Tourists to Cuba Prefer Foreign Hotels or Government-Run Operations

Competition in the region is fierce. Cuba is overshadowed by tourist destinations like Cancún and the Dominican Republic. (I. Merodio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernández, Havana, 17 February 2020 — “Non-stop to Varadero!” a taxi driver happily shouts outside the José Martí International Airport in Havana after getting two customers who have just landed on the island. The tourists, who are visiting Cuba for the first time, have a reservation at an all-inclusive resort hotel run by a foreign company. They will not venture out of it until their return home.

With crystaline waters, white sand and a worldwide reputation, Varadero remains the most important Cuban beach resort and the only tourist destination that has experienced significant growth during the current decline of foreign visitors to the island. But the reasons it remains the sector’s driving force could be something other than its natural beauty.

“Several factors are shielding Varadero from the crisis. One of them is that all along the peninsula there are numerous hotels run by prestigious foreign companies and tourists know that these properties meet international standards,” says Rebeca Williams, a Cuban who emigrated after marrying a Brit. At first, her trips to the island were just family visits but she ended up returning and now organizes tour groups. continue reading

“When tourists arrive at the airport, whether in Havana or here in Varadero, they know that their hotel room is only a short, safe ride away, and that is an advantage. At other destinations people are forced to transfer to domestic flights and that cools their enthusiasm for venturing to a more faraway spot,” she says.

“After the plane crash in May 2018 I had a lot of tourists who canceled trips that required flights within Cuba and opted instead for Varadero. It’s like an old acquaintance who never disappoints. Even if a place there doesn’t offer good service, it does offer nature and tranquility” adds Williams. “There have also been a lot of reports of tourists being victims of traffic accidents so customers now prefer to stay put.”

Competition in the region is fierce. Cuba is overshadowed by tourist destinations like Cancún and the Dominican Republic. “To be a player in a market like the Caribbean, it’s not enough to show people some photos of old cars or promise a safe stay. You have to make customers fall in love so that, when they leave, they recommend the destination for its high quality. And that is where we still fall short,” she explains.

Recently, the Ministry of Tourism published the figures on this so-called smokestack-free industry which confirmed that Cuba’s most important sun-and-sand tourism desitination had grown 12% in January of this year. This is in contrast to the 9.3% decrease in foreign visitors to the island in 2019.

“Demand has been falling and is now concentrated in the hotels affiliated with recognized foreign brands,” acknowledges a tourism official who prefers to remain anonymous. “This is a phenomenon that is happening even in the domestic tourism market. Now when they buy a package, locals don’t just ask about the price and the hotel’s amenities. They also asks if it’s managed by a foreign firm.”

According to the official, hotels run by foreign companies have acquired good reputations and are better supplied, especially in their food service operations. Additionally, they have foreigners on staff who make sure customer service is very professional and that Cuban workers fulfill their obligations in accordance with the required standards.

“But it can also be said that these foreign firms are more aggressive in advertising their products to the international market. They already have their own voice and a wide network of offices with catalogs that feature their hotels. That is something that takes many years to build and that requires big investments in marketing that Cuba cannot do right now, as it should.”

“But what influences a lot of people are the comments that customers leave on travel sites such as TripAdvisor. And they are much more favorable when the hotel is a joint venture or under foreign management. Unfortunately, hotels under Cuban management have not gotten very high ratings,” he acknowledges. “People want to read visitor comments before they get here and they find that non-Cuban companies have the best ratings.”

Idalmis and Nestor are neither officials nor foreign tourists but have a very strong opinion about why Varadero is doing so well. “We go to an all-inclusive resort two or three times a year because we have two children who live overseas and spend their vacations in Cuba at different times,” says the woman, a retired chemical engineer who had never set foot in a hotel until March 2008, when the ban prohibiting Cuban nationals from accessing hotels was lifted.

“Since then we have stayed in almost all the country’s best hotels,” she proudly claims. “After many snags and disappointments, we now only choose hotels run by Spanish chains Iberostar and Meliá, Canada’s Blue Diamond or other foreign companies. The ones that are under all-Cuban management are not of the same quality.”

“The last time we stayed at a hotel run by Gaviota,” a tourism conglomerate operated by the Cuban military, “we were very disappointed,” she says. “The food was almost rationed even though we paid for an all-inclusive package. There were problems with the room and we often felt the employees were monitoring how many times we went to the buffet table,” she says.

“For the last three years we have stayed only at ’foreign’ hotels,” she adds. “In Varadero there is a larger number of those hotels and many of them offer all-inclusive packages, which makes it our favorite destination.” Usually, the couple’s children purchase a tourist package overseas but at other times the parents themselves make reservations at the offices of a travel agency.

One of Cubatur’s busiest offices is on the ground floor of the Habana Libre Hotel in Havana’s Vedado District. An employee here is showing a catalogue to a newlywed couple hoping for a quiet getaway. She is trying to sell them on a few days in Trinidad or Cienfuegos, or a stay at a Havana hotel, but they only want to know two things: if the hotel is all-inclusive and if it is under foreign management.

Although this is the first time they will have reserved a hotel on the island, which they are able to purchase with savings and with financial help from their respective families, they have a very clear idea of what they want thanks to advice from friends and family. “We are looking for something for three nights, where everything is included and that is run by a prestigious company. That way we know things will turn out better,” says the husband.

“They told us that differences between an all-Cuban management and foreign management — from the amount of butter they give you at breakfast to the cleanliness of the rooms— is huge,” says the young man. “Also, complaining to a foreign company when something isn’t right versus complaining to a Cuban one, especially one run by the military, is not the same.”

In the end the couple decided on a room at Iberostar Selection Varadero, which was a little more expensive than the other options the agent suggested but, as the young woman observed, “it’s a way to play it safe and ensure that a vacation doesn’t turn into one giant hassle.” The scene is repeated several times that morning, with the best selling packages looking a lot like each other.

More than sixty miles away, the two newly arrived tourists who caught the taxi at the airport have already checked into their room at a Meliá hotel in Varadero. There they will find imported towels, tiny containers of imported bath products, small packages of a Spanish-brand jam, and an administrator with a Andalusian accent welcoming customers at the reception desk.

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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 Death That Changed Our Lives

Orlando Zapata Tamayo died in February of 2010 after a long hunger strike. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 February 2020 — The phone rang with a distant sound, as if it were at the end of a long hallway. I responded and the voice on the other end spoke of death, a hunger strike, and prison and mentioned a name I had never heard. On February 23, 2010, Orlando Zapata Tamayo died, after 86 days without eating, and his death led to one of the most painful and fruitful moments in Cuba’s recent history.

