For the Cuban Opposition the Elections Were a Pantomime

The almost unanimous figures from the parliamentary votes confirmed what was expected, Miguel Díaz-Canel was ratified as president of the Republic of Cuba and Esteban Lazo will be in charge of the National Assembly and the Council of State. (ACN)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 October 2019 —  “We knew this was going to happen and it happened,” says Juan Moreno, leader of Candidates for Change, speaking about the election on Thursday for the upper echelons of Cuban power. If the results have met the expectations almost millimetrically, nor has the reaction of the opposition been new.

The only voters were the delegates to the National Assembly of People’s Power, and the only choices were to ratify a single candidate for each position.

All members of the State Council are members of the Communist Party of Cuba except José Ángel Fernández Castañeda, a law student and member of the Young Communist Union (UJC). With the departure of the writer Miguel Barnet, the Council of State runs out of artists although it does have the presence of an intellectual, the historian Eduardo Moisés Torres Cuevas.

Dissidents and activists consider the voting a performance piece. “There is no change, it is as they have been announcing in their speeches, this is continuity and continuity in all aspects,” adds Moreno, whose organization promoted the presence of independent delegates in the last elections and promoted observation of the February constitutional referendum.

Cuban economist Mauricio de Miranda Parrondo, resident in Colombia, lamented on Twitter the closed nature of the process. “There is no valid reason why this election has not been enshrined in the Constitution as a universal, direct and secret suffrage,” said the academic, who recently published a series of recommendations to refloat the economy of the Island.

Dagoberto Valdés, director of the Center for Coexistence Studies, in Pinar del Río, told 14ymedio that the process was “the ratification of the continuity of a conservative political model” and he said that he believes that this “reinforces the idea that Cuba needs a change.”

Even more critical is the economist and opposition journalist Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, who considers the process of this October 10 “a great farce” and “a mockery” of Cubans.

“I was struck by the announcement made by Esteban Lazo [President of Parliament] that Zunilda García Garcés, from the Isle of Youth, is joining the National Assembly. This tells you how this Government mocks the people of Cuba. This woman was not even elected, it is not known where she comes from. As some members of the Assembly are missing, because they are people who have been shown the door, then they begin, according to their own internal regulation, to install substitutes that the people did not vote for.  Simply, the only ones who vote to put people in these positions are members of the National Assembly, not the people, if the person no longer holds the position,” said Roque Cabello.

René Gómez Manzano, president of the Agramontista Current, does not believe that what happened on Thursday qualifies as an election and believes that it will not imply “any change for the country” at this time.

“As long as there are not several candidates to choose between, they are not elections. What they call elections has the property that there is nothing unexpected, the result is what was already known would occur, the unanimous promotion of the proposals. It is a rehearsed script, prepared in advance, it is already known that the person they propose is the person who will be elected, there are no alternative candidates, there is one candidate for each position to be filled and therefore everyone is elected,” said the opponent.

On the street, apathy characterized a day whose chronicle was already written ahead of time. In social networks, critics wofth the authorities had been illustrating the absence of expectations with humor through memes for days. The almost unanimous figures in the parliamentary ballot boxes confirmed what was expected.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Elections in Cuba: The Curtain Falls

Without surprises, continuity prevailed during the day. Miguel Díaz-Canel was elected president of the Republic. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 12 October 2019 — The staging was studied carefully. This October 10 in Havana, every detail of the extraordinary session of the National Assembly obeyed a script rigorously written and, probably, many times rehearsed. In political dramaturgy, the election of a president of the Republic was the climax to consolidate the transfer of the helm of the national ship to a younger generation, under the tutelage of its predecessors.

As in a play whose ending they knew in advance, Cuban citizens watched what happened on Thursday at the Palace of Conventions with apathy and without expectations. At the end of the day it was just a formality, a set with the deputies of Parliament as actors. With the ratification of the Constitution last February and the subsequent implementation of a new Electoral Law, the positions of President of the Republic and Prime Minister, once unified to grant full powers to Fidel Castro, were separated on the Island. This Thursday was the day to begin to split these powers and to give the president of the National Assembly the reins of the State Council.

Perhaps in an attempt to prevent a single man from changing the system from above, the ‘historical generation’ divided the decision-making between several figures who, for now, are absolutely faithful to the legacy of the bearded men who once descended from the Sierra Maestra. Calculating their approaching biological end, the now octogenarians of that distant deed fear that concentrating command in one individual is a risky bet and they have chosen to put several wolves in charge of the pack so that, as a side effect, they will keep an eye on each other.

Without surprises, continuity prevailed during the day. Miguel Díaz-Canel was elected president of the Republic, if a process in which parliamentarians can only ratify a single candidacy for each of the positions can be called an “election.” Esteban Lazo remained at the head of Parliament although all political bets had pointed to the end of his leadership in the National Assembly, while the State Council was restructured with some inclusions and some departures.

In this careful representation, officiating as master of ceremonies was former president Raúl Castro, who was the first to exercise the right to vote in a clear gesture to mark the real order of relevance and the capacity of decision-making. With the control of the Communist Party in his hands, in addition to economic power and the Armed Forces in the hands of his family clan, the veteran general prepared the script to send a public message of the system’s solidity and continuity. There was just one detail he couldn’t control: the public.

In Cuban streets, the crisis in fuel supplies, the difficulties in transport and the problems in the food supply stole the starring role. So much care preparing the set and the actors of this “electoral process” turned out to be of little use; most people took advantage of this October holiday to continue looking for the exit, to find the door that leads away from this stage, be it indifference or emigration.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Diz-Canel Elected President of the Republic in a Process Marked by "Continuity"

The designation of Díaz-Canel as President of the Republic was in line with predictions. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, October 10, 2019 — This Thursday continuity marked the Cuban electoral process to designate the highest positions of power on the Island. Unsurprisingly, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez was elected as President of the Republic in a vote that generated few hopes among citizens.

