A Contest Will Support Cuban ’Influencers’ to be "Stars of the Networks"

The call for Cuban ’influencers’ is open as of December 12 and works will be received until January 10, 2020. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 December 2019 — The presenter Alex Otaola has launched on Wednesday a call to find and support five young Cubans residing on the Island who want to become the new stars of social networks, according to a statement received in the editorial of 14ymedio.

The call seeks to open new channels of expression and opinion to new generations and to the voices of young people living in Cuba so they can freely express and share their ideas, share their experiences and promote social change.

“Do you have something interesting to share and tell society? Do you feel like being heard and changing something in your community? Do you have that something, that X factor, that charisma that makes people turn to see you? Well, this one It’s your chance, “asks Otaola. “If so, I invite you to join the Cuban Power Network!” continue reading

The selection of the winners will be made from the videos published on the YouTube platform sent by the participants. The winners must overcome three qualifying stages: in the first 12 semifinalists will be selected, then eight and finally the five winners.

The topics for which they can compete are: Powerful Cubans; Geeks, Tech and Gaming; Future Society: Dreams for Cuba; Art or Music: Express yourself as you want; Life in my neighborhood: how to live in different parts and sectors of society; LGBTIQ: Our right to love and our bodies; Environment and animal rights.

The call is open as of Thursday, December 12 and works will be received until January 10, 2020. The rules of the contest and the selection process can be found on the Red Cuban Power Facebook page .

“Within the framework of the week in which we celebrate International Human Rights Day, we want the information to run within Cuba in a better way,” Otaola added after the announcement was published.

In the last year, and after the arrival of the web browsing service to mobile phones, the number and scope of influencers who publish content from the Island has been enhanced . With topics ranging from football, through everyday life and Until they get to fashion, these young people publish fresh, creative and original content often away from political issues.

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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.

Teachers Day, Gifts No Matter What

Shops and private businesses, like this one in the Havana neighborhood of La Timba, display their offerings. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 December 2019 — December is the month of expenses. Not only for Christmas celebrations and Christmas dinner, but because all families with school-age children must set aside something in their budget to buy gifts for Teachers Day, which, although it is the 22nd, will be celebrated next Friday this year, the last school day before the year-end school holidays. Shops and private businesses, such as this one in the Havana neighborhood of La Timba, display their offerings for teachers, teaching assistants and tutors. Nobody wants to be left without a gift, even if it is just something small.

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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.

Cubans Will March in Miami in Favor of Family Reunification

The Cuban Family Reunification Program stopped due to the mysterious attacks suffered by US and Canadian diplomats. (EFE / Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 December 2019 — A group of Cubans will demonstrate this Sunday in Miami to demand the resumption of the Cuban Family Reunification Program (CFRP), a program that stopped with the paralyzation of most of the procedures at the US Embassy in Havana following the mysterious acoustic attacks suffered by American and Canadian diplomats.

The demonstration will be at Cuban Memorial Park located at 13th Avenue and 8th Street Southwest in Miami and is scheduled for 11:00 in the morning.

“I have my son in Cuba pleading for the resumption of the CFRP. It is very difficult for me to talk about this when I haven’t been able to hug my son for four years!” Indira Solis told the Nuevo Herald. She belongs to one of the more than 20,000 families waiting for the resumption of the program. continue reading

Solis, who is the organizer of several social media groups to ask for the continuation of the immigration program, says that on several occasions they have asked for the help of members of congress and politicians in South Florida. They have also used tweets and “virtual demonstrations.”

Created in 2007, the CFRP allows citizens and legal residents in the United States to request so-called ’parole’ (prior admission) for their relatives in Cuba. “If the parole is granted, family members can enter the United States without having to wait for their immigrant visa cases to be processed according to the quotas assigned,” explains the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service.

On November 19, the Cuban-Americans of the Miami-Dade Commission rejected a resolution supporting a bill in Congress that would restore the Cuban Family Reunification Program, generating outrage among the petitioners of relatives in Cuba.

“It is very sad that Cuban politicians here lend themselves to the same game as the dictatorship. Keeping families divided has been the work of the Cuban regime. It is incredible that now they also want to help the Cuban dictatorship to martyrize our people more,” said Yuleika Martínez, a doctor who escaped from government missions abroad and has two small girls in Cuba.

For Gretel Moreno whose relatives on the Island are awaiting the approval interview, the United States Government has a responsibility that it must fulfill. “In August 2016, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) sent letters of invitation to thousands of Cuban-American families who already had an approved family petition case, to participate in the Cuban Family Reunification Program by Parole,” she explains.

“We ask that both USCIS and the State Department seek a solution to these problems that are already more than 2 years old,” Moreno complains. “They have charged for services they have not provided.”

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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.

Christmas Holidays, a Victory for Cuban Students

A couple of decades ago, it would have been unthinkable in Cuba for students to take a two-week break for the Christmas holidays. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 14 December 2019 — There are triumphs that are celebrated loudly, with gestures of pride for the victory achieved and expressions of popular jubilation. Others, however, are experienced more discreetly to prevent them from being revoked or taken away. To this last group belongs the recovery, without fanfare or celebrations, of the Christmas holidays which Cuban students have achieved in recent years.

This coming Friday will be a special day in the classrooms of this Island because in very few of them will classes be taught. The Teacher’s Day will be celebrated in advance, scheduled for December 22 but this year the date falls on a Sunday. Along with gifts for the teachers and organized parties with resources donated by the parents, students will also be saying goodbye to their colleagues until the new year.

A couple of decades ago, it would have been unthinkable in Cuba for students to take a two-week break for the Christmas holidays. Those of us who went to school in the 70s, 80s and much of the 90s, could never enjoy a real rest period on these dates. If anything, we managed not to avoid the classroom after presenting a medical “note” for some sickness (often fictitious) or after showing an unpostponable ticket to travel to another province. continue reading

Only in December 1997, a few days before Pope John Paul II visited the Island, did Fidel Castro declare December 25 a holiday for the first time in decades. After that, little by little, as conquerors who quietly take over a territory, running a few centimeters from the fence every night, Cubans were pushing the narrow boundaries of rest. To the point that in schools a tacit agreement has already been reached that the students do not go to classes from the penultimate Friday of December until the first Monday of January, should that day not be a holiday.