There was a time when news traveled slowly, when we learned years later what had happened in our own country and just a few meters from our house. But that long era of secrecy and information darkness began to break down one day ten years ago, after the death of a man who refused to eat in protest of the conditions of his imprisonment.

Zapata was born in 1967, he worked as a bricklayer and at the time of his death he was little known. But he had already starred in several actions on the street and appeared in the book The Dissenters, which the ruling party had prepared to denigrate its opponents. When he stopped breathing, there were only a couple of public photos of him, but in a few days his face, with its sunken eyes and protruding cheekbones ,became familiar to millions of people inside and outside the Island. continue reading

“He was already dying when they authorized medical attention for him,” an opponent I called the same night asking for details told me. In 2010, there were still very few activists with cellphones and reconstructing the story of what had happened was very complicated. Not only did we have to deal with fear of police sources and cordons, but also with the difficulties in communicating.

Thus, I learned that the family was from Banes and that his mother had come to be with him in the ward of the Hermanos Ameijeiras hospital where he spent his last night. “The hospital is occupied by State Security and there is no way to get close,” said a human rights activist who had tried to get more details about the time of death and a possible funeral.

By that time, it was less than two years after the first Twitter accounts controlled by citizens had appeared in Cuba, and the fundamental way to get updates was through text-only messages. These were “blind messages” because it was only possible to broadcast content, but not to read replies or to retweet to third parties. Nevertheless, the little blue bird was the main way to get news from the island.

I remember that, on the same day Zapata died, State Security’s nervousness was very visible in the face of the effort that was winning the news cycle. The houses of several opposition leaders were surrounded by police operations and their telephone service was cut off. Obtaining information was increasingly difficult.

My husband, the journalist Reinaldo Escobar, and I decided to go to the Havana Institute of Legal Medicine, because we guessed that the body would be there. It was night and Rancho Boyeros Avenue had large areas without lighting, so we moved through the shadows. As we approached we saw a surveillance operation and pretended to be a couple seeking privacy. The trick worked and we took a sharp turn to the right to get closer to Legal Medicine.

There, under a dimly lit sign which barely allowed us to distinguish her face, was Reina Luisa Tamayo, the mother of the opponent. We had never met each other but pain has the ability to weave bonds and as soon as I asked her, she began to talk. In just a few minutes she would go to dress her son’s body and she was still in the phase of not believing she would never see him again. I took out my cell phone and asked her for a few words about what happened.

That brief message, filmed in daunting darkness, was the first direct testimony of what happened to Zapata Tamayo. Neither of us could imagine what that video was going to unleash. For it would be the beginning of a long road of grievances and denunciations, and, for me, a transcendental step in my journalistic work. “It was premeditated murder,” she said clearly that night and I still remember today the mixture of firmness and sadness in her words.

The mother, accompanied by one of her daughters, explained that her son had been locked in a cell in the prison when he declared a hunger strike, and that as a punishment they limited his water and when they finally authorized taking him to the hospital they already knew that little could be done. Nor had she even been able to say goodbye to him, because on that bed in intensive care was an inert and cold body.

We remained close to the mother’s side, and around us the police operation was narrowing while the  State Security  members were very upset because we had managed to outwit surveillance. The minutes that elapsed between that moment and when we managed to get out of there to publish that video have been among the longest of my life. We split our forces, and Reinaldo managed to attract the majority of the seguros – the agents – to follow him, while I slipped away through a small street near the Torrefactura Café factory.

An hour later, from a hotel internet connection, we were able to publish the images. In a few hours the text messages were coming and going from one mobile phone to another; everyone wanted more details and the protest was increasing. In the middle of that maelstrom, the first hashtag born inside the Island emerged and quickly went viral. It was the simple three letters #OZT, but it quickly turned into a tide of rejection

In the hours after Zapata’s death, one of the most inspiring processes of unity and cohesion of independent civil society I can remember occurred. Now, when criticism is exacerbated by the disunity of the opposition and the lack of common goals among civil society groups, it would not hurt to remember those momentous times when dissidents, independent journalists, bloggers and activists joined forces.

The official response was disproportionate. Massive arrests, the cutting off of phone services, and an intense campaign to kill the reputation of the deceased took place in the official media. With regards to Zapata, Cuban Television News said that he had a “long criminal history” and even transmitted a hidden camera recording of his mother inside the hospital, violating every ethical principle of privacy

Although the Cuban government insisted that Orlando Zapata Tamayo (2nd from right) was just a “criminal,” in the government issued book “The Dissidents” he was already mentioned as an opponent. (Screen Capture)

But, despite defamation and repressive acts, they could not prevent the news from shaking all of Cuba, nor several international organizations condemning what had happened, nor the main international media reporting the death, nor Orlando Zapata Tamayo becoming a point of confluence for the democratic forces.

There were days of social mourning and, at the same time, it was a small victory over the Communist Party because we managed to take away their monopoly on reporting about the life of the nation. Unlike the death of the student leader Pedro Luis Boitel, in 1972 after a hunger strike, Zapata’s death was reported with sufficient immediacy to provoke extensive repulsion. Months after his sacrifice, the process of releasing the prisoners of the Black Spring began.

Although the “official history” wanted to give credit for those releases to negotiations between the Vatican, the Spanish Government and the Plaza of the Revolution, in truth it was the death of the hunger striking opposition figure that put Castroism on the ropes. His death, together with the increase in protests by the Ladies in White in the weeks after that February, and the hunger strike of Guillermo Fariñas, resulted climate of outrage against the Cuban government it found untenable.

A decade has passed and although the lack of freedoms continues to mark daily life on this Island, that February 23rd of 2010 is undoubtedly the event from which we began a new stage. A man who refused to eat and used his own body as a weapon of protest changed the Cuba we knew and helped to transform us in the deepest part of our essence.

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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 Worsening Economic Crisis in Cuba Raises Concerns in Miami

A long line in Havana to buy detergent, one of the products in short supply at retail stores. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 Feruary 2020 — Connected to Cuba by an umbilical chord of family relations and remittances, Cubans in Miami are following with concern the news of a resurgent economic crisis on the island, which has begun exhibiting itself in a shortage of basic goods.

Faced with a reduction in Venezuelan subsidies, the latest U.S. sanctions on Havana for its support of Nicolás Maduro and a sizable foreign debt, Cuba is now experiencing a liquidity crisis that has forced authorities to buy fuel on the international market that Venezuela had been providing at subsidized prices.

