradise of “the revolution of the poor.”

Similar to what happened in Germany, many types of foreigners, tourists, businessmen, journalists, diplomats arrive every year in Cuba. And each one finds a different type of country based on their preferences and objectives. Above all, because there is a government apartheid so that they do not experience the harsh living conditions of Cubans. A few days ago one could see how the long lines at CUPET gas stations do not include foreigners and diplomats who carry ministerial letters, but only ordinary Cubans.

The information that foreign travelers receive about the situation in Cuba is different as soon as they arrive in the country. They are not worried. There are few tourists and travelers committed to the cause of the freedoms of a people fighting against oppression. Strolling through a street with once-stately buildings, destroyed by neglect in downtown Havana, is even a reason for souvenir photographs.

As with Germany, where the Nazis offered tourists “many things,” the Castro regime tries to do the same, although with notable difficulties because of the absolute, inefficient control exercised by the communist state over this activity over companies dependent on members of the army and police security. In Nazi Germany, onthe contrary, it was the private sector that led tourism.

Tourists arriving in Nazi Germany found newspapers on the left and on the right. The author says that “some emphasized the most horrible aspects of Nazism. Others concentrated on the good and talked about the resurgence that Germany had experienced or the new structures that had been built (for example, the highways).”

In Cuba this situation is impossible, since freedom of the press is outlawed and there is only an authorized public voice, although it is curious that travelers who arrived in Nazi Germany “preferred to believe the official version and ignore the rumors of torture, persecutions or imprisonment without trial. However, one party was simply confused and did not know which version to believe.”

In the interview, reference is made to what the tourists who came to Germany thought about Hitler, something similar to what travelers thought of Fidel Castro, admired and hated in equal parts, and certainly with much more of an image than his brother and, light years from what Díaz-Canel currently represents.

The author says that “some tourists in Germany came to witness unfortunate displays of Nazism such as book burning and policies against Jews and yet, in the book testimonies of the” Führer as if he was Jesus Christ” are collected. Something similar to Fidel Castro, who was granted a prestige and relevance completely alien to the reality of the character, hidden behind the propaganda of the media under state control.

The author refers to the fact that the Nazis even deceived several leaders and African Americans civil rights activists from the United States, who, far from having a negative opinion of Hitler, showed favorable impressions. They admired the “achievements of Nazism” in the education taught in the country, or the music of Wagner. Something similar to what happens with European Democrats who travel to Cuba and end up exalting the advantages of “single party democracy,” or the “Education and Health” of the achievements of the Revolution.

The Nazis came to invite tourists to visit the Dachau concentration camp, “justifying that they were reeducating the worst people in society (murderers, pedophiles …), while in other countries they would have shot them. The propaganda presented a positive approach. Travelers were impressed in a positive way.” However, from 1935 on they stopped those visits.

In Cuba, visits to communist projects of the types such as the “schools in the countryside” have been arranged for tourists, and although the UMAP camps were canceled long ago, they received some attention as instruments of communist reeducation of those disaffected with the regime.

Tourism trips to that rotten Germany continued until a few weeks before the Second World War, as the author says in her book. It is still curious that the newly-defunct Thomas Cook agency organized trips until 1939 to places like Oberammergau, cosidered of religious importance. But after the “night of broken glass” tourism to Germany fell dramatically.

In a special way, the Olympic Games marked a point of reference in that tourist boom of the Third Reich, which took the opportunity to present itself to the world as a kind regime that only sought peace.

Cuba does not emphasize its religious tourist destinations, nor does it have Olympic Games in its tourism offer. Perhaps this is the most important difference with Nazi Germany.

Finally, the author concludes that the income from tourism to Germany was very important and the money received was dedicated to investments in armaments, the absolute priority of Nazism, so that the income of foreign tourism had a vital importance.

In Cuba, tourism has been planned by the authorities with the same objective of serving the communist state: financing a structure of insolvent and unsustainable public spending. There are so many similarities that it makes an impression.

_________________________

Note: This text was originally published on the Cubaeconomics blog and is reproduced here with the author’s permission

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

Cuban Doctors Denounce Being Forced to Inflate Statistics

Press conference in New York of Cuban doctors who have denounced the Government of Havana. (@WHAAsstSecty)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 September 2019 — In New York this Thursday, a group of Cuban doctors denounced that the Government of Havana forced them to falsify the statistics of patients treated and destroy the leftover medicines that they had falsely prescribed (to non-existent patients) to fake the delivery of more healthcare than what was actually provided, among many other irregularities.

Tatiana Carballo, Ramona Matos, Russela Rivero and Fidel Cruz, who have worked in Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil and Belize and now live in the US hosted by the American Cuban Medical Parole program, revealed details of the medical missions in which they participated in a press conference organized by the US State Department in New York.

According to professionals, in Venezuela they had orders to tell their patients that medical care and its products would be lost if they did not vote for Chavismo, thus presssuring their vote. continue reading

“Since we arrived in Venezuela we were under a military regime, we were forbidden to leave the nation or have relationships with Venezuelans,” said Carballo, who said that work was very complicated because of the stress that constant harassment led to.

Fidel Cruz, who worked in the South American country between 2011 and 2014, confirmed his colleague’s version and the election pressures.

“We were obliged in each consultation to speak to each patient to influence their mentality to vote in favor of Maduro.” According to his testimony, Cruz had to go out to campaign door to door to encourage voters. “Remember that I am here today providing you healthcare thanks to the Government of Maduro,” they should say.

