Cuban Government Reverses Plan for Total Closure of Havana’s El Carmelo Neighborhood

The updated official information emphasized that “the residents of El Carmelo must remain at home, except for those who do essential work outside.” (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 April 2020 — While residents in the El Carmelo neighborhood in Havana were preparing this Friday for strict isolation of the area, local authorities reversed the initial plan and decided not to fully apply a quarantine that originally included a requirement for passes to enter and leave the area.

The measure announced by the capital’s government on Thursday regarding the isolation of the neighborhood has been softened after fear spread among the residents of a possible worsening of access to basic supplies, at a time when the country is suffering from a food shortage.

The president of Havana’s Provincial Defense Council, Luis Antonio Torres Iríbar, calmed the spirits and provided new details on the ways in which the isolation will be carried out. Safe-conduct passes will only be implemented if positive cases are found to have increased after inquiries that are being carried out house by house, the official said.

El Carmelo, located in the central district of El Vedado and with a population of more than 29,000 inhabitants, is also an area with many houses that rent rooms to tourists, and numerous private restaurants and leisure spaces. These factors may have influenced its becoming the place with the highest number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Cuban capital, according to Tribuna de La Habana.

Torres Iríbar said that since eight o’clock on Friday night social isolation measures have increased, but that more stringent measures that would be considered quarantine have not yet been applied. At first, there was talk of installing “four to six” entrances and exits through which public transport buses could not pass. But this measure was revoked.

“Last night it looked like they were going to close the neighborhood, they brought metal fences in several trucks and deployed a large number of police officers. Then, at around seven-thirty they retreated on that,” a resident of the area told 14ymedio. “They explained that they are no longer going to limit entry and exit, that they are going to leave it to people’s consciousness.”

According to this resident, Friday was a day when the entire neighborhood took to the streets to stock up on food and basic necessities. “In less than four hours I stood in three lines, one to buy food, another to buy vegetables and another to buy soaps and shampoo which weren’t in any other store.”

The troubadour Ray Fernández, a resident of the neighborhood, improvised some verses in which he reflects the concern for food and suggests to the authorities that they offer the population the resources destined for hotels. “We are not asking for songs / We are not being selfish / But now that there are no tourists / Give the people the shrimp / Send cheeses and hams,” the singer-songwriter posted on his Facebook account.

The updated official information emphasized that, “the residents of El Carmelo must remain at home, except for those who carry out essential work outside. It was clarified that all basic services in commerce, food services, the food industry and drinking water, collection of urban waste, offers from CIMEX, Tiendas Caribe and Palmares are guaranteed.” A bank, ATMs and mail will also continue to operate.

In addition, the disinfection of the bus stops that are located in that area has been arranged. According to a note published this Saturday in the state newspaper Granma, social isolation will also extend to the Cerro municipality “taking into account the appearance of several confirmed cases of Covid-19.”

Torres Iríbar said that isolation measures would also be evaluated in “the places with the highest incidence in Eastern Havana,” although he did not specify which areas these would be.

So far in Havana there are 427 suspected and 71 diagnosed cases; of these, 19 cases are residents of the Plaza of the Revolution municipality.

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Day 18 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba: In Quarantine and Playing Soccer

Many of those suspected of having Covid-19 are being held at the Hotel Tulipán, in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution municipality. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 7 April 2020 – Years ago in my neighborhood they built a hotel to house patients from the so-called Miracle Mission, but today it houses suspected cases of Covid-19. The building, built in the years of the Venezuelan oil subsidy, had become a place to receive Parliamentary deputies and the athletes of the National Baseball Series.

“Give me the ball!” shouts a shirtless young man from the other side of the fence that leads to Tulipán street, in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution municipality. The ball has crossed the wire fence and fallen a few meters from where I pass with my facemask, on my way to look for bread. “Don’t touch it much!” they tell me, an absurd recommendation.

It is a group of young people, without masks, who move at full speed through the grass that separates the ugly building from the street. They are isolated and live their own quarantine, shouting with an Argentine and Cuban accents, as I manage to discern. On the other side, nothing moves, everything is dead. Ironically, there is more animation within that perimeter where the infected are being held. continue reading

The void around the place has its explanation.

As always when “the little hotel” — as my neighbors call it — is filled with some delegation or official group, the custodians who watch the place let passersby know that they cannot access the store inside, nor the cafe and much less use the paid wifi zone provided by the Cuban Telecommunications Company (Etecsa). Without that, the place loses all grace and remains as an ugly mass on the landscape.

The second reason for so much emptiness is that the authorities have decided to close the cafe located across the street, known as El Trencito. The state sales premises are located at the 19 de Noviembre Station, which commemorates that day in 1837 when the first section of the Cuban railway opened for operation. For me, who come from a family of railroad engineers, stokers and machinists, the slow death of the place hurts me.

A decade ago they swept away the private vendors waiting with their fried snacks and sweets for the passengers; then the number of trains decreased and now, finally, they have closed the musty cafe that continued to sell soft drinks, ice cream and drinks to the people of the neighborhood. The current reason, according to neighbors, is that they want to prevent quarantined people from leaving the hotel, crossing the street and trying to buy alcoholic beverages on the other side.

That’s what we call in Cuba throwing out the sofa*. When, in order to solve a small problem, other situations and services that had nothing to do with the difficulty are eliminated. It’s like throwing the whole living room out the window. More or less what is happening in my neighborhood.

So I picked up the ball. I threw it back to the other side of the fence, I wiped my hands with a cloth with alcohol that I take with me on the few incursions that I make to the street right now. I continued to the bakery but it was already closed. I returned home.

When I entered, after taking off my shoes in the hallway and washing my hands, I reviewed the latest official statistics: 11 killed by Covid-19 in Cuba, 396 positive cases and 1,752 admitted. Numbers that, even made up, are deeply alarming.

I still had some flour left and improvised some cookies. Hard, but enough to “entertain” as my grandmother would say. We are fine, much better than those young people I saw playing soccer this morning, but with a question mark over their heads. They are in medical isolation in our neighborhood, we live in a country in permanent quarantine.

*Translator’s note: Briefly, the expression comes from a Cuban joke where a man comes home and finds his wife on the sofa getting it on with another man. His solution? He throws the sofa out the window.