The Extraordinary Session of the National Assembly this October 10 coincided with the anniversary of the beginning of the wars of independence in 1868, and began with the vote for the head of Parliament, a Government body with more than 600 representatives and marked by the absence of political diversity.

Remaining at the head of Parliament is Esteban Lazo, a figure who analysts predicted would retire but whose permanence in the position reinforces the idea of continuity that has marked this electoral process. His candidature was ratified by 579 representatives of the 580 valid votes that were counted. continue reading

As vice president of the National Assembly, Ana María Mari Machado extends her mandate, and once again elected secretary was Homero Acosta Álvarez, who amply stood out during the drafting process of the new Cuban Constitution and who some had predicted would become the head of Parliament.

The designation of Miguel Díaz-Canel and Salvador Valdés Mesa as President and Vice President of the Republic, after their candidacies were approved by 579 and 569 votes respectively, was in line with previous predictions of observers. Both names were used in the voting pools in a country without public opinion polls.

In accordance with the limit of two terms of five years for high political and governmental positions, the time that has passed since last April 19, when the current president of the Republic took possession from his previous position as president of the Councils of State, will not be counted in this possible decade of mandate ahead.

The first to vote in the Council of State election was the ex-leader Raúl Castro Ruz, who continues to be a representative and remains at the head of the Communist Party, the political force at the helm of the nation according to Article Five of the recently ratified Constitution.

The new Council of State keeps 15 old members in their positions, adds 6, and leaves out 16. The majority of those excluded are because they hold ministerial level positions, some because of advanced age, and others because they were looking to reduce the number of members from 31 to 21.

After the exit of figures like Ramiro Valdés, 87, and Guillermo García Fría, 90, the last members of the so-called “historic generation” who remained in this ruling body, the average age of the Council of State lowers significantly. The Minister of the Armed Forces, Leopoldo Cintra Frías, 78, has also left.

Among the additions, one name that stands out is Eduardo Moisés Torres Cuevas, a 77-year-old historian, along with Yanci María Bravo O’Farrill, chief comptroller of Havana, José Ángel Fernández Castañeda, law student and president of the University Student Federation, and Alexis Lorente Jiménez, a doctor and president of the Municipal Assembly of Popular Power in Sancti Spiritus.

The new positions point at an attempt to distribute Executive power against the model that reigned for decades in Cuba with practically all authority concentrated in the figure of Fidel Castro.

According to the schedule announced by Díaz-Canel, the next step will be to designate a prime minister and make public the new composition of the Council of Ministers before the end of this year.

The almost nine million citizens with the right to vote in Cuba didn’t know the names included on the list drafted by the National Commission of Candidacies until after 11 in the morning on October 10. The parlamentarians themselves only found out about this list a little before placing their ballots in the ballot box.

The Assembly session this Thursday was not transmitted live on official television as had been announced, and Cubans could only follow its development via certain official digital sites that reported in writing what was happening in the Palace of Conventions. Around noon television showed a prerecorded recording with fragments of what happened.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

A French Town Seeks Cuban Doctors To Reopen Its Maternity Ward

Maternity ward in Privas, in Ardèche, closed now due to lack of professionals. (Radio France/Pierre-Jean Pluvy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, October 10, 2019 — The maternity ward in Privas, a French town with about 8,000 inhabitants, closed on September 25 due to lack of medical personnel, but its authorities haven’t lost hope and are looking to Cuba to save the center.

François Jacquart, counselor of the department of Ardèche for the Communist Party, has planned a meeting for October 25 in the Cuban embassy in Paris to consider a temporary alliance to be able to hire doctors on the Island who can reopen the maternity ward.

“The senate has opened the possibility to overseas regions, like Guyana. And according to constitutional law, what is allowed for a French territory should be possible for the rest of the territories,” argues the counselor, who invokes precedent and thus attempts to dispel the idea that there is an ideological relation. continue reading

Laurent Wauquiez, president of the Auvernia-Ródano-Alpes region, asked the Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn via Twitter to reconsider her decision to close the center, to which Jacquart responded: “Finally, is president Wauquiez ready to follow me and bring Cuban doctors to Ardèche?”

Hervé Saulignac, socialist representative for Ardèche in the National Assembly, has complained that Wauquiez, from the Republicans, has taken so long to notice. “For at least twenty years the maternity ward in Privas has been under threat and now Mr. Wauquiez discovers it. The problem is that the service is now closed, everything is finished.”

Olivier Amrane, regional councilman for Ardèche for the Republicans, is prepared to support Jacquart’s proposal and, although he will not join the Communist counselor at his Paris meeting, is also working on the option to hire Cubans. “We aren’t closing the door to any opportunity, the important thing is to maintain the service,” he affirms.

The French Parliament approved in June a project to reform the health system which included a small article allowing the territories of the French Antilles to hire health workers from outside the European Union. Senators from Guadeloupe and Martinique thus managed to get the exception that Guyana already had extended to their territories. Since 2005 there has been an ordinace in the territory that allows it to hire personnel from other countries on a temporary basis.

Overseas French territories have used their distance from Europe — and proximity to Cuba — to get the approval of these laws, but it remains to be seen if a territory a few kilometers from Nimes, Marseilles, or Montpellier can do the same.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

With Neither Pain Nor Glory, Neither Frights Nor Fiestas

The deputies will have a few minutes, or at most a couple of hours, to decide; although this will suffice. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 30 September 2019 — As if it was news, on Monday the official media finally announced that the State Council of the Republic of Cuba arranged for the holding of an extraordinary Session of the National Assembly of Popular Power on 10 October 2019 at 10:00 AM at the Palace of the Conventions to elect the president and vice president of the Republic, in addition to the three highest positions of the Parliament — president, vice president and secretary — and the remaining members of the State Council.

The almost nine million citizens with the right to vote in Cuba are still unaware of the names that will appear on the list drawn up by the National Nominations Commission. Nor is there any need for them to know, because those who will mark a cross next to each name written on the ballot will be the deputies of Parliament.