“We had to give statistics to our chiefs of State Security regarding how many patients we took to the polling stations and how many voted for the ruling party,” he added.

Ramona Matos, who worked in Bolivia and Brazil, explained that during the time he was in the Andean country he was deprived of his documents. “When we arrived at Immigration, a security agent seized our passports. We were working in Bolivia without documents; we had no papers with our names. If something happened to us, if we were kidnapped or died, nobody would know who we were,” he said.

Matos denounced that they were never informed of how they were going to work in Bolivia. “The conditions were never explained to us. Being a country in the Altiplano, the high plane, doctors who traveled on the mission died from cardiac complications, due to atmospheric conditions,” he said.

The heads of the mission, who were not physically in the town (San Agustín, in the Amazon) demanded a daily clinic in which at least 30 patients should be seen. “Nobody came to the clinic. I asked the colleague who was there before what she did and she said: ‘You are going to find out’,” said the doctor.

According to Martos, the chiefs told him that if he did not see the required numbers of patients, he would be returned to Cuba and without receiving his salary, so he began to write false names, ages and addresses. In order for the data to match with the prescribed medications, they were destroyed, burned or buried.

Tatiana Carballo, who spent seven years on the mission, explained that the Cuban government insists that, since education is totally free, then they must serve almost as slave labor.

“Since we graduated we have received very, very low salaries, and then we go on the ’medical missions’.” Carballo was in Belize rather than in Venezuela after signing a document that “was not a contract,” in a supposed “voluntary and humanitarian” task although, she emphasizes, it was not.

“We were paid 10% or 15% of what Venezuela paid to Cuba, and the rest stayed in a frozen account in Cuba. Many of us decided not to return and that money was confiscated by the Government, it was not given to our families,” Carballo explained.

Then she went to Brazil, where she received “1,200 reales depending on the value of the dollar.” The expenses for rent, food and supplies were paid by the local government of Brazil. According to Carballo, this mission had special characteristics, because it allowed the Cuban healthcare workers to have their families with them and facilitated the necessary visas.

On a trip to Cuba, on vacation, she was told that she should sign a document whereby her son had to go to the Island every three months, with her paying the expenses. “I decided to leave him in Brazil, hidden at home,” said the doctor. “I got tired of slavery, of being besieged and taking away my passport and of lying. That’s why I decided to participate in the Cuban Medical Parole program  and today I’m here telling you my story,” she concluded.

In the case of Russela Rivero, her two children are doctors and are suffering the consequences of her ‘desertion’. The elder has been banned from practicing medicine and is now a fumigator in a technical brigade. “They said ’you know what it is about’.”

As for the younger, he graduated last August and was sent to a rural town in the Sierra Maestra while his colleagues were located in the city. “There is no explanation, you just have to do it,” they said, according to his mother, who says they are using her children to silence her but they will not succeed.

____________________

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

A New Organization is Born to Track Human Rights Violations in Cuba

The dissident and independent journalist Martha Beatriz Roque is the supervisor of this new project. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 October 2019 — A new organization has emerged to give continuity to the work carried out for decades by the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN). That is the stated purpose of the Cuban Center for Human Rights (CCDH).

In its founding statement it is stated that the objective of the “small group is to collect the testimonies of the human rights violations that the Cuban dictatorial regime carries out throughout the Island; as well as to relate the social problems and those that are becoming the ’coyuntural’ (temporary) crisis the country is currently experiencing. “

At the head of this organization, as coordinator, is Kirenia Yalit Núñez  Pérez, who was formerly Elizardo Sánchez’s assistant at the CCDHRN. Performing the work of supervisor is the former political prisoner Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello. continue reading

In its first report, dated October 1, the CCDH reports in a different way the number and names of political prisoners, arrests, raids, immigration regulations and harassment. It also comments on different problems related to the current crisis in the country.

Speaking to 14ymedio Roque Cabello insisted on how essential it is to maintain the presentation of a periodic report on human rights violations in Cuba. “We are not trying to replace what the CCDHRN was doing but to maintain the principle that this be done from within the Island. This is important for all of the opposition and for that part of the world that cares about us.”

The Center will have its physical headquarters in Roque’s house, located at number 260 Goss Street between Milagro and Santa Catalina in the capital district of Santos Suárez, where it will be open from Monday to Friday during office hours.

Roque Cabello explained that at the end of each month there will be a report with all the complaints or at least most of them and she added: “At this time we cannot wait for people to hear about the facts of the individual complaints as they appear on social networks, without an entity with enough credibility to group them.”

The sources of information to prepare these monthly reports are the same as the CCDHRN’s were, explains Roque Cabello, thanks to the fact that Kirenia Núñez, who is in charge of the work, worked five years with Elizardo and has all that documentation. “The role that I play is to monitor the complaints to prevent the spreading of false news. I have also made my house and my telephone number (+53 76406821) available to this project.”

The information will be distributed by email to those who appear in the database of the CCDHRN, but the Center has the aspiration to enable a web page as soon as it has  the resources, so that it can be visited by the general public.

___________________________________

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

A Barometer To Measure Corruption In Latin America

The perception of corruption in Latin America is very high, with Venezuela in the lead.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 2 October 2019 — They smile, drink a few drinks and bills also slip from hand to hand as they exchange favors, alliances, offer bidding privileges and move local political waters. The scene could be located in any part of Latin America, a continent that is still gripped by corrupt practices, poor management of public funds and the buying of votes.