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In Santiago de Cuba They Are Recommending Anamu Tablets to Fight the Pandemic

The shortage of basic products is also forcing people into the streets despite the risks.(Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, April 2020. Even before hot weather starts in Santiago de Cuba, official measures to counter Covid-19 haven’t discouraged residents from going outside. The need to buy food combines with a sense that risks are low, thereby worsening the situation.

Many Santiago residents find it hard to comply with guidance in the local press to not go outside after 7 PM. The Provincial Defense Council’s resolution was announced on April 3, but pedestrians and groups were again taking to the avenues and plazas last weekend.

“People in Santiago aren’t compliant,” Luis Ponce, a young Santiago resident who runs an electrical appliance repair business. “On Saturday, the police had to come out with dogs to get people out of the parks.” In his opinion, the population has not yet accepted the seriousness of the situation. continue reading

Overcrowded housing is one of the key factors that makes Santiago de Cuba a city that lives with its doors open to the outside. “Putting the domino table in front of the house, spending the night sitting on the sidewalk to cool off, letting the kids play in the hallway, that was our life until a little while ago,” says Yampier, a young man in the San Pedrito barrio.

“The only thing to do here for fun at night is to go down to the park or stay in the barrio with your friends, but now the police want us inside the house, but there are eight of us in mine,” he says sadly. “After spending an hour cooped up in my house I can’t take it any more. If it’s not my sister’s little boy crying, it’s my grandmother complaining, or my father drunk.”

“Anamú tablets versus coronavirus,” is the headline in the state-run Sierra Maestra newspaper over a text promoting the pills.

“The situation is very critical,” Nelva Ortega, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba and a resident of the Altamira neighborhood, tells 14ymedio. “Food is lacking in every one of our homes, because there is a supply shortage.”

“I went out last Sunday and when I was looking for some kind of meat the only thing we found was really expensive ground turkey, and they don’t let you buy more than two packages,” the medical school graduate says. “When there were sausages, which now there aren’t, they only let you buy one package. Chicken, when they had it a few days ago, which led to kilometer-long lines, they only sold you one package.”

Ortega notes that “there were people who had been in line since the day before. At 5 in the afternoon, you can see people in line to buy for the next day. Right now, you can’t find toothpaste in any store, and when soap is for sale you can only buy two.”

A third factor is aggravating the problem of crowds in the streets. Although Santiago de Cuba Province has received major investments in recent years to upgrade the water and sewage system, water delivery is still a problem in many neighborhoods. Distribution cycles have been spread out, and in some areas, water is not being delivered once a week, as it had been.

“The situation is tending to worsen,” said Sierra Maestra, the official newspaper. But the prolonged drought has made increased use of tanker trucks necessary for Santiago residents. Long and closely packed lines in front of the tankers, as people wait to fill up their buckets and containers, create conditions for the spread of Covid-19.

In an effort to lift peoples’ spirits, official media don’t hesitate to promote natural products, such as Anamú, to fight the pandemic. Tablets produced in the Laboratorio Farmacéutico Oriente (Oriente Pharmaceutical Laboratory) stimulate “the body’s production of interferon, an essential protein to fight against different pathogens and viruses, in this case an effective measure against Covid-19,” Sierra Maestra said.

Translated by Peter Katel

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Day 17 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba: Whole Families In The Lines To Buy More Products

The trick to buying more than one product is to get in line with family members, something counterproductive in times of coronavirus. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 6 April 2020 — The shouts of a neighbor brought me out of my midmorning stupor, provoked after trying for a whole hour to call one of those customer service phones that rings and rings but nobody answers. “You have to go with your son and husband, because they are giving out two per person!” the lady bellowed from the fifth floor of our building to someone on the 12th floor.

I peered out for more details. In a neighborhood store they were selling “ground turkey meat” from Canada on Monday. In order to avoid hoarding, the authorities rationed products that until recently were sold freely. But the trick to buying more is to go with family members, something counterproductive in times of coronavirus.

From my balcony I saw them, including the grandmother, leaving to go to the store where the line began to form. A while later a friend, who had marked his place in line since the early morning, called to tell me he was outside another place to buy chicken and invited me to join him. No way, I told him, even Reinaldo has chosen to be a vegetarian these days, in the face of the dangers that lurked in these crowds. continue reading

The situation is very serious.  Covid-19 has taken nine lives on this island, while 350 people have tested positive for the disease and 8 patients remain in critical condition while four are seriously ill, according to official data. Said like this, they only seem like numbers, but in reality they are lives abruptly terminated and people who died, in the majority of cases, without being abe to say goodbye to their families.

How many were infected while standing in line? It is difficult to specify, but the today in Cuba the lines are one of the main “risk areas.” The other danger is our own recklessness. The person who is not aware of the danger and continues to move through the streets without a sense of urgency, the one who believes that nothing will happen to him if he doesn’t wash his hands frequently and the one who insists that the consumption of supplements will prevent him from getting sick.

A text with the title “Tablets of Anamu vs coronavirus” promotes the consumption of this product against the pandemic in the government-run ‘Sierra Maestra’ newspaper (Capture)

The Santiago de Cuba government-run newspaper, Sierra Maestra, is one of those that promotes natural supplements to avoid contagion. Under the title “Tablets of Anamu vs coronavirus,” this local medium says that it is “a drug that stimulates the production of interferon in the body, an essential protein to combat the presence of various pathogens such as viruses, in this case effective against Covid-19.”

The most dangerous thing about this information, similar to the announcement of homeopathic drops promoted by the Ministry of Public Health (Minsap) to “prevent contagion,, is that it comes from an official source and is endorsed by the almighty State. That someone wants to use these “therapies” as a personal decision is one thing, it is another for them to be promoted as effective in a country where a public debate on their relevance in this case has not been allowed.

Reading, researching and searching for information can prevent us from falling into the clutches of false illusions and supposed miraculous cures. One of the few positive things about this pandemic is that many of my friends and acquaintances have returned to reading, after years when finishing a book was almost impossible due to lack of time and exhaustion at the end of the workday. So, at least, let’s enjoy the books!

Today I returned to the pages of The Language of the Third Reich by Victor Klemperer, a book that takes on special meaning at the moment. My philologist colleague describes in this volume how the fascist regime exalted a rhetoric in which all the products that came out of their industries were shown as “the most modern,” “the most efficient,” “the most powerful.” It immediately reminded me of the headlines in Cuba’s national press these days.

