Testimonies About the Torture Practiced in Cuban Prisons are Presented in Mexico

For the organizations it is “very valuable that this dialogue has been carried out” with the Committee against Torture, and that the UN has “placed emphasis” specifically on the July 11 protests. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 18 May 2022 — On Wednesday, in Mexico City, fifteen civil organizations presented new testimonies proving that torture is practiced in Cuba, in addition to recounting other human rights violations on the island, such as arbitrary arrests and the forced labor of the so-called medical ’missions’ .  

The group, made up of Civil Rights Defenders, Cubalex, Article 19, Justicia 11J, Prisoners Defenders and ten other NGOs, detailed some of the systematic punishments in Cuban prisons.

One of them is being handcuffed with one’s arms raised, as documented by the Cubalex legal organization with a source in several of the prisoners themselves and announced on their social networks.

“This form of torture consists of handcuffing the inmate on one arm and the attaching the handcuff to a high place, so that the limb is suspended and in a position in which the person cannot sit down,” explains Cubalex, a position in which “the prisoner is left for prolonged periods of time that can even reach 24 hours or more.”

One of the prisoners cited by Cubalex is Alexis Sabatela, a collaborator with the Cuban Human Rights Observatory, who claims to have been handcuffed to bars in the Kilo 7 and Kilo 9 prisons in Camagüey, where “it was common to hang prisoners with their arms high, whether open or closed.” continue reading

Another testimony collected is that of Félix Navarro about the Canaleta prison, in Ciego de Ávila, where he was imprisoned for several years after being arrested in the so-called Black Spring of 2003. There, the opponent had denounced, it was common to hang inmates a whole night and, in winter, every so often throw buckets of water at them.

In the maximum security prison of Agüica, Matanzas, where Navarro is now after being sentenced to nine years for the demonstrations on July 11, the government opponent José Díaz Silva, leader of the Opposition Movement for a New Republic; detained since July 3 March, he was also handcuffed to the ceiling for several hours, reports Cubalex.

Ángel Yunier Remón, who suffers from osteoarthritis as a result of the torture he was subjected to with handcuffs, told this NGO that when he suffered this punishment, “you feel pain, your hand cramps, you don’t feel it. It turns black, cold. You can’t even move your shoulder. It immobilizes you.”

The rapper Maykel Castillo Osorbo, in prison without trial since last year, has said that he was also handcuffed, “but in a different way.” In his case, “they made him put his hands and feet through the bars and stand in that position with his limbs handcuffed.” They could leave him like this for up to three days, “causing him a very strong pain in the torso and shoulders.”

The organizations gathered this Wednesday at a press conference celebrated that the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT), after reviewing the situation in Cuba between April 21 and 29 in Geneva (Switzerland) , has asked the regime for “precise information” on the matter.

Specifically, the UN demands that the Cuban State respond, no later than May 13, 2023, regarding “an independent inspection of places of detention, the situation of human rights defenders, journalists, activists and artists in the Island and the investigation and sanction of the events of July 11, 2021.”

For Darcy Borrero, a member of the Justice 11J group, which has followed up on the demonstrators arrested after the protests that day, it is “very valuable that this dialogue has been carried out” with the Committee against Torture, and that it has placed the “emphasis” precisely on the protests of that day, as well as on the appropriate sanction for the agents who subjected the demonstrators to punishment, arrests and interrogations.

Borrero also describes as key the attention of the UN to the case of the murder of Diubis Laurencio, in La Güinera, shot in the back by a policeman on July 12.

In its most recent report on the Island, and among other considerations, the CAT regrets that a national human rights institution has not yet been created in Cuba, that there is no independence of the judiciary, nor is the independent exercise of the legal profession guaranteed, nor are there guarantees so that military courts do not try civilians. On the Island, in short, the “fundamental safeguards against torture of all detained persons” are not guaranteed.

In his speech on May 11 in Geneva, and after reviewing the complaints and testimonies collected by different civil organizations, the vice president of the UN Committee against Torture, Sébastien Touzé, asserted that the Cuban State has taken measures “manifestly contrary to to the Convention against Torture.”

Touzé also said that the “high number of arrests,” especially after “the events of July 2021” offers “an alarming vision.”

