Day 11 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba

The Havana market in Boyeros and Camagüey usually has a short line but these days it’s exploded. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 31 March 2020 – Two hours of lining up and it was only possible to buy two of each product. This morning we had to go out looking for some food because our reserves were depleted. We decided to go to a market on the corner of Boyeros and Camagüey that usually has a short line, but we were wrong. The line went around the building. In coronavirus times the offers decrease and the lines multiply.

The police presence is striking. Uniforms are inside the market, near the cash register, at the door of the warehouse, outside the store. We are in an undeclared “state of siege.” Legislation is fuzzy in this case. Can we leave our houses or not? How much of the same product can we buy? Official voices impose certain measures but there is no clear legality to uphold or define them.

Tempers, in addition, are heated. In the line this morning, two customers nearly came to blows. A fight in Covid-19 times is rare. If before people swooped down and shouted right into each other’s faces, now they squabble from a distance, a hullabaloo that marks the space. Even the ritual of anger changes in Cuba these days. continue reading

I returned home with two cans of sardines and a package of flour. It is what it is. Tomorrow I will improvise some croquettes. The search for food, which has always had a special role in this country, now absorbs everything, concentrates everything, surpasses everything. From the time we wake up, our life revolves around getting food and putting it on our plates. There are two obsessions: surviving and feeding ourselves.

Even ideology seems to be fading. The demonstrations of political fervor that were so frequent a few weeks ago have been suspended or postponed. The May Day parade, in a country where the only union allowed is a transmission-line from the Power to workers, has also been canceled. Reinaldo says that he remembers something like that in 1970 when the 10 million ton sugar harvest was attempted. But I was not born yet.

Today we venture to make a family lunch and invite those relatives we suspect we will go weeks without seeing again. It was like saying goodbye but in advance. The table was the center that brought us back together and, of course, the coronavirus dominated the conversation. We speak of positive cases of the disease already reaching 186 in the country, according to official data, and that at least six people have lost their lives due to the pandemic.

Until a few days ago, those were people who shared a table with their family just as we did this Tuesday. They breathed, they had dreams and they loved, but it all ended abruptly. Understanding that fragility gives us a special strength to deal with all this, because you end up understanding the true human measure in the face of chance, disease and the environment.

Before sitting down to our plates, we all went through the rituals of handwashing, keeping our distance, and kisses that are now given only with the fingers or a gaze. We will be many days or weeks without seeing each other, but this Tuesday we decided that illness and shortages are not going to take away the memory of a lunch together.

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Day 10 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba

Days in coronavirus time pass differently. Before we were dominated by anguish and today we are at the mercy of an anxiety multiplied. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 30 March 2020 — Mondays are always complicated. But this one dawned calm, with the city in a rare silence although the chimney of the Ñico López refinery had one of the tallest columns of smoke I can remember. The sound of the birds filled the dawn in this neighborhood where the fury of “cementing” each patio has not completely snatched the trees from us.

Days in coronavirus time pass differently. Before we were dominated by anguish and today we are at the mercy of an anxiety multiplied. The mother despairs because her son has to risk leaving the house and traveling on public transport; the entrepreneur is exposed to the danger of closing his business and not earning anything, or continuing to sell food and end up infected. The freelance journalist knows that his reporting capacity is currently being tested, but he is aware that censorship is mounting.

These are times when the worst and the best of each person come out. A close neighbor has hung a sign on his door so no one will knock on it, and he believes that hiding in his home will save him entirely. The problem is that the same neighbor depends on going out to buy the bread they sell in the rationed market every day, and actively participates in the meetings of the nucleus of the Communist Party maintained by retirees in the area. continue reading

He says he fought at the Bay of Pigs and that this virus was “created by the CIA.” He is neither an epidemiologist nor a doctor, but he is a fervent believer in what the national television news reports. Perhaps that is why, on Sunday night he went out onto his balcony to applaud the work of Cuban doctors, without knowing that the call for that ovation was something that had been forged in civil society and social networks, in tune with a similar gesture acted out days ago in Italy and Spain.

The clapping was heard loudly in our neighborhood, in honor of those Cubans who today are in hospitals facing Covid-19. A tough task in a country where official figures announce 170 confirmed cases of the disease and four deaths. Despite the context, there are always those who want to politically hijack the tribute to the doctors, but they are so ridiculous, and few, that they are drowned in the spontaneous applause.

Beyond those symbolic gestures, our lives change every day. It is not as if before we could use the adjective “normal” to define our existence, but it is that now the little that we felt safe in is gone or has changed. It is as if a building had its columns suddenly removed and the entire roof collapsed on its stunned residents.

If before, in order to define Cuba, it had to be emphasized that “without sugar there is no country,” now it is worth adding that “without the ‘weekly packet’” we could not guarantee that the nation that we knew until yesterday remained. For both skeptics and the credulous, it is worth announcing that since Monday the private store in our neighborhood that every week sold — religiously and without fail — that ubiquitous udiovisual compendium, has closed. It is not there, it’s gone… and we, thousands of addicts, are left in the lurch, literally staring at our blank screens.

In the afternoon, when the sun fell a little, I transplanted an oregano in the earth on my balcony, and a rosemary plant. “Rather dead than without spices,” I said to myself and touched my nose (for luck), that rare geography that the coronavirus has amputated for us because putting our fingers to our faces is a danger in these times.

Perhaps my militiaman neighbor, in partisan quarantine, will knock on my door in the next few days asking for some “flavor” to add to his food. I’ll be here. There are things that unite and tragedies are one of them.

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Water, The Best Ally Against COVID-19, Doesn’t Reach Many Cuban Homes

Authorities are also working on the reorganization of transportation, a very problematic means of spreading the virus in Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, March 25, 2020 — The most effective and accessible enemy of the virus, water, isn’t so easy to obtain in Cuba, troubled by drought and the deficient management of a supply more necessary than ever against COVID-19. In Havana, 468,721 of its 2.2 million inhabitants suffer water shortages, according to authorities.

The capital has 111 supply sources affected, 89 partially and another 22 totally, and only one of the five basins that supply them is in good shape, as Antonio Rodríguez, director of the National Institute of Water Resources (INRH), explained this Tuesday on the Roundtable TV program. The deficit rises to 2,447 liters of water per second so far this March with 58,500 people being supplied by cistern trucks.

