US Citizen Sentenced to 13 Years for Espionage in Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

Alina López Miyares

Juan Juan Almeida, 10 October 2017 — A US citizen and her husband, a former Cuban diplomat, were sentenced to long prison terms by a military court in Havana on espionage charges.

Alina López Miyares and her spouse, Félix Martín Milanés Fajardo, were sentenced to 13 and 17 years in prison, respectively, in a summary proceeding that took place behind closed doors, according to reports obtained by Martí Noticias. continue reading

The trial was held in the Court of Justice of the Military Court, located in Marianao, on October 2, with the relatives of the accused forbidden to be in the court.

The process, delayed twice, came three days after the United Statesdecided to withdraw most of its diplomatic staff from its embassy in Havana, amid growing bilateral tensions over acoustic attacks on 22 members of its legation .

López Milanés was arrested last January at the Havana airport when she was about to travel to Miami. In December 2016, her husband, Milanese Fajardo, a retired Cuban diplomat  had been arrested; he worked at the Permanent Cuban Mission to the United Nations in New York. They met in New York and have been married for over 10 years.

Both were being investigated by Department 1 of Cuban Counterintelligence under suspicion of providing information of a secret nature, the use of which could damage state security, according to a source related to the case.

López Miyares was born in Havana in 1959 and left Cuba when he was 8 years old. She was educated in the United States, obtained three doctorates and is a teacher by profession. Shee had recently been repatriated to Cuba.

The trial, registered as Case Number 1 of 2017, took place between 10 am and 2 pm. The inmates arrived at the military court in separate cars, handcuffed and guarded by officers in olive-green uniforms. The defense was undertaken by criminal lawyer Abel Alejandro Solá López.

The mother of López Miyares, who lives in Miami, was able to see her daughter at the entrance to the courtroom, but could not witness the trial, said a source consulted by Martí Noticias.

For the crime of espionage, the prosecution requested 30 years of deprivation of liberty and an equal term of abstention of rights.

“During the investigative process, the prisoners were pressured to modify their statements and influence the prosecutor’s decision,” the source said.

The court handed down a sentence of 13 years for Lopez Miyares and 17 for Milanés Fajardo. The final resolution will be signed on 24 October and the parties will certainly agree to appeal the sentence.

Cuban Medical Collaboration Suspended in Kenya and Mozambique / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 3 October 2017 — Kenya and Mozambique indefinitely suspended their collaboration with Cuban medical services which were under contract in both countries.

The announcement was “restricted information” distributed through emails send to the heads of all the provincial health services, between 25-27 September, according to Marti Noticias.

The sudden action is a concern to the Cuban government, which has gained international recognition and credibility through its health programs. continue reading

The email explained, briefly, that Mozambique refuses to contract through “More Doctors” (General Integral Medicine), and until further notice Kenya has stopped receiving new Cuban health workers.

This is a hard blow to the program of exporting Cuban doctors, which generates both income and gratitude for the “white coat” diplomatic policy.

In 2016, the program of professional services — primarily medical — generated $11.5 billion dollars in income for the Cuban treasury, a figure that greatly exceeds the profit fro tourism, which brings the national economy $2.8 billion.

The Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) maintains strict secrecy about the causes that gave rise to the unexpected and simultaneous revocation of agreements with two countries that maintain excellent relations with the island.

It is worth noting that Cuba and Kenya signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva on May 24, with the aim of encouraging the start of medical cooperation in that African nation. And on June 18, Cuban President Raul Castro received his Mozambican counterpart, Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, and the official press reported that both leaders spoke in a fraternal atmosphere about the state of relations, historical ties, collaboration and international issues.

The sudden decision of both African nations not only surprised the Cuban authorities, but also the 602 doctors who were planning to travel to Kenya this October 2.

Cuba: Endangered Cybersecrets / Juan Juan Almeida

DATYS employees

Juan Juan Almeida, 26 September 2017 — Developing Information and Communications Technologies as a strategic sector is an old premise for the Cuban government, but the migration of professionals to the non-state sector is the main enemy for the computerization and national cybersecurity program.

“Let’s say that structurally we can have control of the data that circulates in the different cellphone networks, cybercafes, wifi sites and the more than a million users who have access to the Internet through Nauta accounts [from ETECSA, the state telecommunications company]. We also work together with a group of attorneys to structure a legal and regulatory framework for navigation, that contains decrees and complementary rules according to the cybernecessity,” says a graduate of Jose Antonio Echeverria Technology Univeristy (CUJAE), speaking to Marti Noticias.

In 2015, the First Vice-President of Cuba’s Council of State and of Ministers, Miguel Díaz-Canel, announced the creation of the Council for Computerization and Cybersecurity, which would be subordinate to the country’s top management and fulfill the mission of coordinating and controlling policies and comprehensive strategies associated with the world of technologies, and that would put cybersecurity ahead of computerization. continue reading

Several institutions remain associated with this Council, whose mission is to safeguard integrity, independence and technological sovereignty; as well as to strengthen the presence and impact of the Cuban system in the social networks: The Computer Network Security Office (OSRI) is directly subordinated to the Ministry of Informatics and Communications.

The Computer Network Security Office (OSRI) is directly subordinated to the Ministry of Informatics and Communications.