What particular group starred in the recovery of this Christmas break? None. Was it announced in any official media that a two week teaching break had been decreed for all school levels in the country? No. Has anyone gone out to celebrate in the streets that now they will not have to go to classes and can they enjoy this time of taking stock and celebrations with their family? No.

Like those victories that nobody is awarded and that are enjoyed quietly, Christmas holidays have returned to Cuban schools. And in this way, there are other triumphs that we have also accumulated without uproar but irreversibly.

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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.

Suspend Remittances and Telephone Top-ups to Cuba?

The “January Break” campaign promotes temporarily suspending the sending of remittances, topping-up of cellphone accounts, and travel to Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 9 December 2019 — In recent days this newspaper has offered its readers different points of view on the initiative to temporarily suspend the sending of remittances, packages, cellphone top-ups and trips to Cuba. The proposal, known as the January Stop, has generated an intense controversy where each party expresses its arguments with passion. In this Crossfire we present some of these reasons.

Those who support the initiative say that if the Government of Miguel Díaz-Canel is deprived of vital resources for the economy, then a system change can be promoted and a strong signal sent to the Plaza of the Revolution. The campaign’s detractors classify it as a failed strategy that would affect families more than the regime. For its part, the official media of the Island have not yet commented on the proposal.

However, in social networks and independent media, the debate has gained in intensity as the month of January approaches, when “the break” is scheduled to begin on shipments to the Island. Beyond the diatribes and insults, each side defends its positions. continue reading

For Yaxys Cires Dib, legal advisor for the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights, the exiles must be more involved in the situation in Cuba but “do it without affecting the families, who already have a very bad time thanks to the communist regime.” The lawyer recalls that “the majority of Cubans live in poverty and there are great difficulties, for example, in getting medicines.”

With another opinion, the independent journalist José Gabriel Barrenechea has shown his support for the initiative, although he adds that “more concrete and realistic objectives are sought for this strike from the sector of Cuban emigrés.” The writer also warns that by cutting “remittance shipments and cellphone recharges the regime is not going to fall,” but the campaign “may have other less ambitious, more presentable and more gradualist ambitions.”

Barrenechea enumerates “the request for the right to passive and active voting for emigrated citizens, with the Constitution amended so that the National Assembly reserves a proportional number of seats for that sector (…) or the requirement for the elimination of consular regulations on Cubans returning” to the country.

“The strike must aim to show that the emigration is a cohesive force with a capacity for unity of purpose, a force with whom the regime must sit down to talk, or on the contrary repudiate as in the worst years of separation,” add the columnist who lives in Villa Clara, Cuba.

For her part, activist and producer Liu Santiesteban wrote on her Facebook account that “no Cuban family is going to die from not receiving money for a month. In fact there are hundreds of thousands of families that do not receive a penny from anyone. They also have children and have no food, no roof and sleep outdoors in a portal or a collapsed building about to fall on their heads.”

To those who “believe that nothing will happen, that it will not affect the Cuban Communist Party and the highest powers,” Santiesteban replied that “the communist economy may collapse if we stop sending money for a month because they ultimately live off us.”

The emigrant Andrés Rodríguez-Ojea, who generated an intense debate with an opinion column published in this newspaper, believes that the most effective thing would be for the exiles to travel to Cuba to protest there. Because the current initiative does not entail “greater sacrifice than not going to the nearest Western Union office.”

Rodríguez-Ojea believes the idea that “eliminating remittances or other help to relatives in Cuba will cause a popular uprising” that leads to the fall of Castroism is absurd.

The popular opinion leader and presenter, Alexander Otaola, is one of the main promoters of the initiative from his program Hola Otaola. “We want to tell the Cuban Government that if we [the diaspora] are the second largest source of foreign currency in the country we have to be heard, taken into account,” he told the New Herald newspaper recently .

“Among those opinions that we want to be heard is the change in that archaic system. We want institutions to function transparently, without corruption, to lower the price of the passport [which costs more than $400 for those living in the US], and for them to open the country to the essential freedoms of the human being and that the repression ends,” he added.

There are three weeks left until “zero day” arrives and the debate barely seems to have begun.

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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 Addition to Being Expensive and Useless, the Cuban Passport is Not Edible

With a useful life of only six years, the Cuban passport must be extended twice during that time. Henry Constantin stands next to his passport taped to a wall with a banana beside him. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernández, Havana, 12 December 2019 — Good art does not leave anyone impassive, especially if it mixes irreverence, mockery and everyday life, as demonstrated this December with the installation of a ripe banana stuck with adhesive tape to the wall at the Art Basel festival. The composition of the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan not only attracted great attention but also sold for $ 120,000. A price that has made many internet users recreate the work in their homes with what they find most valuable or ridiculous.

This is how it came to be the turn of the Cuban passport, one of the most expensive on the planet, for which an emigrant must pay more than 450 dollars if they are obtaining it from within the United States. With a useful life of only six years, the document that proves that someone is a national of this Island must be extended twice during that time, which raises its price about 320 dollars more. Something that those who have posted photos of the blue booklet with the shield of the Republic taped to a wall have not failed to observe.

“Cattelan fell short. Poor people who believe that buying $ 120,000 a banana attached to a wall by an ’artist’ is the biggest scam,” the independent journalist Henry Constantín joked on his Facebook account. The reporter believes that it is worse to pay for a Cuban passport “that you cannot even eat, and that sometimes, as in my case, it is not useful for traveling* (or for anything else).” continue reading

“And now eat it to complete the artistic act,” said an internet user after reading Constantin’s text and alluding to the final destination of the banana in Art Basel, where a man tore the fruit from the wall and ate it to the surprise of some and rejoicing of others. Soon after, a gallery employee looked for another banana, took a new strip of duct tape and stuck it on the wall. Nothing had changed, just like with the Cuban passport.