The shortage of water for lack of rain affects 469,000 people in the western area of the Island, the majority in Havana; some 23,000 in the central area, and some 21,000 in the east. continue reading

According to Rodríguez, among the most affected municipalities in the capital are Arroyo Naranjo, Central Havana, Old Havana, La Lisa, and Boyeros, although he warned that there are also problems in the others. The official pointed out that complaints and inquiries about service have increased and it has been necessary to increase the telephone capacity to deal with them.

“We have the advantage of the fact that we continue working on the interconnection of systems within the capital, to better distribute water,” he said. The works in various areas are accelerating to improve the situation, said Rodríguez, and the drilling of refill and supply wells is being worked on.

Additionally, two small desalinization plants have been installed and other wells will be activated as easy access points. In the capital, the director announced, theoretically there is an average of 648 liters per inhabitant, but the problem of pipe and network leaks (up to 2,000) prevent that quantity from reaching its destination and although 78% of the pipes have been renovated, only 36% of the networks are working properly.

Rodríguez also said that on Monday water arrived in water trucks to 31,909 people in Havana and that measures are being taken to adjust the supply and restrict the sources of shortages to the large consumers, in addition to reinforcing state inspection.

In the midst of all this, the weather forecasts are not optimistic and it will continue raining little at least until April, for which reason the official asked, as usual, for a rational use of water.

José Angel Portal Miranda, Minister of Public Health, also appeared on the program, where he took stock of the situation in Cuba, not without first highlighting that the Coronavirus is affecting 168 countries and that the most afflicted currently, according to the speed at which is spreading, are Italy, the United States, Spain, and Germany.

Cuba has had until now 48 confirmed cases, 29 Cubans and 19 foreigners. All the cases are considered to be imported, since the contagions are not considered to be local until they are transmitted between two people who have not left the country. Three of the cases are serious, there is one discharged and one deceased, while the rest remain stable.

Additionally, 1,229 people remain under observation, 1,055 Cubans and 174 foreigners, “admitted in isolation centers and hospitals planned with this in mind,” specified the Minister of Health.

“We have moved forward to the prevention phases, with measures like the partial closing of borders, because the majority of cases have been linked or were coming from abroad,” argued the Minister, despite the fact that the only control carried out until now was at ports and airports, through which, precisely, the coronavirus has entered.

The Minister of Health insisted that vigilance measures be maintained, specifically among the elderly and other vulnerable groups, and reminded that every province has facilities designated for measures of isolation, hospitalization, and control.

Portal Miranda reviewed other measures, like those taken in the reorganization of health services, with treatments been postponed with the exception of emergencies, and the holding of routine visits (aimed, thus, at reducing the number of patients) and the maternal and infant program.

“We reiterate the call for social distancing and for everyone to stay informed by official media, because the key is in prevention. Nobody can substitute what is necessary to do for their own protection. The success of everybody is in prevention,” stated Portal Miranda.

Reynaldo García Zapata, governor of Havana, asked the population to comply with the measures announced “by the highest leadership of the country.”

The official insisted on the role of the popular councils to guarantee vigilance and to respond to whoever needs help to comply with isolation. He also explained that 3,875 tourists remain isolated in hotels and 5,620 who remain in rented houses will be transferred.

García Zapata said that 770 points of sale have been set up for takeout food, and they are working on having all places able to provide that service, do so. Points of sale of bleach have also been raised to 123, one in every popular council.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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Day 9 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba

If on Friday some of the residents of my building still survived with the ‘online’ food purchases made from abroad by their migrant children, but that is no longer possible. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 29 March 2020 — The phone rang early this Sunday and I came back from a dream. I was sheltering in a parallel reality and the ringer brought me back. On the other end of the line, a Cienfuegos inmate was reeling off his troubles. He has been sentenced to four years for “illegal slaughter of cattle*” and fears that the Covid-19 will catch him behind bars.

Right now, a Cuban prison is the worst place to experience this pandemic. In addition to overcrowding, there are problems in the water supply, poor food and difficulties in communicating with family members. A country with so many absurd prohibitions has overcrowded correctional facilities and many prisoners who should never have been behind bars.

The voice on the other end of the line tells me that he was sentenced because someone linked him to the attack on a “yearling”; the calf did not die, but the court locked him up for 48 months. All those who call me from some prison say they are innocent, but in addition to the true culpability, in this case I maintain that these are times for pardons and amnesties. continue reading

Going to jail in Cuba is not just a matter for criminals. The penal code includes the charge of “pre-criminal dangerousness,” which — in the worst style of the Minority Report movie — sends you to prison just because authorities believe you might violate the law, in the future. If the crimes of opinion and opposition are added, we are looking at a cage anyone can fall into.

Opening the bars, softening the sentences that are handed down in the coming days and eliminating so many disparate crimes from the Cuban Penal Code could be a first step. Let no one else go to prison because he is predicted to become a future criminal, either by sacrificing his own cow or by carrying a couple of pounds of shrimp* in a briefcase.

It is a time to rectify and to open the bars.

Today, the Ministry of Public Health updated the coronavirus figures in Cuba. According to official data, there are 139 positive cases and more than 2,300 people under surveillance. Behind each number there is a life. Like that of Pastor Saúl Díaz, from the small city of Remedios, in the province of Villa Clara, who was the first Cuban included in the list of deceased that has been released by the national media.

In my neighborhood, the news of that death has paralyzed many. Until recently, the coronavirus seemed like something for foreigners, a disease that came from outside but would not make a dent in nationals. Giving a name, face and voice to one of the victims has a devastating effect. “I’m not going out anymore,” a neighbor told me after I showed him the most recent video of Saúl Díaz on Facebook, as he was coughing and waiting to be hospitalized.

Today, I continued with my plantings on the terrace. Garlic and some peppers were added to the self-consumption garden. As I work the earth and prepare the seeds, I keep thinking that a few yards from my balcony stands the Ministry of Agriculture, a mass of concrete whose size is inversely proportional to the efficiency of the land in Cuba. One day, those floors will not be full of bureaucrats but of entrepreneurs… At least I dream of that.