“(Cleaning products) have been in shortage supply during the month of January. We still will not have satisfied demand by February or March but we hope that, with the various measures that are being adopted, we will be able to stabilize production and provide these products to consumers,” said Betsy Diaz Velazquez, minister of Foreign Trade. continue reading

In Miami, the city with the largest Cuban population after Havana, news of a new period of austerity is being followed with concern. In an interview with El Nuevo Herald, Lazaro Alberto Dominguez, a Cuban living in Hialeah, said, “All of my family is in Cienfuegos. A week ago I had to send them a package with coffee, lentils, garbanzos and other things because the situation keeps getting worse.”

Dominguez reports that, in addition to the hundred dollars a month he sends to his mother in Cuba, he has to periodically send packages of food, medicine and clothing.

“There’s nothing in Cuba. Even if you have money, you can’t find things in the stores. The government lays all the blame on the blockade [American embargo] but hotels manage to get everything they need,” he observes.

The 34-year-old man arrived in the United States two years ago by way of the Mexican border after requesting political asylum. However, he is not active in any opposition group.

“I don’t plan on returning to Cuba. I download Otaloa but I have to send things to my family,” he adds.

Alex Otaola is a Cuban influencer who hosts a daily program on Youtube seen by more than 10,000 people and who has led campaigns against remittances, travel and shipments to the island.

Remittances constitute the Cuban economy’s second largest source of hard currency. According to the Havana Consulting Group, Cuba received about 6.6 billion dollars in 2018 in the form of cash remittances and consumer goods, with 90% of remittances coming from the United States.

In the battered Cuban economy, income from remittances is exceeded only by the export of services, which in recent years has averaged around ten billion dollars. The Trump administration has set a limit of $1,000 per quarter on remittances, which can only be sent to relatives, in an attempt to force Cuba to abandon its ally and benefactor, the government of Nicolás Maduro.

The Cuban government has said that, due to US sanctions, it has had to choose between “maintaining a stable food supply” or paying for cleaning products. And the Cuban economy is highly dependent on imports.

Among the products in short supply are coffee, grains, fuel, gas, detergent, soap and toothpaste. In recent month shortages of items such as vegetable oil, chicken, meat and flour, as well as all products made from them, have also been reported.

With its network of inefficient state-owned businesses, Cuba must spend more than a billion dollars to import food that could be produced domestically. Nevertheless, the government persists in prioritizing ideology over the market in spite the advice of its own economists.

Belkis Veitía has lived in Little Havana for more than fifteen years. The only members of her family left in Cuba are two cousins; she and her two brothers left the country aboard a speedboat, arriving at the southern coast of Florida. The trip cost them almost $30,000, money they obtained from family members and by selling all their belongings in Cuba.

“I can’t forget the people of Cuba. Those of us who have lived through this tragedy know that those who are left behind need our help,” she says.

Veitía helps the local Catholic Church collect donations that are later sent to Cáritas Cuba and other NGOs working on the island.

“We ship a lot of medication, clothing and food to Cuba. The situation is hardest on the elderly. Thanks to the Catholic Church a lot of them are guaranteed lunch or dinner. They get government pensions but they are little more than ten dollars a month,” she says.

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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.

Participants of the Lynching Attempt in Santiago de Cuba Are Arrested

The events took place last Saturday, when the minor was attending a birthday party from where she was taken by the alleged aggressor, a friend of her parents’. (Facebook / Leonar Rente)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 14, 2020 — The many videos that have circulated on social networks about the attempted lynching of the person who raped a minor in Santiago de Cuba have had a double effect. Thanks to these images, the authorities have identified the citizens who intervened in the events and have begun to arrest and prosecute them.

“From the videos seized, we have begun to identify the people who attacked the Police and the arrests and prosecutions by the criminal investigation body of our province have started,” Lt. Col. José Luis announced on Thursday on Tele Turquino, the local TV channel of Santiago de Cuba.

“The people who assaulted the law enforcement officers taking advantage of this circumstance will be presented to the Prosecutor’s Office,” said Rolando Reyes Speck, a prosecutor in the Department of Criminal Justice. continue reading

The interviewee said in the broadcast that the minor remains hospitalized, however her condition is not life threatening; meanwhile, the alleged culprit has confessed his crime and “the full weight of the law will fall upon him”. According to the official statement, the alleged aggressor was identified by the residents of the area after committing the crime and “the moment of great sensibility was used by unscrupulous and opportunistic elements” to alter public order.

The officers insisted that the cause resulting from the investigation in this case of rape will have all the guarantees and that no one should take justice into their own hands as this process is in the Constitution “which every decent Cuban”, said Antomarchi, voted on last year.

The events occurred on February 8 when the victim, an 8-year-old girl, attended a birthday party and was taken by the detainee, an acquaintance of her parents, to rape her. The crime was immediately discovered by the neighbors, who went after the rapist to beat him and stone him, at which point the police had to intervene.

The authorities explained that the presence of the riot police was required when the agents were overpowered in their attempt to prevent a lynching. They explained that the law enforcement officers “never attacked the people” and simply tried to cool down the situation, but several individuals charged at the police and firefighters.

“The investigation and process shall be carried out applied equally to every accused person in our country,” said Reyes Speck, and assured that both the rapist and the protesters can count on the “legal guarantees that every defendant has.”

“For every person who commits a crime, however aberrant it may seem, the rule of law establishes procedural guarantees,” the prosecutor insisted.

Darina Ortega León, professor of Law at the Eastern University (Universidad de Oriente, Spanish name), participated in the program quoting Martí to defend the respect for the rule of law and privacy. In recent days, several images of the alleged aggressor, as well as some comments, many of them unconfirmed, have circulated on social networks and some media about the alleged health condition of the minor.

The hostess regretted that the videos of the lynching attempt presented a bad image of the citizens. “It is very unpleasant that the population of Santiago has been exposed in social networks in the way it was presented, because that goes against what we are defending as a social project.”

Ortega urged “not to follow the lead of these individuals that could damage the image of the people” and “encouraged the population to be very careful with things that are uploaded to the social networks (…). We have to avoid damaging, the image of our people in particular, who do not deserve it.”

The official media has taken several days to report this news and has only done it to accuse those who have informed the population and to proclaim that these events are isolated, that Cuba is a safe place and that this incident “responds to a campaign orchestrated from abroad”. The Tele Turquino hostess finished her presentation with a solemn phrase: “The truth is like the light, no matter how much you try to conceal it, it always blazes”.

