Without The Countryside There Is No Country

Hoeing weeds. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, July 6, 2020 —  There are serious challenges in the Cuban agricultural sector for more and better production, and Diario de Cuba has confirmed the discontent in large sectors of the campesino population over the repressive measures being applied by the Communist government.

These measures go beyond the precariousness that exists in the country, and what are considered “illegal” practices in Cuba are accepted practices by everyone who farms in countries where the free market regulates production.

In Cuba, the Government’s denunciations against the farmers have their origin in the terrible and deficient administrative judicial structure of the country, which, far from contributing to tackle the problems, makes them worse in an exorbitant way. There are all kinds of denunciations. The League of Independent Farmers, one of the organizations that promote the campaign, “Without the countryside there is no country”, has offered us some clues. continue reading

If there are problems in the food and feedstuff supply for animals, why does the Government have to sanction and repress an efficient producer who has a surplus and sells it to other producers? What reason prevents a pig farmer from obtaining some income from the sale of excess food that will certainly end up being allocated to other intermediate suppliers or the needs of the business itself? But no. This practice has been repressed by the authorities as a consequence of the denouncements that are multiplying among the producers themselves, pressured by the Communist organization, which at the local level maintains an iron control over operations to prevent them from being profitable and growing.

Another example has been the State’s intervention in harvests. Who said that expropriations don’t exist in Cuba? Far from advancing toward a necessary liberalization of the production and commercialization of agricultural products, the Government, in a return to the Communist norm since June 18, has reinforced centralization and State control over economic activities. In reality, intervention in the harvest of a producing farmer means his ruin and the impossibility of resuming the activity, in addition to the sanctions that can be applied.

Moreover, the Regime uses its communication media to blame the producing farmer as someone guilty of hoarding food and creating hunger. Instead of promoting the social image of the campesinos, as agents charged with sustaining the population in these difficult times, they are converted, in the eyes of the population, into thieves whose goal is to hide the harvests dedicated to Acopio, Cuba’s State Procurement and Distribution Agency. An injustice.

This campaign by the authorities to undermine the social base of the free campesinos in Cuba is provoking the first fears founded on the continuous aggression and the instruments of repression that exert a chilling effect on the freedom of economic participants. A sale of a product at a price which doesn’t agree with Acopio, for example, results in the immediate confiscation of the harvest. And the problem is none other than Acopio’s prices. While Cubans have to face elevated prices in the markets where they make their purchases, the producer is barely paid for his work, and furthermore, the debts of the State, prolonged in time, end up generating problems of solvency.

The League has denounced equally the scant attention paid by the Communist leaders to the needs of the farmers, something so simple as repairing a roof by supplying the construction material that the farmers can’t freely acquire. Rains affect the harvest, but without insurance that covers the damage, the losses ravage the field, and the State doesn’t assume its part of the responsibility. This occurs even with tobacco, a product intended for export that provides very important hard currency to the Government, income which barely reaches the producer.

To these problems are added infestations and infections that can’t be combatted because of the lack of pesticides and treatments that, instead of being produced in the country, have to be imported from the exterior. I don’t know what they are waiting for to advance in creating substitutions for imports. The Government is limited to blaming the embargo, but it doesn’t provide solutions to the problems.

Many of us ask how it’s possible that agriculture in Cuba produces these types of problems. That campaign, “Without the countryside there’s no country” is fully justified, because it looks for a 180-degree change in present conditions, certainly complicated, in those who engage in agricultural activity in Cuba.

The demands for freedom by food producers and the suspension of taxation for at least 10 years to strengthen development have been answered with more vigilance and repression. The consequence is that the shortage of food will increase, and Cuba will approach that food crisis spoken about by the United Nations World Food Program, which the Cuban authorities don’t want to recognize.

Time is running out for urgent changes, and hardship approaches. The problem of food is not going to be solved by planting in the yards of city homes, or in pots or on balconies. It cannot be solved until the ownership of the land is returned to the farmers and the free market in order to decide what they deem appropriate for their production and harvests.

It’s not a matter of leasing more land. Raúl Castro’s formula hasn’t given the predicted results. What needs to be done is to reverse the Communist agrarian reform, which has been a big historic fraud for Cuban campesinos, and which has prostrated the formerly competitive Cuban agriculture, in a structural crisis. The Cuban countryside can return, but it needs support and freedom. And thus, it has to be said very clearly, “Without the countryside there is no country”.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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Cuba’s 26th of July Celebration, Never Again

Raul Castro embraces his successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel, on the last July 26th celebrated in Cuba.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 8 July 2020 – As part of the measures related to the pandemic, it has been confirmed that the 67th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada barracks will not be celebrated with massive events. Instead, “activities in accordance with the epidemiological situation, as was done on May 1st – Labor Day – are promoted.” The slogan “Siempre es 26” [the 26th is forever] will be repeated and old and new allegorical songs will be heard, but perhaps most significantly, this will surely be the last July 26th in which Raúl Castro formally appears at the forefront of the decisions in Cuba.

Gone are the days when the 22-year-old fled at full speed down Garzón Street in Santiago de Cuba after tossing his weapons and putting on civilian pants that he carried as a precaution. Realizing that the Moncada barracks operation had failed, he abandoned his position in the Palace of Justice from where he had to cover the assailants’ withdrawal.

At least that was what Raúl Castro himself recounted when he was captured and taken to the Santiago de Cuba Vivac prison. His statements were then published by the newspaper Prensa Universal and later quoted by the journalist Marta Rojas in the Granma newspaper. continue reading

The constitutional Army of the Republic had 19 dead and 30 wounded in the assault on the nation’s second military fortress. That the current Army general can boast of not having stained his hands with blood in that action does not exempt him from other accusations referring to later events, but that is another matter.

No historian has revealed the criminal record of Army’s victim. This indicates that those who died on that side of the conflict were not the henchmen of a dictatorship or oligarchs of the exploiting class, but humble men who found in the military profession a worthy way of feeding their families.

We already know what happened next. Tortures, murder of detainees and a thousand other abuses, but the first thing that happened on that fateful day was the 19 soldiers killed by the revolutionary fire.

Whenever I hear a call to overthrow the current dictatorship through arms, I ask myself the same questions. Who will lay out the dead? What would be the chosen fortress? What chance of success could such an action have?

Today nobody is allowed to rent a place under the pretext of raising chickens and then house the fighters there as the “Moncadistas” did at the Siboney farm. It would be impossible to get so many tickets for the same destination or to rent so many rooms in the hotels of a province. Not to mention getting the weapons, the training ahead of time, and ensuring that the secret purpose does not reach the ears of State Security.

