Proposals for the Cuban Press / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Man in front of a newsstand reading a printed version of '14ymedio', distributed in “alternate” ways.
Man in front of a newsstand reading a printed version of ’14ymedio’, distributed in “alternate” ways.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 21 October 2015 — In the last half century the Cuban media could be categorized as private monopoly in the hands of the only permitted Party. However, in the inevitable process of transition to democracy, it is essential to modify this situation. The first step should undoubtedly be to diversify the forms of ownership of these informative spaces to ensure quality and plurality.

The presumed arrival of several international media seeking to install themselves in the country could help to raise the quality of journalism and develop new approaches. However, it will have to be done appropriately so as not to strangle the incipient national independent press, which confronts serious material disabilities in the face of the current monopoly situation and the great consortiums arriving in the country. continue reading

The best solution for a scenario of this nature would be, along with freedom of the press, the creation of (non-state) public media that would combine a cooperative structure with state subsidies and an eligible and renewable management team. “Everyone’s” information channels should not be subject to the contents of one’s purse, nor the editorial conspiracies of journalists with any type of power, be it political or economic.

The renewal of political life in the country will also require the presence of all ideological viewpoints in the media. However, none should be tied to the financial resources of the political groups. So to achieve an equality of opportunities there will have to be laws in this regard.

The evolution of democracy in Cuba will determine what is most desirable, but it should seize the relative advantage presented by starting from scratch. This involves learning from the experiences of others, and opening a public debate to facilitate finding the best approaches and formulas for future Cuban press.

The parliament, representative and plural, should have its own channel, although it would threaten to be very boring, but it would have the obligation to transmit the debates, publish the laws and clarify the doubts of the population. Hours of interminable discussion to change a comma or a phrase in a law would fill the broadcasts.

There will also need to be a space – television, digital or printed – for the dissemination of cultural values, without elitism or favor. Faces linked to the party in power should not get the most on-air time, nor should those who can pay for the spaces, but rather those who have more value and shine in our country. Something like this will put a definitive end to the shameful blacklists that have censored in the media emigrant artists, “deserting” athletes, scientists critical of the government and citizens who don’t embrace the ideology in power.

If these commitments are met in the public media, the private can compete on quality and diversity, under the premise of the greatest possible freedom of expression. However, these alone are just the foundation of the complex edifice of a free press, which in their own way will have to emerge from its own cracks and adjust to the earthshaking movements of reality. Citizens will cease to be passive receptors of what they see, hear or read, consuming at will information “a la carte.”

It will then be the job of journalists to offer a professional and attractive product, one that manages to compete in the market for information without kneeling before power nor appealing to exaggeration as a strategy.

Tania Bruguera is Finalist for the 2016 Hugo Boss Prize / 14ymedio

Tania Bruguera during a staged 100 hour reading of The Origins of Totalitarianism, by Hannah Arendt, at her home in Havana. (14ymedio)
Tania Bruguera during a staged 100 hour reading of The Origins of Totalitarianism, by Hannah Arendt, at her home in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 23 October 2015 — Tania Bruguera has been selected along with five other candidates as a possible winner of the 2016 Hugo Boss Prize, an award that the Guggenheim Foundation in New York awarded every two years since 1996 in recognition of artists whose work is “among the most innovative and influential of our time.”

Nancy Spector, Deputy Director and ‘Jennifer and David Stockman Chief Curator’ of the Guggenheim Museum and president of the jury, announced the finalists, chosen by a panel of art critics and curators, on Friday. In the last two decades, the jurors have chosen as finalists influential artists from around the world, recognizing both emerging and established artists of all ages, genders and media.

Along with Bruguera, nominees for the prestigious recognition include the British Mark Leckey, Americans Ralph Lemon and Laura Owens, Egyptian Wael Shawky and South Korean Anicka Yi.

The winner of the Hugo Boss Prize will be announced in the fall of 2016 and will receive $100,000 and hold an exhibition dedicated to their work in 2017 at the Guggenheim Museum.

Mariela Castro Absent from Human Rights Hearing on LGBTI Discrimination in Cuba / 14ymedio

This video is not subtitled in English, our apologies.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 20 October 2015 — An independent group of transgender activists in Cuba denounced for the first time, on Monday, LGBTI discrimination on the island before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Mariela Castro, director of the National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex), however, did not participate in the meeting, in which the lawyer James L. Cavallaro and other members of the — Tracy Robinson and Felipe Gonzalez — listened for an hour to the testimony of several speakers, such as Juana Mora Cedeno, from Free Rainbow; the transgender Sisy Montiel from the Transfantasy Network, and Carlos Quezada, from the Institute on Race Equality and Human Rights.

