Letter from a Cuban-Spaniard to Pablo Iglesias / 14ymedio

Pablo Iglesias, Secretary-General and founder of the Spanish Podemos party and Member of the European Parliament. (Facebook)
Pablo Iglesias, Secretary-General and founder of the Spanish Podemos party and Member of the European Parliament. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 22 May 2015 — I am a Cuban of Spanish descent. I was born in Havana exactly fourteen years after Franco’s death, ten years after the Spanish Constitution of 1978 was ratified, and one year before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

My grandparents, most of them from the Spain’s Galicia region, could be considered victims of the Franco régime. Although they were not killed or tortured, they did suffer the consequences of a civil war. Like so many others, they had to leave it all behind and emigrate to Cuba, fleeing the poverty and social instability inflicted on Spain by the Franco régime and its brand of Fascism. In other words, my grandparents had neither future nor freedom in Spain. Meanwhile, the countries of the Western Hemisphere were rich lands, far from the devastation of the war in Spain and Europe, with growing industries and opportunities for all.

Cuba was under the rule of the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. His régime respected the rights of trade and commerce, turning the Island into a prosperous country welcoming of immigrants. Despite this, Batista’s régime, like all dictatorships, was corrupt. That, coupled with political instability, awoke an enormous discontent throughout Cuban society. The Cuban Constitution of 1940, one of the most progressive of its time – not only in the Western Hemisphere, but in the entire world – had been forgotten and still today has not been recovered. continue reading

It was this discontent that awoke sympathy and support among the Cuban people for a young lawyer, the son of Galician immigrants. Eloquent and with a utopic discourse, he initially displayed a friendly face to the people, but later, with his Marxist-Leninist ideas, he became the protagonist of one of the most long-lasting dictatorships in the Western Hemisphere. He is also the one most responsible for the impoverishment of Cuba and its people.

As a Cuban, I am alarmed to see this same discontent and instability in today’s Spanish society, in the context of an imperfect democracy, but a democracy nonetheless. 

As a Cuban, I am alarmed to see this same discontent and instability in today’s Spanish society, in the context of an imperfect democracy, but a democracy nonetheless. So are we doomed to repeat history?

Due to the twists and turns of life and history, as the grandson of Spanish immigrants who fled Franco’s régime, it was I who had to emigrate to Spain when I was 19 years old, as my father did before me. The same reasons that drove my grandparents from Spain drove me from Cuba, but with a few distinct nuances. The man ruling Cuba with an iron fist is a Comandante, not a general. His last name is Castro, not Franco. Fascism did not force me to immigrate, Communism did.

Allow me to be perfectly clear with respect to this: if a person, with a family history like mine wants to do something constructive with his life, what he is searching and wishing for is to leave the obsolete ideologies of the past century on the wayside. What that person wants is to file away vengeance, hatred, and anger, although it may be hard to do so (and believe me, it has been very hard for me), and use reason and emotion as instruments of rebuilding and unity, not destruction and divisiveness.

You are right about many things, and I must admit that you are an excellent photographer of the reality in Spain. You know like no one else how to channel the disconnect in the society, to put a name on this discontent and to transform it into votes for your political movement. Although I consider your arrival on the Spanish political landscape as positive and healthy for a democracy, I also see in you obsolete and erroneous ideas of struggles, of resentment and of promulgating a supposed social justice that, believe me, by this path will never come to pass. History – my history – has proven it to be so.

I recognize in your discourse the entire battery of slogans that I listened to for hours and hours under the Caribbean sun.

I recognize in your discourse the entire battery of slogans that I listened to for hours and hours under the Caribbean sun. Those slogans about equality and struggle sound very good to those who do not understand their effects (among them yourself) but once the stage was dismantled they left us — 11 million Cubans on the island — with fears, dreams, exhaustion, a longing for that son or father who left, a ration book and daily blackouts lasting hours. This is similar to what is happening now in Venezuela (imported from Cuba), a model I have heard you say you envy.

Do not think this letter is an attack, it is not. If it just makes you and many others reflect, it will have achieved its goal. Allow me to share my political viewpoint with you, to avoid my being labeled or being accused of being a product of a powerful caste, the bourgeoisie, or some other powerful entity. I, and only I, will clarify what my politics are. I am neither of the right nor the left, I say it without meaning it to sound like the political slogan so often used these days. I consider myself liberal, progressive, and a social democrat.