Nobody disputes the resounding failure that was that military operation, one that supposedly tried to solve at a stroke the ills accumulated in 50 years of the Republic.

To mitigate the frustration, numerous allegories have been promoted, including that it was “the small engine that served to launch the great engine of the Revolution,” so that in order to fairly evaluate the final success of that action, it would have to be measured by today’s results after 61 years of operation of the metaphorical great engine.

If we were guided by the foundational and programmatic texts of this phenomenon called the Cuban Revolution, it could be generally summarized that its proclaimed primary purposes were freedom, sovereignty and social justice. Free citizens in a sovereign nation where justice reigned could carry out two more tasks, identified as building a socialist system: satisfying the ever-growing needs of the population; and training the “New Man” who should be educated, supportive, honest, civic, free.

The failure did not end at Moncada, because by suppressing the existence of opposition organizations, abolishing the independent press, and bypassing the rule of choosing rulers with the participation of the electors, freedom was torn out by the roots.

Sovereignty has been reduced to discourses since Cuba joined the bloc of socialist countries, allowing the island to become a foreign nuclear base and sending troops to Africa to guarantee the geopolitical interests of the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Today, more than ever, we depend on imports and, “paradoxically,” Washington’s decisions have repercussions more than ever on internal politics and on the daily life of Cubans.

The efforts of social justice were not fulfilled because workers’ wages are not enough to support their families, while a ruling caste lives in opulence. The deplorable current state of hospitals and schools shows that all that scaffolding to support the Health and Education model did not rest on the efficiency of the production system implemented on the Island, but on the subsidy from the socialist camp. When that political fiction was extinguished, it was necessary to return to reality and, consequently, accept social differences as something natural.

Failure has its maximum exponent in the decrease of production and the enjoyment of material goods to the absolute minimums, because state control and planning have ruined the economy. As if that were not enough, that best human being, who was going to star on the public stage, never appeared in this present, which demagogically announced itself as a near bright future.

Hopefully something like what happened on that July 26th 1953 will never happen again.

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Venezuela is Preparing to Send a New Shipment of Fuel to Cuba

The vessel Sandino was already sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury but continues to transfer crude. (Shipspotting.com)

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14ymedio, Havana, July 6, 2020 — For the second time in the last six weeks, the vessel Sandino was loading fuel this Sunday in the El Palito refinery, in the state of Carabobo, west of Caracas, according to information published by the local press.

With a source on the maritime tracking site marinetraffic.com, El Carabobeño says that the fuel is being shipped under the Cuban flag, and before it used the flag of Panamá, a strategy known as reflagging, which the Governments of Cuba and Venezuela use to evade U.S. sanctions.

The ship was constructed in 2009 and has already made one previous trip to the Island, on May 27, from Puerto La Cruz in Anzoátegui, said the same newspaper. In addition, three other ships from Venezuela—the Terepaima, the Petion and the Teseo—are in Cuba.

The Venezuelan newspaper notes that the El Palito refinery is at less than 50% of operability and can no longer cover the demand of the Venezuelan market. “It’s evident by the long lines of vehicles that start to appear again on the outskirts of the service stations with subsidized fuel en Carabobo and other regions of the country,” it explains.

The Petion and Sandino already have had sanctions imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department, but they have continued transporting crude between Venezuela and Cuba.

The Petion belongs to Trocana World and is operated by Caroil Transport Marine, a company registered in Cyprus. Both businesses are under the control of the brother of Brigade General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and the head of Department V of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces. In addition, he is the ex-son-in-law of Raúl Castro and the Director of GAESA, the business consortium of the military on the Island.

This past March, Venezuelan opponents complained that Caracas was continuing to supply crude to the Island. Julio Borges contended that the “gifts” from Venezuela to Cuba rose to more than 40 trillion dollars in oil in the last 20 years. This is in addition to the humanitarian aid sent and the electrical plants financed.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The Fourth of July and the ‘Ladies of Havana’

George Washington in 1772, in the earliest known portrait of him. (Washington and Lee University)

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14ymedio, Frank Calzón, Miami, July 4, 2020 – In addition to honoring the independence of its country and the founders of the nation, the United States is celebrating prominent foreigners who helped General George Washington in the feat.

Washington, in addition to being the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army that defeated England, was elected President for three terms of four years, and, like Nelson Mandela years later, ignored those who wanted him to remain permanently in power, retiring to live with his wife, Martha, on their farm in Mount Vernon in Virginia, where he died years later.

Among the foreigners who gave aid to Washington in critical moments were the young Frenchman the Marquis de Lafayette and Henry Frederick, Baron of Von Steuben, who after serving under the orders of Frederick the Great of Prussia, offered his sword to the American colonies, instructing the patriotic Americans in the military arts. continue reading

This noble Prussian died in New York in 1794, while Lafayette was returning to his country to participate in the French Revolution and to challenge, risking his head, the French extremists who created power to make the revolution by basing it on tyranny and terror (something sadly familiar to Cubans) .

Thaddeus Kosciuszko, the military engineer who fortified Saratoga and West Point, and another Frenchman, Rochambeau, whom Washington presented as a “work colleague in the struggle for liberty,” also collaborated. Washington had a lot of reasons to appreciate him, because he knew that every army needs a quartermaster as well as good strategies and great soldiers.

In 1781, the situation of the Continental Army was complicated. In the war, which was approaching Yorktown, the British Commander-in-Chief, General Cornwallis, was counting on finally defeating the Americans.

The historian Stephen Bonsal says that Rochambeau wrote in these moments: “The Continental troops are almost without clothing and footwear. They’re at the limit of their forces.” Rochambeau didn’t hesitate to send the young Admiral De Grasse to secure aid from the islands of the Caribbean, as Charles Lee Lewis, another historian, tells us in his book, Admiral De Grasse and American Independence.

“I can’t hide the fact that the Americans had almost no resources,” wrote Rochambeau. According to the author of this book, Jean-Jacques Antier, when De Grasse arrived in Havana, the Spanish flotilla had already left for Spain, and the colonial Governor of the Island didn’t have enough resources to help the Americans. However, public opinion in the city supported the North American cause, and contributions quickly began to arrive. “The ladies of Havana surrendered even their diamonds and managed to collect the amount of 1,200,000 pounds.”

De Grasse navigated to Philadelphia with sufficient money to face the war that was looming, and this time Washington, traditionally very reserved, couldn’t contain his emotion and embraced De Grasse. The battle of autumn 1781, as well as the war, ended with the defeat of Cornwallis in Yorktown, and, as Bonsal said: “The millions donated by the ladies of Havana can be considered as part of the foundation on which the American nation was erected.”