 Francy Pérez Perdomo

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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.

UN Asks Cuba to Release and Compensate Three Opponents

Iván Amaro Hidalgo, on the left, was arrested in August 2016 wearing a shirt with the motto Democracy YES! Dictatorship NO!

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 February 2020 — The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations Human Rights Council considers that jailed Cuban opponents Josiel Guia Piloto, Marbel Mendoza Reyes and Iván Amaro Hidalgo were convicted of vague crimes and without adequate legal defense.

After learning of the cases from the  Cuban Prisoners Defenders (CPD), an NGO, and evaluating the allegations of the Government of Cuba, the agency reached these conclusions and calls on Havana to grant the activists “immediate, full freedom” and grant them “the effective right to obtain compensation and other types of reparation, in accordance with international law.”

Josiel Guia Piloto, president of the Republican Party of Cuba (which is not legally recognized), was arrested 22 times between 2011 and 2014. In 2016 he was arrested and, a year later, was convicted of “contempt and public disorder.” The UN considers it proven that the police stopped him without justification in order to “generate an exchange of words” that resulted in his arrest and prosecution “from the fabrication of a suspicion by police.” continue reading

Marbel Mendoza Reyes, of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), was charged and sentenced to two and a half years in prison for social-pre-criminal dangerousness, a crime that the Cuban government uses very regularly. According to Cuban Prisoners Defender, there are 11,000 people imprisoned in the Island under this charge, which is applied to people the government believes are involved in activities contrary to “socialist morality.”

The CPD report also alleges that Mendoza’s sentence was extended six months for an alleged crime of contempt based on the complaint of a single official, something that is allowed by law in Cuba.

Iván Amaro Hidalgo, an activist with the Pedro Luis Boitel Party for Democracy (also illegal), is the third person referenced in the report. He was arrested in August 2016 wearing a shirt with the motto Democracy YES! Dictatorship NO! and Down You Know Who. In March 2017, he was sentenced to three years in prison in a closed-door trial in which the only witness was a police officer.

The report of the Working Group questions the criminal definitions of “contempt, disorder, danger and attack, contained in the Criminal Code, they are extremely vague and lack the requirement of sufficient accuracy to provide the population with legal certainty.”

In addition, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has already asked for the elimination of the crime of pre-criminal-dangerousness from the Criminal Code, as have other NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

The document laments that it is not the first time that it has to deal with matters such as this and that “there have been no significant changes in the State justice system since the presentation of its initial report in 1997. In particular, it notes with concern the lack of independence with respect to the executive and legislative powers of both the judiciary and the role of lawyers,” it emphasizes.

The Working Group will refer these three cases to the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishments, and asks Cuba to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was signed by Cuba in 2008 but not ratified and put into practice, and to follow up on the case and the application of recommendations.

One of the requests made in the report to the authorities in Havana is “to disseminate the present opinion [in reference to the report] by all available means and as widely as possible,” although it does not seem likely that they will do so.

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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.

Melia Group Faces Demand for 150 Million Dollars Compensation for Cuban Revolution Expropriations

The hotel Sol Río De Luna y Mares, of the Meliá chain, is advertised on a web platform. (tripadvisor)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 February 2020 — Andrés Rivero Mestre, the lawyer who defends several of the families that claiming compensation for the expropriation of their assets by the Cuban Government after the Revolution in the 1960s, calculates that the Meliá Mallorcan hotel chain should pay his clients more than 150 million dollars, as he has told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

Rivero, a Cuban of Spanish descent, is defending the interests of the Sánchez-Hill, Mata, López Regueiro and Echevarría families, among others, from his office in Florida.

“We claim, under the law, three times the value of the 39 hotels, which obviously now exceeds 150 million dollars,” he explained to El Mundo. The estimate is based on the calculation made by an expert who valued the hotel deemed to have the lowest value at about five million dollars. “If that is the least valuable, I estimate that the collection would exceed 150 million, but the truth is that I don’t know, I would be speculating if I gave an exact figure.” continue reading

The accounts have been using estimates of the room rates and occupancy levels of the hotel in recent years.

Rivero’s idea is to claim compensation from the Meliá chain and then extend that to the rest of the chains. The families he represents have claims on 15 of the 39 facilities that Meliá manages in Cuba, but the demands can be extended using a class action lawsuit that allows claims on behalf of all those affected.

At the moment, the prospects for success are not high. Earlier this year, a Florida judge removed the Mallorcan company from a case for claims because it was not within his competence to rule on land expropriations in other countries. In addition, the European Union has activated the blockade statute, a rule created in 1996 to protect against the Helms-Burton Act.

The US State Department, for its part, is in contact with Rivero’s office. “We have asked them to impose sanctions and do everything possible: remove visas, whatever, in order to support the actions of my clients,” he said

In early February it was confirmed that Gabriel Escarrer, vice president of Meliá, and other 13 executives are prohibited from entering the United States for this reason, but the hotel group is confident that the law protects them.

Rivero’s strategy, as he told El Mundo, is to focus the current process on the websites that sell hotel stays in Cuba, such as Expedia and Booking, and leave Meliá out at first, based on the fact that these platforms market rooms that can be reserved and paid for from Florida.

“If we win with Expedia and Booking we will have the entire foundation to include Meliá again,” since they can also market their rooms to Florida consumers from their website.

If the plan works, he will continue with Iberostar, Barceló and Blau Hotels and hotels in other countries, he announced.

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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.

Evo Morales Returns From Cuba to Prepare for the Election Campaign from Argentina

Morales was in Cuba, presumably for a health treatment that continues in Havana.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 February 2020 —  Evo Morales returned to Argentina on Sunday after a brief stay in Cuba, allegedly for medical reasons. Starting Monday, today, the former president will dedicate himself, from Buenos Aires, to preparing for the Bolivian elections of May 3 and will start a series of meetings, which include a meeting between the candidate from Bolivia’s Movement for Socialism (MAS), Luis Arce, and Argentine President Alberto Fernández.

“There will be el compañero Luis Arce Catacora, candidate for president, and then he has a meeting with Argentine President Alberto Fernández; it will be an important meeting between a candidate and a president,” Morales said in an interview this Sunday.

In addition, the former president who, in his statements, made it clear that he is leading the campaign, announced a meeting with departmental and national leaders of his party to plan the road to the elections. continue reading

“Tomorrow morning starting at 8:00 we will be gathered to listen and for them to listen to me, share campaign experiences, and an important issue that we are going to discuss is how we will deal with the post-election issue of May 3, how are we going to protect the vote of the people, from the polls, the constituencies, some proposal must be raised, hopefully we will approve it and in this way we will be prepared,” he said.