I am a liberal because liberalism defends the supremacy of individual rights, irrespective of race, gender, or nationality. Respect for the rights of the individual is respect for his or her freedom, and guaranteeing the rights of all, which inevitably leads to the rule of law. I want a State that functions and allows me to function, that enforces the law, that rewards hard work, and that permits me the necessary freedom to build my own future without paternalistic subsidies, nor bureaucracy, nor a pointless civil service.

I am a social democrat because I sincerely believe that all future civilized societies should be cognizant of and apply the art of peaceful coexistence and should have a humanist and social character, without forsaking sustainable commercial projects that generate wealth. On the other hand, I consider myself a progressive because I believe that an imposed yoke, of whatever kind and wherever it comes from, is always expendable, and religions are not an exception. Because education should be secular and free of political indoctrination, because no State or divine being should tell a woman what she can do with her body, because I share the joy allotted to a community such as gays and lesbians when their right to marriage and adoption are recognized.

I thank you for your time, and I hope you will know how make a positive contribution and help unify all of us in the quest for a better future. In your hands, and in everyone’s hands, within our diversity, there is the possibility to either pass into history as those who gave a country the tools to renew such a hard-won and much-needed democracy, or as those doomed once more to repeat it.

I apologize for my anonymity. Personal and family reasons in relation to Cuba require it.

Bidding you a cordial farewell, I wish you the best.

(signed)

Just another citizen.

Independent Groups to Hold Gay Pride Walk / 14ymedio

PaseoLGBT1
Previous year’s Gay Pride Walk on Havana’s Prado (Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 June 2015 – This coming June 28 Havana’s centrally located Prado will again be the scene of the Gay Pride Walk organized each year by the independent LGTBI community. The call has been launched by several independent groups, among them the projects Puertas Abiertas (Open Doors), Shui Tuix, the Foundation for LGBTI rights, Divina Esperanza (Divine Hope), and Arcoíris Libre de Cuba (Free Rainbow of Cuba), according to information provided to 14ymedio by Navid Fernandez Cabrera, one of the organizers

It is expected that the participants will gather starting at ten in the morning in front of Havana’s Capitol building, and advance along the Prado toward the sea. There, waiting for them, will be some puppeteers to present a show with “muppets.” All along this pedestrian avenue there will be a free distribution of condoms and informational handouts to facilitate an exchange with the people passing through the busy place, explained Fernandez Cabrera.

The members of the Latin American Rural Women’s Front (Flamur) will support the activity with messages concerning No Violence Against Women. At the end of the parade where the Prado and the Malecón meet, a statement will be read in the presence of various projects and accompanying representatives of the LGBTI communities of Pinar del Rio, Matanzas and Santiago de Cuba.

The first of these events occurred in 2011 and since then the walk has been scheduled to mark International Gay Pride Day or on a weekend day close to that date. The National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex) headed by Mariela Castro has chosen, for its part, 17 May as the established Cuban Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Shortage Of Hygiene Products Is Severe In Holguin / 14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa

A market in Holguin (14ymedio)
A market in Holguin (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa, Holguin, 8 June 2015 – People in Holguin are worried about the lack of home cleaning products, particularly so close to the beginning of summer. The shortages have worsened just when the health authorities are calling for extreme cleaning measures to prevent acute diarrheal diseases, which can be worsened by the heat and severe drought affecting the country.

The tips on frequent hand washing and thoroughly scrubbing kitchen appliances in every home, broadcast on national television, contrast with the deficit in the area’s markets of liquid detergent, chlorine bleach, degreasers and scrubbing agents. In local stores such as La Marquesita, Hanoi, Las Novedades and La Casa Azul, there are no supplies of any of these products.

Employees of the commercial network of stores selling in national pesos and hard currency in the provincial capital do not know why the shortages have been exacerbated. Customers, in turn, refer to the other provinces where these products are available. A situation taken advantage of by resellers who bring in the products from other provinces and sell them in the informal market.

The sector of self-employed workers in food services is among the most affected by the shortages. Holguin province has the fifth highest number of self-employed in the country, after Havana, Matanzas, Villa Clara and Camaguey. In the entire country, those who work in the food preparation and sales represent 12% of the 495,725 people working in the private sector.