The interventions of the Cuban Government before the sessions, on April 21 and 29, were of little use; according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they presented “the broad and solid system of laws, rules, regulations and policies that guarantee in Cuba the integral protection of the person, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention,” as well as “the actions conceived and applied to prevent acts of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment from occurring in the national territory, frequent before 1959 and radically eliminated and prohibited by the Cuban Revolution.”

Before the beginning of this session of the Committee Against Torture, last April, the same group that presented testimonies from prisoners this Wednesday in Mexico warned of worrying issues in current Cuban laws and in those that are about to be approved.

Similarly, the Madrid-based NGO Prisoners Defenders also presented a report to the Committee in which it identified up to “15 patterns” of mistreatment and torture of prisoners on the island, including deprivation of medical care, forced labor outside the the criminal conviction, solitary confinement as punishment, physical assaults and deprivation of water or food, sleep, and of communication with lawyers and relatives. The conclusion of that document was forceful: the use of torture is systematic against the political prisoners of Cuba.

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Collision Between Truck and Car with Tourists Leaves Two Dead and Seven Injured in Camaguey

The crash took place on the section of the central highway located one kilometer from the town of Martí. (Facebook/The Voice of Bayatabo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 May 2022 — A traffic accident between a truck with passengers that covered the Camagüey-Bayamo route and a car with tourists left at least “two dead and seven injured,” the provincial government in Camagüey published on its social networks. “Assistance was provided at the scene.”

The injured, it was specified, were transferred to the Manuel Ascunce Domenech Surgical Clinical Teaching Provincial Hospital in Camagüey and the Armando E. Cardoso General Hospital.

Preliminary versions, quoted by the official press, indicate that the “truck crossed over to the opposite side of the road from which the tourist car was coming.” Both vehicles caught fire after the collision.

The crash took place on the section of the central highway located one kilometer from the town of Martí and ten kilometers before reaching the municipal seat of Guáimaro.

According to official figures, the number of deaths on roads – a large part of them pedestrians and cyclists – increased by 24% in 2021, with 589.

The secretary of the National Road Safety Commission (CNSV), Reinaldo Becerra, pointed out last April that a total of 8,354 accidents occurred in 2021, with an increase of 8.32% (632) compared to 2020. continue reading

The provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Havana — the capital — concentrated the largest number of claims.

Among the main causes of traffic crashes, highlights the CNSV, are drivers’ inattention, failure to comply with the right-of-way and speeding. But the poor condition of the roads and the aging vehicle fleet on the Island, where cars over 50 years old sill operate, also have an influence.

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Cuban Rafter Who Fled From Prison Sentence for July 11th Protests Rescued by US

Yariel Alfonso Puerta left the Island with a friend last Friday. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 16 May 2022 — The 27-year-old Cuban Yariel Alfonso Puerta, who threw himself into the sea on Friday to avoid trial for his participation in the July 11 demonstrations in Matanzas, is in the custody of the Coast Guard, in Florida waters, along with his friend with whom he left the Island, Alioski Quintero González.  

The rafter’s mother, Yamilé Puerta, confirmed this Monday to 14ymedio the news from the journalist Mario J. Pentón with a source in the US Coast Guard. According to Pentón, the coast guard found two individuals in a raft with the characteristics that he himself provided of the boat.

Alfonso Puerta set sail from the Island with his friend in a homemade raft with a sail and four oars. That same day, the police went to look for him to take him to court for having demonstrated on 11J (July 11th). According to the Cubalex legal organization, the young man faces a six-year prison sentence for the crimes of public disorder, disobedience and resistance.

His desperate mother now hopes that the US authorities will not return him to Cuba. “If my son is returned, his life will be miserable,” says Yamilé Puerta, who has lived in the Valencian town of Villarreal, Spain, for more than six years with her husband, Yoenis Martín González, breaking into tears. continue reading

Yariel lived with her until just under a year ago. The young man, who has a three-year-old boy in Spain, decided to return to Cuba, says his mother, “because here the issue of papers and other things was difficult for us.”