Today, the contribution of Cuban Americans in maintaining freedom is doubtless less important: electing their governors, paying taxes and respecting the laws, like any person in a democratic society who appreciates liberty.

This fourth of July, we Cuban Americans have not forgotten Cuba and the Cubans who are 90 miles away, and we know that the United States is a nation that was formed and is formed with men and women from everywhere, with their sons and grandsons, men and women who chose freedom, and who contributed to its defense with their lives, their fortune and with what George Washington called their “sacred honor.”

On the day of American Independence, millions of Cubans remember the “Ladies of Havana” who helped Washington, and the Damas de Blanco [Ladies in White], who today, like them, defend the cause of freedom.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The Electric Scooter, a Vehicle for the Times

An electric scooter can be an investment now that home delivery services are booming due to the pandemic (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Cynthia de la Cantera, July 1, 2020 — The stars have aligned for anyone who sees the electric motorcycle as a great business opportunity. At the end of 2019 there were already about 200,000 of these vehicles in Cuba. The recent boom is fueled by a combination of several factors: an inadequate public transport system, gasoline shortages, the vehicle’s ease of driving and the job opportunities it provides during the pandemic.

“With all the transportation problems we have in this country, where taking a taxi is difficult even if you have the money, it was more feasible for me to buy a motorcycle, despite how expensive they are,” says Camila Alonso, a young woman who invested 1,500 convertible pesos (CUC) she had saved for one of these vehicles. “With a scooter, you don’t have to wait forever at a bus or car stop. Travel times are shorter,” she reasons.

Getting one, by contrast, was more time consuming. She could have afforded to buy a new model, which comes with a guarantee, at a state-owned store. The motorinas, as they are known locally, are made in China under the brand name Minerva and assembled in Santa Clara by the Angel Villareal Bravo Company. According to an article published late last year in Granma, the price for one of these scooters was 999 CUC, seemingly quite reasonable for a brand new product. continue reading

“We get a lot of scooters that came with a guarantee but that broke down after a month of operation,” says Brian Arocha, a mechanic at a shop in Havana’s Vedado district who has found a niche market servicing these popular vehicles.

The young man claims the scooters sold by the state are not of great quality but notes that the need for transportation is so great that buyers will resort to anything,” especially if it’s cheaper than buying a car or an internal combustion motorcycle,” he says.

Smugglers, always attentive to market demand, sensed an opportunity and began importing the scooters through Panama’s Colón Free Trade Zone. Cuban customs regulations allow such a vehicle to enter the country for 200 pesos provided it does not exceed 1,000 watts of power and cannot go faster than 50 kilometers per hour.

Brian claims these e-scooters are of better quality than those sold in outlets run by the Cimex and Caribe retail chains: “Those stores don’t have experienced staff assembling the scooters so they make bad [electrical] connections. Over time, this results in false starts, short circuits and mechanical problems.”

This, along with the inconvenience of buying the product at a government-authorized store that requires payment with a certain type of card,* convinced Camila to buy a used scooter from a private importer. For three days she poured over online classified ads on Revolico and Porlalivre until she found the scooter that was just right for her: a Raybar, model EA3, in red.

Prices for a high-quality electric scooter are comparable to the Cuban Minervas. A Mishozuki Tiburon, one of the most expensive and popular models, costs between 2,500 and 2,800 CUC new and between 1,900 and 2,000 used. Virtually none of the new imported models goes for less than 2,000 CUC.

Nevertheless, many people view the purchase price as an investment. The pandemic has led to a boom in home deliveries and having a motorcycle can be a big help when it comes to finding a job.

There are classified ads on Revolico by businesses looking for drivers to deliver pizza, prepared food and produce. For Alvin Pino, the owner of a food delivery business, the popularity of motorinas has helped him boost profits. “They’ve really stimulated home delivery. There are more electric scooters now so this service has grown,” he says.

Others see a scooter as a job opportunity and post ads offering to transport “anything that fits in a box or a backpack.” As of yet, that does not seem to include people, whose weight can impact the battery by requiring more frequent charges, notes Camila, who doubts that the vehicles’ engines would allow them to be used as taxis.

The average range of these vehicles is thirty miles, adequate for getting around urban areas. To fully charge a scooter, however, usually requires four to eight hours of electricity, which could cost as much as 130 pesos a month.

In spite of frequent blackouts in Cuba, which have become more frequent since last September due to what the government describes as a “temporary” situation, there is often no problem recharging batteries. It is certainly simpler and less complicated than filling a car’s tank with gas, and also less polluting. Scooters are also faster and require less physical effort than bicycles, which many citizens appreciate given the island’s tropical heat.

But there are disadvantages. Motorcycles are used mainly by young people and require no license unless they are over 1,000 watts and can reach speeds over 30 miles an hour. This suggests the vehicles are low risk and do not require adequate protection measures, such as the use of a helmet. However, in the first four months of 2019 alone, there were 207 motorcycle accidents in which 10 people lost their lives and another 121 were injured

“Motorcycles are generally purchased by people who travel, who make deliveries and who work in sales. People who work in tourism, who get remittances from overseas and who work in the private sector also buy them. They’re usually business owners, not employees, because there are places where someone who is self-employed still can’t buy a motorcycle,” says Brian.

In spite of all this, the pandemic has put the market on hold. As long as “mules” are unable to travel, private imports of electric scooters are frozen.

*Translator’s note: State-run stores that sell goods in hard currency require customers to pay using dollar-denominated bank cards from accounts opened with convertible currencies such as the dollar or euro.

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

In Varadero, Cuba, There Are More National Tourists Than Foreign

In the middle of the week, calm reigned on the beaches of Varadero, which see the presence of Cuban tourists on Saturdays and Sundays. (Roma Díaz)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Roma Díaz, Varadero, 6 July 2020 — Waiting for Matanzas province to enter the second phase of the Covid-19 de-escalation, Varadero, the main tourist destination on the Island, warms up its engines with the arrival of national travelers. According to official data, more than 1,000 Cubans were enjoying the spa this weekend.

The reopening of Havana has increased the number of visitors compared to the previous week, when the official press highlighted the tranquility of the Varadero beaches on their first weekend back to a certain normality.