“I am terrified of this group because they are very well equipped and like hunting dogs they can inspect and find even what you have erased.” says the source, one of those potentially chosen to be part of the Cuban delegations that will participate in the 19th World Youth and Students Festival, in the Russian city of Sochi.

DATYS is another group of programmers that belongs to the Ministry of the Intertior (MININT), and is responsible for manufacturing and selling software. This is the group that makes biometric programs for fingerprint recognition, it was this group that implemented the identification system in Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, among other countries.

SOFTEL is another small, strategic, vanguard community that offers advanced IT solutions, explains the interviewee. It has its headquarters within the University of Computer Science (UCI) and now is working on GalenLab, a software for the implementation of digital medical records.

The source referred to two systems created by SOFTEL: Galen Lab “Blood Bank,” to create blood banks and donor registries; and Galen Lab “Diagnostic Methods,” engaged with the process inside a laboratory that allows access to the exams of each patient of the Cuban medical system and of any of the medical missions of Cuba abroad.

SERTFOD is another group of young people dedicated to cybersecurity. It belongs to the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) and since last July was authorized to provide services outside the FAR. Now it is in charge of repairing computer media, in addition to installing alarms and surveillance cameras in several civilian companies, and even in foreign companies. This group is in charge of managing the technology and methods that operate in a condition of secrecy or compartmentalization.

“The organization exists and is up and running; the problem is that our leaders belong to an age group that refuses to be a part of the digital age and that has sidelines the more than 25,000 professional experts in this area,” adds the source.

With low wages, poor working conditions, zero professional achievement, and the inability to negotiate patents and intellectual property, it is understandable that these specialists, skilled personnel with well-kept secrets, emigrate.

The Castros Celebrate While Cuba is Inundated / Juan Juan Almeida

Castros celebrate while Hurricane Irma batters Cuba

Juan Juan Almeida, 13 September 2017 — On Friday, September 8, the day the faithful celebrate the feast day of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, Hurricane Irma — a powerful category 5 storm — slammed into eastern Cuba with full force.

An onslaught of huge waves, heavy rains and hurricane-force winds caused damage that is hard to calculate and will be even harder to repair. The official press reported the loss of at least ten lives.

In response, General Raúl Castro wrote and published an article in Granma, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, entitled “A Call to Our Combative People.” In a sublime display of hypocrisy, this very fanciful piece ended with the declaration — and I quote — “Let us take up the recovery following the example of Cuba’s Commander-in-Chief, Fidel Castro.” continue reading

Clearly, solidarity is a universal moral principle that we should all practice. But not because of a sterile lecture which — in the case of this harangue by the country’s ruler — amounts to nothing more than an attempt to play upon people’s hopes.

The youngest of the Castros — a man of hooded eyes and meager talent who is also in the line of succession to the presidency of the Council of Ministers and Council of State — expressed his sympathy for the thousands of Cubans who have lost everything. These people are no doubt unaware that on the same day, September 8, as Baracoa and the entire eastern portion of the island were experiencing the destructive effects of winds that exceeded 200 kilometers per hour and caused damage to the electrical grid, homes and agriculture, the Castro family — or at least the most high-profile members of this clan — had marked the day by celebrating together at Saint Francis of Assisi Basilica and Monastery in Old Havana.

While the residents of Gibara were experiencing the desperate anguish of terrifying floods and the frustrations of being without electricity, the Castro dynasty’s hereditary princes — Alejandro, Nilsa and Mariela Castro Espín ( Raúl’s kids); Antonio, Alexis, Alex and Angel Castro Soto del Valle as well as Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart (Fidel’s sons) — were enjoying refreshing, well-made mojitos and the enchanting delights of caviar, squid and salmon with raspberry jam on thin layers of crustless bread in a charming Baroque edifice in Old Havana. The occasion was the debut and launch of a pair of books entitled “Fidel Castro and the United States” and “Raúl Castro and Our America.”

The cousins, children of the two powerful Castros, greeted each other affectionately but sat apart, at once together but separate.

It was like a sexless marriage in which, owing to certain commitments, the parties still share a bed. They allowed themselves to celebrate their good fortune dispassionately and without resentment while, at that exact moment, the unfortunate were fleeing from Irma’s impact.

In truth, I don’t know what Raúl was thinking. I believe he was probably thinking what a blessing it was to be handed by divine fiat the mantle of Commander-in-Chief.

Dr. Eusebio Leal, Havana’s official historian, presided over the event. The man in charge of compiling the data for this masterpiece, which is already being touted as the next best seller, was the astute and temperamental Colonel Abel Enrique González Santamaría who, in addition to having a doctorate in political science, is also senior adviser to the Defense and National Security Commission. He wore a light olive guayabera to the event, a color that might be described as a dull Sierra Maestra green.*

It is only natural that we should dress in subdued tones in these difficult days when people are seeing a lifetime’s worth of work taken away in seconds by the force of a hurricane.

*Translator’s note: a reference to the color of the military fatigues worn by Castro and his revolutionaries when they were operating in the mountains.

The Eternal Persecution of the "Deserters" / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 6 September 2017 — A recent email leak in Cuba confirms that although the island’s Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) facilitates the travel procedures for the collaborators it sends to missions in different countries, the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), which controls the regime’s organs of repression and citizen control, has absolute power to obstruct departures and avoid desertions.