Meanwhile, in the real dimension of life everything is less grandiose but certainly more extraordinary. The pepper seeds I sowed have sprouted on my balcony, the new dog that we picked up from the street has already destroyed her first shoe, and every day that we wake up without breathing problems we celebrate, without triumphalism but with joy.

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Cuba Released Ferrer. It Is Not Enough.

José Ramón Bauza (center) and Rosa María Payá, (second from left.)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, José Ramón Bauzá, Brussels , 6 April 2020 — The release of Cuban opposition figure José Daniel Ferrer last Friday was a rare piece of good news, among a stream of bleak reports. Together with three other activists from the Patriotic Union of Cuba, Mr. Ferrer had been illegally detained since last October by Cuban authorities, despite calls for his release.

But this humanitarian gesture should not divert our attention from the true nature of Cuba’s regime, lest we invite the next crackdown on independent civil society. For if Ferrer’s case illustrates one truth is this: whenever the communist regime wants something from the international community, it takes the Cuban people hostage.

After six decades of communist rule and international isolation, Cuba is falling apart. Sadly, this is more than a metaphor. Last January, three young girls died on their way back from school when a derelict building collapsed on them in the touristic heart of Havana. continue reading

The political order too was crumbling in Cuba until the EU threw a lifeline to the regime. With the revolutionary fervour fading from the memory of new generations, the regime was in dire need of legitimation and international support. This help came in the form of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement – PDCA – signed in 2016 between the EU and Cuba.

Since the “common position” adopted in 1996, Brussels made relations with Cuba conditional on regime change. This approach was abandoned in favour of political engagement, hoping that a deepening of ties would persuade the regime to improve its human rights record. The arrest last October of José Daniel Ferrer, on politically motivated charges, showed how misguided this approach was. Emboldened by the legitimisation provided by the EU, and the block’s reluctance to suspend the PDCA even in the face of blatant violations, Cuban authorities have ramped up the repression of independent civil society.

The EU’s response to these breaches of the human rights provisions contained in the PDCA has been bland. For the Spanish and Latin American public, this comes as no surprise, especially since the appointment of Josep Borrell as High Representative. Prior to his role as Europe’s top diplomat, Mr. Borrell served as Foreign Affairs Minister for Spanish socialist PM Pedro Sánchez, whose flirtations with the leftist regimes in Venezuela and Bolivia have been widely criticised. Sanchez’s group in the European Parliament even voted against the November resolution that called for the release of José Daniel Ferrer, and a recent delegation to Cuba led by S&D’s head Iratxe García was criticised for visiting the island while many MEPs continue to be denied entry.

With the release of Mr. Ferrer, many in Brussels and Madrid will try to present this gesture as a sign of changing attitudes in Cuba, wanting to resume business as usual. This would be a serious mistake which will only further the misery of the Cuban people.

Whenever Diaz-Canel wants to divert attention from his regime’s shortcomings, the authorities resort to the imprisonment of opposition figures, just to release them later in a show of goodwill from Havana, and of ‘successful diplomacy’ from Europe. In the meantime, any discussion about the lack of real progress in the island is buried under this vicious cycle of illegal imprisonment, international condemnation and ‘welcomed steps’.

If we are truly committed to promoting the rule of law and human rights in Cuba now is the time to demand further changes in the island, starting with the release of all political prisoners, and the inclusion of independent civil society in the EU-Cuba human rights dialogue. Otherwise, the way to Cuban’s hell will continue to be paved with the EU’s good intentions.

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José Ramón Bauzá is Ciudadano´s Member of the European Parliament. He is on Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

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Day 16 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba: Homeopathy Will Not Save Us, Even If Official Television Says So

On watching official television, you may think that we live in California or Sao Paulo, due to the amount of reporting dedicated to them. (ACN)

14ymedio biggerYoani Sanchez, Havana, 5 April 2020 — I’m annoyed. Anger rises in my throat. Today I have learned that the coronavirus knocked on the door of another friend, this time a Cuban poet living in Madrid. After years of experiencing repression and censorship within the Island, Spain has been for her a terrain where she no longer had to look over her shoulder to see if the political police were following her. I hope she gets better, but the news of his situation has hit us hard.

A couple of days ago I began to look more frequently for testimonies of overcoming and survival that would help me in these dark hours, but not ones contaminated with the gruesome triumphalism of the Cuban press. That false optimism is of no use to me, because it is not impregnated with the desire to find a way out of this dark tunnel that the pandemic has created, but rather tries to score, all the time, a political gain from the emergency.

On watching official television, you may think that we live in California or Sao Paulo, due to the amount of reporting dedicated to them. The flow of negative news about the situation in other countries is staggering. With no ethics or humanism whatsoever, the broadcasters of prime time newscast even seem to gloat at the rise in victims in Madrid or Milan, something they attribute “to capitalism,” even if the scientific community points to a diminutive coronavirus. continue reading

To make matters worse, from the initial arrogance of believing that the virus was not going to affect us in Cuba as it does in other countries, officialdom has moved towards the stage of searching for the holy grail of healing. And having exhausted the hoax of the supposed effectiveness of the interferon alfa 2B is produced on the Island, that have moved on to a homeopathic solution. It would be laughable if it were not so dramatic, because we have already reached eight dead and 320 infected, according to official figures.

In a recent press conference, Francisco Durán, national director of Hygiene and Epidemiology of the Ministry of Public Health, promised that Prenvengho-Vir, a preventive homeopathic medicine, will begin to be applied on the Island as a “prophylactic measure” to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. The doctor stressed that this product helps prevent different conditions such as influenza, respiratory diseases, dengue, and emerging viral diseases or infections.

There are many serious researchers who consider homeopathy a false therapy. Although in our universities they even teach it and our health system includes it in therapeutic guides, all this is done without a scientific endorsement. Right now, speaking out against homeopathy in the Cuban Academy of Medicine is practically looking for a political problem.

In the current situation, when it is taking so long to raise awareness about the need to maintain social isolation, it seems dangerous to me to speak of prophylactic homeopathic therapy. “Don’t worry if in a few days we have a little drop,” a retiree in my building said when I went to throw out the trash today. “This is the greatest, you take it and it protects you from dengue or the flu,” he assured me. I ran scared before he wanted to make me try some concoction.