“Despite the heat, there is respect for the discipline, for distancing and there is no crowding on the beach,” said the Cuban News Agency. The residents of the area, however, not only denounced what they considered a large influx; they also protested a return to everyday life, which, for them, is the return to trash and the neglect that is related to national tourists. continue reading

“The saddest thing is that during the more than 100 days of quarantine, the beach was spotless, and one day after opening, the beach is already a pigsty: beer cans, wrappings of all kinds, baby diapers, cigarette packets, scattered everywhere. It is a shame that we are such pigs. If the authorities do not take measures and fine those who leave the garbage, I do not know where we are going to go. A lack of respect for the nature and for all of us who live here,” said Manuel Rodríguez, a resident of the area.

This weekend more than 900 visitors were registered in Varadero hotels such as Villas Kawama and Tortuga, Meliá Internacional and Memories Varadero, in Gaviota, said Mario Sabines Lorenzo, governor of Matanzas.

Among some remodeling works that have been carried out during the quarantine, a new boulevard between 61st and 64th streets stands out. (Roma Díaz)
Among some of the remodeling works that have been carried out during the quarantine, a new boulevard between 61st and 64th streets stands out. (Roma Díaz)

In this quarantine season, Varadero has undertaken some remodeling works, including a new boulevard between 61st and 64th streets, the restructuring of the Plaza América Convention Center, which will host the 2020 International Tourism Fair if it is held in October, as planned, and Josone Park, which is facing its first restoration since its foundation in 1942. According to the directors of the center, the green jewel of tourism in the area, the first stage will conclude on August 31 with the opening of restaurants, while the rest of the park will open at the end of the year.

Matanzas has been without positive cases of Covid-19 for more than 20 days, but the high number of tourists it receives from Havana, where there are still cases, forces extreme measures, according to Ailuj Casanova Barreto, provincial director of health, who highlighted the importance of controlling workers and visitors. No one with respiratory symptoms is allowed and the use of masks is mandatory when not on the beach, she notes.

The president of the Defense Council in Matanzas, Liván Izquierdo Alonso, stressed the importance of increasing vigilance in view of the start of the second phase, when foreign tourists who, to date, have only been allowed to travel to Cayo Largo, Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Cruz and Cayo Santa María, will be permitted to return.

There is no scheduled date for the reopening of airspace under normal conditions, although it is estimated that it may be August. International tourists can only reach the northern and southern keys of the Island on charter flights and, once they arrive, they cannot leave and move around the rest of Cuba.

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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.

A Group of Cuban Healthcare Workers Travel to Three Countries in Africa to Combat Covid-19

In total, Cuba has sent health brigades to nine African countries to help combat the health emergency. (@CubaMINREX)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 6 July 2020 — Three medical brigades from the ‘Henry Reeve’ international contingent left Havana on Sunday for three countries in Africa to help combat Covid-19, the official press reported.

Of the 111 health professionals that make up the three Cuban health brigades, 76 will be stationed in Equatorial Guinea, while 19 specialists will carry out their mission in Sierra Leone and another 16 will do so in São Tomé and Principe, according to the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“In a context that imposes cooperation and solidarity, our health professionals honor the historical ties that unite us to these nations,” wrote Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez on his Twitter account. continue reading

Cuba has sent health brigades to nine countries in Africa to help combat the health emergency imposed by the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic.

The first group of Cuban doctors and nurses to provide assistance to another country after the appearance of Covid-19 remained for more than two months in the Italian region of Lombardy, the one most affected by the pandemic in Italy.

Since then, 3,440 health workers in 38 medical brigades have traveled to more than 30 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, at the request of the authorities of those nations, to fight the pandemic.

The Henry Reeve contingent — specialized in disasters and serious epidemics — was created by Fidel Castro in 2005 to help the state of New Orleans after the devastating passage of Hurricane Katrina, although Washington rejected the assistance.

Members of that group helped control the Ebola epidemic in Africa and their work was recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) with an award in 2017. The Government and some groups promote an international campaign that supports the nomination of the brigades. for the next Nobel Peace Prize.

Meanwhile, complaints are raining down against the type of exploitation that these medical missions entail, in which the State pockets between 70% and 90% of the salaries of the health workers, who are also subject to strict control measures to prevent escapes, despite which, they continue to occur.

One of the most recent and famous is the departure of one of the leaders of the brigade in Andorra, a military doctor with political family members, who deserted in the European Principality with a nurse.

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Pork is Missing Because Tourists Are Missing

Pork producers are discouraged by taxes and price caps and don’t see any business. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 July 2020 — Pork meat is seen less and less in Cuban markets. Since the pandemic came, the absence has been resounding, but production has been falling for two years, as Cubadebate admits in an article published this Monday in which it tries to explain the “mysterious” lack of the product and concludes that the main reason is the absence of tourists.

“Starting from the world economic situation, plus the lack of income from tourism and other exports — which since the second half of 2019 began to be affected by the intensification of the blockade [the US embargo] — supplies of imported raw materials for feed have been cut by 50%,” Norberto Espinosa Carro, president of the Livestock Business Group, told Cubadebate.

The text anticipates the doubts that may arise among readers. If there have been no tourists, there has also been no consumption of pork in that sector, so one might wonder where it has ended up. “There was no tourism, but there were isolation centers, protection for vulnerable people. Obviously, what was not for tourism went to those destinations, and it used to make more ham, chopped pork… The meat is not stored,” says Regla María Ferrer Domínguez, chief de la Technological Pork Division of the same company. continue reading

Apart from the pandemic, the problems come from before, they admit. In 2019 the plan foresaw 205,000 tons of meat and only 180,000 tons were reached. The Minister of Agriculture, Gustavo Rodríguez Rollero, in his last appearance on the Roundtable television program, said that this year only a third of what was needed was being produced, about 6,000 tons per month of the 17,000 that are required to supply the population. As if that were not enough, the State owes 90,000 tons to producers, so the forecast is not good.

Espinosa Carro indicated that they have turned to feeding them chickens, “but it has not been enough for fattening pigs, breeders, “and with the poverty of the diets consumed by animals on 140 state farms, the production has been bad and, consequently, the prices have gone up.

Pigs, Cubadebate explains, must gain 90 kilos (200 pounds) in six months, but if that fattening does not occur, there is no product.

Ferrer Domínguez reels off the bad numbers. The year has already started with a deficit of 15% of the planned feed for pigs (190,000 tons). In March, the disaster was already 27,000 tons of meat less than expected.

With the outbreak of the pandemic, the newspaper continues, food imports plummeted, some 75,000 tons less, which forced a reduction in the forecast from 190,000 tons of meat to 100,000. Result: the pork received by markets and restaurants, about 2,000 tons, is now 600.

In addition, another of the justifications is that of the decrease in breeders. According to Cubadebate, of the 15,000 breeder sows that  contributed 92% of the national demand, now there are only 5,934.