The tenth edition of the Global Corruption Barometer (BGC) report, prepared by the organization Transparency International, offers a thorough X-ray of this cancer that sickens institutions, businesses and everyday life. The report acknowledges that in the “last five years, great progress has been made” and cites as an example the investigation of the Lava Jato (Carwash) operation in Brazil, but also reveals that the majority of citizens think that their governments “do not do enough to address corruption.”

Among the citizens of the 18 countries of the continent consulted, Venezuelans are in the lead of those who think that corruption has increased in the last 12 month – 87% think so – followed by 66% of Dominicans and 65% of Peruvians; 52% of Colombians also share that opinion, as do 37% of the citizens of Barbados. continue reading

In addition, the report warns of the harmful and disproportionate effects that corrupt practices have on vulnerable sectors of society, especially women. Many women “are forced to perform sexual favors in exchange for obtaining public services, such as those related to healthcare and education. This practice is known as sexual extortion or ‘sextorsion’,” emphasizes the text, a situation that until now had not been included in these annual reports but whose incidence has led to its disclosure with greater force.

Of the Latin Americans who participated in these surveys, 21% also claim that most or all people linked to the press are corrupt. If those who must use the pages of newspaper and the microphones of television or radio to denounce the dirtiness of power have been bought to silence or distort those facts, impunity is even greater.

Luckily, this concomitance between power and the press, between pen and perks does not reach all reporters or media. Let us not forget that many cases of denunciation of bribes, coimas, and corruption have been known first through the newspapers and microphones of television or radio, which have forced the opening of judicial investigations and sent those involved behind bars. But there is still more to do.

What would Latin American citizens answer if they were asked about their own actions, on a daily basis, against these practices? In addition to pointing to governments, institutions, non-governmental organizations and journalists as part of this disintegration, would they be willing to recognize their own role in such an ominous practice? It doesn’t matter if it bears a toga, military ranks, the businessman’s tie, the reporter’s tape recorder or the simple overalls of a worker. We must face this monster with a thousand heads, every minute and with awareness.

______________________

This text was originally published in the Deutsche Welle for Latin America.

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

Several Cuban Activists Arrested During "Performance" In Solidarity With Guillermo Del Sol

Last image distributed by Guillermo del Sol, which shows his physical deterioration. (Alexander Rodríguez Cárdenas)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 30 September 2019 — This Monday, as Guillermo del Sol’s hunger strike reached 50 days, a group of activists, opposition figures, and independent journalists have made public a letter of support in which they intend to express their “solidarity and recognition” to the activist for his “sacrifice to eradicate one of the most lamentable arbitrary actions committed against our people.” The letter is signed by dozens of people from independent civil society, many of whom are affected by prohibitions on leaving the country like the ones Del Sol is denouncing.

The text urges the activist to take care of his health, although the signers respect the decision he has made. “Today marks 50 days since your hunger strike began and we are very worried about the accelerated deterioration of your health, which makes your life more fragile every minute. We want you to protect yourself, we want you alive to achieve along with us our final objective, which is to enjoy a free Cuba like the one our Apostle dreamed of. Without you there, the freedom that we will inevitably win will not have one of its best sons raising its flag; but know that we respect your will and we will continue supporting you.” continue reading

Óscar Casanella was arrested this Sunday, along with five activists, for an action aimed at supporting Del Sol. (Michel Matos)

Adrian del Sol, Guillermo’s son, told 14ymedio first thing on Monday morning that his father remains in critical condition. “Now it’s 50 days on strike and counting 10 after they gave him serums. On that day he was denied healthcare, State Security practically dragged him out of the bed as he was still hydrating, toward a police car to leave him here at the house. For me it’s a show of force to humiliate. He’s getting weaker and weaker, the doctor comes but she doesn’t take his vital signs.”

The activist’s son indicated that both he and his father know about the letter of support and believe that “it’s good;” his father is grateful, he added, “for the support and concern” of everyone who signed it, but he maintains his decision to continue on the hunger strike.

Yesterday, four activists and two independent journalists were arrested in Havana when they were attempting to meet to carry out a performance in solidarity with Guillermo del Sol. The group had planned to wear paper masks with photos of the face of the opposition figure from Villa Clara and walk in the area around the Coppelia ice cream parlor on the centrally located corner of 23 and L, in El Vedado, to support Del Sol’s protest against the prohibitions on traveling that Cuban authorities impose on dissidents.

Those arrested were Iliana Hernández, Oscar Casanella, Pablo Morales Marchan, Yunia Figueredo, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, and Michel Matos. The last three were released a few hours after the arrest.

Yunia Figueredo, who was in the Regla police station, was released at four in the morning this Monday. Before arriving there, she had been in Guanabacoa along with Hernández, who remains detained there first thing Monday morning, as her mother confirmed to this newspaper.

The artist Otero Alcántara, one of the first released after the arrest, explained to 14ymedio the circumstances in which the events occurred. “We were on the corner of Yara waiting to begin. Then a patrol car arrived with two police officers and a Lada with three oppressors of those who go after Iliana. They took her and, as Óscar protested, they took him too,” he explained after being released.

“Michel Matos and I were also there protesting. We began to film their arrest and one of the oppressors fell on me to try to take away my phone. They swatted at Michel to do the same to him and threw him to the ground. Then they handcuffed me, they took me in the Lada with particular bodywork, and they took us to [the police unit located between streets] 21 and C. They were never able to take away my phone,” he adds.

“For whoever says that in Cuba arrests aren’t arbitrary. Simply seated on the grounds of the cinema Yara Iliana Hernández, Oscar Casanella, Michel Matos, and this writer, they took us prisoner in front of the entire public on the corner of 23 and L, without previous identification nor legal recourse,” reported Otero Alcántara on his Facebook account with a photo of the police patrol that participated in the arrests.