When I returned, I remembered that Sundays are cleaning days at home, whether or not we are in quarantine. But today, plans to wash, mop the floor, and give the kitchen a once over were put off until further notice. The water supply problem has gotten worse and we have to save every drop, so cleaning was reduced to the stove, a broom over the floor, and a brief swiping of dust from the furniture.

The few informal vendors that haunt the neighborhood no longer want to enter buildings. They advertise their merchandise from the street and when someone asks them to come upstairs they refuse. Today, from a window on the 14th floor, Reinaldo yelled at the top of his lungs at an informal onion vendor who was walking down the street. The shout served to guarantee our meals will be seasoned and incidentally proved to us that Reinaldo’s lung capacity is still good.

The applause at nine o’clock at night has been gradually perverted. What started in Cuba as a citizen initiative, heir to other similar ones in Italy and Spain, has ended up hijacked by officialdom. It is not surprising, but already in our neighborhood, newly voices, recently raised, try to impose political slogans on the ovation, drown the “thank you” dedicated to the doctors with cheers for the Revolution and Díaz-Canel. Regrettable.

So today, at nine o’clock at night, I will choose to recite some verses. On behalf of my sick poet friend in Madrid. For my neighbor who believes in the strength of homeopathic drops, I will have to invoke the complete Vademecum.

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Day 15 of the Covid 19 Emergency in Cuba: My Doctor Friend Has Become a Patient

Saturday, the authorities have updated the figures of Covid-19: six deaths and 288 testing positive. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 4 April 2020 — Today has been a bittersweet day. At home we have all felt good but a doctor friend is isolated and suspected of having Covid-19. He has spent years saving lives in a dilapidated Havana hospital but now it is his that is in danger. Very prepared and committed to his profession, he has now become a patient. My applause tonight will be dedicated to him.

This Saturday, the authorities have updated the figures for Covid-19 on the Island, which has caused six deaths and 288 people testing positive. Of particular concern are the eight critically ill patients and the three seriously ill people, confirmed by sources from the Ministry of Public Health. The incidence of the disease in medical personnel is still a question mark.

My friend, a doctor, now isolated, tells me that the official warnings came late, that the protection measures took too long to arrive and that by the time he began to feel the first symptoms, he had been crying for more work gloves for weeks. “Before this, I received three or four a day to treat all patients, but with coronavirus you can’t do it that way,” he tells me on WhatsApp, his only current link with his family and friends. continue reading

I think about him, in an place of isolation where he cannot offer attention, but receives it, and it makes me sad. As a journalist, when I imagine a situation in which I couldn’t report what is happening, the feeling I get is thoughts of impotence. The forced and necessary quarantine is not just a hard blow for the economy and mobility of a country, but also for the professions that need to be in contact with people and with reality.

So among my great proccupations, along with the health of my loved ones and my own, is the situation of people like my medical friend who has become a patient and that of so many independent reporters that I know for whom the emergency has significantly reduced their ability to work, while the repression does not spare them. There is no scheduled applause at nine o’clock every day for the press, but it turns out that without them we would know little or nothing about the sacrifice of doctors, the agony of the sick or the resilience of societies.

Personally, today I have dedicated a brief tribute to all those journalists who keep us updated. It has not been complicated, because from the time I get up, my coffee has the flavor of reporting, my life revolves around the news and up to eight out of ten calls that come into our telephone line are from someone who wants to report an event fact, a mishap or get details of some happening. Our professional life is totally merged with our personal space.

On this 14th floor we try to stay healthy for our family and for our readers. Industries stop, roads empty, discos close their doors but who could imagine a world without news right now. We have a tough challenge and an immense responsibility: Who is going to tell us what is happening?

Years ago, when my son was young, I realized that as long as I had to take care of him, I hardly got sick. If any discomfort came, it would last me a few hours, hardly a day. I understood that when you are aware that you are looking out for someone else or others, it helps to strengthen us, at least emotionally and mentally to overcome adversities. It does not mean that we become invulnerable or immune, but that we learn to cope with difficulties knowing that someone urgently needs us to be healthy.

Readers are anything but children or patients, anything but vulnerable beings, anything but people who depend on us journalists. But while they are there with their voracity for information, their criticism of each of our reports, their harsh opinions when we are wrong and their words of encouragement when we are right, getting sick in a newsroom is something that we can hardly afford.

Today the onion that I planted a few days ago on the terrace of the Editorial Office has sprouted, we have named the new dog Chiqui because she is still small although she threatens to become Maxi, and we ate the last egg we had left from rationing. “We are breathing, no one with a fever, no one with a cough,” we optimistically respond to all the friends who call.

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We Need Your Help to Report on the Covid-19 Crisis in Cuba

In Cuba, the independent media suffer the limitations on movement imposed on their reporters, the collapse of the networks and the intensification of censorship. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 March 2020  — These are difficult times for everyone and journalism is also being badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. In Cuba, the independent media suffer the limitations on movement imposed on their reporters, the collapse of the networks and the intensification of censorship.

Our collaborators cannot come to our Havana Newsroom to deliver their work and, in many cases, they can’t go to a Wi-Fi zone to send updated content. They have to resort to mobile communications, which are very expensive on the Island.

For this reason, our communications expenses have increased at the same time that advertising revenues and readers’ contributions to our membership program are decreasing due to the uncertainty that is spreading throughout the world.

In these circumstances, continuing to prepare updated reporting on the Cuban reality, and providing you with quality and truthful information, becomes increasingly costly, as well as difficult. Hence, we are making a special call asking you to support us in these “times of coronavirus.”

You can contribute any amount you decide, through our PayPal account. Below is the “Donate” button that you can use or, if you prefer, access the link. Thank you very much in advance!

Please click on the image.

(Note, the ‘comma’ in the payment screen is a decimal point. Your choices are $10, $20, $50, or any amount you choose.)

Day 14 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba

“Maybe that’s why, now, when I hear sirens again and again, I have a feeling that reality is collapsing around me.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 3 April 2020 — The Covid-19 emergency in Cuba has its own sound or rather its “no sound.” If, before, from our house we heard the constant roar of the nearby Rancho Boyeros Avenue, now there is a rare stillness that fills everything. A “collateral benefit” of the drama we are experiencing with the emergence of the coronavirus in Cuba is the decrease in vehicle traffic on the streets.