I insist on what my hands can give because what cost five yesterday today is worth ten. Prices go up and up. If on Friday some residents of my building still survived on the online food purchases made from abroad by their migrant children, it is no longer possible. Most of these commercial portals have closed or warned that they will not be able to deliver on time.

We have all returned to the same starting line. No matter age, race, social status, access to remittances or education. We have entered the territory of survival, where nothing is written in advance. An inmate and someone who walks the streets equally frail, serving an identical sentence.

*Translator’s note: In Cuba cows belong to the State and cannot be killed by the people raising them (or anyone else) without authorization. Carrying shrimp, or cheese, or other such items is also illegal. See “Male Heifers and Cow Suicide” 

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"Nothing is Going to Happen Here," They Say in Artemisa About the Pandemic

Buying soap, chicken, rice or the few medicines that are left in the pharmacy has become essential for many and they crowd together in long lines to do it. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Bertha K. Guillén, Candelaria (Artemisa), 29 March 2020  — With three cases positive for Covid-19, ten suspected cases and a total of 1,077 people under surveillance, Artemisa, an agricultural region bordering Havana, is facing the pandemic with concern.

Cuban authorities have called for “responsible lines” and “social seclusion,” as part of the strategies to stop the spread of the virus on the Island. But in the streets of Candelaria, a municipality of Artemisa, few abide by those measures.

The chronic shortages are added to the exceptional nature of the situation and residents are very anxious about being able to buy basic products. Buying soap, chicken, rice, or the few drugs left in the pharmacy has become paramount, given the increasing likelihood of a mandatory quarantine. continue reading

“People are more concerned with starving in their homes than with the coronavirus,” says a retired woman who stood in a long line this Thursday to buy chicken at a Candelaria store. In the same line waiting to enter the market, another woman said: “Among Cubans it’s OK, you have to avoid contact with those who come from outside.”

Getting water in sufficient quantities to supply basic needs is another of the challenges that keep Candelarians busy these days. With continuous supply problems for two months, the situation has become more dramatic these days and the expense has increased considerably.

“The water comes and goes, they fix the well for two days and it breaks again. With the hygiene that must be maintained, this is unsustainable,” says Iraida, a residents of the community who waits with dozens of people to access the hose from a water truck that will fill some tanks and buckets for her home.

But commerce is not the only tense issue in the country’s emergency situation. The transportation of passengers and goods in the most important agricultural center for the Cuban capital is also plagued with fears and the measures to restrict mobility that have been taken in recent days.

Agustín is one of the few private carriers still covering the inter-municipal route that connects the province’s capital with Candelaria and San Cristóbal; the others have stopped driving for fear of fines and contagion.

“People have not stopped traveling, many work outside the municipality, and the stops and terminals are still full,” he says. Some people travel to the city of Artemis where there are more stores, in search of variety to stock up.

“To close off that communication between the municipalities and the center, would be to condemn us to not having new supplies,” he says. Despite being an eminently agricultural area, the residents of the interior towns need to travel to obtain products such as soaps, detergent and meat.

Lack of information also does a lot of damage. More than a few people insist that “nothing is going to happen here,” others downplay the severity of the disease on the island while comparing national figures with statistics from the United States, which the Cuban official press has analyzed to the limit.

Others believe that Artemis is separate territory and is governed by its own rules. “Are the Roundtable [TV show] measures only for Havana?” asks Martha Rodríguez, as she tries to keep her place in line to buy chicken. “Here people go around as if it’s nothing and the police are more concerned about people not taking photos and videos for Facebook than about keeping their distance,” she says.

Behind the doors of the Candelaria Polyclinic the reality is different. The pressures from the Ministry of Public Health to enforce the necessary measures to prevent the spread of the virus — limit direct contact with people who may be infected — along with poor working conditions, are especially stressful for public health workers these days.

Natalia García, a doctor in Comprehensive General Medicine from the municipality of Candelaria, says that these are very difficult days. “Not everyone has become aware of the responsibility we have to prevent the spread of this pandemic,” she details. “I spent days without being able to sleep, dreaming that I was getting sick; now I don’t even stress and I take care of myself but if an infected patient arrives…,” she comments with some resignation.

The long and haggard faces of the doctors are the reflection of the work of the last days, nobody speaks, nobody confirms or denies any information, while the rumors and fictional stories around the “possible infected” increase every day.

“Since the presence of the first positive case on the Island was announced, we have been working very hard, the nurse and I do not sleep, a traveler comes to me every day and monitoring must begin,” says García. “There is very little health education, there are many who take care of themselves, but the vast majority do not,” he regrets.

On the other hand, several of the people who own and work at the tourist rental houses located on the road to Soroa have decided to remain in voluntary quarantine after receiving their last customers.

“We decided not to go out to avoid contagion and because we have grandchildren to take care of,” say Jorge and María, a couple who manage a hostel surrounded by orchids and with a spectacular view of the mountains, but which is now closed. No economic income is worth a life.

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Two Journalists Summoned by State Security in the Midst of the Coronavirus Crisis

Decree 370 has been used by the Government to fine several reporters and activists in recent months. Yoé Suárez (left) and Camila Acosta (right) were recently summoned by Cuban State Security regarding violations of the decree. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 March 2020 —  This Friday, reporters Yoe Suárez, a collaborator with Diario de Cuba and Camila Acosta, from Cubanet, were summoned by State Security, as reported by both on social networks. Acosta was also fined 3,000 CUP for allegedly violating Decree 370, which regulates the use of the internet in Cuba.

The journalist was fined for criticizing the government and publishing articles from the independent press on social media. The authorities invoked Article i of Decree 370, which penalizes the dissemination of “information contrary to the social interest, morality, good customs and the integrity of people.”

Acosta attended the “interview” at the station at 7th and 62nd, in the Havana municipality of Playa, where a State Security agent was waiting for her. “The repressor Alejandro was waiting for me, the same man who for months has been leading the harassment of dissident Cuban women in Havana.” continue reading

Acosta was checked to prevent her from entering the premises with a tape recorder. Inside, Captain Rubisel Ortega and three men who identified themselves as inspectors from the Ministry of Communications were waiting for her. One of them, Rolando Ballester, showed several posts that the reporter had posted on Facebook as proof that she violated the law.