Very shortly after, the demonstrations exploded on July 11, which he did not hesitate to join in his city, Matanzas. “He calls me and tells me: ’Look, mom, we finally woke up, the people took to the streets,’ and I told him: yes, yes, yes, do it, go ahead!, and I supported him,” Yamilé says between sobs. “I don’t know if I made a mistake, but at that time, the excitement of seeing that your people having finally woken up… Do you understand? Now I’m regretting it.”

The woman was in contact with her son until Saturday at nine in the morning, when the young people were already in international waters. Until that moment, she was in contact with him at all times.

He even broadcast a video call with the young man at the precise moment that the Cuban coastguard had intercepted them, the day before. “They have them in the water they don’t let them move,” denounced the mother in some images released by Mario Pentón.

In the same communication, the boy explains that the coastguards struggled with them, trying to get them on the boat to take them back, and that in that trance, they lost two oars and the sail of their precarious boat.

“It’s just us,” Yariel said, pointing to his friend Alioski. “The only thing we ask is that they let us continue calmly. If we drown, it’s our problem.”

Minutes later, the Cuban coastguard is heard pointing out to the young people which is the safest way to continue the trip. “They heard that I told them that I was going to report them and that I was going to upload it to social networks, it seems that’s why they helped them,” Yamilé explains to this newspaper.

In that video call, Yariel declares: “I am a political prisoner, I am going to the United States of America by rowing, because I do not want to continue in the dictatorship. If something happens to me, it is because they sank me here.”

Now, he is waiting for his maternal uncle to meet with Democratic Congresswoman Federica Wilson and expose the boy’s case so that he is not deported. Various exile activists, both in the United States and in Europe, says Yamilé, are mobilizing to collect signatures in favor of his case.

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Faced with Harassment by State Security, Cuban Activist Daniela Rojo Requests Political Asylum in Germany

Daniela Rojo and her children in a shelter in Germany, waiting to receive asylum. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 May 2022 — The activist Daniela Rojo is with her two children in a refugee center in Frankfurt. The young woman, age 26, girl arrived in the German city on May 15, where she immediately requested political asylum, but she had not wanted to make it public until now.

“Here, my children and I are safe and I will not be persecuted for my political ideas. My eternal thanks to the German authorities, who have treated us like family,” Rojo wrote in a brief message on Facebook along with a photograph with her two sons. The activist added that she has received many messages and promised to give more details about her escape.

The young woman was moderator of the Archipíelago platform and the architect in Guanabacoa of the initiative for the march called for November 15 throughout Cuba. Although she no longer belongs to the opposition organization, she was one of the members who suffered the most harassment and threats from State Security.

Rojo was kidnapped by the political police and spent five days in a house belonging to the Ministry of the Interior under the custody of several agents shortly before the peaceful protests called for November. continue reading

At the beginning of that same month, the Minors’ Body of the Ministry of the Interior cited her for the way in which she raises her children, which Rojo described as “a very subtle form of emotional blackmail that would understandably make any mother give up.”

From her departure from Archipíelago, she clarified that she needed to “shelter” her family, “the one that has suffered the most from this process, especially my children.” Although she would continue to advocate for “a plural and democratic Cuba and especially for the release of all political prisoners.”

In addition, for participating in the demonstration on July 11, she spent 23 days in prison, and all “for exercising my constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully,” she denounced through 14ymedio .

Daniela Rojo was accused of public disorder and contempt, both common crimes, for which the Prosecutor’s Office requested five years in prison; She was released on August 3 after paying 2,000 pesos bail. Then, in November of last year, she reported being detained for five days in a State Security operation, an arrest she expected to take place on November 14, before the protests.

Rojo joins a long list of Cuban opponents who have had to leave the island in recent years due to the harassment and repression of the Cuban regime, such as the artist Hamlet Lavastida, the poet Katherine Bisquet, the rapper Denis Solís or the playwright Yunior Garcia Aguilera.

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Cuba: A Penal Code to Bind Us All

Under the new Constitution, journalism not controlled by the Cuban Communist Party faces a demonizing of the access to funds from international organizations. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 17 May 2022 — The new Cuban Penal Code, recently approved by the National Assembly and which will enter into force in the coming days, is a detailed compendium of the main fears of the ruling party. Like any authoritarian model, the island’s regime is forced to break down each prohibition and enumerate all the punishments, trying to anticipate even the new forms of confrontation and rejection that may arise from the citizenry.