Before leaving the Island, Morales said in an interview that he is “in very good health.” Both the former leader and his party in Bolivia and even the Cuban Government, not generally given to discuss these cases, have spread that his presence in Havana was allegedly due to a medical treatment.

In March 2017, Morales was treated in Cuba for an alleged throat condition and a month later he was operated for a nodule on the vocal cords, also at the Surgical Medical Research Center (Cimeq).

On this occasion, on the other hand, although it has been emphasized that his passage through Cuba was due to a health issue, the issue itself has not been clarified, which arouses speculation about the real reasons for this trip.

The last voting survey, released on Sunday by Ciesmori, puts the MAS in first position with 31.6%, although it remains to be seen if the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) will approve the former president presenting himself as a candidate for senator.

The second option would be the one presented by the also former-president of the country Carlos Mesa, with the Citizen Community Party (CC), with 17.1%. In third place, with 16.5% is the candidacy of Jeanine Áñez, who is on the ballot with the Juntos alliance.

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Cuba’s Taxi Drivers Will Remain Idle if Their Demands Are Not Met

Two woman get in a shared-taxi in Havana; the vehicles are known as almendrónes, after the “almond-shape” of the classic American cars generally used in this fixed-route service.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 February 2020 — The Cuban Association of Autonomous Carriers (ACTA) in Havana, Mayabeque and Artemis provinces, released a document on Thursdays with five demands of the Government which, if not satisfied, will lead them to maintain the work stoppage that began several days ago, after new regulations governing the sector went into effect.

The demands are: freedom of movement is authorized for private taxi drivers; the approval of a single passenger license; permission to work throughout the Island, including tourist areas; the ability to buy fuel based on consumption; and the end of ’capped’ fare prices.

Esteban Hernández González, coordinator for the western region of the Self-Employed Coalition of Cuba, explained to Radio Martí that between 70% and 80% of drivers are supporting the strike to try to get the government to negotiate. “So far there has been no response to the demands,” he said. continue reading

In the interview, Hernández added that private carriers move around 80% of passengers, which encourages them to think they will be heard. “The Ministry of Transportation has no capacity [to carry that number]. There is no equipment, no means,” he confirms.

However, he also admits that his associates cannot remain unemployed for much longer and are considering other forms of follow-up, such as working on alternate days.

On February 1, new measures for private transport entered into force, including those affecting rates. The boteros, as taxi drivers are called — the word means “boatmen” — should charge a maximum of 10 CUP per passenger in vehicles with up to 14 seats, and 5 CUP per passengers in trucks and vans converted for passenger use.

Hernández explained that the authorities, in any case, are not strictly applying the regulations. “The position of the authorities has been to let it go: there are practically no inspectors on the streets today and the police are not stopping the cars, as they did at the beginning, because they know that the situation is beyond their control,” he says.

In recent years, the Government has tried to impose distinct regulations on private passenger transport, but the amount of changes in the regulation suggests that they have not yet found a working formula.

The problems of public transport in Cuba, very specifically in the capital, where the concentration of residents is very high, make it impossible to move the population without resorting to private transport, either through state taxis or the private boteros. But the former, by themselves, are also insufficient, which ups the negotiating capacity for private parties.

One of the most notable stoppages of private transport in recent years in Cuba began on December 7, 2018, when for 48 hours the most populous city in the country was the scene of what was popularly known as El Trancón (The Great Traffic Jam). The protest was trying to reverse a package of regulations that imposed strict controls on the sector and although the measures were finally approved in part, the authorities delayed or canceled others.

See also: Set of related articles.

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In the Streets of Bogota, Thousands of Venezuelans Barely Survive

Many Venezuelans walk hundreds and thousands of kilometers, carrying their children, to get to Bogotá in search of work and economic relief. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Bogota, 15 February 2020 – There are three of them and they are sitting on a wall in front of a restaurant in the Chapinero neighborhood. The girl is restless and the mother tries to keep her from walking into the busy avenue. Meanwhile, the father asks for money. He is about 20 years old and all the bones of his face are visible. “We come from Caracas, we arrived here last week,” says the young Venezuelan, who identifies himself as Andrés.

I start a conversation and just listening to my accent he pulls back, on guard. The few syllables I pronounce act as a threat to his ears. “Relax, I’m Cuban, I’m not a Castro supporter,” I say, to calm him, but the fear is in his eyes, opened wider than a second ago, in his nervous stutter, and in his grabbing of his belongings.

I sit down next to him to allay his suspicion and tell him it’s my fault, a heavy weight that I carry on my shoulders. “I understand what you are living through, we are responsible in some way,” I say. I keep talking and it eases the tension and he talks. “We left with what we had on, madre, our feet are still destroyed by the journey,” and he shows me his shoes with holes big enough to put his little finger through. continue reading

It’s noon and the Bogota street is a swarm of people leaving their offices for lunch. For most of those who pass by, these three Venezuelans are virtually invisible. The city is full of them, at every corner, at every traffic light and in every neighborhood. According to figures published by Migration Colombia last August, at that time there were 1,408,055 of these migrants in the country, an increase of 11% compared to the first quarter of 2019.

However, the numbers may be far from the reality because many migrants are in the country irregularly, or are in the process of legalizing their status. It is enough to travel the streets of the Colombian capital, approach the border towns or spend a few hours in some office where the paperwork is prepared to get an identity card, to realize the impressive scale of this exodus.

Scrubbing windshields, performing as “living statues” or asking for alms, Bogotá is overflowing with displaced Venezuelans. (14ymedio)

Outside a Carulla supermarket, Elmer, 16, sells empanadas and arepas. For two thousand Colombian pesos (about 60¢ US), he offers his merchandise warm and wrapped in napkins. “I came with my grandmother, my mother and my two sisters, but I am the only one in the family who can work now,” he says. “In Venezuela we left my other two brothers and my grandfather, so we have to send them money.”

Elmer dropped out of school more than three years ago, when the economic situation in his nation hit bottom. “All my friends left and in the end it was my turn,” he explains. He has the look of an old man who has seen the ups and downs of life, he speaks without hope and, every so often, checks the coins he has earned, polishes them and collects them in a small pile.