The Sovereignty of the Internaut / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

A man surfing on the Internet. (CC)
A man surfing on the Internet. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 8 June 2015 – I searched the screen fruitlessly for those faces I know so well. In every report on TV about the International Conference on New Scenarios of Political Communication in the Digital Realm, I scanned the guests to identify geeks, computer scientists, bloggers, tweeters and other “creatures” linked to the use of new technologies in Cuba. Instead of them, my gaze fell on notorious bureaucrats, official journalists, cyber-censors and ministry officials.

On the street, popular humor did not ignore the event that took place in the Palace of Conventions with guests from more than 34 countries. People attributed the constant crashes on the state phone company’s Nauta mobile email service, that began on Friday, to the “WiFi network of ‘that conference’… stealing the bandwidth.” Those who know the many tricks perpetrated in other sectors to display a lovely showcase for foreign participants, didn’t find it funny. continue reading

For its part, the scant representation from national guests at the meeting contrasted with the diversity of phenomena related to computing that exists in our country. From the “weekly packet,” a compendium of virally circulating audiovisual material, to the sweeping classified portal Revolico and the independent Twittersphere, to the clandestine wireless networks and the urban tribes huddled around video games or the impact of Facebook among the youngest. A vast and plural cosmos despite the limitations in connectivity that we suffer.

The Internet is not a fad or a luxury, much less superfluous, it is an imperative need for every human being of the 21st century

However, the absence of the alternative sector wasn’t the only limitation that detracted from the conference. Its most striking failure lay in not objectively including the just demands of individual sovereignty and the protection of Internauts throughout the Island. Especially those who are moving to safeguard users’ private information against the intelligence services of the government itself. Global issues such as the cybersecurity of nations and the governance of the Internet left little space on the agenda for critical discussions about the existence of a cyber-police, the creation of false opinion matrices by the official machinery of state, and the sites censored for political reasons.

As a principal requirement in areas of technology and communication, Cubans today need access to the Internet. The demand for this connectivity, long denied, has grown in recent years and is not exclusive to the most computerized sectors of our society. From the hacker who wants to test his latest codes on the web, to the owner of a privately-owned snack bar who wants to access forums on food, a good part of the population feels the need to be interconnected.

Among the millions of Cubans for whom food, housing and economic pressures are overwhelming, the idea that a digital presence would bring more opportunities to their daily lives has also grown in the last five years. The Internet is not a fad or a luxury, much less superfluous, it is an imperative need for every human being of the 21st century.

In the face of this urgency, the Cuban government has opted for caution and for doling out in dribs and drabs the advantages of this common good which is the World Wide Web. To support this policy of rationing and control they have used prohibitive pricing at the public Internet rooms, where right now an hour of navigating the web costs – at a minimum – the equivalent of three days wages, some 2.25 convertible pesos. To this is added an iron policy of censorship and vigilance over the web that has limited an entire nation’s access to knowledge, opportunities and information.

The role of the government should be to facilitate universal access to cyberspace and to guarantee that our rights to free information and association are met

Thus, the first demand in Cuba with regards to technology and communications is respect for the user’s individual sovereignty, on the base of which should rise national sovereignty in these conflicts. This latter cannot be seem as a contradiction to the spirit of convergence, the global village and interconnection that cyberspace brings us. The “conservation of our cultural and linguistic identity” that was brandished about in the recently concluded event should not constitute an argument for shutting us out from the influence of other cultures and nations. On the web you can’t play at being Robinson Crusoe…

Nor can the State set itself up as the authority to guide our steps on the web. It is not its role to protect citizens from “the dangers” of connectivity, nor to prevent us from being “infected” with trends, opinions or news that we find in our grappling with the network. The role of the government should be to facilitate universal access to cyberspace and to guarantee that our rights to free information and association are met both in the real world as well as in that other world made up of kilobytes.

By not delving deeply into these burning and crucial points, the International Conference on New Scenarios of Political Communication in the Digital Realm became another lost opportunity. A space that privileged the government voice above the demands of society. An event to project an Internet in the hands of those who want to control everything.

USA Had No Prior Knowledge Of The Attack On The Cubana Aviation Airplane / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 5 June 2015 — For the second time in 10 years, the US State Department has declassified the same “secret” document. Now, with fewer redactions and many fewer censored lines, the 1976 memorandum addressed to the secretary of state of that time, Henry Kissinger, says exactly the same thing: “The United States had no previous knowledge of the attack,” and Luis Posada Carriles figured among the suspects at that time.