“We were simply talking about a performance in favor of accompanying our brother in the fight, Guillermo del Sol, hunger striker in defense of the activists ’regulated’ from leaving Cuba. We continue in the fight,” he added.

Guillermo del Sol was brought a few days ago to the Arnaldo Milián hospital, in Santa Clara, because of the deterioration of his health, according to the most recent information. There he received intravenous hydration, but the following day two uniformed officers brought him again to his home.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

_____________________

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

Cuban Opposition Asks to Meet With Borrell and Bachelet for International Support

Josep Borrell will be in Cuba in mid-October, a few days before becoming head of European diplomacy. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 October 2019 — The Cuban opposition is trying to involve more international actors in their struggle this fall. On the one hand, the Cuban Human Rights Observatory (OCDH), based in Madrid, addressed the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, EU and Cooperation, Josep Borrell, on the eve of his visit to the island in the middle of the month and has asked him to meet with Cuban exiles.

This meeting would be “very useful, even in the face of the new responsibility” awaiting the Chancellor, who will assume the leadership of European diplomacy in November, succeeding the Italian Federica Mogherini. In addition, the OCDH urges Borrell to “receive and listen” in Havana to representatives of opposition groups, “the only way to know the two sides of the current Cuban reality.”

The Observatory, always critical of the relations between Brussels and Havana since the end of the European Union’s Common Position on Cuba, states in its letter: “We strive to understand the concerns and reasons that the EU and its member states may confront in our present and future. We presume that they respond to what they consider best for the Cuban people, but we fail to understand why the Union has suspended its moral judgment in its relations with Cuba, when it has been scrupulously demanding in respect for rights and freedoms with third countries and with their member states.” continue reading

“It appears that, for Cubans, a context of repression and limitations on fundamental rights and freedoms, such as the current one, is acceptable to the EU and the Government of Spain. If there really is the political will to help solve the Cuban problem, begin by including all actors of civil society and the opposition, in Cuba and in exile, in initiatives that affect the general interests of our nation. Otherwise, you will simply be favoring spurious interests outside the noble pretensions proclaimed by the EU,” they demand.

The OCDH strongly accuses Spain of being solely interested in its economic revenues for “the emphasis on issues related to Spanish investments in Cuba.” “It is essential not to lower the level of demand to those who must accept that the human dignity and freedoms of all must be respected,” the letter adds.

On Monday, for its part, the Cuban Alliance for Inclusion and the Cuban Women’s Network, issued a letter to Michelle Bachelet in which they ask the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to join their fight.

“You are identified as a powerful voice for the Rights of women and it is on their behalf that we ask you to stand in solidarity with the reality of women who in Cuba want to participate in the public life of our country and we only receive arrests, threats and exclusions of all kinds,” they explain.

The associations, which recently launched the #UnidasPorNuestrosDerechos (United For Our Rights) campaign, which is repressed by the Government, also asked the Cuban president to receive them, just as he did with the Argentine association Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo).

In their letter to Bachelet, and after congratulating her on the Hillary Rodham Clinton Award for Advancing Women in Peace and Security, which recognizes her as a “permanent fighter for rights and gender equity,” they indicate that Cuba is in a serious crisis and her visit would be valuable. “In your capacity as High Commissioner, to verify this situation and help us find a way to respect the human rights of all Cubans.”

“The independent civil society of Cuba invites you. We wait for you with the faith that your intervention can support our efforts,” they conclude.

_________________________

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

Ingenuity: Salvation for Cuba’s Private Sector

A kilogram of cans earns 13 CUP (roughly 50¢ US), so Yoerquis needs to crush the material for many hours to earn enough money to cover his expenses. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 1 October 2019 — Yoerquis feels he’s in the lead as a collector of raw material. It has been a while since he reached into his imagination to create a tool that allows him to crush aluminum cans all day long without ending up with unbearable back pain.

The young man has an impromptu workshop in Havana’s Cerro municipality, where he does plumbing work and cuts custom tiles, but also collects aluminum. The kilogram of soft drink or beer cans earns 13 CUP (roughly 50¢ US), so Yoerquis needs to crush the material for many hours to get money that allows him to cover the expenses of his search, along with other members of the family, through several neighborhoods of Havana to collect materials.

That is why he manufactured a heavy cylinder by mixing concrete and pouring it into a plastic tank in whose center he had previously placed a two-inch metal tube. After removing the structure from the mold, he introduced another of smaller diameter and concluded his work. Now he spreads the cans out along his patio and passed the crusher over it several times. continue reading

“I could have improved the equipment by putting in some good bearings, but I prefer it rustic,” he explains as he takes pushes his invention from the end of his yard to the other, where he has arranged the cans of three full bags.

Of the more than half a million people who have a license to engage in private work in Cuba, it is estimated that more than 5,000 are dedicated to the collection of raw materials that end up being bought by the State in its more than 300 centers. Most of these workers must crush them one by one with a stone or a piece of pipe.

Yoerquis dreams of being able to buy a compactor or crusher that is not his improvised cylinder one day, but he also recognizes that “by the time it is possible” he will no longer be dedicated to this activity and will prefer to develop his other talents in cutting pipes and tiles. He hopes that there will be a construction boom on the Island and with it more “work orders” will arrive.