Quezada acknowledged the “visibility” of the subject in Cuba, lamenting that it is associated with one name, that of the daughter of Cuban president Raul Castro. “However, such visibility at the international level contrasts with the real human rights situation for members of the LGBTI community in Cuba,” he explained. “Members of the independent community in defense of LGBTI rights in Cuba wonder what would happen with the visibility of the issue on the island, if the Mariela Castro were not in Cenesex,” he added. continue reading

The activists Cedeno and Montiel have petitioned the Cuban authorities to avoid discrimination based on sexual orientation, with no response. Both also affirmed that they are victims of police surveillance and the tapping of their phones and added that agents of State Security questioned them about their possible participation in the last Summit of the Americas.

Cedano highlighted that the lack of official data on the rights of LGBTI people, which has been collected in independent surveys. These surveys have put into relief the discrimination and abuses against the community, including by the Cuban authorities themselves.

The activist pointed out the discrimination in the workplace and denounced the impunity enjoyed by these discriminatory attitudes towards homosexual, lesbian and transgender people.

Sisy Montiel, sentenced to 17 years for “female mannerisms,” talked about the marginalization from an early age of young boys who want to dress like girls, warning that this condition forces them to leave school and thus end up in prostitution.

Learning To Run a Business / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Professor Darien García. (14ymedio)
Professor Darien García. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 21 October 2015 — In the middle of Los Sitios neighborhood, in the heart of Central Havana, the Jesuits have a project focusing on the neediest sectors of the population. The elegant façade of the place contrasts with the humble homes surrounding it, where so many families face the drama of an alcoholic father, a daughter working as a prostitute or a teenager in prison. The Loyola Center programs are for them, and for those who face these problems daily.

This project of the Society of Jesus, which has other sites in Cienfuegos, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba, was inaugurated in January 2012 and since then has not stopped growing. In the mural at the entrance of the imposing building, there are announcements for dance classes for girls, support for single mothers, and computer and language courses.

Of particular note is the “Basic Course for small business management” that began its 13th session this September. Of the 120 people who applied for admission, just over 80 came on the first day and now there are fewer than 50. Both students and teachers believe that this course is a success. continue reading

Darien Garcia who directs the courses is a graduate in accounting, age 38, with the rare virtue of believing in what he does in a country where many people of his generation dream of emigrating, or simply stand around on a corner to pass the time. This young man spent eight years teaching at the University of Havana and has now been at the Center for two and a half years.

The teacher explains why more than half of those enrolled do not attend the course. “This drop off is because, when they see that we don’t teach any get rich quick tricks here, they leave the course.”

“Of all the current students, only 15% have businesses, another 10% are on the verge of starting something, and the rest are State workers who want to move to the private sector, single mothers who are housewives, and others who are about to be.”

The basic course lasts two-and-a-half months and is divided into phases: the introduction, which includes vision, mission, analysis of the environment, business objectives and target market; a second phase with all the tools of the process: accounting, finance, costs and management of resources; and a third phase with legal aspects, taxes and more emphasis on business ethics. The latter class is given by priests. In addition, every Wednesday at 7:30 pm there are lectures on various topics with free access.

“We take advantage of the opportunity to teach values in the solidarity economy, like how to make your business grow without crushing others, which is very complex. We have students with professional training, some with university degrees, but also some with warped ethics, which we try to address. It is very curious how some, when they confront a problem, the first thing that comes to mind is to apply a fraudulent solution, whether to resolve things ‘under the table’ or to deceive the consumer. Here we pass on business ethics, an economic system of sustainable development, that respects people and the environment.”

Adapting to current circumstances, this course also teaches how to manage non-agricultural cooperatives and offers thematic courses such administration and working in teams. For the coming year a course is planned on the principles of food service, another on financial processes for private businesses in Cuba and the second round of “managing cooperatives,” which includes a topic very popular in State enterprises: internal control.

“In Cuba we have the idea that internal control is a method to keep employees from stealing,” explains Darien Garcia. “But, in reality, its objective is to improve a business, to make it more efficient and effective.” In the case of cooperatives, it is not mandatory from a legal point of view, but it is essential for the health of the business.