When reading between the lines of the new regulations, and separating what it inherits from the previous Code in terms of penalizing common crimes, the great panics that keep Cuban leaders awake at night emerge. The independent press, activism, popular protests in the style of the one that occurred on July 11 (11J), and the possibility that individuals unite in initiatives to revoke the economic political system, these are at the center of the tremors that run through the Plaza of the Revolution.

Journalism not controlled by the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) bears one of the worst parts of this new legislation, which further demonizes the access of the independent press to funds and resources from international organizations and foundations. In a country where a group of men uses the public coffers at will to support their media of ideological propaganda, those same individuals try to cut off any financial oxygen that allows the existence of newspapers or magazines that annoy power. Only the PCC can carry out the exercise of content dissemination, under supervision and with censorship’s scissors ready to cut everything that does not benefit the Party.

However, the current twist already had its antecedents in the Gag Law for which 75 dissidents went to jail in the Black Spring of 2003 and which has never been repealed. So it can be interpreted more as an update to the new realities than the beginning of an unprecedented raid against the free flow of news. The growing popularity of information portals managed by independent continue reading

journalists has put in check a dictatorship that, for decades, ruled from secrecy and absolute control of information dissemination.

Something similar occurs with article 120.1 of the new Code, which penalizes anyone who “arbitrarily exercises any right or freedom recognized in the Constitution of the Republic and endangers the constitutional order.” As in the Constitution the PCC is considered the superior force and leader of society; trying to change that and erect another alternative will result in a serious, very serious crime. However, a similar straitjacket already existed with the popularly called “constitutional mummification” which, without meeting the requirements of a referendum where voters were asked their position in favor or against the proposal, was imposed in 2002.

In short, if much of what is penalized in this legislation was already prohibited, in one way or another, in decrees, regulations and resolutions, it is worth asking the reasons for reinforcing this veto and expanding the punishments in the new Code. Everything indicates that it is a victory for the forces of immobility; we are facing the image of those bridges, the ones dynamited by the most retrograde to prevent democratic change from coming from within the Island, from springing up from ordinary people. This is, in reality, a glossary of the terrors of Castroism and its desperate attempts to stop what will come no matter what.

The Penal Code designed to bind us all points to the fact that it has been drafted by a system sunk in mistrust of society and in fear of the future.

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Editorial Note: This text was originally published in Deutsche Welle in Spanish.

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Cuban President Diaz-Canel Accuses the US of Trying to ‘Rekindle’ the July 11th Protests

Image of the protests held on July 11, 2021 in Santiago de Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 16 May 2022 — On Monday, the president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, accused the United States Embassy in Havana of “reviving what happened” in the anti-government protests of last July 11.

During his speech at the closing of the extraordinary sessions of the National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP), in which former president Raúl Castro (2008-2018) was present the president spoke out against Washington. He accused the United States of promoting actions to “provoke a social outbreak” on the Island.

According to Díaz-Canel, the United States — whom he accused of “cynicism” — has constructed “infamous versions of the trials” against the 11J protesters. “Blind with frustration, the empire and its employees resort to old practices of attack with modern techniques of unconventional warfare,” Diaz-Canel charged.

According to the Cuban Attorney General’s Office, 790 people have been prosecuted for these protests, of which 55 are between 16 and 17 years old. Since December, trials of 11J protesters have been registered in the country, with hundreds of defendants.

The United States and the European Union, as well as Cuban and international NGOs, have denounced irregularities in the processes and criticized the high prison sentences, which have sometimes reached 30 years. continue reading

Díaz-Canel also rejected the accusations from Washington that accuse the island of imprisoning minors under 16 who participated in the protests. “From the country that holds world records for incarceration and prison mistreatment of girls and boys, we are accused of having tried and sentenced minors under 16 years of age,” he criticized. The minimum criminal age in Cuba is 16 years, according to the Island Prosecutor’s Office.

In recent weeks, the president assured that “the established legal procedure” was applied to 27 children under 16 years of age. Ten were interned in schools for comprehensive training and conduct and 17 were given “individualized attention” in their own school.

The NGO Prisoners Defenders, for its part, reported in its last count that at the end of March it had registered measures against at least 26 adolescents between the ages of 14 and 17.