 *Translator’s note: Cuban State Security has blocked Constantin from traveling outside 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.

Cuban Government Again Turns to the Exiles in the Midst of a Boycott on Remittances

It is estimated that more than 400,000 Cubans arrived in Miami in the first decade of Castroism. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 December 2019 — The Cuban authorities have called on the emigrants who “respect, love Cuba, defend it freely and independently and actively oppose the US blockade” to the 4th Nation and Immigration Conference, which will be held in Havana between April 8th and 10th. The announcement comes in advance, four months before the meeting, and coincides with the campaign promoted by the exile to temporarily cut off remittances to the Island to harm the Government.

The Cuban chancellor, Bruno Rodríguez, spread the call on Twitter shortly after President Miguel Díaz-Canel expressed it in a meeting with Cubans in Argentina, where he in on an official visit to attend the inauguration of Alberto Fernández as new head of state. “We give continuity to the policy initiated by our leader Fidel Castro with the Dialogue of 78,” Cuba’s head of Foreign Relations added on Twitter.

For Rodríguez, the holding of the conference “shows that strengthening ties with our nationals abroad is a continuous and irreversible process.” continue reading

Ernesto Soberón Guzmán, general director of the Office of Consular Affairs and Assistance to Cuban Residents Abroad, expanded on the information. “Many of the Cubans residing outside the country are associated with 166 organizations in 79 nations, from where they defend the sovereignty of their homeland and speak out against the blockade,” said the official, making it clear who could participate.

On social networks, many exiles reacted by criticizing the use that the authorities make of emigrants, whose money transfers essentially nourish the coffers of the State.

The independent journalist Boris González attributed the announcement precisely to the boycott promoted against remittances. “Díaz-Canel announces in a surprising way, in Argentina, the Fourth Conference on the Nation and Emigration, a corpse that Castro encourages every time he’s in water up to his neck. On the eve of the boycott convened in Miami, Castro dons his flexible mask,” he wrote on his Facebook profile.

According to a report published at the end of September by The Havana Consulting Group, in 2018 alone the Island received 6.6 billion dollars from Cubans abroad, both in cash and in merchandise, four times that received from foreign investments on which the authorities bet so much. Of the remittances, 90% come from the USA.

Some users have also criticized the fact that Cubans continue to be forced to maintain their nationality and, thus, their passport, whose price is very high [Cubans born in Cuba are not permitted to travel to Cuba on the passport of another country]. The Cuban passport is among the most expensive in the world, costing around 450 dollars. Its duration is six years, and it has to be extended twice, which means a cost of almost 500 dollars.

Díaz-Canel said recently, speaking to Cuban exiles in Ireland, that he is “aware of a group of concerns about the price of the passport” and indicated that the government is analyzing, assessing and seeking responses.

Another of the fundamental criticisms made to the announcement of the call was the refusal to let the exiles vote in last year’s constitutional referendum.

“In 2018, the participation of Cubans living abroad on the debate on the draft of the Constitution was realized. Everyone was able to contribute to the elaboration of our new Magna Carta, 40% of the approaches were accepted,” the Presidency announced on Twitter.

“And where was the right to vote of Cubans residing abroad or is it that they only want us to keep them in power economically?” one of the users reproached.

The first conference with exile took place in 1994, during the Special Period. In it, Fidel Castro had already conditioned the presence of Cubans residing abroad on “giving up personal political aspirations or group interests.” On that occasion the objective was, presumably, to attract those remittances that have ended up as the second leading source of income to the Cuban economy.

Since then, three more conferences have been held, all aimed, as expected, at requesting support from exiles for government policies.

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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.

Venezuela’s Destruction of the Amazon

The Venezuelan environmental disaster is the worst in all of Latin America, says Miguel Henrique Otero. (Wilmer González)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miguel Henrique Otero, Madrid, December 3, 2019 — The Venezuelan chapter of the destruction of the Amazon is, probably, the most brutal and savage of all. While on an international scale the fires happening in Brazil or the advance of deforestation in countries like Peru and Colombia never stop being reported, the southern region of Venezuela only makes news when there are enormous massacres, like the one that just happened in Ikabaru, a small mining town only 6 kilometers from Brazil. On November 22, six people were murdered and an undetermined number wounded as, with their bodies the target of bullets, they crossed the border in an attempt to save their lives.

The first thing that must be said is that this is not an exceptional incident. Since 2000, there has been an intensification in violence around mining. A superficial review of the news archives turns up a surprising number: at least 43 cases where the number of deceased is greater than 2 people.

I speak here of publicized incidents. Because, according to the testimonies of the region’s inhabitants, there have been other massacres which have not been recorded in the media. There are testimonies of entire families who have disappeared, who were living in very remote areas, whose fates are unknown. Social leaders from the region suspect that they were kidnapped, brought to other places, and executed. It is part of the practices established in the region: you either eliminate competitors or devastate an entire community, to clear territory and create the conditions to begin mining exploitation. continue reading

The entire southern region of Venezuela, especially the Great Savannah, which has National Park status meaning that it should be especially protected, and the Venezuelan Amazon — which extends more than 450,000 square kilometers and is distributed throughout the territories of the Bolivar, Amazonas, and Delta Amacuro states — is a kind of invisible and opaque area for a wide majority of Venezuelan society. The main reason for this, among many other reasons, is the fact that it is a precarious region in many senses: its highway administration is irregular and risky, its infrastructure fledgling and ruinous, its public services nonexistent, sporadic, or simply terrible.

The main thing is that it is one of the most dangerous areas in the world, spread out in fragments. The most peripheral strip is in the care of military officials, whose primary function is to impede free circulation, preventing photojournalists, television teams, journalists, special investigators, academics, parliamentarians, NGO members, and others from entering. Their task consists of guaranteeing that the area is an unlimited field of mineral extraction, under the most brutal techniques, without taking notice of the consequences of that activity that advances without any controls.

Operating in this territory, as has already been reported, are groups of narcoterrorists from the National Liberation Army (ELN) from Colombia; gangs who practice illegal mining, supported by armed groups who operate with an arsenal of extraordinary power; and mafias composed of civilians and soldiers, who control the distribution of food, fuel, medicine, and other basic goods.