Occasionally, with increasing frequency, that calm is broken by sirens, as happened this morning. We were sitting around the table and heard the haunting sound. “If before it was once or twice a day, now it’s every hour,” said our son. We continued sipping our coffee, but the idea that in a vehicle traveling at full speed, running all the lights without stopping, there might be someone whose life was in danger, we choked on breakfast.

When I was a little girl and official television broadcast serials where Cuban intelligence agents infiltrated the exile, sirens abounded in scenes representing the world on the other side of the Florida Straits. There were almost always older men, surrounded by young, scantily clad women, a glass of whiskey in hand, perhaps a swimming pool, and the background noise of an ambulance, fire truck, or police patrol. continue reading

That was such a used dramatic image, that in my childish mind, outside of Cuba people were always one step away from being carried away on a stretcher, seeing their house burn down or being arrested. A small sonic detail became effective ideological propaganda to tell us that it was better to be inside the Island, safeguarded by that authoritarian father who is Castroism.

Maybe that’s why, now, when I hear sirens again and again, I have a feeling that reality is collapsing around me. If we add to this that the city is quieter than usual, the alarms are more prominent and seem even more dramatic. In a country where, as of today, official figures count 269 positive cases for Covid-19 and six in critical condition, there are reasons to be concerned.

This Friday I did not have to leave home. I made some croquettes, I stretched the rice I got yesterday and some carrots, also bought on Thursday in a nearby market, saved me and I could make a very tasty sauce. The canine and feline herd had to settle for a “vegetarian” proposal and one of the onions I planted a few days ago began to sprout. Life goes on, even though the city is sunk in lethargy.

The paralysis of transportation, the closure of many industries and some of the services, has meant that this morning we woke up with a clear and beautiful sky… at least in apart of the Cuban capital. Towards the south, the airport area and Santiago de las Vegas, it looked blue and clear, but in the direction of Central Havana, Old Havana and the Bay a cloud of smoke covered the city.

The Ñico López refinery continues to spread a dark stain over the neighborhoods as a result of the processing of hydrocarbons. In a territory where other industries are idled, that language of contamination is much more noticeable. That and the sound of sirens.

I continued planting this afternoon, attentive to the noises coming from the balcony. Today, I added some coriander seeds and also transplanted some positions of aloe vera, known in Cuba as sábila, which is the species of which we have the most specimens on this 14th floor balcony. The plants will germinate, grow and we will harvest them with that ” musical band,” with the background sound of anguish.

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The Communist Regimea€’s First Measures for Cuban Entrepreneurs: A Small Step

Passengers getting out of a private shared-taxi operated by a ‘botero’ in a time before the Covid-19. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerElías Amor Bravo, Economist, March 21, 2020  — Gradually we are learning about some of the measures the communist Cuban government is using to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the activity of the private sector on the Island, led by the small businesses of self-employed workers.

In particular, apparently the Regime has approved a series of tax, work and lending measures that, generally, resemble those that other countries have adopted for self-employed persons and independent professionals. The details are given below.

The measures have already received positive reviews by some Cuban businessmen on Twitter and are considered “an important support for the thousands of enterprises that right now are completely affected by the world epidemic situation,” says Oniel Díaz, co-founder of AUGE and MP de Kreab in Cuba, which does consulting for private businesses. continue reading

“Furthermore,” he adds, “it was a wise decision for the prime minister to obtain cooperation from the private sector to make it possible for the more than 11,000 tourists who are staying in private rentals to leave Cuba. It’s not a minor detail.”

And, he emphasizes finally, that “cooperation, alliances and dialogue are the tools we have at hand to face together, in addition to this challenge, everything  ahead of us on the national economy front.”

I’m afraid that we must greatly lower expectations and say that with these measures, what’s most probable is that the entire Cuban private sector will have to struggle with an elevated mortality rate for small businesses and establishments. I have the impression that the measures have been designed specifically for the tourism sector, and they haven’t taken into account the fact that self-employment in Cuba is really much more diverse and varied, fortunately. What we need is reflection and a more accurate approach.

I understand that mortality won’t happen, for example, in the case of the high official of the Regime who rents rooms in his residence in Havana’s Plaza or Miramar neighborhoods to foreign tourists, because the income he gets from this activity complements his salary, which is higher than average. And he can even benefit from the fiscal cuts announced, because foreigners are not going to be arriving in the next months and his income will be temporarily crushed. The renegotiation of a loan, for those who are credit-worthy, can also benefit him.

In the case of many retired business people, the impact of COVID-19 and the measures detailed below can be inconsequential if the government keeps their employment and salaries intact.

Those Cubans who bet exclusively on self-employment activity and not only on tourism will have problems.

We are thinking, for example, about the thousand brave Cubans who travel every day with Spanish passports to the duty-free zones in Cancún, the Dominican Republic and even Haiti to bring back every kind of provision to be sold on the island. The brakes will abruptly be put on this channel because of the general closing of borders, and this was the main way for many small businesses to get goods and services. Without this supply, more small businesses will fail, since we can’t wait for the Communist Regime to improve the logistics of distribution in Cuba.

And what can the tenant farmer hope for when he can’t find the supplies he needs for production in the local economy? He has been forgotten, except for his debts with the bank which could be renegotiated. The crops will have to be harvested and brought to the markets, and in a situation of isolation and extreme hygiene measures, you have to ask what will happen to the small business workers who bring the merchandise and food to homes, like the pushcart vendors.

Even the brave taxi drivers (known as “boteros” or “boatmen”) in the Havana tourist zones could benefit from the planned measures for the reduction of income or exchange for credit, if they existed. In this case, the question is that if the boteros not only drive tourists but also a good part of the population, why is adequate public transport lacking? When isolation begins and the demand for national trips no longer exists, the situation will be much more serious. It won’t seem fair to the boteros, and they are right to ask why their monthly taxes aren’t reduced by 50% like they are in the case of food service activities. Why not them, too?

With these considerations, what I want to convey is that the measures of the Cuban Communist Regime are interesting for private tourism and are focused on something less than 3% of the economy’s GDP. The private activity in restaurants and lodging are important, but the reality is that most tourists stay in the hotels owned by the conglomerates of State Security and the Army, and they use the services of these networks.