The mystery has been revealed not even to these, and they will have only minutes, or at most a couple of hours, to make their decision; the time between the moment they are handed the ballot and the solemn act of depositing it in the ballot box. It should be noted that they will not have to choose their preferred among several candidates, but only approve those that appear on the list. continue reading

They know that they should not delay too much within the space where they will fulfill their electoral obligations, in supposed privacy. Loyalty and discipline are part of the merits that led them to occupy a seat in the National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP) and this is one of those acts where their obedience will be tested. If there were a single box to mark their acceptance of all the candidates, they would choose it as a “patriotic, revolutionary, continuity” option.

You can bet that the one who will be elected president of the Republic will be Miguel Díaz-Canel. If this decision were taken in a democracy, political analysts would be weighing the positive effects of the recent rise in wages against the negative consequences of the current energy situation that threatens to paralyze the country.

In any nation where voters elect their president the chances of success of the candidates are measured by their successes and failures and by the credibility they earn from their voters. In Cuba it is difficult, even, to speculate, because everything can depend on the mood of an old man who has the power to change everything at the last minute.

In the midst of the uncertainty in which a population lives, in which nobody knows if tomorrow their workplace will continue to work, what goods will disappear, what bus routes will cease to circulate or how many hours the electrical service in the homes will last, it is likely that this call to a special session of parliament will pass with neither pain nor glory, neither frights nor fiestas.

The few interested in the subject are inclined to shuffle names for the positions of vice president of the Republic and head of the ANPP. They hope that Esteban Lazo will be retired and that figures that have stood out in recent times will be promoted, such as Homero Acosta, Mercedes López Acea and Inés María Chapman. Others wonder where in this redistribution of powers will fall such figures such as Marino Murillo, Roberto Morales Ojeda or Salvador Valdés Mesa, but these disquisitions are nothing but entertainment for connoisseurs.

If, on October 10, we learn that the positions “in dispute” will be filled by other strangers, no one will be surprised… who cares about the result of this staging?

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Phone Company Extends 4G Network to All Customers Who Meet Requirements

Until now, customers of Etecsa, the state telecommunications monopoly, had to wait to be selected by the company to use 4G. (Flickr / Duncan R.)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 October 2019 —  The progress of 4G in Cuba has been slow and this week has taken a new step. The Telecommunications Company of Cuba (Etecsa) announced through its Twitter account that as of this Wednesday prepaid cell phone customers “may request authorization for access to the 4G / LTE network.”

Until now, customers of the state monopoly had to wait to be selected by the company to receive a text message (SMS) that informed them of the possibility of using the 4G network. With the new announcement, the user can request that service as long as they meet the technical requirements to navigate at higher data rates.

The customer only has to send a message to the service number 2266 with the acronym LTE. The SMS is sent at no cost to the user, who will receive a confirmation if their mobile phone meets the technical conditions for the use of the 4G. continue reading

Among the requirements that must be met is to have a telephone device that works on the frequency of 1,800 MHz, band 3, and that has a USIM card. However, 4G coverage is not yet available throughout the Island, so meeting these technology requirements may not be enough.

Just this week, the official press reported that in Ciego de Ávila province the first 13 radio bases had been installed in the provincial capital for the use of 4G technology, also known as fourth generation. Other provinces are still waiting for this technology to begin to expand.

The USIM or Universal Subscriber Identification Module is a chip for mobile telephony that allows connection to the 4G network, supports the making of video calls, has the capacity to store a greater number of contacts, in addition to providing security and protection to the Internet traffic.

This card is for sale at the Etecsa offices for 3 CUC, but customers complain that the stock of USIM cards are frequently sold out in a good part of these commercial points or that the lines to acquire them are long and it may take hours to be helped.

This Wednesday’s announcement has been well received by those who had been waiting for months to be included in the 4G tests that were carried out in various parts of the Island, but it is also generating doubts and questions.

Several Internet users complained on Twitter that their mobile models, especially the Xiaomi and Samsung brands, despite complying with all technical requirements, were not accepted for the 4G service. “I sent the message from my cell phone, a Xiaomi Redmi 7A and I received a negative response although my cell phone supports the frequency of 1,800 MHz,” one user lamented.

Others, such as Jean Carlos Romero, applaud the measure that “the acquisition of the right to surf faster is now something more transparent and not handled with the same secrecy as before.”

The 4G network was activated in March this year, at a time of growing discomfort among thetelecommunications company’s customers due to the poor quality of web browsing from cell phones. The 3G service began on December 6 and, since then, complaints about the low speed and poor quality of the connection have been frequent.

The 4G network was initially being tested and until this October only users who generated traffic greater than 1.5 GB could connect at the same rates or packages valid for mobile data through 3G.

This requirement could only be met by users with higher incomes,  since the navigation service costs 0.10 CUC (roughly 10¢ USD) per megabyte, although most users choose the option of purchasing one of the four data packages available, ranging from 600 megabyte for 7 CUC up to 4 gigabytes for 30 CUC (roughly $30 USD), which is the equivalent of the monthly salary of a professional.

Earlier this year, Etecsa had 5.4 million active lines and the average monthly growth was 50,000 new lines, according to official data. Forty percent of mobile phone users “generate data traffic of some kind,” either through the use of Nauta mail, MMS or web browsing.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Reporters Iliana Hernandez and Boris Gonzalez Detained in Havana

Photo of an earlier event where the Cuban police detained Iliana Hernández and Boris González Arenas during the independent LGBTI march on May 11 in Havana. (14ymedio / File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 October 2019 — The independent journalist, Boris González Arenas, a contributor to Diario de Cuba, was arrested this Wednesday at noon by State Security when he entered the building where he lives.

Arenas González’s wife, Juliette Isabel Fernandez, told 14ymedio she learned what happened because a neighbor who was present during the arrest told her about it.

According to the testimony gathered by González Arenas’ family, it was “two civilian-dressed agents” who forced him into a police car, and did not allow him to call to notify his wife.