On 7 August 2017, Cuba’s Central Unit of Medical Cooperation (UCCM) requested the Department of Foreign Relations (MINSAP), via email, to prepare five transit visas for Spain who were planning imminent travel to join the Cuban Medical Brigade in the African archipelago that forms the Republic of Cape Verde. continue reading

This singular cyber-message, brief and to the point, said that the collaborators must collect their transit visas on 12 September at the Spanish consulate in Havana, and must present themselves the day before at UCCM’s headquarters, located on CUJAE Highway in the capital municipality of Marianao.

The doctors involved are Neuvis Vázquez del Llano (surgeon), Manuel Luis Rodríguez Lavernia (surgeon), Aida Silvia Fuentes Abreu (pediatrician), Pablo Raúl Rosell (surgeon) y María Elena Pérez Jiménez (anesthetist).

So far so good. UCCM is the institution in charge of ensuring Cuba’s commitments with regards to International Medical Collaboration are met, and it is normal that it should also be in charge of the visas and travel of the collaborators.

The story’s dark and irregular point comes to light when, by magic and hours apart, a second email, dated Wednesday 9 August, is sent from Roberto Morales, Cuba’s Minister of Public Health, to the Cuban embassy in Madrid, with a copy to the African state, instruction that by orders of Jesús López-Gavilán, chief of the MINIT department that deals with health, that when the collaborators’ flight date is confirmed, it is imperative that an official of Cuba’s diplomatic mission in Madrid go to Barajas International Airport (the misspelled missive explains), because after an investigation and check of communications with family members abroad, it was determined that one of the five physicians, without specifying which, but repeating the names of the five mentioned above, has shown what are describes as strong indications and intentions to defect.

Cuba Planning to Send Medical Brigade to the U.S. to Aid Victims of Hurricane Harvey / Juan Juan Almeida

Cuban medical workers gathered prior to heading out to provide services abroad.

Juan Juan Almeida, 1 September 2017 — The Cuban government is making plans to send a team of medical specialists to the the state of Texas as soon as possible to offer aid to flood victims of Hurricane Harvey.

The government sent an urgent order to the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP), which was later announced to the provincial branches in a videoconference headed by Dr. Marcia Cobas, a deputy in the National Assembly and Deputy Minister of Health for Medical Aid, International Relations and Information, as reported to Martí Noticias by sources close to the organization.

During the video conference, all provincial medical aid agencies were informed that the possible transport of a significant number of eligible Cuban aid workers to the Havana Convention Center, located on Vía Monumental and Cerrera Cojímar, for intensive training in preparation for personal interviews in September is under consideration. continue reading

A brief synopsis of the video conference was later distributed by email to MINSAP directors.

This is not the first time that Cuba has offered medical aid to the United States. In August 2005 the Cuban government created the Henry Reeve International Contingent of Medical Specialists for Disasters and Epidemics to aid populations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama affected by Hurricane Katrina.

In this instance, MINSAP plans to enlist eight-hundred aid workers from different medical fields capable of responding immediately to the demands of the affected population.

MINSAP has already prepared a list of 1,000 potential team members which includes specialists from twelve provinces and the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud. The provinces with the highest number of pre-selected physicians are Santiago de Cuba (230), Havana (160), Holguín (160) and Granma (110).

According to the report obtained by Martí Noticias, the professionals chosen are required to bring the following documents to the interview:

Medical diplomas as well as diplomas for specialized fields in which they hope to work.

  •  Curriculum vitae in English, with an emphasis on medical skills.
  •  Photocopy of national ID card.
  •  Photocopy of professional card.
  •  A photo in any format

“Attached is the transport plan, organized by categories and provinces. We must take all measures necessary to fulfill this task, which is of highest priority,” concludes the document, which was circulated by email and signed by Ovidio L. Alba Betancourt, head of SMC (Medical Services of Cuba), a branch of Central Unit for Medical Cooperation (UCCM).

Earlier this year, Cuban doctors travelled to Chicago to participate in an aid program in that city for at-risk communities with limited resources as part of a collaboration that will last for close to a year. Cuban doctors will focus their attention on maternal and infant care as well as the detection and prevention of cancer.

From August 14 to 17, specialists from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in collaboration with the Cuban Academy of Sciences, participated in a binational symposium in Havana to discuss approaches to vector controls for Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can transmit diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and Zika.

Angola Rejects Service of Cuban Medical Collaborators / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 15 August 2017 — In an unprecedented decision that could have diplomatic repurcussions, the Angolan government rejected the 189 Cuban collaborators prepapred to travel to join the Cuban medical mission in that African country.

The unexpected decision was communicated to Havana through an email sent from Luanda by the ANTEX company, and received in Havana in the office of Roberto Morales, Cuban Minister of Public Health, on 31 July.

ANTEX is a Cuban military company, registered with the Cuban Chamber of Commerce which has signed important agreements to provide services and development of joint venture companies with the Angolan government. continue reading

On 24 February, with several ministers and representatives from both nations, Cuba and Angola celebrated the thirteenth session of the Intergovernmental Commission, which confirmed the need to establish and/or expand their bilateral and cooperation commitments in some sectors, such as planning and finance, education, construction, transportation, culture, energy, water, agriculture, geology and mining, fishing, urban planning, industry, communications, health and the biopharmaceutical industry.