The Minister of Agriculture pointed out on the Roundtable show that the State cannot maintain the conditions of the agreement with breeders through which they are provided with 70% of the feed, of which 45% is imported. “In the next few years we have to gradually reverse this matrix,” Rodríguez Rollero warned.

The article describes several possible solutions, one of which involves the delivery of land for planting feed to be consumed by animals so that these crops account for 40% of the food. “It is inescapable that the productive matrix that we had for years, based on the importing mentality, changes. The flare-up of the blockade and the Covid-19 has forced us to change,” said Espinosa Carro, ensuring that the mention of the embargo is not lacking.

The manager also talks about scientific solutions, such as genetic engineering so that there are more dark-coated pigs, “less productive but more resistant,” a program that has already started but is also stopped because “importation has unfortunately been lacking.”

The Cubadebate text mentions, instead and in passing, the disincentive that taxes and prices imply.

The pork deficit has not only caused the most important markets in the Cuban capital to not have the product on offer for weeks, but customers have to dive into the black market in order to buy steak, leg, loin, ribs or shoulder, in addition to pork sausages.

The price of a pound of pork has skyrocketed and is already around 50 CUP in the informal market in Havana, and most commonly the buyer must pay “by the pound on the hoof,” the weight of the product with the animal not yet slaughtered, an amount that is significantly reduced after processing.

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Machado Ventura Harangues The Countryside: You Have To Cultivate All The Land

In Cuba, losses during harvest and after collection represent 30% of total production, plus an additional 27% during distribution. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, June 27, 2020 – Machado Ventura, Second Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, is relentless. His call for Cuban farmers to cultivate all the land is repeated over and over in the pages of the official Communist newspaper, Granma, which has carried this message for weeks and months.

“The whole land must be productive,” Machado Ventura said in Holguín, accompanied by Valdés Mesa, the First Vice President of the Republic, recognizing the contribution of the credit and services cooperatives (CCS) in agricultural production.

This is one more chapter in the episode of desperation on the part of the Cuban authorities to make food production reach the whole population, and thus avoid the imports for which they can’t pay since they don’t have hard currency, and to remove the possibility of a food crisis that the World Food Program of the United Nations has anticipated for Cuba in a recent report, which has been noted in this blog. continue reading

Machado’s idea of making the whole land productive has a flip side, showing the harsh and harmful reality of the Cuban countryside: the land isn’t fully used at 100% of its capacity. Nor are the rest of the resources and production factors of the Cuban economy used, and the needed capital isn’t expected.

Machado should ask himself why the Cuban economy doesn’t take full advantage of the resources it has, including the talent, entrepreneurial spirit, assumption of risks and innovation, and he should conclude that if this isn’t happening, as it is in most countries in the world, it’s because the economic and social system imposed by the Communist Regime doesn’t allow it. There is no other possible explanation. Harangues won’t do it.

Recent history shows us that when a communist country gets rid of ideological pressures that prevent it from optimizing the use of productive resources, it leaps into development, like what occurred with Vietnam and the reforms of Doi Moi or the countries of Eastern Europe, where a powerful modernization took place once the chains that tied them to the Iron Curtain were broken.

There is no alternative for having an economy function at 100% other than putting resources at the disposition of the productive process efficiently. And thus, Machado ought to listen to, not direct or control, what the National Association of Small Farmers tells him, along with other organizations of independent farmers, who can explain to him why and how to increase food production in Cuba, by cultivating all the land.

And Machado has to stop, once and for all, asking for the impossible.

If he really wants to cultivate all the land, he has to bet on formulas other than those announced in the Granma article.

Agricultural production can’t be increased with the so-called “State productive poles”; this collectivist formula controlled by the State is a failure. The Cuban agricultural sector must have an open road to allow the cooperatives of agricultural production and the CCS to deploy their plans with total autonomy and freedom, depending only on the democratic and free decisions of their members, as happens in Spain, where the cooperative sector is playing a fundamental role in the present crisis provoked by Covid-19, as it always has in moments of economic difficulties.

Also, forget State enterprises, because their results are well known in Cuban agriculture. The lack of incentives and stimuli prevents the land from being prepared, and precisely-determined fixed work is falsely assumed to give results for the Cuban farmer.

And above all, a new legal system must be given to the farmers, so they can have autonomy and freedom to buy supplies, pesticides, tractors and all types of equipment with the resources generated, not mandated by the State.

The State shouldn’t be the unique “client” for Cuban farmers. The only client should be the consumer, who has to have freedom of choice to consume and be ready to pay, and not bother again with the regulated canasta [the basket of rationed basic goods].

Thus, Machado Ventura’s “request” of the State for increases will only create problems for the farmers, and later there will be defaults, terrible wholesale distribution by Acopio [State Procurement and Distribution] and all the evils derived from the State’s intervention in the economy.

Corollary: Cuban agriculture and livestock breeding should be in the hands of private enterprise, as in China and Vietnam, and other alternatives must be discarded because they have no future. And the example is more than evident.

A warning: What Machado Ventura calls “technocratic problems,” referring to the financial matters of the banks with the farmers, is not going to be solved with harangues. Because really, if the farmers need credit to develop their fields, the banks should be in a condition to help them, as they are in other countries. And credit shouldn’t be granted by political and ideological criteria, but with technical methods and efficiency, because it could be a potent stimulus not only for agriculture but also for the development of the Cuban financial system, which needs it. Certainly the term “technocratic problems” cited by Machado Ventura is terrifying.

Lastly, forget about stopgap solutions like the programs of municipal supply, if you want to feed the whole population. These programs end up giving food to people on three or four blocks in the large cities, but in no way can they meet growing needs. It’s not possible for them, by function and scale.

On the contrary, the solution lies in privatizing Cuban agriculture, increasing parcel size, promoting the merger of campesinos’ land without cooperatives, facilitating free choice for providers and buyers and giving the farmers what they want to plant and harvest. Commercial economic relations and private property rights must be extended to the farmers as soon as possible. It’s obvious that leasing the land doesn’t help. Repetitive harangues are exhausting and draining. And what is worse, they lead nowhere.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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‘Queen Pots’ and Fans Return to Sancti Spiritus Stores

The line to buy household appliances in Sancti Spíritus. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Sancti Spíritus, 6 July 2020 — A number written on the forearm, several days of waiting and the uncertainty of whether they will be able to buy a fan, this is how customers experience the reopening in Sancti Spiritus of the sale of household appliances. After weeks in which only food and hygiene products were for sale, the accumulated needs on the Island have reached a critical point.