Dunia and Eric also feed their family thanks to their ingenuity. They met when they were both in high school and, after almost a quarter of a century together, decided to apply for a license to sell sweets and candy for children. Their greatest pride is to have created the machine with which they make cotton candy, the specialty that distinguishes them and that they sell at fairs and in the vicinity of some recreational parks.

To get around, the couple employs the old Lada that her father acquired decades ago thanks to his status as a “prominent worker.” The machine built by Eric with his own hands travels in the trunk of the Lada; it consists of an old metal basin that belonged to his grandmother, with a central motor that runs off a battery.

Without a wholesale market, self-employed workers in Cuba must also overcome the obstacles posed by the lack of machinery, devices and many of the apparatuses that facilitate their work. The shortages in state stores, high prices and the absence of certain types of markets force them to have to create many of the tools with which they make a living.

In some cases, the solution is to import the devices or pieces of them. And also to acquire them in the black market. But sometimes the needs are so specific that the situation is complicated and nobody is better placed than the workers themselves to determine what they are looking for and the characteristics they require.

In a country full of qualified engineers who drive taxis to survive, it is easy to run into an inventor. The need admits nothing else: either they create and repair with their own hands or they don’t have what they need.

The operation of Eric’s machine is simple. The sugar is placed in the center, in a smaller container, and the basin is rotated at high speed. An attached heat source causes the contents to melt and the centrifugal force achieves the rest.

“My family has been living off of this machine for years and we have very good sales in July and August, during the holiday months,” says Dunia. “At the beginning we had many problems trying to get the right speed and also to reach a temperature that helps create the cotton candy but does not burn sugar too much,” she explains.

“After some tests and several errors we managed to build what we wanted and now every time it breaks or needs maintenance we know very well how to fix it, we have even begun to build another one to have it for emergencies, like when a piece is broken that needs more time to fix,” adds Dunia.

The vein of invention comes from family. The mother raised a small amount of capital in the late 90s and early this century was making homemade ice cream that was then placed between two cookies. I sold it as an “ice cream snack,” a very popular product to provide relief in the heat.

The ice cream maker was built by Dunia’s father with an old Soviet-made Aurika washing machine that was very common in the houses of the Island during the years of greatest rapprochement between the Plaza of the Revolution and the Kremlin. With an added paddle on the engine and a built-in cooling system, the “refrigerator” produced ice cream for a decade.

Eric also designed a mold for making sweet cookies at home and another for candy. The couple hopes “the cotton candy making lasts a long time,” because the family economy depends on it. “Here you have to do everything, the product and the machine,” says Dunia. “If we do not do so, we would have to close the business because there is no place to go to buy any of this.”

_________________

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

Canadian and American Diplomats Wiped Out by Secret Mosquito Fumigation Brigade

A fumigation team in Havana (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Conde Zika Dengue, Miami, September 22nd, 2019 — The media continue their fable about what have been called “sonic” or “acoustic” attacks. This time with the version of a group of Canadian scientists  who apparently have discovered an efficiently operating secret  team of exterminators working for the Cuban intelligence, employed in the area where the Canadian and North American diplomats in Havana live.

The new script of the sonic attack saga makes out that the diplomats were, in fact, affected by the dilligent activities of a team of undercover ninjas protecting them from mosquito bites. The mission was carried out with such perseverance and care that they overdid the dosage of pesticide used in their mission to protect the diplomatic corps.

It is noteworthy that the rest of the diplomatic corps stationed in the country did not suffer from the ninjas’ excessive care, nor did the 11 million Cubans living on the island. The mission was so successful that the protagonists were rewarded with an international assignment to China to continue their protection activities. They were also successful on that occasion, as they managed to wind up more than a dozen US diplomats, utilising such sophisticated and intriguing methods that they avoided  being discovered. continue reading

The US diplomats stationed in Beijing, after being supposedly fumigated against Carribean mosquitos, complained of symptoms similar to those presented by their colleagues in Havana. Doubtless, this was the decisive evidence which guaranteed the high praise awarded by Havana to their valiant and efficient fumigator ninjas. They were all awared the “Silver Mosquito” medal, presented in person by the head of the National Security Commission, better known as the One-eyed Dumbass, having unfortunately lost an eye playing quimbumbia  (a kind of Cuban bat-and-ball game, where the ball is cigar-shaped, and whoever hits it furthest wins).

Without doubt, the medals were deserved. The “study” arranged by donors and supporters of a team of multidisciplinary  investigators in Halifax, associated with the Brain Repair Centre, the University of Dalhiousie, and the Health Authority in Nova Scotia, was more creative than was expected by the passive Cuban scientists, who held to the simplistic siren song explanation of the causes of the previously inexplicable sonic attacks.

The crazy Canadian explanation, concocted by foreigners with more sophistication than the grotesque account of the brave Cuban scientists, nevertheless made a real mess-up in leaving out the 11 million possible guinea pigs who, for decades, and in all the cities in Cuba, have been subject to energetic fumigation campaigns against the nasty  aedes aegypti mosquitowhich has resulted today in the majority of the country’s hospitals being packed out with patients.

But, the surprising thing is that if the fumigation affected the diplomats’ brains, the effect on the fumigated Cubans was to make them emigrate. The little rafts are no longer sufficient for crossing the Straits of Florida. The funniest thing is that the migratory epidemic caused by the said fumigations not only affects the young people who feel they have no future on the accursed island. It has also affected kids and old people who have preferred to flee rather than continue to be fumigated. Ironically it was the mosquitos who decided to stay and now live everywhere.