Brazilian journalists working in the media in the north of that country, who have managed to travel to some of these settlements, refer to the “overpopulation” of weapons, drug trade, brothels, illegal alcohol sales, gambling houses, and other presences, which show how violence and the groups who exercise it in a systematic way have control over almost the entire territory.

The destruction surpasses the worst expectations. Satellite images show devastated land and lakes contaminated with mercury. The arrival of the rains is a disastrous factor: it drives contaminated water toward the rivers and small sown fields. As a result of all this, traditional fishing and vegetable harvesting leads to the consumption of contaminated foods.

The river basins are being deforested, with the impact that has on the climate and the water cycle. Experts have warned that the quantity of sediment that is being deposited in the rivers will continue to cause increasingly lethal floods. The systematic destruction of the Caroni river basin will end up affecting the entire country, because its capacity to feed the Guri Dam is in decline.

The Venezuelan environmental disaster, which will not occupy the place it deserves in the agenda of the Climate Summit beginning on December 2 in Madrid, is the gravest of all Latin America, almost comparable to those of China and Russia: infected drinking water systems; accumulation of toxic waste in all the oil and mining operations of the country; unmanageable quantities of trash in the State companies; collapsed systems of waste collection; cities, towns, and small settlements eaten away by black water, rodents, and bad odors.

Of the multimillionaire operation of Arco Minero one can only say that its results are on display: the social and economic conditions of the region’s inhabitants have n improved, nor has the promise of “ecological mining” (a false statement in itself) been kept, nor has any good been generated for the Venezuelan economy. Arco Minero is the purest and most extreme expression of the savage, murderous, violent, and impoverishing extraction that is the hallmark of the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro.

Editors’ note: Miguel Henrique Otero is director of the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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

Freedom of Expression is Our Only Militancy

The formula we have chosen is to publish those ideas that go beyond the slogans, make known the diversity of arguments, as honestly as possible. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 December 2019 — The commitment to the truth, the vocation to open a space to the dissenting voices and the responsible exercise of freedom of expression, are an essential part of the editorial line of the newspaper 14ymedio. That is our militancy.

When we publish the arguments of those who propose to stop sending money to relatives in Cuba, suspend recharging the phones of those on the Island, and not travel to the Island, we are obliged to give a space to those who believe that this is not the solution and make other proposals.

One can not talk about a debate making known only one of the parties. Those who rule in Cuba throw everything in the same bag under the label of “the enemy” and that is the reason why the official press will never publish those divergent opinions that we offer to our readers.

In the environment of those who aspire to a change in the country, there is a very wide range from those who cry out for a military invasion of the United States to those who propose to terminate the US embargo and favor the economic growth of the country. Between the two poles there are numerous proposals, embedded in each of several ideological currents and with arguments that must be heard.

Independent journalism may encounter the dilemma of being partisan or neutral, but what it should not do is be oblivious to the discussion. The formula we have chosen is to publish those ideas that go beyond the slogans, and to make known the diversity of arguments, as honestly as possible.

It is the readers who are responsible for making a judgment, taking opinions from both sides to try to reach the truth or a conclusion that approximates it. We will not act beforehand with the scissors of the censors who discard an opinion because they do not share it. These pages are a space for plurality and democratic debate.

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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 Debate on the Temporary Cutting Off of Remittances to Cuba is Heated in Miami

Remittances are the second largest source of foreign exchange in Cuba, a phenomenon shared by several Central American and Caribbean countries. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 5 December 2019 — A campaign in favor of temporarily suspending the sending of remittances, packages, telephone recharges and trips to the Island is giving Cuban exiles a lot to talk about. The proposal has generated an intense controversy where each party expresses their opinions with passion.

Those who promote the initiative argue that if the Government of Miguel Díaz-Canel is deprived of vital resources for the economy, then a system change can be promoted. Its detractors say that it is a failed strategy used before and there are even those who have asked that Cubans in exile travel to the Island to protest in mass, according to the Nuevo Herald .

Alexander Otaola, a well-known ’influencer’ and presenter in Miami is using his program Hola Otaola to promote what he calls the “January Stop.” The initiative promotes the suspension during the month of January of trips, remittances, telephone recharges and shipments to Cuba, to evaluate and demonstrate the impact that the diaspora has on the Island. continue reading

“We want to tell the Cuban government that if we [the diaspora] are the second source of foreign currency in the country we have to be heard, taken into account,” Otaola said in a telephone conversation with the Nuevo Herald.

“Among those opinions that we want to be heard is the change in that archaic system. We want institutions to function transparently, without corruption, to lower the price of the passport [which costs more than $400 for those living in the US], that they open the country to the essential freedoms of the human being and that the repression ends,” he added.

For Otaola it is important to “raise awareness” of how powerful the Cuban exile is. “People inside and outside Cuba are used to being maintained. An entire people cannot be a begging nation that is waiting for what they are sent from outside. We cannot get used to our people being held hostage to a dictatorship and our families used as a currency of exchange,” said the presenter.

Remittances are the second source of foreign exchange in Cuba, a phenomenon shared by several Central American and Caribbean countries. According to The Havana Consulting Group, Cuba received in about 6.6 billion dollars in 2018 in the form of remittances in cash and merchandise. Of these remittances, 90% were sent from the United States.

In the battered Cuban economy, income from remittances is only exceeded by exports of services, which brings in about eight billion dollars a year. The Donald Trump Administration has limited remittances to $1,000 per quarter, and only to relatives, in an attempt to force the Government of Cuba to abandon its Venezuelan ally and benefactor.

The Havana Consulting Group reports that remittances constitute the main source of income for the Cuban population, and currently represent a little more than 50% of the population’s income. Criticisms of Otaola’s proposal have addressed the humanitarian nature of remittances, to which Otaola has responded that they are only a momentary relief for families.

“If you send your mother 200 dollars, she will continue to go hungry, she will continue to need. We are used to sending money to Cuba to help our families, but does it really help?” He asked. Otaola argued that remittances are “a palliative” but do not solve the problem of misery on the Island.