In the previous 12 terms, with more than three courses per year, more than 240 people have graduated. In 2016, there is a proposal to measure the impact of the project on a society slowly evolving, changing paradigms and lifestyles.

One of the most interesting dynamics happening is that at a Center that teaches how to run a business, students are given tools based on knowledge management and then they have to confront the known limitations that still confront entrepreneurs.

The Loyola Center in the neighborhood of El Sitios, in the heart of Central Havana. (14ymedio)
The Loyola Center in the neighborhood of El Sitios, in the heart of Central Havana. (14ymedio)

“We are based on the principles of economic solidarity and sustainability, that don’t limit the accumulation of wealth, but that make the students understand that to achieve their personal well-being they have to also achieve that of those around them. We work only within what is legal, understanding that drugs, prostitution, weapons, are all illegal. We confront the problems of many who believe that they know everything, and limit themselves to copying what has been successful. Some go to the extreme of wanting to copy the successful, and if someone puts the sofa in that position, they also want to put it the same way,” explains professor Garcia.

Across the country there are now 440 registered non-agricultural cooperatives, of which 400 are operating. On the other hand, the law only allows for 211 self-employment occupations, some of which are described so generically they can encompass any work, while others are defined so rigidly that they leave little space. All of this is talked about and discussed in the Loyola Center classrooms and hallways, where the embryo of the new Cuban middle class may be being formed.

“Today, there are businesses, including cooperatives that even though they don’t accumulate property, they accumulate wealth, for example in construction,” explains Darien Garcia. “What we propose as a social project of the Jesuits in Cuba is not to strengthen those who have the most fruitful businesses and the higher economic and cultural levels, but to reach those businesses in more difficult conditions, those that are emerging. Our social mission is to be where the most deficient sectors of society are.”

‘El Sexto’ Released After 10 Months In Detention / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto.’ (Artist’s File)
Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto.’ (Artist’s File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 October 2015 — Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, was released this Tuesday after 10 months detention in Valle Grande Prison in Havana. Around 10 in the morning an official entered the cellblock where the artist was detained and told him to collect all his personal belongings. “They handcuffed me and outside I waited for “the negotiator,” the graffiti artist related, and that’s when they said they would release me.” Subsequently he was taken in a car to the door of his home in the Arroya Arenas.

According to a statement from the prison authorities, the artist will not be prosecuted. “They told me my immediate release is ‘without conditions’,” Maldonado told 14ymedio. In a phone conversation with this newspaper the graffiti artist, detained since last December for organizing a performance with two pigs painted with the names of Raul and Fidel, joked about a possible legal claim on his part for the police to return the animals seized at the time of his arrest. continue reading

The artist sent a message of thanks to all those “who helped” in his release, especially to the activists who continued to demand his release, the media that publicized his case and to international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International.

When asked about his immediate plans, he replied: “I have a great deal of work to do, many ideas to put into practice.”

Last week the artist had resumed his hunger strike, according to his mother, Maria Victoria Machado, insisting that he would maintain his fast until his release.

Last week El Sexto declared he would resume the hunger strike if he was not released within the first 15 days of October. He broke a 24-day fast earlier this month on being assured by a lieutenant colonel, who identified himself as a “mediator,” assured him that he would be released in “fewer than 15 days.”

This last Friday Amnesty International issued a statement denouncing the fact that the authorities in Cuba failed “miserably” in not fulfilling the promise of freedom for Danilo Maldonado. The London-based organization believes that the artist is a prisoner of conscience and maintains that the attitude of Havana is “a painful illustration of the indifference of the Cuban government for the freedom of expression.”

El Sexto Resumed Hunger Strike Two Days Ago, According To His Mother / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, 'E; Sexto.' (Claudio Fuentes)
Danilo Maldonado, ‘E; Sexto.’ (Claudio Fuentes)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 17 October 2015 — The artist Danilo Maldonado, “El Sexto,” resumed his hunger strike two days ago, his mother, Maria Victoria Machado, said on Saturday. By telephone from Valle Grande prison, the graffiti artist said he would maintain the strike until he is released.

Last week El Sexto declared he would resume the hunger strike if he wasn’t freed within the first 15 days of October. He fasted for 24 days, stopping earlier this month when a lieutenant colonel, who identified himself as a “mediator,” assured him that he would be released in “less than 15 days”.

In a statement on Friday, Amnesty International denounced that the Cuban authorities of failed “miserably” by not fulfilling the promise of freedom for Danilo Maldonado. The London-based organization believes that the artist is a prisoner of conscience and maintains that the attitude of Havana is “a painful illustration of the indifference of the Cuban government for freedom of expression.”