The rest of the rich and varied private economy of professionals, designers, sellers and providers of personal services, in the spheres described and in others, find themselves abandoned and with an evident lack of response on the part of the authorities, who should be planning as the crisis advances. If this continues, the emerging private sector in Cuba will be pitiful after COVID-19.

Taxation

  • Extend the time for tax payments for businesses that suspend activity on their own or by governmental decision.
  • Reduce by 50% the payment of monthly fees for food service activities.
  • Authorize a reduction in monthly fees for administrators of tourist centers and sites with a high concentration of tourists.
  • Decrease to one single minimum payment the tax on bank accounts.

Employment

  • Protect the salary for contracted workers who continue to work at no less than the minimum wage of the country.
  • Extend the period of authorization for designated workers who fill in for an owner who is out of the country and unable to return for 3 months.

Loans

  • Stop collecting on authorized loans that can be restructured.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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Day 13 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba: The Daily Fight for Food

The Covid-19 crisis has only just begun on the Island, with 233 positive cases and six deaths, but the problem of access to food is already more serious. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 2 April 2020 – A mask can be a protection and a shield. When part of the face is covered, it is easy to outwit the police. Something that shouldn’t normally matter, but that in Cuba can be vital. Now, when I blend into the crowd with my mask, I manage to mislead those who have been given the job of following me every day. Facemask and wig, facemask and hat… indecipherable formula.

So today I ventured out as a curly redhead with a ‘durako’* facemask. The neighbor who spies on me didn’t even realize it was me. I went out because we no longer have bread, we no longer have milk, we no longer have enough food for the herd that is made up of, in addition to three humans, two dogs and a cat. So, as the daily war cry on this island says: To battle!

I went out to the daily struggle, the one that those who run this country have not experienced for years, conscientiously ignore, and know that they cannot publicly acknowledge. It is the jungle, “every man for himself.” With my red curls I stand in line for chicken in a store on Calzada del Cerro. I must confess that when I faced the brawl necessary to enter, I restrained myself and missed my turn, lacking the aggressiveness to throw some elbows. I can’t do it anymore. continue reading

A crowd rushed in front of me. I tried to invoke the times when I fought, nearly coming to blows for food, but I did not succeed. I lacked the oomph. My neighbors in the Cayo Hueso tenement where I was born would disown me if I told them this. I even invoked my years, in the middle of the Special Period, when I was a boarder at the Socialist Republic of Romania High School and lived many days in which the “law of the strongest” prevailed, but today I did not manage to release my inner beast.

In the girls’ dorm where I lived in the 90s, we invented a lot of recipes to survive. I remember the day I stole an eggplant from the field where we worked and, after cutting it into slices, I put the electric iron on it, the one we used to remove wrinkles from our school uniforms. I added lemon and coriander. It was delicious. My classmates, who slept in the nearby bunks, called this “generation Y grilled steak,” in honor of the letter with which most names began at that time. That was the embryo of a blog that I founded years later.

Only he who has been hungry knows what hunger is. It is not just the howling in the stomach, the anxiety and the weakness caused by a decrease in one’s food intake. Hunger is an attitude and an emotional state: if you lack food, it is all you can think about it over and over, as happened to me and my fellow teenagers between the four walls of a concrete block in the municipality of Alquízar. Neither libido nor family mattered, we woke up and fell asleep thinking about what to put in our mouths.

Many in Cuba have spent decades feeling hunger, but all this can flare up now. Something as basic as chicken has become a luxury product. The Covid-19 crisis has only just begun on the Island, with 233 positive cases and six deaths, but according to what we read, the problem of access to food is already more serious than in the epicenters of the pandemic which Milan, Madrid and New York have become. They are living through dramatic days from the health point of view, but in our case with regards to the emergency in supplies, it’s out of the frying pan into the fire.

I no longer have an iron. Years ago I stopped trying to smooth out my clothes. Is it of any use? But today I remembered the eggplants that I ironed out in a dorm with narrow beds where nobody dared to sleep in the lower bunks because at night rats invaded all the spaces attached to the floor. Once I left some shoes and books down below and they’d been nibbled in the morning. After remembering that, I repeated to myself that I could face almost anything.

It does not matter if I am wearing a red wig and a mask that covers my entire face, I am a survivor, because I say so; all that’s left to see is what the last word is that the coronavirus has for me.

*Translator’s note: “Durako” refers to a kind of cosplay popular among young Cubans.

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Jose Daniel Ferrer Released After Being Sentenced to Four Years of House Arrest

José Daniel Ferrer had been arrested in October 2019. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 April 2020 — The government opponent José Daniel Ferrer was released this Friday after a six-month detention. The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba has been sentenced to four years and six months of house imprisonment, as confirmed by dissident Félix Navarro to 14ymedio.

Along with Ferrer, activists Fernando González Vaillant, Roilán Zárraga Ferrer and José Pupo Chaveco, members of Unpacu, were also released.

“I spoke with José Daniel just now, he is already out of prison, he was very happy and wanted to continue speaking but we cut it short because I know that there are many people who now want to speak with him,” Navarro explained to this newspaper. “He told me that he is still convicted and that he will continue his sentence but in house arrest for four years, both he and the other three activists.” continue reading

Shortly after being released, Ferrer told the Martínoticias website that on Friday morning he was transferred to the Provincial Court of Santiago de Cuba where he was notified of the sentence of four years of house arrest. In front of the authorities, the opponent stated emphatically: “I am going to continue protesting, I am going to continue fighting against tyranny until Cuba is free and democratic.”

Ferrer was arrested on October 1 and accused of assaulting another man, but, according to those close to him, it was a crime “prefabricated” by the Government. The Prosecutor’s Office initially requested a sentence of 9 years in prison and the sentence took weeks to be announced.

The trial against Ferrer took place on Wednesday, February 26, and lasted for fourteen hours. The delivery of the sentence was initially planned for March 12 but was postponed without the authorities giving any explanations.

Unpacu then denounced that in the courtroom “only some relatives were about to be present, however, more than 40 people were sitting there. Many belonged to the political police and others were completely unknown.”

The United States has spoken on numerous occasions in support of the leader of Unpacu, the last time through a report in which it regretted the human rights violations that occur on the Island. The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, sent a letter addressed to his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodríguez, to ask for the dissident’s “immediate” release.