Meanwhile, the top brass of the Cuban Communist Party octogenarian ayatollahs have been summoned by the current president to review the sophisticated and successful fumigation processes, to try to avoid any further damage. One thing is for certain, that the days are numbered for the total hash cooked up by the people directed by the One-eyed Dumbass, along with their “Silver Mosquito” trophy as well.

Translated by GH

____________________________

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

The Other Face of the ‘Energy Measures’ in Cuba

Doctors lament that suddenly as many as 30 people arrive with suspected dengue fever. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 27 September 2019 — ‘The spinning top’ happens once a day, crammed with sick people or those who believe they are. “It is a bus that travels among polyclinics looking for feverish cases, patients with dengue symptoms, and they take them all to a hospital. It can be the Fajardo or the 26th Clinic,” says a recently graduated doctor alarmed by the avalanche of people who arrive on the only route that resists being cut due to the crisis.

It is fifteen days after the government ministers called on the population for tranquility and announced, shortly before the arrival of the Venezuelan oil tanker intended to end the fuel deficit, that no sector would be seriously affected. But in that same speech the measures that, as it was foreseeable, have altered the lives of the Cubans more than the authorities wanted are evident.

“Sometimes the bus arrives at midnight and leaves more than 20 patients at one time in the hospitals. Some specialists were complaining because they received more than 30 cases for admission in the late hours and all at the same time. The other day in the Fajardo hospital the lights went out and I had to run the equipment for two hours two hours in treatment. I ended up exhausted,” says the young doctor. continue reading

The authorities proposed a reorganization of the energy supply to avoid blackouts, but in practice this means that a patient can be cut off halfway through a treatment.

“Because of a realignment of hours they made in my clinic now the compressor is turned off [responsible for operating the instruments] at six o’clock. If they cut you off at half, you have a problem,” a dental student in her senior year in the municipality of Cárdenas, in Matanzas, tells 14ymedio. “So you can not do anything right, you know when you start working with a patient but you can not guess when it will end, each case is different,” she complains.

Together with Healthcare, Education is another of the key sectors for the population, in addition to both being the regime’s flag. But here too, the functioning trembles more than usual. Although the Government assured that classes would not be suspended, and shortly after there were partial closures and reductions in the operating hours of the universities, the reality has been even more serious.

The University of Pinar del Río (UPR) has been practically paralyzed for the last two weeks, one of its workers told this newspaper.

“All these measures are avoiding the blackouts programmed by all possible means. The blackout is a symbol of that terrible time of the Special Period, and the last thing that this Government wants now is a protest.” The professor recalled a spontaneous demonstration in the Havana municipality of 10 October that occurred after the passage of a hurricane. At that time many Havanans spent several days without electricity or drinking water.

“This week was also the Caribbean National Competitive Programming Contest in all universities and in the UPR it could not take place. In the next rounds (national, regional and global) there is no way for there to be representation of the UPR,” the teache continues.

But not only university education suffers. This newspaper was able to verify, in a tour of several schools in the capital, that in several of them class schedules were adjusted andsome adjustments were made in class schedules and cuts of some complementary subjects such as Participatory Sport or Vocational Guidance. According to one teacher, activities should be normalized next week.

A resident of Guanabacoa, in the capital, has been going through the wringer to take her son to school in the last two weeks. Her son studies in a school for children with special needs and is always picked up by a minibus very close to their home. “As of last week they’ve cancelled the bus and now I have to invent a thousand tricks to get there early. The boy gets desperate and gets in a bad mood when he has to wait a lot,” she laments.

The savings have even reached the kitchens of the schools. In some provinces such as Pinar del Río and Matanzas, schools are using firewood to cook students’ lunch, according to several testimonies collected by this newspaper. “They cook in the middle of the schoolyard and every day my granddaughter gets home with ashes her hair,” says a retired woman from Pinar del Río who has three grandchildren in her care.

Alberto López Díaz, vice president of the Government in Villa Clara, said there are concrete measures that have been agreed to with the country’s leadership for saving electricity.

“The state centers disconnect the breakers during peak hours, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Only 164 centers with vital services and priorities are authorized to maintain electricity consumption, such as the Hospitals, the meat productions plants, dairy products, electrochemistry, among others,” said López in a meeting that took place this Thursday in that city and was chaired by Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez.

In that province 917 patrols have been created from 434 schools to go house to house alerting the 12,505 customers of the Electric Union that consume more than 500Kwh of the need for savings. In addition, 121 command posts have been created to achieve, at the level of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) a call to turn off 20-watt lamps and 120-watt refrigerators.

Although the Government has spent days pretending that the situation is short-term and the measures adopted will cushion major problems, the lives of citizens show that things have gone remarkably worse. The lack of foreign subsidies and the inability of a stagnant economy without dynamism are far from being solved with the arrival of an oil tanker.

____________________

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

Diaz-Canel Calls Opponents "Cain" and Defends the “Temporary Situation”

The Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, in one of his many appearances on television to reassure citizens about a new crisis. (Cuban TV)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 September 2019 —  On Friday, Cuban president  Diaz-Canel, published  a column in the official newspaper Granma where he describes the Cubans who criticize his management as like the “Biblical Cain,” while defending the use of the term “coyuntural” — temporary situation* — to name the return of he economic crisis in the country.

In the best style of a text for catechesis, Díaz-Canel begins his column by dividing “men” into good and bad. He and his Government are on the side of “the good guys” and are fighting a fight of “good against evil” in which “the best of Cuba rises,” while “others traffic with discomfort and shortcomings.”