El Sexto was arrested last December for organizing a performance with two pigs, painted with the names of Raul and Fidel.

Reclaiming The Parental Authority They Snatched From Us / 14ymedio, Jorge Guillen

More than 14,000 children were sent out of Cuba between 1960 and 1962 in Operation Peter Pan. (Wikimedia Commons)
More than 14,000 children were sent out of Cuba between 1960 and 1962 in Operation Peter Pan. (Wikimedia Commons)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Guillén, Candelaria, Artemisa, 15 October 2015 — In the early years of the Cuban Revolution we experienced one of the saddest chapters of our history, called “Operation Peter Pan.” Thousands of parents sent their children abroad to avoid the government taking their parental authority from them and sending their children to the Soviet Union, according to the propaganda of the time. Official figures put the number of children who left Cuba via this program at 14,048, and many of them were never reunited with their families.

Although those demons against parental authority did not materialize the way in which it was thought they might, the consequence of government policies was that we Cuban parents had less and less impact on the education of our children. We could not choose what kind of education small children received, nor where they studied. All the private and religious schools were closed, leaving it to the government to impart knowledge and values and to determine the way in which this was done. continue reading

Childcare centers arose where children were taken at a very early age, many of them as young as 45 days old. In addition, schools in the countryside appeared – high schools, technical schools and junior high schools — where children boarded, spending most of their time separated from their homes. These schools only allowed students to return home on the weekends, or every 15 days, so that children and teens slept only a few nights a month under the same roof as their parents.

Then began the far-reaching process of depersonalization and uprooting. These boarding schools had a semi-military regimen, but bullying and vulgarity raged throughout. Any glimmer of culture and delicacy displayed by a student was interpreted as weakness or as evidence of being a petit bourgeoisie, which was the equivalent of being a counterrevolutionary.

Those who professed any religion were treated similarly. Thousands of people were forced to renounce their faith or their way of thinking to be allowed to study and to avoid being branded as traitors.

Brainwashing, applied from an early age to the students at these schools, also deprived parents of the chance to have more control over their children. Fidel Castro’s slogan in which he asserted “we no longer belong to ourselves, we belong entirely to the motherland” became increasingly real. Under this maxim, the government gave itself the right to break apart families in the name of the Revolution.

Meanwhile, parents were overwhelmed by “voluntary work,” military mobilizations and other ideological and work responsibilities, which also reduced the time available to spend at home with their families. Life was lived away from home, among “comrades” and colleagues, so that over time ties within the home were weakened.

These circumstances did great damage to families and, as a result, to society. In many cases parents confronted their own children and demanded that they give up their personal plans to take on the challenges of the Revolution. In this process of “massification,” the individual was degraded to the point of being turned into a puppet.

Today we are reaping the fruits of these policies. The official discourse tries to hold families responsible for the ethical and moral disaster overwhelming Cuban society when the main culprit has been the government itself, in its zeal for control and maintaining power, regardless of the effects on the dismemberment and corruption of families. The loss of values is also blamed on the hardships of the Special Period, but the reality is that this disaster began to take shape from the beginning of the Revolution.

We parents need to recover the right and the freedom to decide how and what kind of education we want for our children. Giving prominence to the family in the raising of the youngest children could begin to repair the evil that has been done. Only then, would we be reclaiming our parental authority.

When The Cement Was For Tunnels / 14ymedio, Pedro Acosta

Tunnel between the Palace of the Revolution and Raul Castro’s office in the Ministry of the Armed Forces (MINFAR). (Llamado32 'Blog)
Tunnel between the Palace of the Revolution and Raul Castro’s office in the Ministry of the Armed Forces (MINFAR). (Llamado32 ‘Blog)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Acosta, Havana, 13 October 2015 — As a part of the so-called “War of All the People” in 1991, the construction of tunneling was resumed with great intensity, with the trite prediction of a possible United States military invasion of Cuba.

In the Havana district of Cerro, drilling was carried out under the well-known Finca de Los Monos, the Mexico Cinema, the People’s Power, and the Havana Institute of the Economy. They also tunneled under the rocky promontories between the Zoonosis Institute and the Havana Pediatric Hospital. The ultimate goal was to interconnect all these places.