The 12-page document has been public since 2005 but has resurfaced as a result of a perhaps political initiative motivated by the Office of the Historian of the State Department. It is a compilation of the data available two weeks after the destruction in mid-flight of a Cubana Aviation plane flying from Barbados to Havana on 6 October 1976. Seventy-three passengers died. continue reading

Signed by Harold H. Saunders, director of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Investigations, and the deputy secretary of state for Interamerican Affairs, Harry W. Schaludeman, the memorandum reflected Washington’s concern and its desire to distance itself from an act it didn’t approve of. The two senior officials developed “a strategy to counteract the false accusations that involve the U.S.” in the attack, that Fidel Castro had launched soon after the tragedy.

“The CIA had had relationships in the past with three of the people allegedly implicated, but the participation of these people, if confirmed, would have been without the knowledge of the CIA,” the authors said. Above all, it they were concerned with the relationship with the Cuban Luis Posada Carriles, who had worked with Venezuelan and U.S. counterintelligence services. “It is hard for Fidel Castro to imagine that these people acted independently of the United States,” the officials emphasized.

It is noteworthy that the U.S. intelligence services offered no concrete information about the identity of those responsible for the attack. Instead, they note they are very concerned about “the danger for the United States represented by Cuban activists in exile.”

66% Of Municipal Delegates Belong To The PCC And UJC / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Ballot in Elections of the Municipal Assemblies of People's Power (Photo: Yoani Sanchez)
Ballot in Elections of the Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power (Photo: Yoani Sanchez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 4 June 2105 — 66% of the delegates to the Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power are members of the Communist Party (PCC) or the Union of Communist Youth (UJC), a fact that reveals the overrepresentation of the political membership of both organizations, which together do not total 18% Cuban electorate.

This Thursday the National Electoral Commission released the official data on the 12,589 delegates to the Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power elected in as many constituencies across the country. Of those, 8,249 belong to one of the two aforementioned organizations. A note published in the newspaper Granma included the names of the chairmen and deputy chairmen of the 167 Municipal Assemblies. continue reading

Young people make up 15.37% and notably among them is the presence of 21 people aged between 16 and 18. At the other end of the generational spectrum are 1,420 delegates aged 61 years or more. As a linguistic anecdote it is worth noting the abundance of names like Yanelki, Yadelki, Yudorkis, Yoenkis, Yasmany among the delegates, so common among those born in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

According to official information 34.99% are women, while 58.9% are white, 24.51% are mixed-race and 15.89% are black.

Regarding employment status, 5,159 district delegates hold some responsibility as leaders in the business area, political organizations, social social organizations or other levels of government, some 41% of the total.

Next in numerical proportion are those who work in production activities and services, with 4,036 members, representing 32.06%. To continue, there are 825 delegates engaged in national security issues, members of the army, the Interior Ministry and other defense-related activities, which constitute 6.55%.

The diversity that occurs in both the Cuban Parliament and these municipal bodies, is representative of the social spectrum of the nation from the standpoint of gender, race, age and occupation. Political diversity, on the other hand, is an unresolved issue.

Debate: Should the Cuban Adjustment Act be Changed? / 14ymedio

“We are aware the abuses caused by the Cuban Adjustment Act and are looking for a way to ensure that only those facing Government oppression benefit from it.”

Carlos Curbelo, Republican Congressman from Florida

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“When things change in Cuba, then we should change the Cuban Adjustment Act (…), which certainly helps to resolve the problem of Cuban refugees, and allows them to move through the system more quickly.”

Joe Garcia, former Democratic Congressman from Florida

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, June 2015 — The announcement of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, last December 17, has revived the debate raised by the most conservative Cuban-American members of congress: Should the Cuban Adjustment Act be changed?

Although US president Barack Obama has been quick to affirm that there will be no change in immigration policy toward the island, the growing criticism of “wet foot-dry foot,” and the consequent fear that this law will be repealed, has increased the number of Cubans trying to reach the US coast from the island. continue reading

Created in 1966, the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) offers special procedures to concede permanent residency to Cubans who manage to enter the United States citing political persecution.

Some criticize that people who take advantage of this measure to legalize their migratory situation in the United States, then return to the “persecuting country” to visit their families.

Others, however, maintain that the rule shouldn’t change until the human rights situation on the island improves.

Florida Republican Carlos Curbelo, the son of exiles, has been the latest voice raised against the special rule, along with other conservative members of congress such as Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and David Rivera.