Otaola’s call has generated all kinds of reactions in the Cuban-American community. “It’s not that I don’t agree, but I’m not going to support that campaign. Nor will I do a counter-campaign,” said José Pérez Córdoba, better known as Carlucho, in a telephone conversation with the Nuevo Herald.

“I do not agree with joining something that does not make any sense or that will do anything against what we really should do: against the Cuban dictatorship. This is directed against the people, not against the Government. I do not think not traveling, not reloading phone cards and not sending things in January will be the solution for a prosperous February,” added the UniVista TV host.

“In my opinion, first you are a son or daughter, first you are a mother or father and then you can be a patriot. I have a hard time believing in people who love their country and put their family in the background,” he explained.

Among the opinions contrary to Otaola’s proposal is that of Andrés Rodríguez-Ojea, who published an opinion column in 14ymedio where he offers a proposal for “we sacrifice all together.”

“Wouldn’t it be more effective if all Cubans abroad traveled together to the Island and joined our countrymen inside, and together we all peacefully demand those changes we so long for?” Rodríguez-Ojea wondered, unleashing all kinds of comments on social networks.

“Surely that ’stop’ would be much more effective than trying to provoke a massive uprising by taking away from our families the basic livelihood that allows them to at least sleep with a full belly and continue dreaming of a free Cuba,” added the columnist. A few days earlier in the pages of this newspaper, an opinion against that thesis also caused an avalanche of comments.

Economist Jorge A. Sanguinetty, one of many giving his opinion on the proposed controversy, agreed with Otaola in categorizing relatives on the Island as “hostages of the Government.” However, he described as “analytical poverty and supreme ignorance” proposing that family members “do not pay the ransom and abandon their loved ones.”

“We must recognize the rules of the strategic board on which history forces us to play. Nothing prevents us from doing it intelligently, except ourselves,” said the well-known economist in a comment published in the 14ymedio.

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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.

Cuba’s Doctors of the Miracle Mission are Simple "Catarologists," Reveals Uruguay Newspaper

For years, Uruguay has been a very popular place for Cuban doctors to go on an official mission, due to its social stability. (Cadena Agramonte)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 December 2019 — The Cuban medical mission in Uruguay is at the center of an intense controversy over its professional abilities. Six of nine ophthalmologists on the Island who participated in the Miracle Mission failed to revalidate their titles in the South American country, according to an extensive report published this Sunday by the local newspaper El País.

The Uruguayan ophthalmology chair reproached a group of Cuban doctors who had previously performed operations at the Hospital de Ojos (Eye Hospital). “Despite the fact that the Uruguayan teachers concluded that they [the Cuban doctors] did not know enough, they had practiced for two years,” the article details.

Cuban doctors arrived in that country starting in 2007 with Operation Miracle, through which 90,000 Uruguayans were operated on for cataracts and other ophthalmological conditions. Before the arrival of that mission, patients had to pay between 1,500 and 2,000 dollars to undergo one of those procedures, but the agreement between Havana and Montevideo contributed to “democratize these surgeries,” the text details. continue reading

The Miracle Mission began in 2004, led by Cuba and Venezuela, at a time of close relationship between Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. The doctors working on this initiative have been deployed in 31 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

For years, Uruguay has been a posting very desired by Cuban doctors to serve on official mission, due to its social stability. The selection of professionals traveling to that country has been made within the Island and the brigades rotate every two years.

To practice in that country, Cuban professionals only have to revalidate their title as a general practitioner, a procedure that they perform in the Faculty of Medicine. “They just have to present the certificate and at no time do they take a test to confirm that they have the necessary knowledge.”

“It is an agreement in which so many doctors, so many nurses and so many opticians come. We did not know the training of the brigade, we never knew it. The only thing we knew was that surgeons came to operate on cataracts, but we did not know who was part of the team. We thought they knew what to do,” says an ex-director of the Eye Hospital who gave statements to El País.

In these 12 years, 60 Cuban doctors passed through the Eye Hospital, according to data published on the digital site of this health center. “The majority served for two years, but there were nine who defected from the Castro regime and wanted to stay,” the note adds. In their new situation “they had to revalidate their ophthalmologist degrees. Their general medicine license had already been validated upon arrival, but they had to prove that they had done the postgraduate course. Therefore, all these professionals went to the Graduate School of the Faculty of Medicine, which is responsible for authorizing the titles issued outside.”

However, six of the nine Cuban doctors did not pass the test, according to the records of the Graduate School accessed by El País. “All of them, although the ophthalmology chair considered that they do not know enough, had previously worked for two years at the Eye Hospital.”

In addition to those six doctors who could not validate their studies, three other Cuban professionals appeared in the last two years before the Graduate School. The ophthalmology chair has not yet ruled in these cases, so it is not possible to know if they passed the final test or not.

Every two years, and also before changes of the Government, a representative of the Cuban regime arrives at the Eye Hospital. That person is in charge of talking with the health center management and is the one who designates the doctors who will travel months later to Uruguay. “We only send them the best,” the representative is said to promise.

In the health center they explain that the training of Cuban doctors is different from that of Uruguayans. There are differences in the programs and the reason why they would have failed the tests given to them by the Chair of the Clinical Hospital. They say they learn “more specific knowledge and not as general” as local specialists.

That is why they usually call them, in a derogatory way, “catarologists.” The majority would have studied the procedure which they would later perform in their work, ignoring the rest of the knowledge related to ophthalmology.

The poor results on the tests have put the Uruguayan Association of Ophthalmology on alert. Andrea Merrone, its president, emphasizes that they do not oppose the arrival of foreign doctors to the country, although they would like to know if the professionals “have sufficient suitability” to practice.

Although criticisms about the level of the doctors of the Island had accumulated in Uruguay, the trigger for publication in the press has been the recent complaint made by the provisional Government of Jeanine Áñez in Bolivia. In that country, just 205 of the 702 Cuban doctors who were deployed had a degree. The remainder were technicians or drivers, doctors making up just a small number of the total.

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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.