In January 1992 I entered the Pediatric Hospital tunnel. The things I saw showed me another face of what was happening in the country. There, as in every workplace, there were Communist Party and union nuclei. The day after I joined I ran into an individual who didn’t belong to the contingent. He collected bets for “la bolita” — the lottery. continue reading

Unconcerned, he announced the previous day’s numbers, paying the winners and collecting new bets. The flood of the workers who did the tunneling and built the tunnel entrances shocked me. Members of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and the Young Communist League (UJC), union leaders, administrative directors, almost everyone played the lottery or was interested in the resulted. A worker with debts was even shot through the throat with a .22 caliber revolver and it was covered up.

The high-density cement was put into an immense hopper with a capacity of six cubic yards. I never saw an invoice or voucher covering the output. I don’t know if its use was justified or not. Any kind of control was impossible with regards to the veracity of it. The blasts made deep holes in the hard rock and the volume was not always the same. They then placed the prefabricated structure, and the free space between this and the rock was filled with pieces of stone and cement. This space varied in width between a foot and a yard and a half. They worked in different “drawers” (tunnel cubicles) at the same time, so the workers wouldn’t realize how much as consumed.

They swapped blocks, bricks and iron rods for the cement. In the Special Period more than 15 of the tunnelers built, enlarged and repaired their homes. On two or three Sundays when no work was done, I was curious enough to examine the hopper before I left, and then again when I got to work on Monday morning; the contents had diminished considerably.

You could take off work there for sickness, personal problems or whatever, because your wages were never affected. On one occasion I abused this prerogative and in the two months that I didn’t go to work, they didn’t dock my wages.

The tunnel was completed in December 1992. In the two years of its construction, there were some 40 permanent men with a monthly salary of 250 Cuban pesos. So in wages alone it was around 240,000 pesos. Add to that some 600,000 pesos in food rations from the Cerro Pelado High Performance Sports Center. To give you an idea, the worst thing I ate as a main course was scrambled eggs with chorizo, with more chorizo than eggs.*

But the real main course was what was spent on construction materials. For that tunnel, the smallest in Havana, the tunnel was about 4,000 feet long (counting the cubicles), 8 feet wide and 13 feet high. The floor was about 8 inches thick, the walls about 14 inches, and the ceiling more than 24 inches. Plus the lighting system.

This tunnel I worked on was located under the People’s Power of the district. There were more than 3,200 feet of tunnel constructed in various directions even under the 10 de Octubre Surgical Hospital, some 500 feet from the mouth of the tunnel. To give you an idea of the size once it was finished: it passed under the hospital and the street of the same name to join the one that passed under Cristina Street. Another went under the Mexico Cinema to Via Blanca. Another went under Calzado del Cerro, with a mouth under the little park in front of the Latin American Stadium, and continuing below the stadium to the Havana School of Economics on Ayestaran Street.

The fifteen of us on this tunnel spent all of 1993 using a powerful pump to pump out the water that seeped in from the water table and flooded the underground system. I don’t know how long this chatting, eating and earning a salary went on, as I left my usual workplace in December of that year, but in May of 1994 the situation remained the same.

This was my third season in the “middle ground.” In 1963, when I started junior high school, they had built a shelter for future aggressions at the elementary school across the street. In the eighties – the Reagan era – all the workplaces in the country were required to have an air-raid shelter.

Millions of Cubans live in dwellings declared uninhabitable, in shelters, in huts with dirt floors, in badly built houses incapable of withstanding hurricanes, with no means to enlarge or repair them. In a country in ruins the government spent millions of pesos on tunnels. Were these constructions a necessity, a presidential whim, or a political strategy?

No Cuban ever had to enter a shelter or tunnel to protect themselves from an enemy attack!

*Translator’s note: This would have been luxury food, at this time of great national hardship after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of its subsidies to Cuba.



El Sexto “Should Not Spend Another Day Behind Bars,” Says Amnesty International / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto.’ (Artist’s File)
Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto.’ (Artist’s File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 16 October 2015 — The organization for the defense of human rights Amnesty International has denounced in a statement Friday that the authorities of Cuba failed “miserably” in keeping their promise to release Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto.’ The London-based organization believes that the artist, in prison for almost a year, is a prisoner of conscience and argues that the attitude of Havana is “a painful illustration of the indifference of the Cuban government to freedom of expression.”

Last week, the graffiti artist warned of the possibility of resuming his hunger strike if he was not released in the first 15 days of October, as he had been promised by the authorities.