“We learned of the arrest by chance, if the neighbor hadn’t told me I wouldn’t know and as always happens when the hours pass and he does not come home I start to be alarmed. Right now I do not know anything else, his phone is off, he had gone out on a personal errand,” she explained to this newspaper and added that his whereabouts are unknown as are the authorities’ reasons for the arrest. continue reading

“I have had to go through this experience too many times already, like so many relatives of independent journalists, activists and members of civil society. It seems that the repressive forces want October 10 and tomorrow’s elections to be almost invisible,” Fernandez wrote on her Facebook account. “Stop kidnappings and arbitrary detentions of independent journalists and activists,” she added.

Minutes later the independent journalist Iliana Hernández was live online denouncing the arrest of her colleague when she was also intercepted by two police officers.

Hernandez managed to keep her phone on while two police officers took her to the police car. You can see her already sitting in the vehicle, when a State Security agent dressed in civilian clothes and with dark glasses snatches her cell phone from her hands.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

A Lonely "Cauldron": A CDR Party Lacking Enthusiasm

There is not much enthusiasm left in the neighborhoods to celebrate around the “common pot” of the poor. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 September 2019 — This Friday, September 27, was the date when the members of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) prepare a party, on the eve of the founding of an organization that over time has lost power in the neighborhoods. But, unlike other years, in 2019 the streets were almost empty and the famous “cauldron” (the soup of the poor, some call it) was only cooked on a few blocks in Havana.

In the El Cerro neighborhood, a huge and lonely cooking pot placed over a fire and planted in the middle of the street constituted the entire celebration, in which only three men and one old woman took the opportunity to remember “the old days” when the 28th was the scene of dancing and eating. There was no music, no rum, no snacks, cake or croquettes like in other years. Nor was the Cuban flag hanging from the houses, nor were there decorative paper chains or public events to deliver certificates to the outstanding cederistas (members of the CDR).

Some justify the lack of enthusiasm this year by the fact that in 2020 the organization will celebrate its 60th year and they want to “save all the energy and resources” for that moment, a cederista who also works as a cameraman at the Cuban Radio and Television Institute (ICRT) who is part of the audiovisual filming team to commemorate the six decades of the organization told this newspaper.

This is how this party imposed by decree was experienced in Havana, at a time when the whole country fears the return of the worst years of crisis after the fall of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. (14ymedio)

However, the little enthusiasm on this evening seems to point more to the lack of resources and the tense economic situation that the Island is going through. “Before they gave us a pig’s head and the neighbors contributed garlic, onions and some vegetables to make the soup, but this year nobody wants to give food or money,” says El Pinto, who lives in a 12-story building in Centro Habana.

“When I went around asking a lot of people what they could contribute, they responded by saying that ‘given the situation’ they could not give anything,” he explains. “Besides, what were we going to prepare the soup for if the people in this neighborhood are for something else. You couldn’t get the young people to come to a CDR party even if you tied them up.”

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

’Cubadebate’ Returns Discreetly to Twitter

Cubadebate’s new Twitter account still has very few followers.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 October 2019 — Cubadebate’s Twitter account has quietly returned to life. Last Thursday, 3 October, the profile published its first message in a new profile @cubadebatecu: #Twitter, we are back. #SomosContinuidad #Cuba The brief message was addressed to the zero followers of the newspaper’s account at that time, whose previous user was suspended by the American company on 11 September.

Cubadebate, which strongly denounced that blocking a month ago, has not given the same prominance to its return and now, five days later, only 600 people follow the account. The discretion is such that on Monday the newspaper published an article entitled Twitter blocks, Cubadebate does not give up signed by Randy Alonso Falcón in which, only in the last lines, it is noted that the newspaper has opened a new profile.

“On Wednesday, 2 October, exactly three weeks after the silencing operation, Twitter informed Cubadebate that it would not accept any more demands for the return of the official account of our digital portal, the one that had the most followers among Cuban communication media,” says the text. continue reading

The official media has decided to go to battle against the company’s refusal by creating a new account, but the reasons why it has barely promoted it are unknown. In the text published yesterday, Cubadebate devotes ample space to criticizing Twitter and accuses “the American special services (and other powers)” of having used the network “more than once in its operations around the world.”

Among these “operations” explicit reference is made to the Primaveras Árabes (Arab Springs) and the Zunzuneo program, a social network that, according to the ruling party, was funded by USAID in Cuba to “promote protests against the revolutionary government.”

Cubadebate says that it opened a Twitter account in 2009 to “combat media terrorism, confront the lies of the powerful, (and) spread ideas of peace and justice for the world,” which is why it has now returned to the social network. In some of the comments on the news, the readers, however, have suggested a boycott as users of the company, but also other deeper measures such as stopping it, in the manner of Russia or China or creating a Cuban version.

“We should do a kind of nationally independent twitter. It is logical to assume that using services outside the national territory is a danger to our privacy. Russia has taken a good path, we should take it as an example in that regard. Achieve technological independence, there are many talents here that can achieve it,” suggests a reader.

The Cubadebate account was suspended “for violating the rules of Twitter” when it had more than 300,000 followers. Other profiles affected by the decision were those of Granma, Mesa Redonda, Radio Rebelde, Dominio Cuba, Cubaperiodistas and Canal Caribe. Raúl Castro, Mariela Castro, Rosa Miriam Elizalde, first vice president of the Upec (official journalists union), Leticia Martínez and Angélica Paredes, of the Díaz-Canel press team, and Enrique Moreno Gimeranez, Granma  journalist, also lost their accounts, along with institutional profiles.

At that time, the Cuban press and the authorities raised their voices against what they considered intolerable censorship. “It seems a concerted operation of false allegations of abusive use and violation of platform policies. Surprising political bias, selectivity of affected users and opportunity (opportunism): when President Diaz Canel speaks,” Elizalde wrote.

Twitter reserves the right to suspend accounts that violate company rules, at the request of users who report them. Frequent reasons for the suspension, as indicated by the company itself, include abusive messages or ones that go against the rules, spam or security (prevention against possible hacking ). It is possible, and frequent, to recover the account following the procedure indicated on the company’s website.