The European Union high representative for foreign policy, Josep Borrell, also demanded a fair trial for the opponent and told the press that the Union had asked to be present during the hearing but did not receive the go-ahead.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch along with institutions such as the Organization of American States (OAS) have also requested his release on several occasions.

The leader of Unpacu is one of the Cuban opponents best-known outside the Island, since he was part of the group of 75 convicted in 2003during the so-called Black Spring, and released between 2010 and 2011 on parole after a dialogue in which the Catholic Church and the Spanish Government mediated.

He was also one of the twelve dissidents from the Black Spring who decided to remain in Cuba after his release, while the rest moved to Spain and other countries.

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Day 12 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba

In Cuba, more than 200 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were announced, a figure that may skyrocket in the coming days when rapid tests will be administered. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 1 April 2020 — It was known, but on this Island the rumors are weeks ahead of the official announcements. Sometimes, many times, the so-called Radio Bemba [gossip] knows in advance what, in time, the national press will publish as news. Days ago it was clear that the parade on May 1st would not take place and, since mid-March, in state workplaces many voices cried out for its suspension.

So yesterday, when it was confirmed that “calabaza, calabaza, nadie pá la Plaza” [pumpkin, pumpkin, no one will go to the Plaza] due to the dangers of a mass gathering with the advance of Covid-19 in Cuba, few were surprised. Without a doubt, the cancellation is a wise decision in a country where more than 200 confirmed cases of the disease were announced this Wednesday, a figure that could skyrocket in the coming days when rapid tests will be administered.

The same people who, until recently, insisted that there would be a parade at any price, now are conveniently silent and repeat that “the Directorate of the country knows what it is doing,” as a neighbor I met in the hallway told me this morning.  He is the same man who assured me a decade ago that a pound of pork would drop to 8 Cuban pesos (CUP) after some measures to promote state farms, but now it is at 50 CUP. continue reading

When I was a child I liked to go to the May Day parades with my parents. In addition to the hustle and bustle and general tumult, I loved some natural juices that were distributed for free to the participants and that, if memory serves me correctly, we called Jupuro. Once a year I had the chance to drink that nectar that came in a waxed cardboard box, all of which was a surprise to me, knowing nothing of tetrapacks and aluminum cans.

But later, the childhood enthusiasm passed and I realized that as a worker I was not going to be represented in a gathering that, instead of requests and demands, sings praises to power. When I graduated from university, for a long time I earned 198 CUP per month, less than $ 10, but I never saw a single poster in that “party of the proletariat” that demanded – in the Plaza of the Revolution – better salaries.

So I stopped going a long time ago and probably will only return to the parade on an International Workers’ Day when carrying a poster denouncing wage insecurity is not prohibited in Cuba and when the great boss, called the State, stops presenting itself as the savior of the working class. In reality, it earns huge capital gains, pays miserable wages, prohibits the right to strike, and condemns us to not even having a union to represent us.

Holding my proletarian diatribe within, today I worked on the flower boxes on my balcony. The potatoes are not yet germinating and they worry me, because all my hopes of having that tuber on my table in the coming weeks are pinned on my home garden. The plants that are beautiful are the flowers of my franchipani [plumeria rubra]. When I talk about the beauty of this shrub that stands on my balcony, most of my friends ask me “do you eat it?” and no, it is not eaten, but it is food for the soul, which is also essential in this time.

I haven’t felt well today. I don’t know if it’s the stress experienced in these “times of the coronavirus” or that the body starts to resent the tensions of waiting. Nothing worrying, just that these days any discomfort sets off the alarms and what was insignificant now becomes a suspicion.

But I’m fine. I write, I sow, I go out to buy food but, in addition, along with the diminished food that I get, I get stories: anecdotes, statements and even jokes that people want to share in extreme situations.

“This happens to us because we are alive, those over there no longer have this problem,” a flower vendor I found a few meters from the wall of Havana’s Colon Cemetery told me this morning. “Here we have coronaviruses, but in the ‘face-up neighborhood’ they would give anything to be on this side,” he emphasized with something that looked like a smile, but his facemask did not allow me to see it.

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Cuban Doctors Risk Their Lives To Escape The Shortages

Cuban doctors who traveled to Lombardy in northern Italy displayed flags of both countries and a large photograph of Fidel Castro. (PresidenciaCuba)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 1 April 2020 — The applause was felt everywhere. This Sunday at nine o’clock in the evening, an ovation crossed Cuba, in tribute to the health personnel who are on the front line of confrontation with Covid-19. As in other countries affected by the pandemic, people have wanted to acknowledge the sacrifice of doctors, who in Cuba must not only deal with the risk of becoming infected, but also with the material deterioration of the hospitals and low wages.

For decades, the Cuban health system has been highly praised by official propaganda and has become almost a myth at an international level. The fact that healthcare is free of cost to all and available to all is presented as one of the great “achievements of the Revolution,” and, for many, the health of the Island is a benchmark of how the sector should be managed. However, discontent grows among Cubans about the dire state of the hospitals, where the patients themselves must bring everything from sheets to food.

As the coronavirus spreads throughout the country – where according to official figures there are already 170 people who have tested positive for the disease and six who have died— our entire health network is being tested. In support of the Cuban doctors, they have been trained in contingency and working with few resources, so they have a special capacity to deal with the shortage of supplies that is becoming even more acute right now. Many of them are “graduates” in the harsh school of chronic crisis. continue reading

This ability to do a lot with little is one of the strengths that Cuban doctors have exhibited in recent days to countries where the coronavirus is taking hundreds or thousands of lives. More than 40 nations have requested the support of the island’s health professionals, as reported by the Ministry of Public Health. A necessary request and, without a doubt, a wise decision, because they will receive doctors experienced in emergency situations.

However, it must be said that the fine print of these agreements between the Cuban Government and the countries that call for health personnel almost never makes headlines anywhere. Those doctors will provide their services in semi-slavery conditions because, of the money the hosts pay, only a tiny part will end up in their pockets.

Our self-sacrificing doctors will work, sweat, and risk their lives, but the biggest beneficiary will be a government that doesn’t show transparency about what is done with every centavo earned from medical missions. Although official voices repeat that this money is invested in improving national health facilities and services, there is no clear record and the same could go to save lives rather than to sustain the repression.