For his part, journalist Yoe Suárez was summoned to the Siboney police station, also in the municipality of Playa. As the reporter told Diario de Cuba , “the interview” with two political police officers lasted an hour. The two men, who identified themselves as René and Enrique, threatened him to make him abandon the practice of independent journalism.

“They threatened me again with ’consequences’ for my family. They even explained to me that they would summon me again and that they would go to ’another phase with me’, and in that sense they mentioned the possibility of imprisoning me,” the reporter said.

“I told them not to call me again until the quarantine is over,” Suarez said.

Decree 370, which the government has used to fine several reporters and activists over the past few months, establishes extensive government control over the internet, the sanctions include not only the fine, but also the confiscation of the equipment and methods used. The implementation of this Decree raised widespread condemnation by international organizations concerned with freedom of expression and also numerous criticisms from activists and independent journalists.

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Day 8 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba

Many Cubans continue to take to the streets to line up to get food.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 28 March 2020 — Today a street vendor broke the morning silence with his proclamation of coconut and guava cakes, which he described as “original,” but few neighbors dared to go down from the concrete blocks of the neighborhood. Between the need to search for supplies and the fear of contagion, this time caution has prevailed.

And they do not exaggerate. This weekend the positive cases in Cuba have exceeded one hundred, reaching 119, and Covid-19 has already taken three lives, according to official sources, numbers which haven’t convinced many. People fear that the contagion numbers are being reported in the same way as other awkward statistics from the past.

In the end, we have lived for decades in a scenario of made-up figures, where the yeast of triumphalism is added to positive numbers so that they grow, while the stubborn indicators of the disaster are cut or silenced. When so many lies have been told, there is a risk that even if the truth is told no one will believe it. continue reading

In this case, mistrust is allied with the survival instinct and although officials insist that they are going to guarantee basic products, many citizens continue to take to the streets to line up, haul away and store food. The serious thing is that, in this task, they not only bring home some bread and rice, but also — potentially — the virus.

In our house we have reinforced the protection. Our exits are more and more sporadic and climbing the stairs to the 14th floor is a mandatory practice to avoid the congested elevator. We have suffered a couple of power outages since yesterday, but briefly. It would be very serious if, in addition to the scarce soap, we had to start looking for candles.

I keep planting vegetables and greens in any container I come across. Today it was the turn of some chili pepper seeds and others of basil. Tomorrow I will plant my first onions and some garlic cloves. I do not follow any manual, I get carried away by my “green finger,” which is useless for playing the piano but has shown good skills for agriculture. The guajira (peasant) in me blossoms these days.

I sense that private initiative will become vital in the coming weeks to avoid a famine on this Island, but it will depend on the authorities understanding the gravity of the moment and removing all obstacles to agricultural production. Only the Cuban countryside can save us, but fewer restrictions and more freedoms are urgent. Without that, we are doomed.

Once already the peasants saved us, in the 90s. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet subsidy, the Island was submerged in the lack of fuel, long blackouts and food shortages. These were years, too, of a heated political discourse that seemed more disposed to lead us towards a Kampuchea-style model than towards the necessary economic and political openness. But, when many had given up hope of improvement and after decades of stubborn nationalization of the economy, agricultural markets were reauthorized.

Guavas returned from those private producers, I tried the first canistels of my life and I was able to make the malanga puree that my son began to eat a few months after he was born. Unfortunately, that flexibilization was filled with restrictions that have weighed down the growth of the sector and the potential of our land. The Plaza of the Revolution became afraid of the guajiros. But, now, there is no other option but to open and open wide.

As I bury the seeds in various pots, I listen to the loudspeaker from a vehicle that traverses the streets of my neighborhood. “Take extreme measures, don’t be on the street and beware of the coronavirus,” you hear it say over and over. Until a few days ago, those speakers would only have broadcast political slogans, but a tiny enemy has forced them to change the script.

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

Day 7 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba

The challenge and the real fiesta is to wake up and breathe without difficulty every morning. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 27 March 2020 — Unlike other Fridays, on this one there are no calls to get together with friends, appointments ahead of the weekend or preparations to go out on Saturday and Sunday. During a quarantine every day is the same, they pass without much change and with little commotion. The challenge and the real fiesta is to wake up and breathe without difficulty every morning.

With 80 positive cases of coronavirus and more than 1,600 people in isolation, in Cuba we are emerging from a long torpor. A numbness derived from the delay in taking measures at the national level to slow the advance of Covid-19 and the naivety of believing that — like a hurricane — at the last minute the pandemic would change course and miss the Island.

But neither prayers, nor illusions, much less indifference, managed to twist the path of an opportunistic infectious agent that can only multiply within the cells of other organisms. Forgive me if I extend the metaphor too much, but this description reminds me of the Cuban political police, who cannot live or transcend without those they eternally watch over: the dissidents. continue reading

One would think that in times of coronavirus, the “restless boys of the Apparatus” would be sent to find out who has a fever, but no. They are still there, sending subpoenas to independent activists and journalists. In a country where there is so much to do in the midst of this crisis, State Security prefers to fight citizens than to face a microscopic thing.

Speaking of small things, today we have managed to buy a piece of mortadella that arrived at the rationed market. A slice of a mass pink in some parts, green in others, which should serve to withstand part of this quarantine. I found a fish bone just after cutting it, although the employee assured me it was made from “chicken and meat.”

While I decipher what the sausage contains, I continue sewing masks. The first ones did not suit me, but little by little I understand the proportions, the fit and the amount of fabric to use in each one. Although the World Health Organization has warned that this type of facemask does not prevent us from being infected, at least it relieves me to think that there are asymptomatic infecteds who will reduce the scope of transmission if they wear one.

I sewed one for a neighbor and stuck on the logo of his favorite soccer team, another came asking me to do a “reinforced” face mask because he works in a state cafeteria where they continue to sell food to the public, and a little girl wanted me to give a few stitches to hers — pink and sequined — that had broken in one corner. Curious, that people try to set their own guidelines in the midst of an emergency.

Days are not measured in 24 hour cycles. Every day we count the friends who have called, the onions we have left, and the pounds of rice that are diminishing. We count like maniacs the times that one of us has had to irretrievably leave the house to buy some food, go down to walk the dog, or repair the elevator in the building, as has happened to Reinaldo each of these last days.