“Danilo is deprived of his liberty as punishment for peacefully expressing his views. He should be released immediately and unconditionally and should not spend another day behind bars,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International. continue reading

The statement said that on Thursday the authorities of the Valle Grande prison told the artist’s mother that he had served his sentence, but did not know when he would be released.

El Sexto was never brought before a judge and was never sentenced. He was arrested last December by agents of the State Security in Havana while traveling in a taxi with two pigs painted with the names “Raul” and “Fidel.” The artist had planned to stage a performance that consisted of releasing the animals in a public place. He was accused of “disrespect to the leaders of the Revolution.”

“Danilo’s story has all the elements of a science fiction novel. First they put him behind bars under the most ridiculous excuse and then leave him there without charges. The fact that the Cuban authorities continue playing with Danilo and his family is downright frightening,” said Guevara-Rosas.

The Spaces Of The Disaster / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Pedicab parking lot in Havana. (14ymedio)
Pedicab parking lot in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 16 October 2015 — Sometimes it is hard to find in the Cuban urban landscape a square yard free of disaster. Perhaps it is more accurate to say free of the traces of disaster. Above is an image from a Havana street.

Where do I start?

There was once a building here, until it collapsed. Two hundred yards from Chinatown in the Central Havana, a square yard of this space would cost a fortune under free market conditions; people would be fighting over it for a department store, offices of housing. But it remained like this, free like a drowning man, until the scarcity of public transport led to the appearance of pedicabs and, with them, the need for a site to park them. continue reading

Each of these rolling artifacts contains the history of other disasters. The seats, awnings, struts, every screw, every washer conceals at least three crimes. Even the air that inflates the tires may be illegal.

The parking lot belongs to the State, as indicated by the faded blue letters. It is as you imagine it, as a comedian friend says, which means that it works badly or at least without any controls and nobody knows how much money is collected for its use nor how many things it is used for.

The apparently unnecessary sanitation warning deserves a mention. Why would anyone expect there would be a bathroom open to passersby in a pedicab parking lot? Where else has anyone seen such a sign? Of course there should be a bathroom, and it should be clean, with water and toilet paper.

Nor is there WiFi access to the internet, nor a sign that says the parking lot does not discriminate against any person, but there it is, an image that typifies early 21st century Cuba and, in the background, a tiny and innocent little flag that at the end of the day is the only space that seems to save itself from the disaster.

Officials Arrested For Stealing Chemical Used To Fight Dengue Fever / 14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa

A fumigation truck in the city of Holguin. (14ymedio / Fernando Donate)
A fumigation truck in the city of Holguin. (14ymedio / Fernando Donate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa, Holguin, 14 October 2015 — Several directors and heads of health districts in Holguin have been arrested for their links with the illegal sale of permethrin, a chemical used to fumigate against the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is responsible for the dengue fever epidemic that affects this eastern province. A government source told 14ymedio that the officials must answer for the crime of “spreading the epidemic,” because the “diversion of resources” complicates the fight against the vector.

Permethrin has reached the price of 1,500 pesos per liter in the informal market, where it is sold to fumigate certain crops. Lacking permethrin, the authorities resort to petroleum in a gaseous state, which is less effective, to fumigate the mosquito foci. continue reading

After a year of an epidemic scourge of both dengue fever and cholera, Holguin continues to experience a complex healthcare situation, despite having spent 26 million pesos on local sanitation. Despite the fumigation campaigns and other hygiene measures, the number of patients suffering from dengue fever and cholera remains high, as does the prevalence of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, as corroborated by Elizabeth Segura Sierra, the provincial director of health, on a local radio broadcast.

This official also reported on the same broadcast that the presence of cholera has recently been confirmed in the towns of Rafael Freyre, Cueto, Cacocum, Gibara and Holguin, with the greatest number of reported cases in the latter. Segura Sierra insisted that there is still a risk of returning to the situation faced in August, when a health emergency led to a suspension of the Carnival celebration, the closure of dining establishments and a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages in bulk. These measures caused great economic damage to both the State and the private sector. “Let no one think that these outbreaks have been eliminated, the cholera virus and dengue fever still exist in the area,” the official said.

Operators engaged in fumigation are working more than eight hours a day, for low wages and in bad conditions. This has generated a shortage of personnel, forcing the mobilization of 650 officials to do this work in August and September. Of these, 450 came from the healthcare sector and 200 from municipal bodies.