These politicians demand that Cubans asking for asylum under the Adjustment Act sign a formal declaration in which they specify they are fleeing Cuban for political reasons. Under this proposal, visits to the island would be restricted for these refugees.

“We are aware of the abuses caused by the Cuban Adjustment Act and are looking for a way to ensure that only those facing Government oppression benefit from it,” said Curbelo in a statement.

Republican senator Marco Rubio also thinks the rule should be “reevaluated and updated,” but he doesn’t offer concrete details about his proposal.

The New York Times also hosted a discussion of the issue. The former chief of the United States Interest Section in Cuba, Vicky Huddleston, asked in a column published in December that the Adjustment Act be repealed to “foster a safe and orderly migration, as well as to save lives.”

Congressman Joe Garcia, Miami Democrat, is on the side of waiting. “When things change in Cuba, then we can change the Cuban Adjustment Act. Things haven’t changed and it certainly helps to resolve the problem of Cuban refugees, and allows them to move through the system more quickly,” he said last October in an interview in El Nuevo Herald.

Since 2001, more than 416,000 Cubans have used the rule to legalize their migratory status. In the last trimester of 2014, US authorities reported an increase of 60% in Cubans arriving in the United States (8,624) compared to the same period in 2013 (when there were 5,221).

From Capitalism to Capitalism / 14ymedio, Fernando Damaso

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Fernando Damaso, Havana, 5 June 2015 — Although many refuse to accept it and some prefer to ignore, Cuba is making the transition to capitalism “in haste and with pause*.” This is the true formula being executed, despite the official rhetoric around “saving socialism,” and “making it prosperous and sustainable,” designed more to appease the nostalgic comrades than the Cuban people.

The system is being constructed “with haste” because the authorities urgently need it to survive and remain in power. “With pause,” because they fear that the installation of capitalism will escape their controlling hands. The steps being taken, now mainly in the economy, point to this and it is clear in the interest in foreign investment, coming from Russia, France, Germany, China, Brazil, Canada, Spain or the United States, all market economies. continue reading

The old joke, “the long and difficult transition to capitalism is produced through socialism” is coming true. No one imagines, however, a capitalism in the style of our Republic era, with its lights and shadows, in the short term. Nor does it seem to be that of Norway, Sweden, Denmark or Switzerland, and much less that of France, Germany or the United States. The capitalism that is coming is State Capitalism, far removed from democracy, where the current leaders will try by every means possible to maintain political power and assure the greatest possible control over the economy.

The capitalism to come is State Capitalism, far removed from democracy, where the current leaders will try by every means possible to maintain political power and assure the greatest possible control over the economy.

Those who hold the most important posts today will position their families and closest collaborators as capitalist businesspeople, and will favor their foreign partners with full capital or joint ventures. Meanwhile, what the rest of Cubans will be left with, if anything, will be small agricultural production and services through different types of cooperatives where, as has already been clarified, “The form of management will change but not the form of property.”

In any event, whatever clothing in which they try to dress up such a system, it is capitalism, however primitive. With the passage of years and the activities of citizens, this atypical model will be decanted and humanized, although it will be very difficult at the beginning. In this context, the reestablishment and maintenance of normal relations with the United States will exercise a certain influence in relation to the democratization of the country, but it will not be the determining element.

The different administrations of that country, be they Democratic or Republican, have prioritized their interests above all others, just like the Cuban government, having maintained relations with democratic governments as well as others of the authoritarian stripe. The White House has no commitment nor obligation to Cubans to bring freedom to our country. To believe that would be to accept a position of subjugation to a foreign power. The commitment and obligation to restore democracy in Cuba is the responsibility, and exclusively the task, of all Cubans.

*Translator’s note: The phrase references a speech by Raul Castro where he stated economic reforms would be undertaken “without haste but without pause.”

New Outbreaks of Cholera in Santiago de Cuba / 14ymedio, Yosmani Mayeta Labrada

One of the cars with loudspeakers announcing the hygiene measures needed to combat cholera. (Yosmani Mayeta Labrada / 14ymedio)
One of the cars with loudspeakers announcing the hygiene measures needed to combat cholera. (Yosmani Mayeta Labrada / 14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yosmani Mayeta Labrada, Santiago de Cuba, 4 June 2015 — In the midst of preparations for the 5th Centenary of the foundation of Santiago de Cuba, the Hygiene and Epidemiology agencies have enacted several measures to counter cholera outbreaks detected in Altamira and Venceremos in the Santiago capital. The epidemic, thought to have been controlled, has rebounded in slums such as La turbine, La Posita, La Loma de la Candela and El Barrio de los Gitanos.