When we return from these forays, there is no hug or welcome. A chlorine-soaked cloth awaits us in the hallway. You have to leave your shoes, go directly to the bathroom, spend a long time washing your hands, your face and getting rid of part of what you carry. Later, the rest of the family begins to approach but without violating the yard of distance.

This virus has stolen our hugs. I just hope it doesn’t take anything else away from us.

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

The Artist Alcantara Again Sparks Controversy by Auctioning the Flag of his ‘Performance’

The artist carried flag, which bears his signature, like a ’second skin’ for a whole month. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 23 March 2020 — Just one week after his release, the controversy has returned to the work of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who announced the auction of the flag that starred in Drapeau, the performance for which the Government accuses him of the crime of “insult to the national symbols.” This flag bears the signature of the artist, who carried it “as a second skin” for a whole month.

“Next Wednesday at 3:00 pm Cuba time, I will auction the flag used in the Drapeau performance. The money will be donated to the Cuban State, in the figure of the President of the Republic, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, to confront the coronavirus pandemic,” the artist posted on his Facebook page.

The auction, Otero Alcántara clarifies, will be and the money will be delivered to the Central Committee of the Party. continue reading

“Is anyone aware that 4% of the population will die?” he asked in the middle of a discussion between advocates of the idea of the auction and those who oppose the money going to the government.

Otero Alcántara explained to 14ymedio that this is a symbolic gesture.

“It is a work of art, it is very easy right now for me to say on social networks that I am going to give the money to an old man, but the dialogue that I am interested in opening is in another direction and with another dimension, and suggests that it is the regime that has the solution in their hands. That of playing the hero artist who can go out and help does not work now. We are contaminating and contaminated, the idea is to open our minds and point out that the regime has to take responsibility and they can’t leave us alone.”

Otero Alcántara believes that no matter how much money he earns, it will be trivial in the face of the pandemic. “I want to help resolve this and not discuss whether the regime is good or bad. These are times when we all have to hold ourselves accountable.  The only one that has absolute power now is the system, the only one that has the power to bring a boat with medical supplies or a shipment of facemasks to Cuba is the system. This is not a tornado that happened and left you homeless, it is a pandemic, what is happening is that there are still many Cubans who are not aware of how serious this is,” he adds.

Official voices such as Deputy Minister Fernando Rojas or cultural promoter Alexis Triana have attacked Otero Alcántara for this initiative.

“Those interested in harming us who take advantage of the moment to attack the Cuban Government from sites paid by the United States, will make the news of this clear provocation. It is a time to not listen to them and to condemn them. Every decent person must support the Cuban Government and work for health of all,” Rojas wrote on Twitter referring to the auction.

For his part, Triana condemned the artist calling hima “sewer rat.” “Every patriot must denounce this baseness to the world. If he dared in analog, he would receive once and for all from the people what he deserved.”

Nor did Deputy Raúl Palmero did not waste the opportunity to attack the artist: “And while Cuba as a whole fights against Covid-19 and offers the world its solidarity, this court jester comes up with the ’brilliant’ idea of auctioning our flag,” a message accompanied with the hashtag #RespetaMiBandera (RespectMyFlag) #CiberChusma (CyberRiffraff).

The vice president of the Union of Artists and Writers of Cuba (Uneac), Pedro de la Hoz, also condemned the auction.

“The flag is sacred. (…) To prosper with it is an act of infinite baseness. Auctioning it under the pretext of false altruism becomes an act of infinite vileness. None of this has to do with art. To be an artist is to be Ethically responsible. If someone does not understand, respect.”

Otero Alcántara has two pending trials for the crimes of “property damage” and “insult against the national symbols,” which have been postponed without adate due to the “crisis” that the country is experiencing, according to the artist’s lawyer speaking last week.

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

Tourism from the U.S. Drops 68.8% in January

Though the island has built numerous hotels in recent years, tourism is rapidly declining. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 27, 2020 — Tourism to Cuba fell 19.6% in January compared to the same period last year according to official figures published by the Office of Statistics and Information.

During the first month of the year 95,856 tourists visited the island, less than in the same month in 2019. The the decline was greatest in the U.S. market, which saw a 68.8% reduction: 19,464 visitors versus 62,416 the previous year. Other markets which saw significant reductions were European countries and the overseas Cuban community, which registered 12% fewer visitors.

The Russian market, however, is growing and is now the third largest, with 48.4% more tourists than in January 2019. Canada also grew modestly at 2.1%. continue reading

“It’s a big drop-off,” said economist Pedro Monreal on Twitter in reference to the global figure.

In his blog, Humberto Herrera, who has close ties to the Cuban government, attributed the drop to measures the Trump administration has put into effect to prevent U.S. citizens from traveling to the island and adds that the calculation is meeting the forecasts.

Monreal writes in a comment on the thread, “Given the 19.6% decline in January, what the minister said could mean two things: that a decrease was foreseen in the first month of the year and that the next few months should see enough steady growth to meet the goal for 2020.”

Tourism, which is the Cuba’s largest source of income after remittances from overseas and medical services, had a bad start to the year after suffering negative growth the previous year. Only the beach resort town of Varadero bucked the trend, growing 12% in January mainly due to the high concentration of hotels managed by foreign companies in the area.

For this year, Cuban tourism authorities have set themselves the goal of receiving 4.5 million international visitors and reversing the decline suffered, but the health crisis that arose after the spread of COVID-19 could destroy these plans, as tourism globally is beginning to show a sharp decline since the emergence of the novel coronavirus.

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

Day 6 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba

On the street, there are those who walk with gloves and others who kiss when greeting each other. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 26 March 2020 — Staying at home is still the best way to defend against the enemy who is out there and who has infected 67 people in Cuba, two of whom have died, with another 1,603 in forced isolation, according to official figures published this Thursday. In a country where there is nice weather we only subtract: fewer products; fewer resources; less money… it gives the impression that the numbers of the coronavirus are the only ones that are growing.

But prices also rise. “Pork is at 50 pesos a pound,” complains a friend who called me very early to ask for a recipe for eggplant, one of the few products she was able to buy in the market before locking herself in with her 80-year-old mother to wait for the virus to pass. I gave her some advice and we agreed that she would call if she had questions.