However, according to company regulations, ” creating accounts to replace or imitate a suspended account” can be considered a serious violation of Twitter’s policy and the new account can be subject to closure.

In the following days, many of the suspended accounts were returned to their owners, along with the approximate number of followers they had. However, this did not happen with Cubadebate’s account, which was accused of violating the manipulation policy that consists of “the artificial amplification of information through several accounts at the same time.”

The Union of Cuban Journalists (Upec) intervened in the controversy and attributed the suspensions to “a policy of the State Department aimed at reviving the opposition’s online militancy.”

“What is new is the massive nature of this act of cyberwar, obviously planned, which seeks to limit the freedom of expression of Cuban institutions and citizens, and silence the leaders of the Revolution,” said the organization.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Railways, Water, Weapons and Energy, The Russian Presence Grows in Cuba

During Medvédev’s visit, Díaz-Canel took the opportunity to announce that he will visit Russia later this month. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 October 2019 — Moscow returns with force to Cuba: investments in oil exploration, railroads, sales of military equipment and a water bottling plant. All this from the hand of Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev, who was received last week in Havana as the great ally who will help the government of Diaz-Canel to overcome the serious energy crisis that the country suffers in the wake of the decline of support from Venezuela and confrontation with the United States

Russia aspires to become Havana’s main partner, although in this relationship the old subsidy paradigms that governed relations between the Kremlin and the Plaza of the Revolution in the years of the Soviet Union do not prevail. Instead, the Russians are now more cautious and pragmatic but with similar strategic interests.

The Eurasian power has the Cuban railways in its sights. An extensive network of rails that is among the oldest in the world and which has suffered, in the last three decades, a significant deterioration of its infrastructure and machinery. In just five years, between 2013 and 2018, trains went from transporting ten million passengers a year to just over six, according to official data. continue reading

In an attempt to save the most economical means of transporting passengers, in addition to being vital for the movement of goods, two years ago Vladimir Putin promised two billion dollars for this sector, of which 220 million will be invested before 2020.

Fifty-one of the 75 planned locomotives have already arrived on the Island, allowing the restoration of passenger routes that had not been operatiing for several years, such as the connection between Havana and Holguin. However, the equipment has not been able to function at full capacity due to the poor condition of the rail and, recently, due to the crisis in the supply of hydrocarbons.

In the manner of the years of greatest link between Cuba and the USSR, support to relaunch the railway also includes the arrival of 200 Russian technicians to the country who will advise local employees on the use of the equipment. Next year, 80 of the planned 300 railcars are scheduled to be delivered.

Another strategic sector that is targeted by Moscow is water. Holding Aqua, a Russian company specializing in the extraction, distribution and marketing of mineral water, seeks to invest 1.5 million dollars in a new line of the bottled product, widely demanded by tourists visiting the Island.

A signal that reinforces the evident Russian interest in the Island came from the deputy head of the administration of the Russian Government, Sergey Prijodko. The official revealed that “Russia would be willing to be Cuba’s strategic partner” in the atomic energy industry, although he warned that initially it would involve “interesting projects on the use of the atom without relation to energy. Specifically, it is about the use of nuclear technology in medicine and agriculture.”

The clarification has failed to calm the fears of a return to plans to install a nuclear reactor in Cuba, as the Soviet Union had once done. With an intended project of four plants, each with a generating power of 440 megawatts of power, construction began on the first in Juraguá, Cienfuegos, but it was finally abandoned without finishing it in 1992.

Oil, the product that is causing the current energy tension on the Island, is also one of the points of cooperation between the two nations. Russia will allocate 110 million dollars to search for oil on the Island and, during his visit, Medvedev visited the drilling of a well which is expected to yield oil and gas. The project, in Boca de Jaruco, Mayabeque, is under the control of the Russian oil company Zarubezhneft and the state-owned Cuba-Petroleum (Cupet).

Nor could we fail to mention the purchase of military equipment, which the director of the Federal Service of Military Technical Cooperation, Dmitri Shugáev, valued at 43 million dollars last February.

Amid growing tensions with the Trump Administration, Havana has raised the level of belligerence of its political discourse. The renewal of part of its arsenal fits into the strategy of the so-called “military invulnerability” that was talked about come years ago in Cuba’s official media, but which had lost prominence in the last decade.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Empty Chair Left by ’Che’ Guevara

An article published by the newspaper ’Juventude Rebelde’ (Rebel Youth) on 9 October 1967 with an article by Reinaldo Escobar: “Here part of the story was forged.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 8 October 2019 — I have my personal past with Ernesto Guevara. A brief written text for the newspaper Juventud Rebelde, published on 9 October 1987, was included, among others, in the record of accusations that ended with my expulsion from that newspaper and with the express prohibition of my exercising my profession in the official media.

Many times I have been obliged to explain that in order for a Cuban journalist to be separated from their work, it is not necessary to criticize the public system; it is enough that, when clapping, one does not show the necessary enthusiasm.

The reference text appears on page 12 of that day’s paper and is titled Here part of the story was forged. It refers to the inauguration of a museum room which had been the office of the then Minister of Industry. In none of the five paragraphs did this journalist have the insight to place some type of qualifying adjective to highlight the heroism of the character. The closest thing to a compliment was to say: “It does not seem that Che could fit between these walls,” but the “negative” was discovered by the ideological detectives in the last paragraph, which I quote here: continue reading

“Each one will receive his own impression upon becoming acquainted with it (the office), but I think that in the end everyone who enters here will be equally overwhelmed and will forever keep in their memory the impressive image of an empty armchair.”

“What is he trying to say with that of an empty armchair? Is it that Che is dead, that his presence can never be replaced by anyone?” My inquisitors must have asked.

Just below my review a colleague was more accommodating and appealing to the use and abuse of the second person, he spoke to the dead: “You will be missing only when the future is out of sight, and that is so absurd that it is not worth questioning.”