Gertrudis Mendoza, a medical clinic nurse, told 14ymedio that “There are many suspected cases that came to the 28 de Septiembre clinic.” During her shift last Saturday, “More than six people showed up with diarrhea, who were then taken to a larger clinic to be tested for cholera.” continue reading

In the streets of these neighborhoods cars with loudspeakers from the Provincial Hygiene and Epidemiology Center circulate several times a day, repeating the hygiene measures needed to contain the infection. A call to boil drinking water, frequent hand washing, and avoiding eating street food, are some of the recommendations detailed by the Center’s staff.

Luz Enidia, a resident of Los Muros, says that near her house “A private snack bar was closed down because a man who ate a pizza there was diagnosed with cholera and hospitalized.” Afterwards the place was sanitized according to the protocols. “Hygiene workers came with chlorine and lime to clean everything, but even so the snack bar remains closed.

In the Labadi Home for the Aged and Disabled workers were advised of the extreme need to follow “the maximum hygiene”

In the Labadi Home for the Aged and Disabled in the Antonio Maceo neighborhood, workers were summoned to an urgent meeting to advise them of the extreme need to follow “the maximum hygiene,” so that the vibrio cholerae can’t enter the institution “because the lives of elderly and disabled people are at serious risk,” says a source of the place who requested anonymity.

Yudith Cando, the mother of a child who studies at the Alberto Paz Primary School in La Planta, states that a teacher in the school has cholera and she believes that, although she is hospitalized, the school should take appropriate measures. Like her, many local residents are demanding that the issue be handled with transparency and that public authorities make clear the city’s epidemiological situation.

However, so far the authorities have not confirmed the information and the local newspaper Sierra Maestra has not spoken of the presence of cholera in the area.

Irregularities in the Production of Medicines Affect Cancer Patients / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 June 2015 — The Ministry of Public Health has approved an urgent plan given the deficit in medications facing the country, among which are included some for the treatment of cancer. The details of the measures to implement the plan were offered by the head of the department Roberto Morales Ojeda during the Council of Ministers which met last Friday, according to the newspaper Granma.

The minister said that the situation is is due to delays in the importing of raw materials and the “need to shut down the plant dedicated to this vital line of treatment dies to irregularities in the production process.” Morales, however, did not detail the type of irregularities that led to the current situation. continue reading

The minister also explained that he has approved a program that includes the use of products from the reserve and the purchase of medications in countries of our region that allow for quick transportation to Cuba.

Right now the production plan for cancer medications is shut down, at the same time that construction is proceeding on a new one.

Morales Ojeda explained that, in order to be able to supply drugs in the coming months, he has approved the “required financing” and the Biocubafarma Business Group will adopt measures to improve the situation in the second half of the year.

Shortages of essential drugs has been a constant complaint of the population, particularly in the last half year. Pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, skin and antifungal creams, have sharply dropped in supply. Also on the list are products such as thermometers, elastic bands and adhesive strips, popularly known as Band-Aids.

Vandalism Worsens the Deteriorated Traffic Signs of Cuban Streets / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

A traffic sign on the verge of disappearing. (14ymedio)
A traffic sign on the verge of disappearing. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 28 May 2015 – As a result of vandalism and slackness affecting the deficient signage of roads and streets, drivers traveling through Cuban streets must mix expertise with a guessing game.

The lack of these important roadway elements worsens with vandalism, as stated on Thursday by officials of the National Center of Traffic Engineering speaking to Juventud Rebelde (Rebel youth) newspaper. In the first four months of this year, there were 144 acts of vandalism against road signs, of which 60 occurred in urban areas.

The provinces most affected by predation are Cienfuegos, Villa Clara and Havana, with effects ranging from the most serious – causing accidents – to generating misinformation about the locations of sites or their distance. continue reading

The lack of explanatory signs especially affects those who have no experience on the road, such as tourists who rent a car or drivers who venture into an area for the first time.

Vandalism, however, has many faces, and though none of them is justifiable, some of them point to the material shortage that the population encounters. The absence of a market where iron or steel angles, screws and metal plates can be legally acquired, leads people needing these materials to ignore ethical considerations or civilized coexistence.