The phone has become the social glue and the only link with many friends. These days, when a call is answered, the greeting is no longer “how are you?” but “do you feel good?” The goodbyes have also changed and we have parked the “see you later,” to replace it with “take care” and an optimistic “I’m sure we’ll see each other again.” continue reading

Two days after classes were canceled, many leisure time venues were closed and passenger transportation between provinces was suspended, my building looks like an anthill. A few floors below ours, a family took it upon themselves to do a general cleaning and there is still wood, debris and some broken toys in the hallway waiting to be thrown out.

I woke up to a “boom, boom, boom.” Some neighbor decided to pass the time in quarantine making repairs. In this concrete block where I live, inaugurated 35 years ago, infrastructure problems accumulate in the common areas and in the apartments. Many lack the resources to renovate and others the time, of which there is now a surplus.

The practice of leaving shoes outside the door, started by my neighbor Chucho, is beginning to spread, although there are suspicious people who prefer the risk of dirty soles in the house over exposing their only sneakers to the dangers of the hallway. I have bumped into people on the stairs wearing all kinds of “masks”: imported and modern, discreet, alternative, recycled, improvised or homemade.

I couldn’t stop smiling when I saw a retired woman who had sewn up a facemask using part of an old “adjuster” (bra). Creativity is triggered when the need is tight and, if health is at stake, ingenuity reaches incredible levels. “No, shame? I don’t have any, I would be ashamed if I get sick and not even my children can come close,” the lady defended herself when someone pointed out that this was not something to put over her mouth.

Reinaldo wants to make a mechanism to hoist a bag from the ground floor up to our balcony. “Everything can be very difficult and we’ll have to have something to get food and other products in without having to take the elevator or drag them up 14 flights of stairs,” he theorizes. Just thinking about the fact that we could get to that point terrifies me. It brings back bad memories.

When I was a teenager and the Soviet Union imploded, they began to talk about Option Zero in Cuba. They said it could lead to a collective stewpot in each neighborhood. Just the idea of that cauldron in the middle of the sidewalk with the ladle pouring nearly transparent broth into my bowl tormented me for years. Now, even imagining myself locked up on the 14th floor hoisting up food in a bag causes me a similar fear.

Fortunately, we have not reached that point. We are halfway between disbelief and alarm. In the street, there are those who walk with gloves and others who kiss when greeting each other. We have the one who learned to cough into his elbow, and another who sneezes with his whole mouth wide open in an elevator loaded with people. There are the obsessive handwashers and those who repeat, “you have to die of something.”

Today I have set aside some of the potatoes I had left from the ration book to plant in our small flowerbed on the balcony. “We will watch them grow and in a few weeks we will invite friends in and cook them,” I say to myself. The image of that hypothetical plate of potatoes with chopped parsley has given me hope that we will have a tomorrow.

See other posts in this series.

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

Day 5 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba

Official figures, updated this Wednesday, give 57 cases positive for the coronavirus and almost 1,500 people quarantined in Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 25 March 2020 – The floors are not made of wood, nor is it snowing outside, but in front of Chucho’s door there is a row of shoes. The retiree and his family have taken extreme measures to avoid contagion with the coronavirus and now, to enter his apartment – a few floors below ours – flip flops, boots, sandals and all kinds of footwear must be left in the hallway.

As the hours pass, we try to take stricter measures in our domestic space to prevent contagion, in a country where the official figures, updated this Wednesday, give 57 cases positive for the coronavirus and almost 1,500 people quarantined. While the long lines to buy food at many Cuban stores continue as usual, households opt for “zero visits” and “greater hygiene.”

Our neighborhood mobile-recharge card vendor now serves customers from behind a piece of acrylic to protect himself. “Some come because they want to buy a card from me and others because they are so lonely they could cry and they need to talk,” this merchant-turned-confessor and psychotherapist tells me with a complicit smile. continue reading

Communications become a vital point for those of us who choose to spend more and more hours locked up at home. “In recent days many users have asked if there are discounts to connect to the internet, but there’s nothing at all,” the self-employed worker tells me. Given the emergency and the forced quarantine, the dreams of lower prices for web browsing packages have been rekindled.

However, this Wednesday the official press repeated that those who ask for a reduction are just “mercenaries” and, so that there are no doubts, the official profile of Etecsa on Twitter shared the text. In other words, there are things that never change: viruses can arise, species become extinct, human beings can be born and die, but Cuba’s state telecommunications monopoly seems more focused on politics than on providing good service.

So, saving every megabyte, I have gone to the networks to find out about my friends I can’t see, thanks to their quarantine. Thus, I learned that one of them has composed a new song sparked by the confinement; someone else’s baby had a tooth come in; the grandmother of a dear friend sewed cloth masks for her entire neighborhood; and the brother of an old neighbor died of pneumonia and only one person went to the funeral home for the wake, for fear it was Covid-19.

From the bus terminal, a journalist colleague asked me desperately if I knew someone who rents a room on a long-term basis and cheaply. The young man was stranded in the capital after the cancellation of inter-provincial transport and now he is trying to find shelter while he waits. “I’m hoping the police stop me and deport me for not being legal* in Havana, to see if I can get to Camagüey that way,” he wrote.

Between these stories the days go by. The food that some had saved begins to dwindle, the exits to the street become obligatory but more and more sporadic and the vendors who, until a few days ago, shouted out their merchandise in our neighborhood have stopped — little by little — being heard. From Rancho Boyeros Avenue comes a rare silence since fewer vehicles pass.

Since the food crisis may worsen, today I planted some tomato, pepper and lettuce seeds. They will take time to bear their first fruits but at home we are preparing for a “long-winded” crisis, because the coronavirus has come to besiege us at a time when the national coffers were already empty and local enterprise is stagnated by excessive controls.

I cut the remaining piece of pumpkin to add to the last red beans I was able to buy before the supply dwindled in our neighborhood markets. I also have some sweet potatoes, which the new dog that we picked up on Friday loves when I boil them, but meanwhile my cat looks at me as if I was putting a shoe on her plate, just like those outside Chucho’s door.

In addition to the hardships, in our family we are all well: another day without cough or fever, and that is enough.

*Translator’s note: Cubans from other provinces are not allowed to live in Havana without a permit.