“On a bad day I make 50,000 Colombian pesos in this corner,” he says. That’s less than 15 dollars, a small fortune in his country, where shortages and inflation have turned money into a balloon that goes up and up to the stratosphere. But in Bogotá, Elmer and his family can barely survive with that, after the remittances they have to send home and the rent of a tiny apartment.

The family entered the country through the border city of Cúcuta. Elmer does not like to talk about his time in that border region, but only says “there, my older sister and my mother took charge.” It is not necessary to add anything else, the prostitution of Venezuelan women in that area has skyrocketed in recent years and in the brothels doctors, nurses, engineers and teachers take turns, due to the economic despair that has led them to sell their bodies.

A customer heading into the Carulla approaches Elmer to buy some empanadas. “Two meat and one cheese,” he specifies, and the young man’s hands, wrapped in plastic gloves, dip into a small pot. He is also wearing a facemask, which in these times of the coronavirus implies another meaning. “No, it’s that customers don’t like us to breathe on the merchandise,” he says.

Elmer’s younger sister is called Cinthia; she is a girl of about eight who appears past noon bringing more empanadas. She was born in March 2013, shortly before Hugo Chavez died, and of her country all she has left are some of her brother’s photos, some of the flavors still served in her family’s kitchen, and nostalgia. She already has some Colombian friends she met in public school.

When Elmer was born, Cuba was living high on the hog, supported by the Venezuelan subsidy. Those were the years when the Battle of Ideas, the Energy Revolution and all the ideological excesses that Havana could afford were at their peak expression. Home appliances were distributed at preferential prices, public acts of revolutionary vindication were organized every week and ideological propaganda reached amazing levels.

So Elmer’s drama is partly a consequence of our waste and folly. On an island that has always had continental aspirations, this propensity to suck the resources of great powers became an official practice in the last half century. Some even point to Cuba as among the causes of the Soviet Union’s implosion, but what does seems certain is that we are one of the great reasons for the Venezuelan debacle.

The year that Elmer’s younger sister Cinthia arrived in this world, the bubble had begun to burst. Chávez was ill, his popularity in a tailspin, the Plaza of the Revolution increasingly mentioned as the cause of a good part of Venezuela’s problems and life in Caracas was very uncertain, dangerous and difficult. In Cuba, most of us did not even realize the drama we had caused in one of the richest nations in Latin America.

Some Venezuelans can only survive thanks to public charity. (14ymedio)

It is tremendously hot in Bogotá. I look at both siblings, buy an empanada and eat it near the steaming pot, along with a low-sugar lemonade Elmer, who is almost ten years younger than my son, has prepared for me himself.

Uber was kicked out of Colombia on January 31, so when I can’t wait for public transportation I must appeal to Beat, a mobile application that has partly replaced the American giant. I enter the address, request a car and Joaquín arrives, a Colombian with a good-natured smile who splashes the conversation throughout the trip with jargon like huevón (“bro” and also “dickhead”), marica (faggot) ​​and gonorrea. I do not flinch, I know that in Bogotá these are phrases almost of love.

Joaquin works more than twelve hours every day. I get into the vehicle by the door next to the driver, because they prefer it for safety reasons, and then he starts complaining about the extremes of the weather, ranging from 1 degree Celsius in the morning to more than 25 at noon. “You have to be like an onion and take off your clothes as the day progresses,” he explains. The vehicle moves with a desperate slowness, about 10 or 15 kilometers per hour because of the trancones (traffic jams). The red light catches us and a young man throws himself on the windshield and announces, with a Venezuelan accent, his services before starting to spray a liquid on the glass.

“Some come here to work but others do not,” Joaquin tells me while pointing to the young man. Then start he starts enumerating the issues against migrants that could be heard anywhere in the world. That “they work for less and displace local workers”; that “they are not like the people here and do not know how to behave”; that “they are everywhere and this is already unbearable”; that “we are not prepared for the arrival of so many people”… I listen in silence and when he pauses, I take advantage of it and say:” Nobody leaves their country with a smile.”

Joaquin looks at me as if he had just discovered me. He inspects my face and takes the opportunity to add: “All emigration is full of pain.” The young man finishes drying the windshield, the traffic light turns green and Joaquin leaves him some coins before stepping on the accelerator and heading down 70th Street. “And where are you from, who knows so much about this?” he asks me. “I’m from the place where part of the problem began,” I say and shut up.

“Take care, little lady,” says Joaquin, as I get out of the car. “Not everyone is good in this city, watch out for the venocos, he says, in an allusion to Venezuelans, and in that last sentence I notice – underneath it – a certain Argentine accent.  Joaquin who seemed more Colombian than the poet José Asunción Silva – whose face is on the 5,000-peso bill – turns out not to be from here either and has come from another place, like me, like Elmer and Cinthia… like Andrés.

I’m at the Colombian Migration office on 100th Street. The line starts early. There is everything: Europeans, Americans, South Americans, but especially many Venezuelans. A guard at the entrance listens to each case and indicates which line to follow once inside the place. In front of a machine with a touch screen, several migrants gather.

Some will be redirected to the top floor, to a ticket office on the right hand side, or rejected because they still do not have all the requirements to request an identity card. The Venezuelan Marcia and her two children manage to move to the upper floor where they take fingerprints, take some photos and tell them that, in about a week their identification card will be ready. Outside, some friends who are waiting for them hug them as if they have been born again.

Nostalgia, memories of how they lived in their country and a dream of returning in the future, are feelings shared by these Venezuelan migrants. (14ymedio)

“In silence I have suffered so many sorrows / because my soul is so good and I cannot control it,” sings Vanessa on the corner; another Venezuelan, 22. She comes from the state of Zulia. Every morning she goes out to raise some money with her cousin Juan Carlos. They carry a huge wireless speaker and stand on a corner of Bogotá’s Carrera 11*. “If I have never given motives / I don’t know selfishness / and I do no one any wrong,” the speaker roars.

The vehicles stop with the red light, Vanessa steps up her singing, which mimics the interpretation of Reynaldo de Armas, also known by the nickname Cardinal Sabanero. The heat tops 80 degrees and the young woman wears leather pants and wields a microphone with the mastery of someone who is on a glamorous stage. Some coins fall into the hat under her feet.

“If this is the life / the one that marks our way / the way we must travel / for bad or for good / I must take this route / and we are going to follow it / even if we lose, she sings, and after her emotional performance she pauses. I approach her and introduce myself, but I try to imitate the local accent because I don’t want to scare her. “Cuban, right?” she snaps as soon as she hears me. I just shake my head, what else can I do.