An interview with Maria Werlau, by Carlos Alberto Montaner

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 7, 2019 — With the publication of Carlos Alberto Montaner’s interview of María Werlua, we at 14ymedio begin a series of videos which will tackle the work of personalities, activists, and academics in Latin America.

In the voice of the Cuban analyst, journalist, and writer, these videos touch on themes ranging from the human rights situation in the region, to the state of democracy and the authoritarian regimes that still remain in the continent.

In this conversation, filmed at the beginning of 2019, the main theme revolves around the book that Werlau just published, The intervention of Cuba and Venezuela: a strategic occupation with global implications. continue reading

It is a detailed investigation that gathers proofs that “Cuba has essentially occupied Venezuela not with a tradtional military force but rather by assymetrical methods, strategically placing assets” within institutions and society, points out the activist and academic.

María Werlau, who runs the NGO Archivo Cuba and works as a consultant, denounces the human rights violations on the Island, as well as the fact that “Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuela is only propped up thanks to the sinister help of the intelligence and counterintelligence of the Cuban metropolis.”

Recently Werlau commented on a report on Venezuela written by the high commissioner of the United Nations for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in which proof was shown of how Chavismo neutralizes, represses, and criminalizes the opposition and the dissidence.

A situation that Werlau says “derives from a comprehensive plan of integration drawn up by Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro of ideological, political, military, security, economic, judicial, and sociocultural nature, which also covers information and communications. Without the knowledge of Venezuelans, Cuba has conspired for decades to occupy the dominant role.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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

Civil Society in Cuba is Diverse, Beyond the Control of the Government

If we understand that all peaceful tendencies have the right to exist … then we will have succeeded in taking the first step. (Social Sciences Blog)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 8 December 2019 — A few days ago, I took part in an exchange of ideas on the social network Facebook after a Cuban journalist asked about the opposition’s proposals and programs. I responded with some basic clarifications to understand what is happening on this Island outside government and state control. Here I share these opinions, with a certain didactic tone tailored just for those who are looking at the subject for the first time.

Many times, due to ignorance, stereotypes or lack of public information on the subject, multiple phenomena that are worth differentiating are grouped under the heading “opposition.” I believe that in today’s Cuba there is an opposition movement of a political, outlawed and structured nature based on platforms that mix ideological tendencies, economic programs and diverse positions on such varied topics as foreign investment, diplomatic alliances with other countries or the scale of the presence of the State in the functioning of the economy.

Those parties, groups or partnerships aspire, as in all parts of the world, to come to power, to lead the nation and to be at the political helms of the country. Among them I can mention some, and I apologize in advance if I forget others, for example: el Unión Patriótica de Cuba (Patriotic Union of Cuba), el Foro Antitotalitario Unido (United Antitotalitarian Forum), Somos+ (We Are More), Cuba Decide (Cuba Decides), Todos Marchamos (We All March), and el Mesa de Unidad de Acción Democrática (Democratic Unity Roundtable). continue reading

A second phenomenon, which I believe should not be subsumed under the word “opposition” is that of social activism. The majority are groups and organizations, also outlawed, that have a social agenda that can be directed to an infinite number of groups, problems or demands.

In that kaleidoscope of associations there are those that defend the rights of the LGBTI community, others that demand an Animal Protection Law, those that are demanding feminine grievances be addressed, those that ensure human rights such as the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), those that incline more to the union defense of workers, against racial discrimination and a long etcetera that can include many other tendencies and “struggles” from civil society.

In a third space, also erroneously called “opposition,” I would place independent journalism, which although it has spent decades reporting what is happening in the country, has had an important boost in recent years with the emergence of new technologies and the emergence of a varied ecosystem of press media not controlled by the State, the Communist Party or the Cuban institutions.

Among them are newspapers, to monthly magazines, cultural weeklies, environmental blogs and reporting podcasts. To think of these three universes as a block is a mistake, because many of their components are very different, pursue parallel objectives and work differently.

Let’s start by analyzing the first group. There are prejudices that are repeated again and again when the Cuban opposition speaks. Most people who repeat what they say and claim to be convinced by them, have never really sat down to talk with an opponent, have never read a program from one of those political parties, and only have a “passive bibliography” on the issue based on what the official Cuban press says, a press that in more than half a century has not allowed these opponents to explain themselves in the first person, or published their proposals or allowed them to participate in debates with official voices.

One of the stereotypes that is most repeated when talking about the Cuban opposition is made up of individuals with low ethical and moral appearance. As in every human conglomerate, there is everything. In the National Ballet of Cuba and the University of Havana, wonderful and dedicated people work, but also the mediocre and unscrupulous. I remember that in the Faculty of Arts and Letters, where I studied, I had professors with a touching altruism and exquisite wisdom, while others had come to the classrooms not because of their pedagogical quality but because of their partisan militancy. I even met some cases that plagiarized their students’ course work and presented it in their own names to gain a rise to a certain academic level.

The Cuban opposition has lights and shadows like every human group, but for more than half a century it has had over it, watching and denigrating it, one of the most implacable intelligence apparatuses that has existed. Hence, the official media, street conversations and even the rumors that are spread in a low voice on this Island, have been plagued all these years by the negative opinions that State Security has launched against that opposition.

This most resembles racial and xenophobic prejudices: the idea that a certain ethnic or racial group is “lazy, a thief and a liar” is spread or the foreigner is blamed for coming to “steal the job, violate women and ruin the national culture.” In the end there is an animosity towards a human group based on prejudice and fear. The approach necessary to destroy those clichés or false topics will only be undertaken by a few daring ones, because the rest fears being “attacked” by “unknown others” or blamed by their own group for getting too close to the “other.” colleague

The day that the opponents have a microphone on national television, a few minutes to express themselves on the radio or a few lines on the pages of the newspapers, these prejudices will begin to break.

As for the other prejudice that there is little of formal qualifications in the opposition ranks, I must clarify that I have never believed that a university degree is a guarantee of good leadership, however, I warn that I know many graduates, academics, doctors, jurists and excellent professionals who are active in these games.