The absence of a market where some materials can be legally acquired can lead to predation

There are a lot of animal pens, garages for cars or even walls and informal housing ceilings built with “recovered materials” which were once traffic signs. That is without counting the most serious damage, which with similar purpose, has been wreaked on electrical transmission towers or even on railways.

The problem affecting traffic signs is not a minor issue. The absence of a legal advertising infrastructure with commercial purposes means ads for concerts, notices of housing swaps, car sales and many other private classifieds find their space on a Yield or a No Parking sign. On the other hand, there is an inadequate policy of installation, replacement, and maintenance of these important elements by the State.

Translated by Alberto

Cuba Nostalgia / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Cuba Nostalgia 2015 was held between 15 and 17 May. (danydiegonews)
Cuba Nostalgia 2015 was held between 15 and 17 May. (danydiegonews)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, 19 May 2015 – On Saturday the 16th, being in Miami, a friend invited me to visit the show Cuba Nostalgia. No one knew for sure what it was about, but the name made ​​me curious. The event took place in the outskirts of the city at the Fair Expo Center near the main campus of Florida International University (FIU).

Upon arrival, we saw a huge parking lot full of cars, from which it was common to see a young person emerge – a son or grandson – pushing a wheelchair or leading by the hand their grandparents toward a roofed space in which they reconnected with a vital part of their past.

Cuban music could be heard from afar. Once inside, the displays of old bank notes, photographs, stamps, medals, books, music albums, brand name products, hats and other attractions completely captured the attention of the visitors who, in some cases, spend a long time looking at a single piece, as if transported back in time to their childhood memories, youth, mischief in the Cuban countryside, or pranks and dancing in the cities, always hectic in those Republican years. continue reading

Dominoes also had their space. Ladies and gentlemen who seemed to be about 90 – some of them complete with cigar, guayabera, ring and hat – delighted in the slapping down their tiles to the beat of the legendary Macorina played by a band.

It might be better if they keep the memories that are etched in their minds of the Cuba they left

Others tried to locate the neighborhood where they lived on a giant map was printed on the floor.

Amid all the activity, a man walking hand-in-hand with his wife says to me, “This is good guajiro. But I’m pissed off.” “Why,” I ask him. “Chico, you come here to have an enjoyable time, and the first thing you come across is them offering you a coffin and the whole funeral service as if it were beer they were selling. What’s wrong with these people? I am not going to die just yet, so it’s going to be a while before they get a hold of my cash,” and he lets out a cackle that reminds me of some of my uncles.

Suddenly we hear the sounds of a danzon and my interlocutors say goodbye to join in the dancing. Few spectacles please me as much as seeing elderly couples moving to the sounds of Island rhythm. While I watch them, I imagine what their impression would be if they returned to Cuba and visited the villages and cities they left behind half a century ago.

I think it might be better if they keep the memories that are etched in their minds of the Cuba they left, I don’t know. What I am sure of is that these people have maintained their traditions with pride, their Cubanness, and their love for their country every day of their existence. To all of them, my affection and respect.

53 Ladies in White Arrested in Havana /14ymedio

Ladies in White in front of Santa Rita church in Havana. (File Photo / Agustin Lopez Canino)
Ladies in White in front of Santa Rita church in Havana. (File Photo / Agustin Lopez Canino)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 31 May 2015 – This Sunday the Ladies in White Movement experienced its eighth consecutive Sunday of repression in Havana, resulting in the rest of 53 of them. Some of the 25 activists who participated with the women in their traditional Sunday pilgrimage were arrested near the Church of Santa Rita in the capital municipality of Playa.

According to several witnesses, 53 Ladies in White and 25 activists were arrested at the exit of the parish and taken to a destination still unknown. At least seven women had been prevented from arriving to the place and several dissidents reported threats by State Security since Saturday, warning them not to attend the pilgrimage.

Among the activists arrested was Juan Angel Moya, a former prisoner of the Black Spring of 2003, and Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles, leader of the opposition group Estado de Sats.

Iriades Hernández Aguilera of the Patriotic Union of Cuba informed 14ymedio that no arrests of activists of the organization were reported in the province of Santiago de Cuba, although a heavy guard was seen around the headquarters of the organization. Our correspondent in Pinar del Río, Juan Carlos Fernandez, reported that three Ladies in White were able to attend Sunday mass.

In the province of Matanzas, the activist Sayli Navarro confirmed that at least 38 Ladies in White across the province made it to their respective parishes without difficulties.