The lines to buy food and hygiene products now join those that are formed to get a fan or pressure cooker. Outside the Reparto Kilo 12 appliance store in Sancti Spíritus, employees hand out 60 turns in line each day.

“I have come three days in a row but I have not gotten a place in line. People distributed the places for today last night,” says a young man interested in a fan. Customers have a number written on their forearm and must wait several days, with the added uncertainty of not knowing if they will get what they are looking for. continue reading

This is the case of a customer waiting in line with a worried face. Her ’Queen’ brand pressure cooker broke in May and there is nothing in the store. This appliance is among the most requested products. Since its arrival in Cuban kitchens at the beginning of the century, as part of the “energy revolution” promoted by Fidel Castro, this device has become very popular and more than 68% of Cuban households prepare their food in induction cookers, pressure cookers or other electrical devices.

The olla reina (Queen pot) made in China and whose initial sale price did not exceed 400 pesos, began to be assembled in Cuba in 2015, at the ProHogar plant in Santa Clara, in the surroundings of the Domestic Utensils Production Industry, although it is now sold mainly in convertible pesos. The worsening of liquefied gas service has also contributed to its success.

Gas canisters are only sold for the rationed market, and when distribution fails or the quota allocated to each home runs out, many families are forced to cook with firewood or electricity. But these cooking appliances have a limited life and after constant repairs it is time to replace them.

Catalina, who at the age of 74 is still in charge of cooking for her family, says that the gas canister the ration book allows her to buy once every 60 days, ran out in a month. Now she depends exclusively on electricity to put food on the table, but she has to take great care of the pot and the burner because the ability to replace them is scarce.

The breakdown of any of these pieces of equipment could mean Catalina having to wait a few days in front of a store or spending several months of her pension to buy a new one.

Customers have the number corresponding to their place in line written on their forearm and must wait several days, not knowing if they will finally get what they are looking for. (14ymedio)

The closure of trade during the critical point of the pandemic also affected repair shops. “I have had to do almost a PhD to repair my burner because it has been broken about four times since this coronavirus started,” says Yasiel, who lives on the outskirts of Trinidad.

Tired of repairing his small kitchen over and over again, Yasiel decided to turn to the black market. “I couldn’t wait for state stores to be authorized to sell this type of product, so I looked for a contact who sold me a single-burner induction cooker for 80 CUC,” the young man tells 14ymedio.

“It was much more expensive than in the store, but it was that or nothing, because now that the shopping malls have opened, the lines are days long to buy this type of product,” he explains. The informal appliance market is not having a good time either, because most of its supplies come with mules and imports from various countries in the region, and this avenue has also been affected by the pandemic.

“The only thing I have left for sale are two ceiling fans. Until they open the borders and I can go out again I will have no more products,” confirms an informal merchant who offers his merchandise in the city of Sancti Spíritus. “There is a lot of demand because this quarantine has caused people to have to spend more time at home using household appliances, many of which have not stood up to such use and abuse.”

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Roof of the Partagas Tobacco Factory in Havana Collapses

The facade of the Partagás factory, on Industria street in Havana. (Flickr / Aaron May)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 July 2020 — This week the roof of the building of the Partagás tobacco factory in Havana collapsed, a few yards from the Capitol building, according to the website Cigar aficionado. The property has been undergoing a restoration process since 2011 and houses the La Casa del Habano store on its ground floor.

“The collapse of the roof did not affect La Casa del Habano inside the main entrance to the old factory,” said the website, but the business premises have been closed since the collapse and sources from the state monopoly Habano SA state that the salesroom “will move to a new location.”

“No one was injured in the incident, but as a precaution, the entire building has been closed until its structural integrity can be verified,” the note added. The building, located at number 520 Calle Industria, is considered a historical site for tobacco lovers and also a building of high architectural value for its Baroque-reminiscent façade.

The factory was founded in 1845 by the Spaniard Jaime Buenaventura Ambrós Partagás y Ravell and it was in the building on Industria Street that the figure of the “tobacco shop reader” emerged for the first time. The readers — ’lectores’ in Cuba — read aloud from newspapers and novels to entertain the cigar makers while they do their work. The factory was installed in the iconic building at the beginning of the 20th century.

Before 1959, the Partagás brand was the second largest tobacco producer in Cuba with 4.8% of total production, second only to Menéndez, García and Compañía, managers of the H. Upmann and Montecristo brands. After Fidel Castro came to power, the factory was nationalized and became state property.

For years, along with the production of cigars, the place became an active museum, where tourists could enjoy guided walks through the different stages of cigar manufacturing, including rolling, pressing, placing the rings and packaging.

Since the start of the restoration of the building, the manufacture of cigars has moved to another location.

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Empty Buses, No Customers for Coppelia, This is How Phase 1 Post-Covid Begins in Havana

Public transport begins to circulate after months of being shut down by measures against the Covid-19 pandemic. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar / Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 4 July 2020 — “It seems like a lie to me, I hadn’t waited even five minutes at the bus stop and the bus arrived and best of all, it was practically empty.” In front of the Bus Terminal, Rocío shared her joy when she boarded the P12 route this Friday, the first day of the implementation of Post-Covid Phase 1 in Havana.

She sits next to a friend who is with her, takes out her cell phone, stretches out her hand and they take a selfie: “So they won’t tell me later that I made it up.”

Public transport is beginning to circulate after months of being shut down by measures against the Covid-19 pandemic. Before the passengers, all wearing a mask, who are waiting at the stop can get on, an inspector from the Ministry of Transport walks the inside of the from end to end, makes a count, points to a checklist and determines that only 12 people can ride. continue reading

At the door, the driver’s assistant drops a few drops of chlorinated water into each passenger’s hands as he collects the fare.

There are 109 routes in circulation, in addition to the ferry services for crossing the bay, the bike-bus for the tunnel and the road taxi service. (14ymedio)

On some of the main arteries of the capital, such as 23rd Street, Carlos III or Boyeros, traffic is livelier this Friday, although still scarce. As reported by the official press, 109 bus routes are in service, in addition to the ferry services for the crossing of the bay, the bike-bus for the tunnel, and the road taxi service provided by the minibuses, known as gazelles. The measure to restart transport was one of the most anticipated, especially to regain mobility between municipalities.

“For months I have had to walk from El Vedado to Playa to visit my sister and look at me now, I am alone in this gazelle,” says a lady before getting into a road taxi at the corner of Linea and L.

Similarly, as the city entered this first phase of reopening, some markets have opened their doors. At the Agua y Jabón (Water and Soap) store on Obispo Street in Old Havana, several customers lined up eager to learn what was for sale.