The president calls for dusting off the “saving and efficiency practices” of the Special Period, “thinking of everything that then contributed the collective intelligence and that we mistakenly discarded.” continue reading

In Cuba, the Special Period is known as the economic crisis of the first half of the 1990s, when the country ran out of subsidies from the Soviet Union. The economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago has calculated that the former USSR gave Havana more than 65 billion dollars until 1991 in exchange for its loyalty.

“We are convinced that this search has to take into account new contexts, technological advances, the contributions of knowledge in one of the most dynamic periods of human civilization, and not only in terms of what we have advanced as a species, but also as for what we have lost under the consumerist and predatory thrust of the capitalist system,” added Diaz-Canel.

The governor justified the use of the term “coyuntural*,” which has received intense criticism in social networks, to define a new period of scarcity on the Island, a product of the economic collapse of Venezuela, the already chronic bad management of the Government and the tightening of the embargo on the part of the United States.

“In the uncertain conditions in which the international fuel market operates and under the sick financial persecution of the blockade which Cuba suffers under, coyuntural may suggest excessive optimism, but not setting limits to that situation would have been unnecessarily pessimistic and irresponsible,” he said.

In academic circles Diaz-Canel’s use of the term coyuntural has not been well received, nor has it been so in social networks, where thousands of people have devised memes and mockery around this concept.

“The blockade, the hostility of the United States, is something that we have to assume. In this country that is no longer temporary (coyuntural),” said Dean of the Faculty of Economics at the University of Havana, Antonio Romero, on state television.

The economist made reference in that appearance to various actions that could be undertaken to destabilize the economy of the Island and free the productive forces, a long frustrated longing for the reforms undertaken by Raúl Castro after he came to power in 2008.

Díaz-Canel lashed out again against the United States, whom he blames for all the ills of Cuba.

“Men and women, young people, children and the elderly, who follow the news, analyze contexts, condemn the abuse and offer their ideas, efforts and even jokes, to face the undisputed bad time that the new twist of the high-handed and abusive empire imposes,” the president wrote. The president also reserved hateful words for Cubans who oppose his management.

“Full of rage at the popular response, they cry out because the ships do not arrive, because the lights go out, because the siege is closed, because independent and dignified Cuba surrenders or dies. They are glad of each new measure aimed at strengthening the Blockade. They dream of the invasion of Cuba,” he wrote.

“Like the Biblical Cain, there are those who write, speak and even shriek on social networks, for some coins of the millionaire loot destined for subversion against Cuba. Every minute of our resistance allows them to sell themselves,” the president added.

It is not the first time that a text by Díaz-Canel has raised a fuss. At the end of 2018, the president posted an unfortunate message on the Twitter social network saying that there are people who were born in Cuba by mistake.

In a tweet alluding to the film Innocence, a film directed by Cuban filmmaker Alejandro Gil about the shooting of medical students in 1871, the president said that “there is no shortage of those born by mistake in Cuba, who may be worse than the enemy that he attacks her.”

The phrase generated intense criticism and he tried to reduce its impact in March of this year when he said Cuba should avoid international isolation and increasingly bring Cuban emigrants closer with a migration policy that spans that differences.

*Translator’s note: The government’s use of “coyuntural,” the ’hot word’ in Cuba, has been interpreted as various versions of “temporary” and “situation” (but never as “crisis” — one of the accepted meanings in English). Its specific English equivalent is “conjunctural.”

___________________

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

Of Inaugurations and Authoritarian Regimes: The Case of Tourism in Cuba

Varadero Melia International Hotel (Trivago)

14ymedio biggerElías Amor Bravo, Economist, 16 September 2019 — Each dictator celebrates the inaugurations of what they can, or what they leave. There is a close relationship between authoritarian power and political celebratory openings. In the case of Franco, it was common to see him in the “News and Documentaries” — known as No-Do — inaugurating reservoirs for the production of hydroelectric power and storing water for the areas with the lowest rainfall in southeastern Spain. The reservoirs have been left for posterity and have a much wider use than originally planned. Generally, no one questions them, except for some radical environmental organizations. In the case of Díaz-Canel, another authoritarian leader, he loves to attend the openings of hotels.

On this occasion, the new facility has been named the “Hotel Meliá Internacional Varadero” because although the building belongs to the Diaz-Canel regime, the establishment is managed by the Mallorcan company Sol Meliá. The project is engaged in an open dispute wih the legitimate owners under the protection of Title V of the United States’ Helms Burton Act. So, before a large group of representatives of his government, such as the person in charge of tourism, Marrero, and even the president of Sol Meliá, Díaz-Canel said that the new hotel is intended to “become a hotel of excellence in the main tourist center from the country.” continue reading

The Cuban government’s commitment to tourism is apart of the little it has left to face the current serious crisis situation, but the prospects are not good. The National Statistics Office of Cuba, ONEI published on its website a report of the tourism sector between January and June,and almost simultaneously, another Informative note regarding the period from January to July to show the number of international visitor arrivals.

It is interesting to note that in the first period (from January to June), there was a 2.4% increase in the number of travelers compared to the same period of the previous year. This is the data that has been disseminated in the media and through social networks. On the other hand, the other more recent data in of travelers to the month of July, what really took place is a 1.1% decrease in the number of travelers.

The reason is explained in the second Note to which reference is made. In July, the number of travelers entering the island was only 295,042, with a collapse in that month of 23.6%, the equivalent of 90,992 fewer tourists. Almost 100,000 stopped coming to Cuba in July compared to the same month of the previous year.  A very bad month, very bad prospects. As a result, the collapse in the figures accumulated in the period from January to July, increasingly far from the objectives of the regime.