The reasons why Angola is rejecting these Cuban aid workers are lost among various versions from sources that have preferred to remain anonymous. Among the problems mentioned are the payments for the services of the Cuban professionals, among other possible reasons.

The relationship between Angola and Cuba began in 1960, and was sweetened in 1961 when then-Cuban President Osvaldo Dorticós met with MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) representation at the first conference of the Non-Aligned Movement in Belgrade and offered to provide, with charitable spirit, the Cuban experience.

The link began to take shape on June 25, 1975 in Maputo, when the late Angolan President Agostino Neto met with Armando Acosta, who presided over the Cuban delegation to the festivities for the independence of Mozambique. It was at that moment that Neto asked Acosta for urgent help  to train thePeople’s Armed Forces of the Liberation of Angola.

But it was not until 15 November 1975, when the first Cuban ambassador to Luanda, Oscar Oramas, signed the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries with then-Angolan Foreign Minister José Eduardo dos Santos. From then until now, there had never been an incident that could tarnish bilateral relations.

The Cuban medical mission began in Angola at the same time as the Cuban troops arrived. During the conflict more than 450,000 Cubans passed through Angolan territory, among them doctors, teachers, engineers and soldiers.

Miguel Diaz-Canel, Vice-President on Paper / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 30 August 2017 — He was born on April 20, 1960. Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, a former university professor and first vice-president of the Council of State and Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, is an “architect” of limited inventiveness and little ingenuity, a simple leader fashioned by political necessity.

A video made last February has in recent days gone viral. In it, this gentleman leader can be seen at a Communist Party conference giving the most strident Stalinist-style harangue. But aside from the way some are interpreting this deplorable action, it is worth noting that such behavior is typical for Cuban leaders, defending power they do not have.

Skilled, with good eyesight and an even better sense of smell, the first vice-president of the Caribbean’s largest nation squanders his bravado on what he describes as “an avalanche of subversive proposals and projects.” Among those he mentions are the compendium of digital content informally distributed on the island and known by everyone as The Weekly Packet, certain privately owned businesses that recall the 1950’s, and the digital magazine OnCuba, which he promises to close. continue reading

This deplorable proceeding will go down in history, and certainly not as a glorious moment. This reminds me of the catchy chorus from a song by the Spanish singer-songwriter Joaquín Sabina, which goes: “For lies, those of reality. You promise everything, but give nothing…”

I understand that clever people take advantage of the ignorance of others, that scholars have opinions, and that talk show guests talk. But the video was made in February. It is now September, OnCuba is still in operation and the Weekly Packet’s programming is still being distributed. In a dictatorial nation such as this, calling Díaz-Canel a vice-president is as dubious as calling Kim Jong-un’s barber a hair stylist.

Too bad for Díaz-Canel. For someone who can be as imposing as a Spanish galleon at full sail, he comes off as a marionette, someone who seems to forget that in Cuba it is the Party that, for the moment, holds power.

The second-secretary of the Cuban Communist Party, Dr. José Ramón Machado Ventura, made it clear to him when he decided not to grant Cuban legal status to the Che Guevara Foundation due to simple personal problems with his family. To date, the late guerilla leader’s former home remains nothing more than a legal studies center. The same thing happened to a foundation established by the famous Cuban singer Pablo Milanés, which he also shut down under the pretext that it was encouraging tendencies more suited to a capitalist lifestyle.

One has to remain hopeful and look at the facts before coming to any conclusions about the future of Cuba. It does not necessarily matter whose head wears the crown but rather who holds the scepter and sits on the throne.

What is clear is that, with barely five months to go before that fateful day in February 2018, there is still no real successor to the current leadership.

Cuba Prepares to Ship Masses of Health Workers to Venezuela / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 29 August 2017 — The crisis in Venezuela has generated the mobilization of a greater number of Cuban “collaborators” in the healthcare sector than ever recorded in history, some of them committed to participate in the military exercises called by president Nicolas Maduro.

While president Nicolas Maduro stirs up the internal forces with military skirmishes against the threats of the United States and blocks the signals of two emblematic television stations, Venezuela is receiving with particular discretion an unprecendented number of Cuban health workers, which includes both doctors and other professionals in this sector, according to reports obtained by Martí Noticias.

Starting at 7 in the morning on 17 August and continuing until today, the Central Unit of Medical Cooperation (UCCM), in Havana, has managed to accelerate the travel of an army of white coats, ready to perform their labors in Venezuela. continue reading

Currently, there are some 28,000 health professionals in Venezuela, but the number could be quickly augmented in the coming days.

In less than 15 days they have processed more than 2,000 Cuban health workers, among them nurses, intensive care and medical emergency physicians that come from the health system of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR). An act that, for some, seems to be the underside of humanitarian aid.

The collaborators come from all provinces of the country, although the processing center is in Havana.

“Whether from the FAR or not, the Cuban health workers that the UCCM has sent to Venezuela are not a political party and do not occupy leadership positions in any of the spheres of Venezuelan sociopolitical life,” according to a source in the Cuban medical sector.

The informant said they all go as doctors, nurses or health-related people, “willing to provide excellent medical care and care for patients with the same respect and love they learned in school.”