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

In Cuba Lines and Travel are Regulated, Schools and Gyms are Closed, Tourists and Nationals Returning to Cuba are Quarantined

Lines, like this one from last week to buy eggs, will not be allowed and people must remain three feet apart. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 March 2020 — The Cuban Government has announced a series of measures through which it intends to combat the spread of the coronavirus, which already affects 40 people, with more than a thousand in quarantine in hospitals. On Tuesday more measures will be detailed, but these are the main standards contained in the Prevention and Control Plan approved by the authorities.

PURCHASES

Lines will be controlled, keeping the agreed distance of at least one yard between people. Businesses must strive for separation and disorder must be avoided. Food and home delivery services are encouraged. The authorities have pledged to intensify food production and raw materials that are now not going to be used for other purposes will be frozen and destined for circulation to retail merchants. However, it is not explained what measures the Government is going to take to increase the supply of products.

CLASSES

The school year is suspended for three weeks (until April 20 in principle) and a staggered return to the classroom will be organized whenever that becomes possible. From March 30 teaching activities will be broadcast on television. Teachers must continue preparing classwork for the time of return and those engaged in master’s and doctorates will advance their research. Postgraduate and undergraduate activities are also suspended and the non-contact rule is applied. continue reading

Cuban students boarding at schools will return home and leave the residences open for foreign students.

Daycare centers will continue to function for those who choose to do so, although epidemiological surveillance standards will apply. New sign ups and adjustment periods will be postponed.

LEISURE

Entertainment venues that are closed include discotheques, swimming pools and gyms, both private and state, along with sports facilities.

Excursions of all kinds are suspended: historical, cultural and natural, and recreational activities in hotels are limited, which also applies to the non-state sector.

In hotels there will be strict surveillance of workers and tourists; the latter will not be able to rent cars. Leisure activities in these places will be limited, such as bars and restaurants where, as a minimum, the safety distance between customers must be kept. In case of non-compliance, the facility will be closed.

TRAVEL

Travelers arriving in Cuba should be immediately informed of the situation, they will be taken to isolation centers in buses selected and controlled by the Police. The ships, premises and luggage will be disinfected upon arrival.

Family will not be allowed to greet travelers and passengers, upon return, can only carry one suitcase and one piece of hand luggage to lighten crowds at the terminal and isolation centers.

All Cubans are “regulated” — that is, forbidden to travel. Travel will be allowed only for humanitarian reasons or other major reasons. It is also not possible to circulate within the country, with all state and private interprovincial transportation suspended, and urban transport will be reorganized, but the form is still being studied.

Luggage should be reduced to a suitcase and a hand bag to avoid crowding. (14ymedio)

MEDICAL CONSULTATIONS

External consultations, where possible, will be rescheduled and the clinics in the communities will be interconnected. All non-urgent surgical interventions are suspended and those linked to cancer, transplants and emergencies that compromise the patient’s life are maintained.

Certificates for obtaining medicines and medical diets are extended for six months.

QUARANTINE AND EPIDEMIOLOGICAL SURVEILLANCE

Cubans must complete a period of isolation of 14 days in authorized centers upon arrival on the island. If their return had already taken place before this Monday, they will remain in home isolation and must inform the authorities to continue their evolution and control, as well as that of their families.

Tourists who are still in Cuba are in quarantine and cannot leave their hotels. Those who were in a rental house will go to the tourist centers. It is not possible to circulate through isolated areas: one may not enter, exit, nor transit through them.

Police control will be reinforced in the streets and other centers defined by the authorities. Mass organizations* and the local government will also coordinate visits to monitor those who are isolated at home under medical surveillance, which will be reinforced.

Those with symptoms of coronavirus should go to designated centers or remain at home with health supervision.

GROUP RESIDENCES

Children without families will remain in the homes of their usual residence. The elderly in state centers, as well as those who live alone and homeless people will receive special attention.

LABOR SITUATION AND TAXES

Any worker can be temporarily relocated. Women with children in primary or special education will receive 100% of their salary the first month and 60% from the second month.

Formal and face-to-face procedures at tax offices are postponed, as are tax obligations at bank branches, although they can be carried out with Transfermóvil or other electronic payment systems.

Monthly taxes on self-employment activities where the activity levels are affected are not temporarily suspended, but reductions will be applied.

*Translator’s note: “Mass organization” is a term applied to government-run groups such as the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Woman, the local Communist Party organizations, student groups and others.

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

Cuba Forbids Citizens From Traveling Abroad and Inside the Country

Cubans who live in Cuba are forbidden from traveling abroad except for humanitarian reasons. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, March 23, 2020 — Cubans will not be able to leave the country without authorization nor move about within the country between the provinces, as a measure to stop the spread of COVID-19, Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero, announced this Monday.

The measures “will be of strict compliance” indicated Marrero on a state television program on which the new official measures to confront the epidemic were announced.

Cuba, which until now has recorded 40 cases of coronavirus and more than a thousand people in preventative hospital isolation, will partially close its borders starting tomorrow, Tuesday, and will only allow current residents of the country, both Cubans and foreigners, to enter. continue reading

Authorities have asked that the necessary “social distancing” be kept in mind, although in a country where every day one has to wait in long lines to buy basic products or to travel anywhere, it is difficult to carry out this measure.

Marrero said that in Cuba there are currently 32,574 tourists and 10,299 Cubans who live abroad. In addition he stressed that Cubans who do not live on the island will not be able to enter the country starting this Tuesday.

“From this moment on we are regulating the exit of all our compatriots from national territory,” said Marrero.

The prime minister made clear that those Cubans who live permanently abroad will not be able to return to the country. Cubans who live in Cuba are also prohibited from traveling abroad except for humanitarian reasons.

Marrero added that Cubans who live on the island will only be able to return with one piece of hand luggage and one suitcase. “We cannot continue allowing family members to wait at the airport,” said the prime minister.

The Government also announced that recent arrivals will be isolated in quarantine centers. The transfer will be made by the Ministry of Transport and the National Police.

The prime minister announced that 22,000 Cubans travel every day from one province to another and suspended interprovincial transport.

“We have asked the ministry of transport for this measure to be applied,” he added.