The Sol Meliá business group has bet on tourism in Cuba since the distant times of the Special Period, accepting the management formula offered by the Castro regime, unique throughout the Caribbean region. A formula that undoubtedly benefits two parties, as has been the occasion to verify since it has been maintained despite the difficulties that have arisen, which are not few. In addition, the effort put into management and organization of facilities in Cuba has not returned the expected results to the Spanish hotel chain. Their annual reports make this clear.

At first, the chain opted for the future, thinking that the Special Period at some point would have to disappear. Then came the “objective” of 5 million travelers which has remained unmet and with levels of occupancy levels much lower than other resort destinations in the Caribbean (The Dominican Republic attracts 11 million a year). Also, how curious, with the passing of the years, the Spanish hotel group is again faced with a similar situation, which is not the same as the Special Period, when it began operations on the island. The feeling of “deja vu” among the chain’s managers must be more than evident. And in the midst of these low levels of tourist activity, this new hotel is launched, in an area that is already relatively congested with hotel rooms, and that has lost much of its international pull.

The Sol Meliá company manages this magnificent establishment, which, however, it may lose at any time given the contractual conditions; but there is the Varadero International, a five-star luxury, with its almost 1,000 rooms in different dimensions and characteristics, modern from the technological point of view, with a commitment to quality and all kinds of installations and facilities for the use of customers. Nothing is known with respect to what the cost has been for the Castro regime, its owner, but it should not be cheap, of course, and in difficult times like today, less still.

The question that always arises in these cases is whether there is another alternative model to tourism in Cuba, other than this state monopoly under the management of international groups. The results of the current model are known. The volume of travelers has stagnated and there are bad prospects for the following months, during which in every year, another hurricane makes an appearance in the Caribbean.

In my opinion, there is an alternative. The world tourism powers, including Spain, the country to which the Mallorcan group belongs, need to rely on the the capabilities and resources of private initiative, and not of the state. To be true, there is some kind of state participation, in Spain, for example Paradores, to exploit emblematic buildings with history and heritage, but recently doubts have been raised as to whether state management should be maintained.

The Castro regime should know that tourism is mostly a private activity, which is carried out by private companies that have a clear orientation to the market and to meeting the needs of customers. Tourism should not be a propaganda device of any authoritarian regime. Fraga Iribarne, in his time as minister of the branch, managed to ensure that tourism in Spain did not take this route. In the United Kingdom it is perfectly possible to tour the country in a wide and extensive network of bed & breakfast accommodations that delight the traveler. The same happens in France and Italy, as in Spain, where the private hotel sector coexists with these establishments that offer high quality services to travelers.

In Cuba, this model must be supported more, because we have already what the state model achieves. And the little route it has. If it is intended to increase tourism, and make it a sector that contributes resources to the national economy, we must advance in the privatization of the sector and let it be privately owned at all levels of accommodations. The state can make cash and devote it to other infrastructure investments that the country needs. There is no other alternative.

The state monopoly in any economic activity, has a limited route, and it is enough to compare tourism data in other areas of the Caribbean, Dominican Republic or Cancun, with Cuba to see that the problem of tourism in Cuba is in who directs it, controls it and is dedicated to the propaganda of authoritarian inaugurations. That’s how it goes.

___________________

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

The Energy Crisis Forces Cuban Universities to Readjust

At the University of Havana, classes will end at 3:oo pm instead of 6:00 pm. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 17 September 2019 — The fuel crisis that Cuba suffers, and that is affecting the daily life of citizens, has forced Cuba’s main universities to readjust their schedules, reduce class times, and even close departments for one or two days a week.

José Antonio Echeverría Technological University of Havana (Cujae), the country’s leading engineering and architecture school, will close its doors on Mondays and Tuesdays, so there will only be classes from Wednesday to Friday until further notice, as reported this Monday by the first vice minister of Higher Education, Martha Mesa.

Meanwhile, at the University of Havana (UH) classes have been suspended on Fridays, and on the rest of the working days their duration has been shortened and the faculties close at 3:00 in the afternoon instead of 6:00 as usual. continue reading

The official press reported new energy saving measures that are applied these days at the University of Matanzas and the Marta Abreu Central University de las Villas (UCLV) of Villa Clara.

With these measures, the Government tries to reduce the consumption of electricity and fuel for transport at a time when Cuba faces what could be its worst energy crisis since the 1990s, during the Special Period.

Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, has assured that the Island is not at the beginning of another Special Period and that the current crisis is a “temporary situation” caused by the resurgence of the US embargo and the restrictions of the Donald Trump Administration on Venezuelan oil shipments.

Cuba produces enough oil to cover 40% of its needs (mainly to generate electricity in thermal plants) according to government data, and the rest it receives mostly from Venezuela.

The arrival of diesel fuel in Cuba was interrupted last Saturday and no more ships will arrive until October, a situation that is affecting transport and industrial activities in the country, as well as generating fears of possible power outages.

On the street the effects have been noticed, with more people looking for transportation from the sidewalks, overflowing urban buses, a large share of the gas stations with closed diesel pumps and long lines at those which are still open.

The authorities assured that the supply of diesel for private cars will not cease, although urban and interurban public transport by road and rail has been restricted to minimum services.

Last Thursday, several ministers appeared on the Roundtable TV talk show, together with Miguel Díaz-Canel, to reassure the population and assure them that there would be no problems, and at the same time that they detailed all the reductions that will have to be faced as this situation is resolved and that will affect all sectors.

_________________

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