“I’m waiting to see what’s there, because for weeks I haven’t gotten detergent, soap, or shampoo,” says a lady who has just joined the long line waiting in the sun. “I hope at least that’s what they put out.” The lines are more overflowing than ever. Throughout Obispo Street, the morning rush of employees in many markets is focused on rearranging merchandise and cleaning windows and floors.

On the menu board that announces what’s available at Coppelia there is only one ice cream flavor: orange-pineapple. (14ymedio)

Other points of the city have also recovered their routine, such as the Coppelia ice cream parlor. “Look at me, look at me, I entered without waiting a single minute in line,” says Darío, a teenager who almost jogs over to one of the courts on the ground floor. On the menu board that announces Coppelia’s flavors there is only one: orange-pineapple.

The handicrafts fair on La Rampa also opened initially this Friday, but later, the police forced them to close the stalls on the grounds that the first phase of reopening does not include sales in privately-run spaces located in squares and parks, in order to avoid crowds.

Before that happened, an artisan was pushing his cart with a friend, and after arranging the merchandise at his stall, he couldn’t help but share his joy. “I was going crazy waiting to bring my table here, from home I hardly sold anything; it is not the same: what is not exhibited is not sold,” he explained. “Right now there is little tourism, so I have loaded up with the products that sell more to Cubans: dresses, wallets, jewelry and shoes.”

“Find me some flip flops to walk around the house and some sandals,” asks Darío’s first customer. “Mine are broken and I couldn’t buy new ones.” But the enthusiasm was short-lived and an hour later the merchant had to collect all the products and leave.

The craft fair in La Rampa also initially opened this Friday, but later the police forced the stands to be closed. (14ymedio)

During the last weeks, due to the restrictions imposed in the country by the pandemic, stores were not selling any products that weren’t necessary for basic household cleaning and food. So there is a lot of accumulated need for clothes, shoes, household supplies and hardware.

The bureaucracy, meanwhile, takes its time. On Friday, in the office of the Directorate of Identification, Immigration and Foreigners located on Calle 17 in Havana’s El Vedado neighborhood, the receptionist only shooed away the flies and answered the questions of those who arrived.

“We have not yet begun to carry out procedures, but come on Monday and we may already be open for the preparation of passports,” the employee repeated. With more than three months of the border being closed and the failure to issue these travel documents, many frequent travelers express their despair.

“They have given extensions to the time one is allowed to be outside of Cuba [without losing the right to return], a moratorium on paying for self-employment licenses, but it has not occurred to them to extend the expiration date of the passports,” Rebeca, a resident of the capital whose passport expired in April, told this newspaper.

“I have lost months without being able to leave and now I have to renew my passport as if everything had been normal in this time,” added Rebeca. “That is not right, because the same government that reviews the document at the airport so that I can leave the country knows that it has been months that people cannot renew or get a passport.” Cuba’s is the most expensive passport in the world in relation to purchasing power: it costs 100 CUC (roughly three month’s salary), with two extensions allowed at 20 CUC each. for a term of six years.

The Cubatur office, on the ground floor of the Habana Libre hotel, is now open to buy tour packages. (14ymedio)

In the nearby Cubatur office the Friday countdown to the reopening generated a line to buy tour packages. In the basement of the emblematic Habana Libre hotel, a dozen people waited for the offers of accommodation in the provinces, where the residents of the capital could not go until now.

“I can’t take it anymore, I have to take a few days somewhere even if it’s two stars,” commented a woman who identified herself as an employee of a foreign firm that has “been out of work for three months and with the future horizon in gray with black stitching.”

“I know it is time to save every penny, but right now I need to be with my family in a place where I don’t have to stand in line for food, find a way to make do in the kitchen, or have someone knock on my door every day to track the pandemic. I’m going to the worst hotel, as long as it’s not my home.”

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Cuba Silences Ruiz Urquiola at the UN with the Support of China, Venezuela and North Korea

Ariel Ruiz Urquiola tries to speak in the United Nations amid the constant interruptions of the Cuban delegation.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 July 2020 — The Cuban delegation blocked Ariel Ruiz Urquiola’s speech at the United Nations Human Rights Council three times this Friday in Geneva. The activist began to speak around 11:25 in the morning denouncing the Cuban medical missions as human trafficking. Just a few seconds later, Cuba asked to speak to raise a “point of order” (Articles 113 and 7 of the rules) and asked the presiding officer to withdraw the activist’s words.

The scuffle continued when Ruiz Urquiola spoke again, as he carried on with his plea as if nothing was happening, to which the Cuban delegation intervened again. This time, Venezuela, China, North Korea and Eritrea followed them, demanding that the speaker address the topic on the agenda, child trafficking, and said it was a violation of the agenda that the speaker used his time for other matters. Meanwhile, Australia asked for the floor to support the presentation of the Cuban biologist requesting that he be allowed to go on.

Ruiz Urquiola continued, this time arguing that Cuba denies medical treatment to opponents, such as his sister (an oncology patient) and himself, who claims to be a victim of HIV inoculation in an island hospital. But the interruptions returned in the same vein demanding that the vice president’s authority be respected by returning to the agenda item. During all of Ruiz Urquiola’s attempts to speak, the Cuban delegation banged on the table to make it difficult for parliament to listen. continue reading

Finally, after up to three interruptions, Ruiz Urquiola had to end his speach because his 90 seconds, the time available to each speaker, had expired.

Ariel Ruiz Urquiola had managed to speak thanks to a ceding of time by the NGO UN Watch. The order of the day indicated that the topic planned for this conference, which started yesterday, was trafficking in persons, specifically women and children.

After the countries spoke, it was the turn of the non-governmental organizations. When it was his turn to speak, Ruiz Urquiola established the link with the theme of the day by tying it to the working conditions to which the Cuban healthcare workers participating in missions abroad are subjected. However, the Cuban delegation said that medical cooperation has no relationship and the speaker only sought to divert attention by criticizing the Government, which they considered “a lack of respect” for the plenary.

Ruiz Urquiola was granted the NGO UN Watch’s turn to speak after spending several days protesting, including with a hunger and thirst strike, in front of the office of the High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, to whom he wanted to deliver a letter asking her to present his case “without intermediaries in plenary, as a victim of a crime against humanity, of torture, by the Cuban dictatorship.”

In the letter, the activist highlighted Cuba’s breaches of its commitments to human rights and insisted on the unfairness of his detention, as well as his status as a prisoner of conscience recognized by Amnesty International.