The province is in a true state of alarm as is evidenced by the many emergency measures being taken. Significant resources have been mobilized from other institutions which find themselves obliged to halt their normal work and take on the economic loses stemming from the lack of productive support.

At the most critical moment of the outbreak 130 vehicles and five buses were used solely to transport patients to the two hospitals equipped to deal with the crisis at Celia Sanchez Manduley University in Holguin.

Another Sunday of Repression of Activists Throughout the Country / 14ymedio

The Ladies in White on their walk this Sunday in Havana (photo Juan Angel Moya)
The Ladies in White on their walk this Sunday in Havana (photo Juan Angel Moya)

14ymedio, Havana, 12 October 2015 – A new round of repression against activists was experienced in Cuba this Sunday. The arrests began in the early morning hours in order to prevent dissidents from participating in the march on Fifth Avenue in Havana, which on this occasion included a tribute to the late leader of the Ladies in White, Laura Pollan.

The march through this downtown street was joined by 57 Ladies in White and 21 human rights activists, in addition to the mother and grandmother of artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto. The walk began in Gandhi Park, next to the Santa Rita Parish in the Miramar neighborhood. Later several dissidents were arrested, among them the blogger Lia Villares and dissident Antonio G. Rodiles.

Activist Arcelio Molina Leyva reported to 14ymedio that “the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) was raided, and they stole everything they could,” besides detaining “those who were there.” The dissident detailed that among those arrested were Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, Ovidio Martin Castellanos and Yriade Hernandez Aguilera. continue reading

UNPACU had called for a demonstration this Sunday for the liberation of three of its members who were arrested after approaching Pope Francis before his mass in Revolution Plaza. Activists Zaqueo Baez Guerrero and Ismael Bonet Reni continue in custody and presumably on hunger strike, according to members of their organization.

At least twenty activists from UNPACU were driven by police to the Third Police Unit in the city of Santiago de Cuba. The number of arrests throughout the country has been calculated by opposition sources at more than 200 people.

Hours after his arrest, opposition leader Jose Daniel Ferrer was freed.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

“They Want To Frighten Me and Other Independent Journalists” / 14ymedio

Journalist Roberto de Jesus Quinones
Journalist Roberto de Jesus Quinones

14ymedio, Havana, 7 October 2015 – The Cuban political police intend to prosecute lawyer and journalist Roberto de Jesus Quinones for a crime called “spreading false news about international peace,” according to what the independent journalist told this daily a few hours following his release after having been arrested October 5.

Monday a group of almost 20 people entered Quinones’ home in Guantanamo, presenting a search warrant that authorized the seizure of “means for subversive activities.”

The independent journalist was arrested, and they informed him that a file is being prepared where there appears a complaint against him based on the crime listed in the fifth section of Chapter III of the Penal Code, “Crimes against International Peace and Law.” continue reading

The rule stipulates that “whoever spreads false news for the purpose of damaging international peace or endangering the prestige or credit of the Cuban state or its good relations with another State, incurs a sentence of imprisonment of one to four years.”

“They told me that they are going to analyze any evidence they find in the confiscated objects: a laptop, a tablet, my cell phone, several books, my schedule, my phone book, the calendar where I write what I have to do, several documents and some 60 discs with films or installation programs, so that after they analyze their contents they will decide what course the process will take,” said Quinones.

As a lawyer, the reporter is also a member of the organization Corriente Agramontista. “They were always telling me to stop writing for Cubanet if I did not want to get into trouble,” he explains. “That makes me think that the basic point is to scare me and by extension other independent journalists,” he adds, although he says he has the impression that “the current political context is not favorable for them to imprison anyone for political reasons.”

According to Quinones, there is now in his neighborhood “a very unfavorable opinion towards the political police,” because he maintains that he has “a lot of prestige in the neighborhood, and the arrest operation was outrageously disproportionate.”

“What I have written and published is that I think that in any kind of negotiation, both sides must make concessions and that the United States has not demanded compliance on the part of Cuba with respect to rights and democracy,” he says regarding his opinions about the re-establishment of relations between the two countries.

Nevertheless, he explains: “Of course I cannot oppose the improvement of the condition of the Cuban people, but I believe that the United States, as a democratic power, cannot economically favor a Government that subjects its people the way the Cuban government does.” Because of opinions like that, “they tell me that I am systematically discrediting the Cuban government, and currently that works against foreign relations.”