What could I say to her? That she is on that corner repeating the same song hundreds of times, to a large extent because my country swallowed up the resources of hers, because we exported a failed model to them, one that has condemned our Island to begging and Venezuela, practically, to dismemberment. But Vanessa is not interested in my apologies. “I’m still not resigned / let me keep fighting / my desire is to win,” she begins to sing as soon as she sees the traffic light change color.

*Translator’s note: In Bogota’s street system calles run east-west and carreras run north-south.

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Evo Morales Goes to Cuba

Evo Morales was in Cuba two months ago, presumably for the same medical reasons (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE / 14ymedio, Buenos Aires, February 10th, 2020 – the Head of State of Argentina, Alberto Fernandez, stated that Evo Morales, ex-president of Bolivia, left Buenos Aires Monday morning, to go to Cuba.

“As I understand it, he was undergoing certain medical treatment, and had to go. He spoke to me a few days ago and made the comment when he was on his way”, Fernandez said to Radio Continental when asked about Morales’ trip to Havana.

The ex-president had arrived in Argentina mid-December, where  he sought refuge, after having been given asylum for a month in Mexico, following his resignation, under duress by the armed forces, on November 10th.

Fernandez emphasised that “as a political refugee, there was nothing to stop him going to Cuba”.

Morales was already on the island at the beginning of December for a medical appointment, when he was in asylum in Mexico, the first country that accepted him when he left Bolivia, and before he left for Argentina. Morales’ departure for Havana was timed some hours after the Bolivian Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced that it had concerns about his candidacy to be a senator for Cochabamba, representing his Socialism Movement (MAS) Party.

Additionally, there was concern about the candidacy for president of Luis Arce, from MAS, who had not complied with certain requirements for participation in the elections the following May 3rd.

Translated by GH

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Diaz-Canel, Ortega and Maduro Are Not Invited to Inauguration of the President of Uruguay

Miguel Díaz-Canel was not invited to the inauguration of President Lacalle Pou in Uruguay, scheduled for this March 1. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 February 2020 — The presidents of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are not invited to the inauguration of the newly elected president of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle Pou, a gesture that marks the distance between the new executive and the leftist governments of the region.

Uruguayan media report that the decision to exclude the leaders of the so-called 21st Century Socialism countries is based on the lack of democratic standards in their nations.

The appointed Foreign Minister, Ernesto Talvi, said that the exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua was made on the basis of Article 1 of the Inter-American Charter of Human Rights.

“The peoples of the Americas have the right to democracy and their governments have the obligation to promote and defend it. Democracy is essential for the social, political and economic development of the peoples of the Americas,” says the charter, which has not been signed by Cuba.

One of the invitations that is still under consideration is that of Bolivia, where a transitional government is in place after the resignation of former president Evo Morales, who is now a refugee in Argentina.

The inauguration of President Lacalle Pou is scheduled for March 1. His government is expected to recognize Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela and leave the so-called Montevideo Mechanism, a group convened by the governments of Uruguay and Mexico to support a consensual exit to the Venezuelan crisis by way of negotiations with the regime of Nicolás Maduro.

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Cuba Justifies Construction of More Hotel Rooms as a Long-Term Tourism Strategy

In the center of Havana, hotels continue to be built while the housing stock continues to deteriorate. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 12 February 2020 — Cuba will continue to build hotels as a long-term strategy despite the decline in tourism. The Minister of Tourism, Juan Carlos García, answered the question that many ask themselves, one that, without a doubt, he wanted to answer, since it was asked this Tuesday during his appearance on the Roundtable program on Cuban Television.

The Cuban official who heads up the activity said that Cuba would never received more than four million tourists if, in the 90s, Fidel Castro and his brother Raul had not decided to develop the sector with a program that included, in addition to Havana and Varadero, Holguin and the Cuban Keys.

Thus, even though the latest figures for the last year showed a 9.3% drop in foreign visitors, the Government will continue to focus on increasing the capacity of hotels and related services. continue reading

“In the beginning the country was marketed as a sun and beach destination, and the investment efforts were focused on this type of tourism. But today the expectations of the tourists go beyond that, they want to enjoy the hospitality of the Cuban people, their culture” said Garcia.

“For the growth of tourism in the capital, a more up-to-date hotel infrastructure was required. The hotels we build today are high-tech, coinciding with what the country needs. We work with solar panels, saving lighting, even when we are in a highly automated process,” he added.

In addition, competition in the region, according to the minister, is very strong, so investments will continue.

For this year, tourism authorities have set a goal of 4.5 million international visitors this year and hope to reverse the decline suffered in 2019 with the growth of the market in Russia and the recovery of traditional numbers from European countries.

“It is not the first time that tourism has declined in Cuba. That happened earlier in 2001, 2007 and 2008, but we have had the possibility of recovering. We are sure that we are going to reverse this situation,” he said.

Garcia recalled that this decline came after the strengthening of the economic embargo measures applied by the United States Government, such as the suspension of cruises from that country, as well as things like the bankruptcy of tour operators such as the British Thomas Cook.

The Russian market went from tenth to fourth place at the end of 2019, during which it grew by 30%, sending a record 178,000 travelers to Cuba; and this year the Cuban Tourism Fair will be dedicated precisely to the Eurasian nation as a guest of honor.

The highest authority of the sector outlined other measures to recover the growth of previous years and rescue of tourism, including from events and looking at traditional markets such as Spain, Germany, France, Italy and Great Britain, along with the incorporation of new markets and continuing the investment in hotel rooms and facilities.

Other lines of growth to which the Cuban market aspires are the increase in the share of tourism by Cubans, which the authorities are focused on. In 2019, 600,000 more Cuban clients were accommodated compared to the previous year and the chains are making special offers that so that these visits will continue to rise. In Varadero, the minister argued, there were more than 7,000 national customers at the end of the year.

“We are engaged in the north of Holguin, in a project that includes eight campsites, four of which will be inaugurated in 2020, always taking advantage of the natural beauty of the environment,” he said.

Other strategies cited were the increase in internal connections in the country, seeking the Chinese market as a potential large source of tourists, and offsetting the embargo with a package of unspecified measures.

In addition, the minister announced that the cruise sector is not being ignored, despite the fact that the main market — cruiseships from the US — is now prohibited.

Although in 2019 the bar was set at the reception of 5.1 million foreign visitors, that official forecast was revised downwards, first to 4.7 and finally to 4.3 million.

But at the end of 2019 the registered figure was 4.27 million tourists.