Thirty-two years have passed and the Granma of this 8 October speaks of the anniversary of the death of Che Guevara with the same devotion that was offered at that time by my colleague who, by the way, today lives and works as a journalist in Miami.

The official newspaper onTuesday awarded four pearls for the tribute that the event requires. I don’t quote them because unlike those pages of the Juventud Rebelde newspaper, these can be visited online. There you will see two excited chronicles, the often parodied song of Carlos Puebla and a text that Eduardo Galeano published in the mid-80s in his book Memories of Fire.

In spite of the laudatory texts published by the official press this day, the perception of Che Guevara has changed considerably. This has had a significant influence on access to a vast material on social networks where testimonies of his captors in Bolivia and those of his numerous victims appear.

The epithet of The Butcher of the Cabaña referred to the role played by Commander Guevara during the 1959 executions has forced many to reconsider the sanctity of the character. The same goes for the uncovering of all the occasions, while being a guerrilla or minister, he was homophobic, macho, intolerant and, above all, ruthless.

Today, unlike the 60s, violence is very poorly looked on and that is why these words of his message to the Tricontinental Conference are no longer so congenial: “Hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine. Our soldiers have to be like that; a people without hatred cannot triumph over a brutal enemy.”

But what has convinced me most that the perception has changed was the dialogue of a Cuban student with a young Canadian who was touring the Plaza Ignacio Agramonte (formerly the Plaza Cadenas) of the University of Havana. The visitor wore a newly purchased shirt with the image of Guevara reproduced a thousand times. The Cuban simply said, in his best English, something disconcerting to the young tourist: “Nice your shirt. I have one with Charles Manson.

Never again have I heard anything about that museum located on the sixth floor of the building that today is occupied by the Ministry of Interior. If, as I said then, visiting it will be considered a very special distinction, it seems that there have been few deserving of it. I hope they haven’t closed it because of me.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Birthplace of Cuban Painter Wilfredo Lam Collapses in Sagua la Grande

The remains of Wifredo Lam’s house in Sagua la Grande, Villa Clara. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 5 October 2019 —  The birthplace of renowned Cuban painter Wifredo Lam collapsed last Sunday in Sagua la Grande, Villa Clara, after heavy rains hit the central region of Cuba. The collapse of the home has generated many criticisms on social networks but no official statement.

The property, located on Carmen Ribalta Street between Heredia and Betances, was inhabited by a family that had no blood ties with Lam. The entire structure of the building had been seriously deteriorating for years, due to lack of maintenance and the passage of time.

According to OnCuba magazine, which quotes the National Council of Cultural Heritage, the wooden house had a high historical value because  the famous painter, “who introduced Afro-Cuban culture into avant-garde art, with its myths and symbols,” was born there on December 8, 1902. continue reading

Miguel Jiménez, a native of Sagua la Grande, reported the collapse of the building on Facebook and insisted that the authorities knew the degree of deterioration of the property.

“It was not surprising, it was foreseen to happen at any moment and at any hour, since this house was still in critical condition on the verge of collapse,” Jiménez said on the social network.

According to the Sagüero (resident of Sagua la Grande), the house where the painter lived in Marianao, Havana, is also in danger of collapse.

Son of a Cantonese Chinese and a mixed-race Cuban woman, Lam not only had a mixture of blood, but also of colors and cultures. The Lucumi gods, Yoruba beliefs, fused with the Catholic imaginary and Asian iconography populated his work. From a young age he showed great talent for drawing and his father encouraged him to enroll in the school of painting and sculpture in Havana and he later obtained a scholarship for Fine Arts of San Fernando, in Madrid.

In Spain he was surprised by the birth of the Republic, he had contact with García Lorca, Valle-Inclán, Miguel Ángel Asturias and Alejo Carpentier. In 1938 he decided to move to France, where he met Picasso and joined the intense artistic bohemia of the capital. With the entry of the Nazis in Paris, he went into exile in Marseille where he approached André Breton and Benjamin Péret and also became involved in late surrealism.

He returned to Cuba on several occasions to organize events, exhibitions and participate in Congresses. His last trip in life would be for the burial of Carpentier in 1980 and two years later his ashes arrived in Havana to be buried in the Colón Cemetery. He is considered the most universal of Cuban painters of all time. His work was characterized by esoteric syncretism, the influences of surrealism and cubism, along with the finding of his own lines in which his multiculturalism was expressed.

Cuba has a very deteriorated housing stock of 3.8 million homes. Since the end of Soviet subsidies, which totalled around 65 billion dollars, the Island has faced a severe economic crisis and more than 40% of homes are considered in poor or bad condition according to official figures.

It is estimated that to cover the housing deficit in the country it is necessary to build 880,000 houses, but the State does not have the funds to do so and forces expensive and slow bureaucratic procedures on citizens who want to invest in improving their homes.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Blackouts for Cuba’s Private Restaurants But Not for State Hotels

A private business in Havana with air conditioning (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 7 October 2019 — The owner of a spacious restaurant in Vedado walks around the premises carrying a fan to place it near a table where some customers are sweating buckets. “I am very sorry but they have put me a fixed quota of electricity and I can barely turn on the air conditioning,” the owner of the paladar (private restaurant) apologizes to the surprised tourists.

Energy cuts, caused by the drastic reduction in Venezuelan oil shipments, are affecting state activities, starting with public transport, but also private companies such as paladares and rental houses. Over the past few weeks, the authorities have met with self-employed entrepreneurs whose businesses are “higher electricity consumers,” a source from the Council of the Provincial Administration of Havana confirmed to 14ymedio.

“First we call on their conscience in these moments the country is experiencing, but also to those who have higher consumption of kilowatts we have presented a plan with a usage limit.” continue reading

Lourdes, who manages a house with three rooms for tourists in the municipality of Centro Habana, has had to adjust to the new circumstances. “Each of the rooms I rent has a minibar, an air conditioner of the kind that people call a ’split’*, and a bathroom with an electric shower to heat the water,” she says. “Now I have had to ask customers to turn on the air for just a little while and to try to bathe in cold water.”