I add that in the high party leadership that controls Cuba, we have evidence that there are people who are not there because of their qualifications to direct the economy, public health or the investment process (these are only examples) but for their ideological fidelity. Some of these senior leaders cannot even articulate a complete sentence without making mistakes and have said some memorable barbarities in front of the national television cameras.

The Cuban opposition has a long history of initiatives, as does the activism that carried out on this Island, ranging from the document La Patria es de Todos (The Homeland Belongs to Everyone) and the Varela Project to the Carta de Derechos y Deberes de los Cubanos (Bill of Rights and Duties of Cubans) and many others. In all cases, the Cuban government responded to these proposals with more vigilance, arbitrary arrests, the destruction of the reputations of members and reprisals.

Parallel to these programs and platforms, spaces of thought and reflection have been created that range from the political, the pedagogical and the economic, to reach all the social aspects that urgently need solutions in our country. Cuba Posible (Cuba Possible) was one of them and the Centro de Estudios Convivencia

(Center for Coexistence Studies) has, for years, also been contributing ideas, assessments and initiatives from the academic scene. The reaction of the Cuban authorities to them has followed the same script: harass, denigrate, slander and push their members into exile.

If we move on to activism, its achievements and proposals would take very long to explain because of the number of initiatives and programs involved. I will only recall the historic march of May 11 for the rights of the LGBTI community, the most recent protest against Zoonosis [“the dogcatcher”] and the demand for an Animal Protection Law, in addition to the human rights activism that has managed to denounce and shed light on many cases of arbitrary arrests and violations of legislation.

In the case of independent journalism and the media not controlled by the Communist Party, the achievements are impossible to cover. Sites such as El Estornudo, Yucabyte, Tremenda Nota, 14ymedio, Periodismo de Barrio, El Toque, Inventario, Alas Tensas and many more that were born from within Cuba and their reporters, in most cases, graduated from Cuban universities, some of them from journalism programs and others in the humanities.

In my opinion, it is the ecosystems of activism and independent media where a more dynamic and interesting process of social pressure is taking place to bring about changes in Cuba, although I recognize that the political opposition has faced the worst in terms of a repressive and exhausting response due to retaliation and stigmatization.

To end this very long text and, looking at the situation as it is now, to eliminate the prejudices, confusions and misgivings that have become entrenched in Cuban society against the opposition, social activism and the independent press, I believe that the criminalization of disagreement should be eliminated and these people should have the right to access public media (which we all pay out of our pockets) to break down these stereotypes, to let people know their proposals and to stop being narrated “in the third person” as bad, ethically deplorable, mercenaries or enemies of the homeland.

Unblocking censored digital sites on Cuban servers and legalizing independent media would also be a very positive step for these plural voices to be heard and to be able explain their initiatives.

Mechanisms should also be created so that the citizens from their own pockets, and even – why not? – the state budget would support these parties and groups of activists, in addition to allowing them clear legal right to obtain resources, so that their income comes from national, business, and citizen sources.

Continuing to deny the opposition the right to collect and have legal income, on the Island, to carry out their work, is to condemn them to financial secrecy and is the cause of many of the problems we see today in the operations of many of them, such as lack of transparency

It is also necessary to remove the ideological indoctrination of a single party from the classroom, so that Cuban children and young people grow up feeling it is something very normal and healthy to have several parties, the presence of an independent civil society and access to multiple media with different approaches and opinions.

As long as education is in the hands of a single ideological group that uses it for political proselytism, there will be people who are educated to think that the “different” must be silenced, crushed and prosecuted for not behaving like them.

The current situation of censorship, discrimination and criminalization of political and ideological plurality is based on the same mechanism of racial, cultural and nationalist prejudices. If we understand that all peaceful tendencies have the right to exist, express themselves, be legal and have a space… then we will have managed to take the first step.

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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 Future Cuba as Imagined by the Director Eduardo del Llano

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, December 5, 2019 — A group of elderly men meets in what was once a park, commenting on the news of the day as they recall a bygone era which they refer to simply as “communism.” Each of them is reconstructing a country based on his own personal recollections. The portrait of Cuba that emerges in Eduardo del Llano’s twenty-minute short, Two Veterans, exists only in the minds of old men.

The film is imbued with the spirit of some popular jokes in which a leap into an imaginary future is the narrative device for commenting on the present. The characters parsing their memories are those you would find today working in a bureaucratic office, shopping in a rationed food store or spending hours watching el paquete* in a typical Cuban home.

Their conversations revolve around the past but always from the perspective of a time to which they cannot return. Some look back with pain, some with sarcasm. Their reconstructions involve leaps of memory and acts of forgetting, both voluntary and involuntary. The present they now inhabit is referred to as “democracy.” In their discussions, socialism is as far removed as primitive cave dwellings or feudalism. continue reading

“It turns out the the enemy wasn’t the enemy,” says one of the characters recalling the rivalry between Washington and Havana. His words irritate Nicanor O’Donell, played by the actor Luis Alberto García, the group member who most idealizes the past.

Time has moved on but Nicanor still clings to the official language that dominated the public sphere decades earlier. His allusions to the American “blockade” and remembrances of a country where workers did not strike because they had “more awareness” provoke laughter and skepticism among the other pensioners.

In contrast, Rodriguez, played by Nestor Jimenez, has much harsher memories of the communist era. The two men have a heated argument, all the while sharing a bench of what had once been a park but is now the loading zone of a huge shopping center.

With their flaws and inconsistencies, Nicanor and Rodriguez’ competing and divergent arguments reflect the current polarization of political discourse in Cuba. Most members of the group are much more inclined to view the past critically, or they simply act as passive observers in the debate between the two men.

No one discusses how the change actually happened. Details about the fall of the old regime are the least of their concerns. The argument boils down to an imperfect today versus an obsolete yesterday. The most intriguing chapter of the story is ignored or swept aside.

Nicanor’s nostalgia seems to be drawn from the headlines of Granma, learned from state TV newscasts or based on slogans from speeches. His longing bears the whiff of mothballs. It provokes mockery from his companions and an incredulous smile from a spectator, none of whom feel sympathy for the nostalgia in which he wallows.