On the other hand, although the desire to heal is the main motivation of their work, these doctors will have to accept that their work is publicly dressed up in the robes of ideology. It is enough to see the images of the Cuban doctors before leaving for Italy, posing next to a portrait of Fidel Castro, to understand that their trip is also being used by the Plaza of the Revolution as a marketing operation. The authorities want to extract ideological revenue from the pandemic and spread the idea that an authoritarian model cuts freedoms but saves lives. In other words, in these regimes, it is not possible to behave oneself as a citizen, but rather as an eternal patient.

The official discourse is disrupted when one of those doctors decides not to return to the Island. From the smiling photo and the epithet “hero of the country” they will come to suffer the stigma of being considered a “deserter.” It is enough that a doctor fails to return from a mission for them to be forbidden to enter Island to be reunited with their family for eight long years and, in addition, they will lose the salary in national currency that they have already earned, which had been accumulating in a bank account in Cuba.

So why do they go to these missions where they risk their lives and where they earn so little, many will wonder. The answer is complex but worth exploring. The humanitarian vocation is part of the motivations, but there is more: Getting out of the island prison is a respite in the midst of such a hard daily life. Despite being in an emergency zone, over there they will have access to many more services and products, so they will be able to bring merchandise to Cuba that will relieve their situation and that of their family.

A few years ago I met a doctor, epidemiologist, and university professor, who accepted a medical mission in Venezuela because it was the only possibility of obtaining the resources to repair the roof of her house. On this island we have the harsh contrasts of running into a neurosurgeon who is going to operate on a brain without having had breakfast, because his salary is not enough to have a glass of milk each day, and of a nephrologist who asks his patients to buy him a snack to cope with the workday.

Despite the fact that some years ago the salary of health professionals became the highest pay in all of Cuba, right now it is very difficult to find any of them who earn more than the equivalent of 70 dollars a month, and this in a country where a liter of vegetable oil costs over $2.50 and in state stores a liter of milk costs more than $1.50. Our doctors live, practically, in penury.

All this and much more influences why they get on a plane to provide their professional services outside the country, even if they risk their lives and even though they know that the Government is going to keep most of their income. They also do it because they love their profession and one day they swore to face illness and death, because they are magnificent human beings, like all the doctors on the planet, and not because they profess an ideology or because they are members of a certain party.

They, our doctors, are the true heroes of these days and not because of what the official press says. So tonight, when the clock strikes nine, I will clap wildly for them on my balcony. I will do so to acknowledge their effort, but it will not be an ovation for the system that has condemned them to wage poverty and political docility. Come clap your hands for our white-coat heroes.

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This text was originally published by Deustche Welle’s Latin America page.

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Cuba Records its First Case of Local Transmission of COVID-19

The Cuban commercial network has again suffered shortages of products like chicken, powdered milk, cheese, yogurt, and detergent. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, EFE, Havana, March 28, 2020 — Cuban health authorities acknowledged this Friday the first case of local infection of COVID-19, which until now had only occurred stemming from foreigners or Cuban travelers arriving with the disease on the Island, according to official reports.

The Cuban Minister of Health, José Ángel Portal, reported this Friday during the television program Round Table that local contagion occurred in the “Cardenas municipality, in the Matanzas province” and came from a hotel host from Varadero.

That man was diagnosed with COVID-19 after being infected by “a group of Italian tourists,” and his case was included on the list of positives for coronavirus that was disseminated on March 21. continue reading

From this patient 53 contacts were identified, who went on to isolation and epidemiologic observation and, of whom, four family members and a friend were found positive for the novel coronavirus.

Until this Saturday, in Cuba 119 positive cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed, 2,000 people were isolated under observation, and 3 deceased, the last of whom was a 52-year-old Cuban man.

The World Health Organization (WHO) had reported Cuba as a country with local COVID-19 transmission since March 19, but it wasn’t until Friday that Ministry of Public Health authorities confirmed it.

 1/ Questions for the Ministry of Public Health Cuba

Why is the WHO reporting Cuba as a country with local transmission of COVID-19 since March 19, but it wasn’t until yesterday, Friday the 28th [sic], that Health authorities confirmed this on state media?

– @invntario March 28, 2020

On the other hand, the Cuban Government announced this Friday, March 27, 2020 measures in the economic sector and retail trade focused on prioritizing the production of food and controlling its distribution to avoid crowds in face of the complex scenario created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Vice Prime Minister, Alejandro Gil, explained during a television appearance that priority will be given to the production of food on the Island and concentrating resources on basic products, like the production of cement, medicine, cleaning products, and renewable energy sources.

“We must respond to this situation in an ordered manner, which allows taking a group of decisions to confront the pandemic with the least economic cost possible and that allows us to recover,” stressed the Minister, who also holds the office of Economy and Planning.

Gil called for looking for solutions “by our own hands,” which, in the realm of food, means promoting agricultural production with short cycle cultivation and the farming in urban spaces of products like plantains, corn, pork, rice, beans, and eggs.

The Minister said that the importation of basic products for feeding the population is “being carried out,” a line to which the country dedicates more than $2 billion per year. “A restriction in import supply is evident because countries are producing less, as well as difficulties in accessing financing sources and external credit, which demonstrates a decrease in the country’s productive levels and in foreign investment,” he said.

In recent weeks, the Island’s commerical network has again suffered from shortages in products like chicken, powdered milk, cheese, yogurt, and detergent, which has produced long lines and crowding that go against recommendations at the time of the contagious coronavirus.

Since last Tuesday the lines have begun to be regulated, keeping the proper distance of at least a meter between people. Stores must enforce the separation and it is necessary to avoid disorder, but the shortages and the popular fears have made it practically impossible to comply with those measures.

In face of the crisis, the Minister of Interior Commerce, Betsy Díaz, announced this Friday the “controlled and regulated” sale of a series of products, to avoid hoarding and resale. She specified that there are products that cannot be marketed by the “ration booklet.”

Starting April 30 there will also be distributed, in a controlled manner, to each person 10 ounces of peas and one pound of chicken — at an unsubsidized price of 20 CUP. In the case of cleaning products like washing and bathing soap, toothpaste, and bleach, those will be sold on a quarterly basis, in modules that will include a quantity of those articles according to the number of members in each nuclear family.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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