Tom Haeck, an official of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke with the scientist and assured him that he would try to convince is contacts so that he could present his case and be heard.

A biologist and doctor of science, Urquiola has participated in several research projects on Cuban biodiversity, especially related to marine and terrestrial species. He was expelled from the Center for Marine Research under the official excuse of unexcused absences, but, according to the scientist, it was a plot against him for not being “reliable” for the authorities of the scientific center due to his political inclinations.

Urquiola has previously conducted at least three other hunger strikes. One of them was in front of the Oncology Hospital in Havana, when his sister, Omara, was not given a medicine for the cancer she suffers from. The other two were carried out during his arrest in 2018 when he was sentenced to one year in prison for the alleged crime of “contempt.” On that occasion, the fast ended with the liberation of the scientist.

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Ruiz Urquiola Proposes a Campaign for the Return of Cuban Exiles to Besiege the Government

Ariel Ruiz Urquiola at the entrance to the United Nations headquarters in Geneva.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 July 2020 —  Ariel Ruiz Urquiola today proposed to Cuban exiles that they return to the Island all at the same time to limit the Government’s ability to react. The biologist and activist, who has called his proposal Operation Return, has spoken in Geneva from the esplanade in front of the United Nations headquarters where his intervention, scheduled for the plenary session this Thursday, has been postponed until tomorrow.

“Long live free Cuba,” Ruiz Urquiola has demanded, dressed in a shirt and tie and holding a flag of the Island on which Justice4Ariel and No+ [More] Dictatorship could be read. “They may imprison some people, but if all Cubans living outside of Cuba unite, they cannot imprison us all, they cannot kill us all. I think that would be an unprecedented way of peacefully destroying a dictatorial regime which has been in power for six decades,” he said in his plea.

At the end of the morning session in Geneva, with Ruiz Urquiola not yet having spoken, many of his followers expressed their concern, but the activist has clarified that his presentation was postponed, presumably, without the time limit that he was going to have today. The activist, who smiled as he presented his accreditation and explained in detail the good attention he received, has taken the opportunity to reject the today’s presentation by the Cuban delegation in regards to human trafficking. The biologist recalled that medical brigades are comparable to this type of crime. continue reading

Subsequently, the activist has once again asked Cubans living outside the island to participate in Operation Return, an idea that had been previously raised by other exiles. “It is up to us to remove them, put them out with peaceful and civic activities. They cannot control us any more. Freedom or liberation,” he cried. “They will be able to crush one ant but they cannot crush all the ants, we are three million and we cannot live like rats.”

A week ago, UN Watch assured the activist that he could use his speaking time before the United Nations Human Rights Council after Ruiz Urquiola protested at the office of the High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, to whom wanted to deliver a letter asking to present his case “without intermediaries in plenary, as a victim of a crime against humanity, of torture, by the Cuban dictatorship.”

In the letter, the activist stressed that Cuba has been a member of the UN Human Rights Council since 2006 and that, although it has signed international covenants on Civil and Political Rights, as well as Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2008, these have not been still ratified by Havana.

Furthermore, he recalled that, in May 2018, the working group on Arbitrary Detention supported his complaint when he was detained for a year and that Amnesty International recognized him as a prisoner of conscience.

In December 2019, the activist reported to several German NGOs that his country’s government inoculated him with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Ruiz Urquiola insists that he has medical evidence that a strain of the virus was inoculated at the Abel Santamaría Provincial Hospital in Pinar del Río, when he was in the final phase of his previous hunger and thirst strike. “All tests are in the hands of Swiss and German infectologists,” said Ruiz Urquiola.

Tom Haeck, an official of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, approached last Wednesday to speak with the scientist, who had started a hunger and thirst strike to demand his positions and who the Swiss police had to ask to leave. This morning, the agents also approached the group of Cubans to inquire about the reasons for the recording at the United Nations headquarters.

Haeck, in charge of Mexico, Cuba and Brazil in the agency, listened to the Ruiz Urquiola demands and assured that he would try to convince his contacts so that the activist could present his case and be heard.

A biologist and doctor of science, Urquiola has participated in several research projects on Cuban biodiversity, especially related to marine and terrestrial species. He was expelled from the Center for Marine Research under the official excuse of unexcused absences, but, according to the scientist, it was a plot against him for not being “reliable” for the authorities of the scientific center due to his political inclinations.

Urquiola has previously conducted at least three other hunger strikes. One of them was in front of the Oncology Hospital in Havana, when his sister, Omara, was not given a medicine for the cancer she suffers from. The other two were carried out during his arrest in 2018 when he was sentenced to one year in prison for the alleged crime of “contempt.” On that occasion, the fast ended with the liberation of the scientist.

The plenary session this Thursday has dedicated a space to the situation of human rights in Nicaragua. Bachelet has stated that there continue to be “persistent human rights violations against those whom the (Nicaraguan) government perceives as opponents, including human rights defenders, journalists, social leaders and political voices.”

“The right to peaceful assembly continues to be systematically curtailed with police deployments, arbitrary arrests and attacks by pro-government elements when critics of the government try to peacefully meet,” he said, among others.

In addition, regarding the pandemic, which was analyzed in today’s session, “there is little transparency and lack of clarity in public information on cases” of Covid-19. Government measures do not conform to the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the Nicaraguan medical community, especially regarding physical distancing, and the pandemic has increased violence against women, added the high commissioner.

The Nicaraguan delegation defended itself against both accusations and accused the High Commissioner of not taking into account the authorities’ version. “Nicaragua, in addition to fighting the pandemic, must also combat disinformation and hatred campaigns emanating from sectors adverse to the Government of reconciliation and national unity,” it said.

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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.

Fishermen in Matanzas, Cuba

The old fishermen are humble people with salt-tanned skin. (Roma Díaz)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Roma Díaz, Boca de Camarioca, 2 July 2020 —  Watching the small boats on the quay is a real spectacle, listening to the stories of old fishermen, of humble people with salt-tanned skin, reveals the absolute connection between people and the sea.

As sunset approaches and some of the fishermen go out to look for their catch, my camera lens captures these images and the click of the shutter breaks the silence. Despite the rustic look and stench of the bay, my eyes focus only on capturing the surroundings.

With the incessant sweat caused by the hot summer days and in precarious conditions, the fishermen go out daily in search of a good tide. Most of them in a small boat, which they call a “paca-paca” because of the deafening noise it constantly emits.

With a doubt, the ancient activity of fishing is for many a hobby, but for others it has become a resource for survival.

Snappers, parrots or yellowtails are caught in this area. (Roma Díaz)

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