In December 2006, Quinones finished a sentence of three years for falsifying documents in the process of buying and selling a home, although, in his opinion, the true cause was that he was practically the only lawyer in the province who dared to defend dissidents. After that time, he was no longer admitted to any collective firm, and they also discriminate against him in the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC), an organization to which he belongs in his capacity as a writer and art critic.

He adds that on five occasions he has sought membership in a law firm, and they have not even answered him. Moreover, he says he recently told the president of the Writers Association that if he does not convene a meeting to explain the discrimination to which he is subjected, he will submit his resignation from UNEAC.

The journalist expresses strong determination: “I told my interrogators that I would continue writing for Cubanet. I cannot let them frighten me.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Dominic Miller: “I Want Us To Be The First To Do Something Great Here” / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Guitarist Dominic Miller and Cuban musician Manolito Simonet. (14ymedio)
Guitarist Dominic Miller and Cuban musician Manolito Simonet. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 7 October 2015 — The British composer and guitarist Dominic Miller said Wednesday that he hopes to perform in Cuba with Sting. “I want to do it before Mick Jagger does it,” he said at a press conference held at the Cuban Art Factory (FAC) in Havana, “because it’s a race and I want us to be the first to do something great here.”

Miller will give a concert this Thursday at the Cuban Art Factory with Manolito Simonet y su Trabuco, They will perform songs from the CD Made in Cuba, what both musicians recorded in Cuba and Tenerife. The CD, almost entirely instrumental, will be launched for the first time this week on the island. Miller said that next March he will also promote the album in Europe. continue reading

In his press conference, Simonet invited the members of the family of X Alfonso, lead manager of FAC, to “work together on a theme for the closing,” of the concert in Havana. The Cuban guitarist Ernesto Blanco and his brother David have also been invited, although the latter regretted that he cannot participate because of prior commitments.

The musician says that there was a musical connection with Simonet “from the first second”

The concert is part of British Culture Week, which started last Sunday in the Cuban capital. Initially, pianist Mike Lindup, member of the band Level 42, was expected to participate but he failed to arrive in time for the show.

Highlights of Miller’s musical career include, among many other moments, accompanying Sting in numerous performances and recordings. Asked about a possible visit by the former member of The Police, the guitarist said, “He came here once a few years ago,” and he was “very jealous because I had come before him.” He defined him as an “older brother” and said that he is trying to persuade him to come here with his production.

During the press conference this musician that Sting called his “right hand and left hand,” commented that accompanying Simonet and his orchestra hadn’t been complicated because “music is a language” and “there weren’t any problems when it was time to get down to work.” He said that three years ago he had the chance to work with Simonet in Germany and “from the first second there was a musical connection.”

The cover of the Miller and Simonet CD. (14ymedio)
The cover of the Miller and Simonet CD. (14ymedio)

Meanwhile, the director of Trabuco said that in the recording of Made in Cuba all the musicians from the Cuban orchestra participated. Both musicians thanks the FAC for giving them the chance to perform in one of its rooms and Miller added that it is “the ideal place” because it is “a house of fusion and new ways.”

Miller is originally from Argentina and began his career in the mis-eighties. He appeared with World Party and King Swamp and later participated in the album … But Seriously by Phil Collins. In the early nineties, he accompanied Sting in his albums and concerts, and shared with him the responsibility of memorable songs such as Shape of My Heart. His solo work began in 1995 with the album First Touch, and to date he has already released 10 albums, all instrumental.

El Sexto Will Resume His Hunger Strike Next Week If He Is Not Released / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, “El Sexto.” (Artist’s File)
Danilo Maldonado, “El Sexto.” (Artist’s File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 October 2015 – The mother of Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, has talked by phone with the artist, who reaffirmed his decision to resume his hunger strike if he is not released before 15 October. Captive in Valle Grande prison, the graffiti artist says he is willing to return to fasting, even in the midst of his recovery from 24 days without food that ended earlier this month.

Maria Victoria Machado told 14ymedio that she was able to speak for three minutes on Wednesday with graffiti artist and this he told her his decision to stop eating again starting next Thursday if they do not proceed with his release.

Machado said she received a call from Amnesty International asking for authorization to demand the release of her son at the United Nations

Maldonado also said he had been “well treated” by doctors in the prison and that he was “much better.” His mother, meanwhile, told him that the file of his case “is still with the prosecution,” without any new response from the legal authorities.

Machado also said that on Tuesday night she received a call from Amnesty International asking for authorization to demand the release of her son at the United Nations. The human rights organization considers El Sexto a “prisoner of conscience.”