Tourism is Cuba’s third source of income behind remittances and the sale of professional services abroad, contributing 10% to gross domestic product (GDP) and generating approximately half a million jobs, according to official
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Looking for Water at Compostela and Obrapia Streets

In recent days Havana’s water shortage has worsened. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 February 2020 — Since dawn, in many of the capital city’s neighborhoods, the question is when the water will come. The supply has been zero for weeks in some areas and in others the cycles have lengthened and 10 days can pass without the liquid running through the pipes.

“In this block there hasn’t been water for more than a week, not a drop. It is incredible, because you can go around the corner and there’s water, and there’s none here,” says Raquel while rushing with her bucket in hand to try to fill it from a tanker truck that just arrived.

“Look, sometimes you lose patience, it is not easy not to have water for the basics. The other day, in front of the fire station, the neighbors closed the street to get attention. It is not the first time they’ve done it. When you see that nobody cares what we are going through, it is understood that these things will happen,” says Raquel.

“I do this voluntarily. I came to fill the hotel cisterns when it closed and I was surplus. I came for people to get them at least a little water, because I know the situation well,” said the driver of the water truck. “I know what this is like because I was born and raised here, in the heart of Old Havana.”

Women, men and children go from one place to another with their containers. It is a scene that is repeated every day.

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Cuba’s Complicated Shortages of Cleaning Products

A long line in Havana to buy detergent, one of the products that has been missing from the markets. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 February 2020 — The authorities of the Ministry of Internal Trade have not stopped insisting in recent days that cleaning products will not disappear in February and March while recognizing their scarcity and announcing the availability of these products in April. This Monday, Francisco Silva, general director of Sales of Merchandise of the ministry, indicated that the sales of soaps will grow 40% and those of toothpaste 35%, compared to the previous year.

According to the official Communist Party newspaper Granma, several executives of the Ministry of Internal Trade anticipate the improvement in the supply for April, as its head, Betsy Díaz Velázquez, said last Tuesday. The state and independent press then echoed the words of the official, who admitted that these products had been missing in January. “We are not going to have the demand satisfied in February or March, but we hope that with several measures that are being adopted, we can stabilize, by April, the production of cleaning products by the industry and with it the availability to the population,” she said.

The minister’s words provoked a reaction of fear, especially in Miami, where relatives of emigrants fear that the aggravation of the crisis on the Island will require them to meet more of their relatives’ needs than usual.

On Saturday, the Ministry of Internal Trade issued a statement to indicate that the products are available, although scarce, and accused “unscrupulous and traitorous persons” of misrepresenting the information. “What is true is that until March the demand and stability will not be satisfied, since the total amounts needed to meet it are not available and that the products must be stabilized at appropriate levels from April,” according to the statement.

“Once again the lackeys of imperialism manipulate information to damage the image of the Revolution, which they will not achieve, as they will not be able to undermine the unity of the people,” they emphasized.

Two days later, the person in charge of emphasizing the message was Silva, who added the customary attribution of blame to the United States in the clarification of information on the products.

The manager attributed the shortage to the lack of timely arrival of raw materials from different countries that do not escape “the harassment to which Cuba is subjected, because of the economic blockade of the United States Government,” the note said. “Given this scenario, the industry has had to look for alternatives, which means not only financial resources, but also to new sources of supply. All these actions must be reflected in a higher level of stability from the second quarter,” Silva said.

Silva has referred to more commodities with problems, one of which is cooking oil, which, according to the official, is being produced normally in the three factories that deal with it, located in Havana, Camaguey and Santiago de Cuba.

“In 2019, 15,586 more tons were sold than in 2018, and for this year there must be stability in the assurances,” she said, adding that crude and refined oil is available, in addition to the imported oil included in the plan.

As for grains, another of the products that suffers shortages, Silva indicated that black beans or peas have been delivered this February “according to the availability in each province” and noted that beans are being imported to meet the needs. Last week, officialdom admitted that the production of this staple food has collapsed. “About 25,000 tons were planned, which represents less than 50% of the previous period,” said Yojan García Rodas, head of the Department of Various Crops of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Silva said that in February and March the products of the standardized family basic basket, such as coffee and pasta, are guaranteed to the territories to which they are entitled, in each month’s deliveries. And with regards of coffee and bulk milk powder, solutions are being sought to be able to package them.

The official said that the year just ended, more meat products were sold than in 2018 and the same is expected for 2020, although in the Cuban pantries it was not especially noticed. Chicken was one of the products that suffered frequent shortages and only sausages or turkey hash were available in a stable supply.

But the statements of the officials calling for calm have failed to calm the anxiety of consumers who form long lines outside the stores that carry products such as soap, detergent and dishwasher. Families especially look for small bags of detergent, cheaper and harder to find right now.

Others, in the face of the shortages, return to the practices that spread throughout the country during the Special Period: melt small bars of soap to make a bigger one, or prepare it at home with animal tallow, caustic soda and other aromatic ingredients.

In Artemisa, the Martínez family, which has been selling milk, cheese and yogurt in the informal market for more than two decades, has also, in the last month, included manufactured soaps that they produce in their own patio. “There is a lot of demand and it is used primarily for washing because it is hard soap and it is used slowly,” says one of the vendors.

Others appeal to their relatives abroad to send a package with detergent or to buy the product from the online classified sites that deliver on the Island. On those websites, about 200 grams of detergent costs more than $2.50 (USD), while a package with 34 washing capsules exceeds $42.00 (USD).

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Police Prevent Lynching of an Alleged Rapist in Santiago de Cuba

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 February 2020 — The police have had to intervene to prevent the lynching of an alleged rapist in Santiago de Cuba, according to several independent media outlets on the Island.

According to residents of the area, last Saturday the detainee allegedly raped a girl just 8 years old, who had to be admitted to the Hospital Infantil Sur, known as La Colonia.

The aggressor, Diario de Cuba recountstried to hide at a friend’s house in the neighborhood of Nuevo Vista Alegre, but a crowd surrounded him and threw stones at him.

The police had to lead the man inside the house to prevent the situation from getting worse and even the presence of special agents was required.

When the agents removed the detainee to put him in the patrol car, the population threw objects again until a confrontation with the police began in which shots were heard.

Apparently, the girl, a neighbor of the San Pedrito neighborhood, had attended a birthday party and the alleged aggressor picked her up claiming that her mother had sent him to look for her.

In the images that have circulated through the networks, the enraged crowd is seen attempting to take justice in their own hands and the police forces trying to disperse the mob by means of tonfas.

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