“It is true that you have to save, you always have to save, but I pay very dearly for electricity consumption to be able to provide comfort to my customers and now they will have to suffer heat because I can not exceed the plan they have given me that is far below the needs of this business,” protests the self-employe woman.

In Cuba the consumption of each kilowatt costs .09 Cuban pesos (less than a cent USD), but when exceeding 100 and up to 150 the rate rises to 0.30 and after the 300 kilowatts consumed the price is 1.50 CUP (6 cents USD) per kilowatt. High consumers, such as pizzerias with electric ovens, large restaurants and private hostels that exceed 5,000 kilowatts per month, pay 5 CUP per kilowatt over that limit.

“I usually pay the equivalent of about 3,500 CUP each month for the electric bill,” the owner of a rental house with four rooms a few meters from the Plaza de San Francisco in Havana tells this newspaper. “Now, after the meeting we had, they have put me in a plan that I can’t exceed 2,500 kilowatts and I don’t know how I’m going to do it without affecting the service.” Self-employed people fear losing their landlord licenses if they do not comply with the savings measures that the authorities ask them to follow.

Private sector workers were hopeful about the recent visit of the Russian prime minister to the Island and the possibility that the Island’s old ally could help with the oil supply. But so far there are no official announcements that the Kremlin will send crude to Cuba and Dimitri Medvedev declined Miguel Díaz-Canel’s request to use Russian military ships to escort the Venezuelan tankers that are on the way, loaded with 3.83 million barrels of crude and fuel, according to data from Refinitiv Eikon and PDVSA.

In addition, these shipments may not be repeated if the crisis worsens in Caracas and the US is even more rigorous about applying the prohibition on delivering Venezuelan oil to Cuba.

“Although most of my clients come here to enjoy the terrace or the rooftop, they occasionally need to cool off,” explains Mary, another private landlord with a house halfway between the Museum of the Revolution and the Spanish Embassy Cuban capital. “I’m asking them to only turn on the split to sleep but I can’t force them.”

The measure does not seem to affect the state or mixed hotels yet. When 14ymedio visited the hotels England, Telegraph, Plaza, Vedado, Habana Libre, Cohiba, Packard, Apple Kempinski, President and Both Worlds, in all of them air conditioners d to operate throughout the day in common spaces such as lobbies, indoor cafes and business rooms, as well as in the rooms where customers control the use of the air conditions at their own convenience.

“This is the time for people who make fans,” says Mildred, a craftswoman who sells her products at the San José Warehouses a few meters from the Sierra Maestra Cruise Terminal. “Many businesses in this area were severely affected by the fall of the arrival of the cruise ships and now they are adding the problem of electricity consumption,” she says.

Last June the administration of Donald Trump vetoed educational group trips to Cuba and cruise ships, one of the routes that thousands of Americans used to visit the Island. Authorizations for pleasure and passenger boats, along with private flights, were also cancelled in order to reduce the dollar earnings that come to the Cuban government.

The fear is that “what seems temporary now becomes permanent,” Mildred adds. “They are asking you to lower power consumption but they are not telling you clearly how long this measure will last and people are afraid it will be for a long time, as has happened with other things. “

Facing the sea, a cafe that offers tapas based on olives, ham, cheese and some seafood has its doors wide open. “Before we had two areas for all tastes: outside with the sea breeze or inside with air conditioning,” says Lázaro Manuel, one of the waiters. “But now it’s better to be outside because we can’t turn on the air inside and it’s very hot.”

*Translator’s note: The same term is used in the U.S. It refers to a room-by-room type of air conditioner, versus ’central air.’

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuba Asks Russia to Use its Military Ships to Escort Venezuelan Oil Tankers to the Island

Russia’s lukewarm response to Cuba’s request for escort ships for Venezuelan oil tankers is bad news for the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana. (AlNavio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana 6 October 2019 — The Cuban government asked Russia to use its military ships to escort Venezuelan oil tankers to the Island. A proposal to which the Eurasian power responded with evasion, as reflected on Saturday by the state news portal Sputnik .

In an interview Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev gave to the Russian Vesti v subbotu (Saturday News) program, when the presenter asked about the Cuban proposal to escort oil tankers with military ships, the prime minister said they will find “other methods to help Cuba receive oil and its derivatives.”

Medvedev has just finished an official two-day visit to the Island, which has been hit by the economic crisis of it ally and benefactor, the regime of Nicolás Maduro, as well as by US sanctions and the chronic inefficiency of the national economy. continue reading

During his visit, the Russian Prime Minister did not promise that his country will replace Venezuela as Cuba’s main support for energy supplies, but he did sign numerous collaboration agreements, among which is the restoration and modernization of the railway infrastructure in Cuba to the tune of 2.064 billion dollars over an implementation period of ten years.

Medvedev also attended the inauguration of the first horizontal oil well in Cuba, a joint project between the Eurasian country and the Island, under the signatures Zarubezhneft and the Cuba-Petroleum Union.

Since the coming to power of Raúl Castro, relations between Cuba and Russia have strengthened after a long period of cooling after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The youngest member of the Castro clan, a fervent communist before climbing the Sierra Maestra to fight the Batista dictatorship, was always looked on kindly by Moscow.

In times of the now defunct USSR, the Kremlin gave Cuba more than $65 billion in subsidies and development aid. The Island owed Russia, legatee of the extinct empire, about 35 billion dollars, but 90% of the debt was forgiven by Vladimir Putin and the rest is paid with investments in Cuban territory.

Now “our Cuban friends pay the debt, unlike the situation 20-30 years ago, in the Soviet era,” the prime minister said in the interview.

According to Medvedev, Miguel Díaz-Canel reiterated during the negotiations the willingness of his country to pay all of the debt.

“Our trade has increased considerably in recent years, around 20-30% (…), and secondly, the investments are growing,” added the Russian premier.