Cane Cutters Complain about Their Working Conditions / 14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa

Cane cutting in Cuba (Conexion Cubana)
Cane cutting in Cuba (Conexion Cubana)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa, Holguin, 31 May 2015 – The recently concluded sugar harvest failed to fulfill production forecasts. Analysts have struggled to explain the reasons for the repeated failure and have spoken of incomplete or ineffective repairs and poor organization, but none have mentioned the social factor.

Workers involved in cutting cane in Holguin complained of the abandonment to which they were subjected and multiple violations of their labor rights during the harvest that just ended.

Members of the Basic Economic Unit from the Loynaz Hechavarria center from the Cueto municipality say they worked more than 16 hours a day beginning at five in the morning during the four months of the harvest. continue reading

Heriberto Cuenca Tamayo, operator of a cane combine, told 14ymedio that his brigade had been victim of labor law violations and they were the group that suffered most: in spite of intense heat during these months, they had no cold water for lack of ice. Nor did they receive the promised work clothes, and they ate what they could manage on their own since they were not even provided coffee.

He mentioned that the enterprise is still in default on the incentive pay in convertible currency that is due the members of the team under the labor contract. He also lamented the lack of technical assistance that would have helped with the combine breakdowns during the cane cutting. They are only paid as operators, but they also had to act as mechanics, work for which they are not qualified.

“We were on our own when the machines broke, and in order to continue working we had to personally manage the parts and the repair,” Cuenca Tamayo told this daily.

Together with his companions, he said he felt unprotected. The bosses only speak of obligations, order, discipline and demands. “When they say to do more with less, it seems that they are thinking of more effort and worse conditions, more duties and fewer rights.”

“Neither the Constitution nor any other Cuban law legally establishes the right to strike, but nor did the union solve our problems in spite of raising them on several occasions,” said this cane worker.

For his part, Mario Gonzalez, harvest boss for the Azucarera Company, said that Holguin failed to meet the sugar production plan by not reaching the projected figure of 207,801 tons, lacking almost 4,000 tons to achieve the goal. In this harvest the province milled with only five of the ten sugar refineries it has had since 2002.

The official explained that among the causes that led to the failure are the breakdowns of the combines, the refinery stoppages for lack of cane caused by the late arrival of squads to the cutting fronts, and others of an organizational nature. “There was enough cane in the fields, but it was not known how to get it to the centers,” asserted Mario Gonzalez on a local radio program.

Translated by MLK

The Sugar Harvest Grows But Fails to Meet the Plan / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

A sugar cane field in Cuba. (Flickr / CC)
A sugar cane field in Cuba. (Flickr / CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 29 May 2015 – As has already become a tradition, Cubans will not know how many tons of sugar are ultimately produced at the end of the 2014-2015 harvest. A summary of the report prepared by the Azcuba Sugar Group, published by the newspaper Gramna, limits itself to saying that, although the “plan is 45% below expectations,” production “experienced an 18% growth relative to the prior year’s milling.”

According to the report, sugar production grew for the fifth consecutive year but has not reached its target for a series of reasons. Among them, the delay in making repairs, attributed to the late arrival of certain resources, due in turn to the lack of deliveries on the part of the importing countries. This detail alone had as a consequence that 11 sugar mills didn’t start on time, “or started without testing the machinery in advance, which increased the breakdowns during the milling.” continue reading

A report by Azcuba president Orlando Celso Garcia to the Workers Center of Cuba Plenary at the end of 2014, said that the mistakes of the past would not be made again and announced that 15 million dollars were invested in importing equipment for irrigation. He added that the reception capacity in the collection centers will be increased and more than 3,400 trailers will be added with a capacity of 20 tons each, along with 80 re-engined Kamaz trucks and another 287 trucks without trailers.

Despite these forecasts, the main problem was the low capacity utilization of the mills in the industry, which did not exceed 65%, caused by downtime, plus missing the quantities in the cutting and throwing of cane. On the other hand, performance improved as 100 tons of cane crushed yielded an average of 10.27 tons of sugar, 0.77 more than in the previous harvest. It is to this that the increase in total production is due.

The report mentions the most outstanding provinces and sugar mills and announced that, according to estimates, sugarcane mass will increase between 15% and 20% annually in the coming years. Maybe by the end of 2015, when speaking of the next harvest, we will get to know how many tons were produced in the harvest now ending.