“Guns kill, medicine opens a path that has no going back,” the source added.

However, it is striking that according to a document distributed from 21 August, doctors from the FAR were cited, as a matter of obligation, and as subordinates, to form part of the Bolivarian Sovereignty military exercise that began in Macarao, on 26 August.

In a context like that of Venezuela today, no one can camouflage themselves under a profession that holds an important space in the life of Venezuela.

“In the UCCM we have the responsibility to guarantee the fulfillment of the commitments made by the Cuban government in the field of international medical collaboration. For this reason, the fact that Cuban doctors, processed by UCCM, are part of this or any other military exercise, constitutes a flagrant violation of the peace and medical cooperation agreement — to strengthen the historic bond of friendship between both peoples, and to work In order to promote and promote the economic and social progress of the two countries with the integration of Latin America and the Caribbean — which was signed on 30 October 2000 in Caracas by Cuban Commander in Chief Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías,” the informant said.

Cuba Ignores Sanitary Crisis To Not Frighten The Tourists / Juan Juan Almeida

Setting up for Carnival

Juan Juan Almeida, 16 August 2016 — Holguín, the Cuban province reporting the greatest increase in cases of zika, dengue and haemorragic conjunctivitis, might experience an increase in the level of contagion with the arrival of travellers wanting to visit the area in the upcoming carnivals programmed from 17th to 20th August.

Doctor Luis Arlet González, Provincial Director of Public Health, Julio Caballero, First Secretary of the Communist Party in the town, and Julio César Estupiñán, President of the Provincial Assembly of People Power (the local government), have more than once warned about the danger of celebrating  carnivals in the middle of this epidemic. But the First Secretary of the Communist Party in the province, during the last meeting of official organisations, made known the decision not to cancel the merriment for fear of frightening the tourists. continue reading

“It seems unbelievable that with the number of cases of zika, dengue and conjunctivitis reported daily, they could think of holding celebrations. For the Party, as always, all they are interested in is the income raised by filling the nearly 5,400 homes dedicated to tourism and they play the game without thinking that the city’s principal value lies in the inhabitants’ welcome and the beauty of the town set in 60 kilometers of beach and sun. Tourists look for contact and that, without a doubt, increases the contagion which is expected to soon reach pandemic levels”, says a frightened doctor at the “Vladimir Ilich Lenin” University General Hospital in the town.

The government recently provided funding for what is called “Operation Good Health”, which involves mobilising volunteers to carry out fumigations, and includes personnel able to locate infected people and raise awareness using the local media. But, in spite of these efforts, the number of patients increases daily.

Travel agencies receiving inquiries from travellers worried about the local situation avoid raising fear and uncertainty among overseas visitors. The provincial authorities decided to lock away those patients labelled as most contagious, but when the admissions at the “Lucía Iñiguez Landín” Hospital Clínico Quirúrgico in Holguín were overwhelmed they found themselves obliged to open up the nursing facility to take in the affected people.

People with contagious epidemic haemorragic conjunctivitis are being locked away in classrooms and lodgings in Celia Sánchez Manduley University, a long-established school for social workers, which, incidentally, has announced that the start of the next course will be postponed until September 20th, or until further notice.

Nevertheless, in the face of the incomprehensible decision to proceed with the carnival preparations, and in the closing stages of the preparations for the festivities in the provincial stadium and the busy Los Álamos and Libertadores Avenues, the local authorities have pronounced themselves satisfied on becoming aware on August 10th that Havana has ordered the activation in the province of the protection and security plan.

All the infantry units were quartered, the air force, the anti-aircraft defences and the navy were put on alert. But as the saying goes, nothing good lasts forever; such a colossal military mobilisation was not because of the epidemic, but because  General Raúl Castro, president of the Council of State and the Ministries of the Republic, was on vacation this weekend in his paradise hideaway in Cayo Saetía, on the north coast of East Cuba.

Translated by GH

Private Initiative and Settling Scores / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 24 August 2017 — In Cuba there is an imprecise, almost palpable point at which good intention disappears. This time it is the owners of the Starbien restaurant who are facing the horror of the gallows.

José Raúl Colomé, son of former Interior Minister Abelardo (Furry) Colomé Ibarra, and Osmani Cisneros, son of the late Cuban leader Ángel (Angelito) Cisneros, have created a cozy atmosphere in a location with superb food and excellent service. But in spite of having extensive experience in the restaurant business, the pair fell under the predatory gaze of Alejandro Castro Espín and his broad ranging powers.

The opening of the Cuban economy to private business has allowed those who are well-placed to fluourish. continue reading

Over the last few years, the self-employed have shown themselves to be that part of Cuban civil society that can accomplish more than any political party. They have very positive social impact, help the community and generate employment while their purposeful entrepreneurial ingenuity fascinates the population. It is precisely because of these achievements that they are always under the watchful eyes of suspicious members of the status quo. The reasons for their recent actions against the restaurant, however, are not very clear.

The investigation, which is being led by the attorney general’s office, has not come to any conclusion. Technically speaking, there are no problems nor have any financial irregularities been uncovered. Nevertheless, even though there were no violations that would warrant legal action, the passports of José Raúl Colomé, Osmani Cisneros and some of their relatives were confiscated following a cursory conversation.