The trade between both nations is barely 500 million dollars a year, however, Russia is among Cuba’s top 10 trading partners.

Medvedev stressed that Cuba “is a sister country” for Russia. “A large number of Cubans studied in our land, and we simply know that country well,” he added.

Russia’s lukewarm response to Cuba’s request for escort ships for Venezuelan oil tankers is bad news for the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana at a time when at least three Venezuelan ships of the six planned are headed for Cuba loaded with oil as part of a flotilla.

The total shipment will be about 3 million barrels of refined products and heavy crude from Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), according to Argus Media, a portal specializing in the sector.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

In El Brujo Life Revolves Around the Guava

El Brujo is a small community dedicated to coffee and fruit production. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Bertha K. Guillén, Candelaria, 18 September 2019 — Like ants gathering for the winter, a family from the El Brujo community in Pinar del Río goes out every day to tour the pastures, the trails and the banks of the roads in search of those guavas that still grow almost wild around their little village. With a sack on the shoulders and machete at the waist, they go up and down the rocky hillsides. In the afternoon they return loaded, to the house: the main anthill.

“Ana! Wash the bottles and dry them,” says the mother. The other daughter must prepare the molds where the mixture of guava and sugar will be placed, after cooking for a while, to become the popular “bars” that will later be sold on the roads, the the stands of the self-employed, or at coffee shops with a piece of bread or cheese.

The telephone coverage does not reach there. Few things betray that the family is living in the 21st century. The scene seems to  a hundred years ago, when technologies did not dominate everyday life and people still talked face to face, without mobiles or WhatsApp. continue reading

In the afternoon, the father of the family collects the herd of goats while confessing that he once dreamed of becoming a great producer of goat milk and cheese. (14ymedio)

“The well water is only for cooking and drinking,” warns the patriarch of this family of Los Brujos, which has been affected by the drought for months, a problem that has also reduced the amount of fruit available. “At the beginning we did this for personal consumption, but we were creating conditions and now we can even sell it,” says Miguel Martínez, one of the sons and agronomist.

El Brujo is a small community gathered around a Credit and Services Cooperative (CCS) dedicated to coffee and fruit production, where almost all the residents are cousins, siblings or have some degree of kinship. The town borders La Comadre, another settlement of about three or four houses whose jurisdiction is disputed by Bahía Honda and Candelaria.

The family, consisting of father and mother, and six children (two women and four men) and three granddaughters, dedicates at least two weeks a year to producing these products that are then sold among the neighbors, at a peasant fair or to the houses in Soroa rented to foreigners.

On the roads and paths that connect the towns in the area, it is common to see informal vendors offering guava bars, the livelihoods of dozens of surrounding families. Although some state industries also process the fruit, most of the products made from this fruit are produced and marketed outside the state network.

Most of it is fabricated with very precarious and handcrafted  infrastructure and few of the processed products have labels or a family brand that distinguishes them. However, consumers know how to distinguish if it came out of the hearth of the Gonzálezes or the Piedras.

“This year there was little mango because of the lack of rain, but we have more guava. Each member of the family has their function. Some peel the product, after discarding the ones in poor condition, others count the plates and bottles, until finally they place the cauldron on the firewood,” explains the mother.

While the guava boils under the care of the men of the house, the women take care of lunch or prepare some home remedy that they distribute — on request — in the community to alleviate some ailment. The nearest pharmacy is 25 kilometers away and the only means of transport they have is a Willy jeep that has deteriorated over the years and is used only for emergencies.

“Years ago some Brazilian nuns taught us to work with natural medicine, so from time to time we women get together and make tinctures, ointments and remedies with medicinal plants,” says one of the daughters.

In the backyard, there’s a bunkroom for the youngsters of the house and there is a machine, that they manufactured themselves, that helps in the process of pulping the fruits.

“This brings us work. Grinding in a blender and straining by hand would take a lot of time,” says Angel, the mechanical son who likes to carve wood, paint and sculpt. “Geographical fatalism took me. For a young man like me, it is very difficult to get from the countryside to one of the capital’s art schools,” he laments. Still, he managed to work with a craftsman on his own and comes from Candelaria to help his parents and siblings process the guava.

Once the seeds are separated and the rest of the fruit is beaten, the preparations are separated. One part is going to be bottled for juices and compotes, and the rest is mixed with sugar, lemon juice to preserve it and the occasional secret ingredient; and placed on the fire.

Once the seeds are separated and the rest of the fruit is beaten, the preparations are separated. (14ymedio)

“Now the difficult part comes,” says Juan Antonio, father of the family. “Once it begins to bubble it has to be stirred constantly so that it does not stick and curdle until it reaches a consistency thicker than the jam, but a little less than the bar to which we are accustomed.”

In each batch around 70 pounds are processed, between the guava and the sugar. They work in shifts of ten or fifteen minutes, each for two and a half hours, to alternate in front of the fire. Staying there longer is almost impossible, because the ambient heat added to that coming from the coals make the task a real torture.

The smell of burnt wood and of the guava boiling with sugar to the point of making jam flood the whole place and capture the attention of the few passers-by who dare to get close to where the barking of the dogs who have captured a hutia (a large rodent) intermingles with the song of the birds and the crowing of the roosters. On a wooden shelf, two plates with their spoons are an invitation to taste the final product from previous batches.

David, another of the sons, puts on his sunglasses, to avoid the smoke getting in his eyes and, on a stool next to the cauldron, he settles down to start the first shift. In the afternoon, the father of the family collects the heard of goats while confessing that he once dreamed of becoming a great producer of milk and goat cheese. “They say it is very good, and well paid, but the investment is also very large,” he laments.

A broken refrigerator serves as a warehouse for the membrillo — the quince paste — distributed in plastic casseroles, buckets and small bars, while the bottles with pulp are stored in sacks or in the plastic boxes themselves. “Now we just have to wait for the guava and mango season, and people come for our products or we take them to them.” Nature sets the pace in El Brujo.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.