With his Che Guevara-style beret, criticisms of young people’s use of new technology and annoyance with the huge shopping malls springing up everywhere, even in the Plaza of the Revolution, Nicanor is a future version of the cederista**, a party stalwart from the days when communist ideology was not yet the commanding and determining force on the island.

The only young person who participates in the conversation is Yaquelin, played by Ana Chelys Matos, whose gestures and tone convey the indifference and boredom that led to this discussion about the past. She is present but aloof, occasionally translating the unintelligible sounds of her uncle, an ancient rock-and-roll drummer, brought to life by the actor Carlos Gonzalvo.

Two Veterans is inspired by a story written by del Llano himself and published in his most recent book. This short film marks the end of a fifteen-year-long journey in which the writer and filmmaker captures on screen the adventures of Nicanor, who has become an archetype of the average Cuban, a character trapped in the island’s everyday absurdities.

The most recent episode of the series, which stars O’Donell as Nicanor, can now be seen on YouTube, with English subtitles, and will compete in the short film category at the upcoming Havana Film Festival. The cast also includes actors such as Osvaldo Doimeadiós and Mario Guerra.

It is no coincidence that this saga ends with the a futuristic fifteenth episode. The Nicanor who inhabits this hypothetical world is an outdated leftist who only finds support for his diatribe from a beggar, played by Eduardo del Llano himself, nodding in agreement with the protagonist while rummaging through the trash

Nicanor neither understands nor accepts this Cuba of the future. The country that has emerged before his eyes leaves him trapped in a melancholic delirium, in an homesickness for an outmoded country where everything he stands for has been cast aside. His tomorrow represents the denial of what was. The symbolic vote at the end of the film makes its meaning all too clear: communism is a fossil that only those nostalgic for the past dig up.

Translator’s notes:
*A USB device containing pirated entertainment and news programming from overseas and distributed clandestinely on a weekly basis throughout the country.
* “Cederista” comes from the initials CDR, “Committees for the Defense of the Revolution” — the government-aligned block watch groups that cover the country.

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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.

What We Cubans Have Been Able To Do With Internet On Mobile Phones

This Friday marks twelve months since the state telecommunications monopoly, Etecsa, first enabled the web browsing service from Cuban mobiles. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 6 December 2019 — Just one year ago, the Cuban state telecommunications monopoly, Etecsa, first enabled web browsing service from Cuban mobiles. The internet connection from cell phones came after years of pressure, complaints, and a high material, social and professional cost for a society trapped by the high rates of one hour of navigation in Wi-Fi zones and the inconvenience of having to connect to the World Wide Web from public spaces that often did not offer minimum conditions of comfort or safety.

Twelve months after that long-awaited moment that of 6 December 2018, we can see what we have achieved but also point out everything we need to become a truly connected country.

We have spent a good part of this year complaining about the high prices, inaccessible to those who live exclusively on their salary and do not receive remittances or have the balance on their phones refilled from abroad. Etecsa’s most recent attempts to offer new packages have caused great annoyance to customers who hoped that after one year the price reduction would be substantial and significant, and who have been demanding it with the hashtag #BajenLosPricesDeInternet (Lower Internet Prices). A 4 gigabyte navigation package still costs 30 convertible pesos, the monthly salary of a professional. continue reading

Despite the high costs and problems of infrastructure and coverage mobile browsing has experienced, this service has been an important accelerator of social phenomena, a loudspeaker for a citizen with few or almost no spaces to express their annoyance or channel their complaints

Last January, thanks to internet on mobile phones, we saw the first images in more than half a century where the Cuban population booed and shouted at a ruler. A cell phone recorded and broadcast via the internet the moment in January of this year when Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel’s caravan passed through one of the areas most affected by the tornado in Regla (Havana). That filming made it clear that the state and partisan monopoly over the management of its public image had been shattered.

In February, the unfortunate statement by an elderly “Commander of the Revolution” about the option of Cubans eating ostrich meat unleashed teasing in social networks through popular memes, the new form of political satire expression on this island. In less than 48 hours, the public image of the military had been shattered, provoking only laughter and criticism.

Around the time of the referendum on the new Constitution on February 24 and thanks to connectivity, many Cubans within the Island showed their disagreement on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #YoVotoNo (I’m Voting No).

In May, through social networks, a call for a march in defense of the rights of the LGBTI community resulted in a public demonstration with dozens of participants. The political police responded violently.

Animal rights activists have also been strengthened with the mobile navigation service and, in addition to demanding a stronger animal protection law, they physically gathered in front of the notorious State Department of Zoonosis (commonly called elsewhere “the dogcatcher”) to demand the end of mass killings, which had multiplied just before the arrival in Havana of the Spanish royals. Now, these groups are doing a magnificent job of collecting, caring, sterilizing and arranging the responsible adoption of abandoned dogs and cats.

The members of the alternative SNET (Street Network) used social networks to organize protests over the new regulations of the wireless space and although, unfortunately, they were hijacked by the ruling party, their voice and their situation became well known in distant places.

The opposition has also used the new resource extensively, to denounce the arbitrary arrests, repression and imprisonment of the independent journalist Roberto Quiñones and the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, José Daniel Ferrer.

During this time, live broadcasts from the Island of activists, entrepreneurs and independent reporters have multiplied. Several podcastshave also been born, including Ventana 14, (14th [floor] Window, informally known as ‘coffee and the news’; the informal market has been enhanced with connectivity and links with exile communities have also been strengthened.

But there are also shadows that have emerged along with old ones that remain. The newly established Decree-Law 389 regulates covert investigation techniques and legalizes electronic surveillance strategies that already existed but will now be carried out more publicly and quickly. Being more connected we are also more exposed to the official snooping.

The government’s own army of cybercombatants, with access to subsidized or free connections, has exacerbated cyberbullying against activists, independent journalists and critical citizens. But it has also made more evident the official nature of its positioning and use of labels.

In one year with internet on mobile phones, what we need is more than what we have achieved, but this is just beginning.

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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.