As well as flights, land and train trips are also prohibited, including in the private sector.

Marrero announced that public transportation will be limited and said that two million people get around every day in the very old public transportation system.

“Those movements are now a risk for the people themselves and for others,” he said.

The Government announced that tourists will be strictly forbidden from leaving their hotels. All tourist excursions are suspended.

“There are no tourists in the street starting tomorrow,” he said. The measure also takes effect in private lodging houses. The State announced the suspension of car rentals.

Tourists in Viñales, Baracoa, and Trinidad who are in private houses will be transferred to state facilities near the airports.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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

Cuban Government Begins to Adopt Measures Against Economic Crisis: Trade

A private fruit and vegetable seller with a makeshift cart in Havana.

14ymedio biggerElías Amor Bravo, Economist, 24 March 2020 — Regarding the measures adopted by the regime in Cuba, the state newspaper Granma dedicates space to those published by the Ministry of Internal Trade to prevent and confront COVID19. There is everything, but if you are looking for a headline, it is clear: Cubans are going to have a very bad time.

It is commendable that the regime has decided that hygiene and personal protection in services that handle food is the priority for attention, but this, being important, in Cuba has a second derivative, which is who cares previously about producing food and bringing it to stores and establishments, so long as it is not in short supply and sufficient for the duration of the pandemic and afterwards. And I think this is where the regime’s measures are not sensible.

The health crisis is going to bring about a paralysis of production. This should be the main challenge for the economic authorities. For this reason, these measures of the Ministry of Commerce are aimed only at regulating the activities of the sale of merchandise, food services and hotel accommodations, as well as personal and technical services, during the period of struggle against COVID 19. continue reading

But they do not address the technical-productive considerations, and in the face of an alarm such as the one we are now facing, and with a centrally planned and state-based economy, it makes little sense to approve trade-related measures of arguable impact, such as those announced by Granma, without resolving first question of production.

If the regime wants to face the serious situation it has ahead, must first of all address the ministries related to production so that they will be ableto generate goods and services in large quantities, and also quickly and urgently, if they don’t want the pandemic to end in hardship.

I believe that this matter is important enough to warrant more than just a general consideration, such as “ensuring, in accordance with the availability of essential products, the re-provisioning of the network.” And: “Avoid the concentration of goods in one place, in order to reduce crowds and the movement of goods.”

Unfortunately, Cubans know from their own experience that this replenishment of stocks sometimes takes time to arrive and, in the worst case, it never arrives. The actions to be carried out in this production and logistics area need to be more clearly defined, without attacking the rights of those who work, to provide a solution to meeting the needs of the population.

Granma echoes Cuban President Díaz-Canel’s statements on this point, stating that “a stock-taking of supplies will be made, taking into account what can be use can be made of the supplies dedicated to the activities that will now be stopped.” Granma suggested “regulating sales, regulating lines, avoiding disorders and encouraging meals and home delivery services.”

And it continues, “the productive and service activities that will be maintained and those that are not must be defined immediately; as well as the rapid importation of certain products. At the same time, food production will be intensified and the use of inputs will be frozen in the processes that, due to this situation, will be paralyzed and will be destined for retail merchant circulation.*”

In other words, all of these statements from Díaz-Canel confirm that the economic authorities are still at a very early stage, and certainly late, in addressing the problems of the economy that are going to occur, so one must hope that something could happen. The statist bureaucracy has a hard time getting going.

Of the measures related to trade, some propose that “priority be given to the commercialization of agricultural products through the retail network of state markets, supply and demand, kiosks and carts. Avoid the use trade fairs, with the aim of minimizing the risks due to the concentration of people.”

In this sense, I consider it positive that the regime has decided to maintain all the commercial forms of agricultural products, including the vendors who sell from rolling carts, the carretilleros. Until they are immobilized, if the advance of the pandemic requires it, these sellers will solve many feeding problems, especially for older people with mobility difficulties. It would be good if the regime lowered the repression against the carretilleros and allowed them greater freedom in acquiring provisions to attend to their duties.

Honestly, with these two general measures alone, little can be resolved in relation to supplies. And I am concerned with the measure of “creating conditions in all merchandise sales units so that access to the public is staggered (in correspondence with the unit’s capacity)” and that of “reducing the participation of competitors (self-employed worker-vendors) to 50%, in centers, commercial areas and high concentration services, alternating their days of participation in the week.”

These are measures that seek partial confinement and reduce exchanges and provoke higher average purchases than usual, which can end up creating supply problems, lines, rationing and angry protests by citizens if the products do not appear.

As far as the measures concerning state restaurants, road units and workers’ canteens are concerned, I honestly think they are wrong. Specifically, “the opening of these establishments is allowed, applying only methods of rearranging the tables, placing them with a separation of two meters (limiting capacities to 50%) and the recommendation to avoid crowds.”

If the pandemic progresses, this restored activity will most likely decline completely, basically due to the fears of the population, and sales from home will increase, if there is something to sell, because it should not be forgotten that the problem remains the same: that the goods and services are obtained through the production system.

They have only given a certain priority to the family care system, “with the delivery of lunch and dinner, either at home, or picked up by a relative of the beneficiary, or a representative authorized by the social worker.” However, it is known that all the “freebies” of the regime have experienced a notable decline in recent years, and nothing suggests that this has changed with respect to these meals.

It should be noted that the measures have been more forceful with hotel activity (including recreation, tourism and leisure), perhaps taking into account that tourism forecasts will clearly go down in the short term.

In this sense, “self-employment activities for tourism and recreation purposes have been suspended for the rental of homes, rooms and spaces, to people from abroad, foreigners or Cubans.” Technicians or temporary resident foreigners living in homes that provide these services are excluded from this suspension.

Regarding bars and cafes, state accommodation has been suspended in the interior trade system for tourism and recreation purposes for people from abroad, foreigners or Cubans.

Likewise, activities that generate concentration of people have been suspended, such as popular camping, and all those that take place in theme parks, leisure clubs, wedding palaces, dance floors, workers’ social circles, cinemas, theaters, cabarets, sporting events and others. However, food service and merchandise sales are maintained in compliance with the indications established for these activities.

They have also planned to increase home services for the repair and maintenance of minor equipment and fixtures.

*Translator’s note: Official government speak…

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