Located at 205 29th Street between avenues B and C in Havana’s Vedado district, Starbien became a favorite of local customers and foreign tourists alike. As a result of an unusual fusion of attentive service, a distinctive, innovative cuisine and a setting in the middle of Havana, many consider it to be one of the best restaurants in Cuba.

The real motive behind Starbien’s closure is obscured by rumors among government loyalists and sources who prefer not to express an opinion for fear of putting themselves in jeopardy. But there is a clue in this unique case, a missing link that suggests this is something between a punishment, a scolding and a settling of old scores.

“Everyone wants the truth but few are being honest. Criminal sanctions in this country always have two sides: the spoken and the unspoken,” says a source close to the investigation who uses the pseudonym “El Misteriso.”

“It’s not hard to figure out that this sort of prosecution without trial will end in some sort of agreement,” explains the anonymous source, “because it follows no legal logic. Given that there are no criminal charges in the case, it’s very clear that confiscating the passports and reviewing the restaurant’s finances are not actions aimed at either the owners or the employees of Starbien. Nor is it a case of corruption or violation of the regulations governing private sector restaurants. Financial audits by ONAT indicate there are no irregularities. Therefore, I would call it a settling of scores. The order came from above and was aimed at retired general Abelardo Colomé Ibarra who, as we all know, fell afoul of the younger brother of the Agha and was forced to resign his positions as government minister and member of the Council of State in October 2015, citing health reasons.”

“There is no better way to ruin a father than to trample on his son,” concludes the informer. “It’s a question of semantics. How to milk a plant to get soy milk.”

Cuba to Increase Control over Doctors Working Abroad / Juan Juan Almeida

Cuban healthcare personnel ready to be deployed abroad, to earn hard currency for Cuba.

Juan Juan Almeida, 16 August 2017 — The Cuban government will immediately strengthen controls and political indoctrination of Cuban doctors chosen for overseas medical missions.

According to reports obtained by Martí Noticias, the leaders from Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health of Cuba (MINSAP) met last Friday with all its national and provincial directors to provide them with new directives that will take effect on Monday, August 14.

“The e-mail announcing the meeting warned that we should be ready to report on compliance with Resolution 279 in each of the provinces and to discuss in detail the status of the personnel rotation plan along with the status of current pending cases,” says a source from the medical sector.* continue reading

Resolution 279, which was adopted by MINSAP in 2014, outlines procedures for training and providing human resources associated with providing medical and health services abroad.

The to-do list was distributed to attendees at the meeting, which began at 8:30 A.M.in the main meeting room of the Central Medical Cooperation Unit (UCCM), and consisted of a set of measures aimed at increasing control over Cuban aid workers on medical missions.

At the meeting officials were also informed of directives from the minister of public health, Roberto Morales, to the heads of Cuban medical missions overseas and analyzed the reasons behind the recent rejection by the Angolan government of 189 Cuban aid workers.

According to reports, ANTEX, the Cuban military-run company which provides services and training for joint ventures with the Angolan government, has prepared a new contract to be delivered to the authorities of the African nation.

Some key points of the meeting are as follows:

Political work

Due to the alarming increase in desertions and deactivations of personnel in various missions, it is suggested that a more careful selection of candidates be made.

Pay increased attention to aid workers. Revitalize meetings at the municipal level and pay personal attention to the relatives of those who have died while on a mission.

Review the annual personnel rotation plan

Due to numerous cases of non-compliance with the rotation program, it is necessary to review the current situation regarding shortages of specialists in Venezuela.

As a participating aid workers, directors should record how new resources from the Revolutionary Armed Forces are being used. Also, directors should review compliance with the personnel rotation plan in Brazil and provide information regarding recent changes to the collaboration agreement with that country.

Priority is being given to achieving 100% compliance in current cases. Therefore, it is strongly suggested that directors coordinate with State Security to expedite the approval of candidates.

189 Cuban aid workers’ applications returned by Angola

According to ANTEX, the factors that led to the rejection of aid workers included suspicions of desertion, incomplete documentation, confiscation of contracts, complaints about service provided and conflicts over billing. However, a new dispatch of qualified personnel is being readied and will be assigned as soon as possible to fulfill the commitment to the African sister nation.

Full Name, Specialty and Home Province of Personnel Approved for Upcoming Travel Overseas:

Carlos Emilio Alvarez Segrera, MD, Geriatrics, Granma

Fernando Raúl Rivero Martínez, MD, Neurophysiology, Granma

Rosaida Marrero Rodríguez, MD, Pediatrics, Holguín

Orlando Araujo Herrera, MD, Endocrinology, Havana

Carlos Demetrio Zamora Espinosa, Immunology, Havana

Adonis Montero Barrientos, MD, Neonatology, Las Tunas

Alejandro Virelles Pacheco, MD, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Granma

Silvio Valdés Avila Vera, MD, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Guantánamo

Tania de la Caridad Fernández Nuñez, MD, Microbiology, Mayabeque

Nolberto Rafael Monteagudo Garces, Hygiene and Epidemiology, Las Tunas

Caridad Luisa Mejias Mayo, MD, Microbiology, Las Tunas

Maile Paez Padrón, MD, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Artemisa

Keyly Fernández Garcia, MD, Ophtalmology, Havana

Milagro Sánchez Sarduy, RN, Ciego de Avila

Dolores Enriqueta Colet Figueredo, RN, Granma

Bessel Dieguez Ortiz, Licensed Clinician, Ciego de Avila

Asuncion Fortunata Rodríguez Morris, MD, General Surgery, Havana

Guadalupe Soliman Díaz, RN, Artemisa

Cecilio Vladimir Díaz Noda, MD, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Pinar del Rio

Madelyn Urquiola Mariño, Lab Clinician, Pinar del Rio

Lien Gómez Estacio, MD, Human Anatomy, Villa Clara

Arle Luís Ramos Arencibia, MD, Human Anatomy, Pinar del Rio

Rodney Kidman Nieves Armas, Licensed Lab Technician, Cienfuegos

Mabel Guzman Anglada, Licensed Biologist, Holguín

Rosa Coralia Cisneros Reyna, RN, Holguín

Osmani Becerra Peña, RN, Cienfuegos

Daisy Iliana Luaces Carballo, MD, Psychiatry, Havana

Luisa Bello Zamora, RN, Granma

Giorbis Watson Veola, MD, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Guantánamo

Griselda González Salazar, Secretary-Lecturer, Havana

Angélica González Medina, MD, Dermatology, Guantánamo

Leonardo Naranjo Aguilar, Licensed Lab Techinician, Granma

Ivette Mulens Ramos MD, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Havana

Alina Caraballo Díaz, Licensed Biologist, Sancti Spiritus

Carlos Tablada Cobiella, Telecommunications Engineer, Granma

Gladys Barbara Barberis Pérez, MD, Cienfuegos

Iliana Otero Rodríguez, PhD, Stomalogy, Pinar del Rio

Yainet Medina Magaña, RN, Havana

Adolfo Cruz Carrera, Special Education, Sancti Spiritus

Barbara Fortunata Salabarria Remedios, Licensed Clinical Lab Technician, Sancti Spiritus

Martina Sabina Jiménez Suárez, Special Education in Biology, Cienfuegos

*Translator’s note: As part of a program which generates hard currrency for the Cuban government, Cuban medical personnel are sent to overseas medical missions in developing countries for fixed periods of time. Their services are provided to patients free of charge and costs are covered by the host country. However, increasing numbers of Cuban medical personnel are defecting to other countries before their terms of service have expired and before they can be replaced. The Cuban government has tried, without great success, to stem the exodus.

Regime Strengthens Efforts to Avoid Surprises in Legislative Elections / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 3 August 2017 — The Cuban government is again relying on a proven strategy in an attempt to avoid surprises on October 22 when voters go to the polls to elect delegates to the various local and national legislative bodies, which will in turn be responsible for electing the president of the Council of State.

This curious initiative began with an orientation that had the feel of a series directives handed down by senior officials of the Communist Party, the Central Committee and the national coordinator for the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). continue reading

On numerous occasions General Raul Castro has said he intends to step down as president in February 2018. After having been in power for twelve years (ten as president, two as acting president during the illness of his brother Fidel), the eighty-six-year-old is in declining health. Remaining as head of the Communist party until 2021 would seem more like a ploy to guarantee immunity from prosecution than a step towards maximizing his control over the country or influencing the direction of government.

“I just came back from a meeting where they outlined all the things that we must do to raise public morale for the upcoming elections. People have to be happy because on this occasion they will be choosing those who will choose the next president, which seems redundant,” says a provincial CDR coordinator who prefers to remain anonymous.

The CDRs were designed to hold neighborhood meeting during July and August, assuage any doubts about the elections and make sure there are no unexpected proposals from unforseen candidates by paying attention to their constituents’ “revolutionary condition.”

Communist party and government officials are touring the island, meeting with local officials and party members and assigning them tasks in an effort to encourage an effective voter response. According to one source, the battlefield of ideas continues to be the main frontline.

The following are some of the tasks that have been assigned to party cadres and members:

  • Review the personal history and attest to the aptitude and ability of every member of the provincial, municipal and district electoral commissions.
  • Visit schools and check the documents and election materials that are to be distributed in each neighborhood.
  • Review voter registration rolls and verify that the Address Registry has been updated in every CDR.
  • Explain to, reason with and convince reliable voters in each community of the need to forcefully deal with problems caused by disturbances of public order or actions by members of counterrevolutionary groups who, with foreign funding, are attempting to disrupt the normal functioning of the electoral process.
  • Recruit young people with proven leadership abilities in every neighborhood to create a corps of activists who will spread ideas, encourage action and spur participation by members of the community.
  • Coordinate with representatives from public health and transportation, giving special priority to hygiene and sanitation with the goal of preventing the accumulation of trash over prolonged periods of time in underserved locations.
  • Insist that delegates have direct contact with the public and that they craft compelling messages that preferably have little to do with political positions.
  • Talk to voters in order to objectively and critically evaluate local problems and determine with renewed vigor the political adjustments that need to be made in each area.
  • Work closely with more enthusiastic groups and demographic sectors so that they might have influence on those who are apathetic or indifferent.
  • Coordinate with representatives from the cultural, transport, housing and supply sectors to optimize conditions for stability and assure widespread citizen participation.
  • Guarantee blood donations, which are important and essential.
  • Allow citizens to maintain orderly conduct, work together to assure that the elections take place in a peaceful atmosphere and participate in the opening and closing of the polls.
  • Monitor compliance with the assigned tasks, the Election Law and directives from the National Electoral Commission.

Desertions, Love Affairs and Political Crises Rock Cuba’s Overseas Medical Services Business / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 25 July 2017 — The Cuban government brought together all the heads of its overseas medical missions to analyze the work done during the previous year, provide guidelines and outline new strategies. It was the seventeenth such meeting of its kind.

The event was held from July 17 to 21 at the Central Medical Cooperation Unit (UCCM), located at KM 2.5 Carretera a la Cujae. It was headed by Minister of Public Health Dr. Roberto Morales Ojeda, Deputy Minister Marcia Coba Ruiz, UCCM Director Dr. Regla Angulo Pardo, leaders of the Communist Party, the secretary general of the health services trade union, officials from Cuban Medical Services, various heads of provincial departments from Medical Collaboration, and officials from the Ministry of the Interior overseeing the work the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP).

The Cuban medical mission program got its start on May 23, 1963, when a group of doctors and health care technicians traveled to Algeria. Since then, Cuba has expanded the health service to other parts of Africa as well as to Latin America and Asia. continue reading

But according to a report, “Performance of the Economic Plan during the First Half of 2017” issued by the Cuban Medical Services Company, the country earned 27% less from overseas heath care services compared to the previous year.

Desertions, love affairs between employees and foreigners, illness, lack of discipline, changes in crude oil prices, extreme fluctuations in currency exchange rates and unforeseen political developments are among the causes for this sharp decline.

The document lays out a group of measures mission directors must take to prevent desertions and defections. One measure involves increased control and monitoring of workers’ behavior such as checking the websites they visit.

The memo indicates that one of the websites most frequently visited by workers hoping to leave their missions early lists job opportunities in Europe: www.jobandtalent.com.

Heightened propaganda campaigns to attract foreign patients to Cuba, increasing the number of medical missions and reestablishing those that have closed are among the strategies that, it is hoped, will increase MINSAP’s hard currency earnings.

The work of mission directors in Venezuela, Ecuador, Guatemala, Gambia, Haiti and Qatar was recognized at the meeting. Special mention was made of Brazil, where 1,230 general comprehensive medicine specialists arrived at the start of this month, and Jamaica, where the mission will expand its workforce on August 3 with the arrival of internists, radiologists, primary care specialists, cardiologists, pulmonologists, pathologists, biomedical engineers (anesthetic, medical gas, dental) histopathologists and oncologists.

The XVII Meeting of Cuban Heads of Missions culminated with a dinner for the participants and extended congratulations to other workers who, though not directors, are carrying out the mission.

Cuba Sets Up Emergency Plan for Medical Missions in Venezuela / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 23 July 2017 — The Cuban government has put in place emergency procedures to deal with the onslaught of widespread protests in Venezuela, which are intended to halt plans for elections to the Constituent Assembly on July 30.

According to information obtained by Martí Noticias, officials at Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) issued a memorandum to the heads of all medical missions in Venezuela on July 10.

The document was issued after several hours of meetings involving high-level government officials as well as the leaders of the Communist Party, the Council of State, the Commission for Defense and National Security and MINSAP according to anonymous sources from within the medical community. continue reading

The guidelines highlight the degree of concern Cuban leaders have over events that could be triggered in Venezuela, which has undergone more than one hundred days of street protests and growing tensions within the nation’s institutions.

The memorandum stresses the need to carry out “security meaures” at Comprehensive Diagnostic Centers (CDIs), which were established in 2003 to ensure emergency medical care and greater access to health services for the population. Approximately six-hundred CDIs are currently in operation throughout the country.

The directive also instructs all personnel to remain on duty from July 29 to July 30 at CDI facilities, which will be under the protection of forces from the Venezuelan National Guard.

CDIs have recently been the targets of aggression by demonstrators, and Cuban medical personnel, who are seen by some as agents of propaganda for the Venezuelan regime, have received threats.

Below is the text of the MINSAP memorandum obtained by Martí Noticias:

Upon orders from our country’s most senior leaders, you are being informed of preventive measures to be carried out from July 27 to August 3, a time period coinciding with elections for National Constituent Assembly on July 30.

1. Medical mission workers must be prepared to make travel arrangements with Cubana de Aviación, which has scheduled extra flights from July 21 to 25.

2. It is essential that security measures be put in place at every CDI. Administrative Guards must be reinforced.

3. For the time being, surgical procedures scheduled for this period are postponed.

4. Preparing a schedule of blood donations for July 23, 24 and 25 is of the highest priority. (Members of the Young Communist League and the Cuban Communist Party.)

 5. Every CDI must set up a command post and report any incidents that occur in its populated area every two hours.

6. Protection for every CDI has been coordinated with the Venezuelan National Guard.

7. All personnel must remain at their CDIs from Saturdy, July 9, until Monday, July 31, before they may return to their homes.

8. It is extremely important to educate the public on the political and ideological importance of these elections.

 9. Instructions were given to every head-of-mission and legal affairs officer during the last audio conference.

10. Perform and provide evidence (in photos) of a political act in commemoration of the events of July 26.