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At Age 82, Cuban Martin Guzman Fernandez Leaves the Island and Arrives in the United States

Martín Guzmán Fernández made a 78-day journey to reach the United States. (Ernesto Guzmán)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ángel Salinas, Mexico, 17 May 2022 — Leave Cuba? The grandchildren and children had already done it years before. Martín Guzmán Fernández did not have a hard time deciding. On Saturday, after 78 days of travel, he arrived in the United States, “he crossed through Arizona and this Sunday la migra picked him up” along with three other Cubans who accompanied him, Ernesto, the son of this man from Havana, tells 14ymedio.  

He was released from the migrant detention center on Monday. “He was there less than 24 hours and they treated him very well,” confirms his son, on the way to the place to pick him up and reunite him with the rest of the family.

“My father is part of one of the lost generations, from when the Revolution triumphed. Deceived like many,” says Ernesto by telephone from Panama, where he is currently visiting his sister and nephew.

At 82 years old, Guzmán “had to continue working in the Ministry of Construction because the retirement pay was not enough for him,” says Ernesto. “My father is diabetic and he has problems with a vein. He had a heart attack.”

Leaning on his cane, this octogenarian had to “line up at the pharmacy from two in the morning,” all to get told, when he arrived, that “there were no medicines.” He walked miles to buy food, “because in order to eat he had to have currency they he didn’t get paid in.” continue reading

Guzmán was afraid, but not of leaving the island, “he was afraid of not seeing us again,” says Ernesto. The way out was given on February 26, like most Cubans, by air through Managua (Nicaragua). The marked route indicated Tegucigalpa, in Honduras, as the second point, and from there to Guatemala to later travel to Tapachula, Chiapas.

There was some “desperation” in Tapachula, “when I had been waiting for a humanitarian visa for 25 days,” says Guzmán’s son. Eight days later they were able to leave and undertook a 3,500 kilometer journey by bus to the border with Arizona.

Martín Guzmán Fernández, this Tuesday, after being released by the immigration authorities. (Courtesy)

According to the latest preliminary figures from the Customs and Border Protection Office to which The Washington Post had access, almost 35,000 Cubans were detained on the southern border of the United States in April alone. The number was much higher than the 16,550 that were counted in February and higher than the 32,141 in March.

Ernesto left Cuba five years ago and remembers that “the emigration of the family began in 2012. The first were my two children, then my wife and I.” Before arriving in the United States, he was an administrator at Esedip, dependent on the Ministry of Construction, on the island. He set up a vehicle repair shop in Panama. “I would buy wrecked cars cleared by insurance, fix them up, paint them up and sell them.”

His training as an engineer earned him a chance to join the construction team of Line 2 of the Panama Metro. In addition, he set up a hostel to help Cubans passing through that country.

In recent days, several groups of more than 100 Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, Colombians, Hondurans and Guatemalans have crossed the Rio Grande to reach Eagles Pass in the United States.

Through the borders of Tijuana and Reynosa, Cuban mothers are being allowed to stay with their children, but the men are being returned to Mexico. “They don’t tell you anything, they just turn you back and tell you to wait,” says Roberto, a Cuban who has been in the Senda de Vida shelter in the border state of Tamaulipas for 12 days.

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Galiano and San Lazaro, Another Deadly Corner in Havana

Like a mortally wounded Titanic, the building on the corner of Galiano and San Lázaro, in Havana, has become a mortal danger. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 17 May 2022 — The corner of Galiano and San Lázaro has been left out of the “magic ring.” Too far from the Cathedral of Havana and the Plaza de la Revolución, this point of the Cuban capital has not received the benefits of the restoration of the historic center or the care given to the circle around the Council of State. But its orphanhood in the face of maintenance does not keep it from being one of the busiest places in the city

Every day thousands of pedestrians and vehicles pass through the area of that corner. At least three jeepney routes cross the intersection where a collapsing building stands. Like a Titanic mortally wounded, not by an iceberg but by the decades without repairing its interior and without even painting its façade, the building has become a mortal danger for those who inhabit it or pass by its location.

It’s just one of many dangers in a deadly city where cracked balconies, deep potholes and leaking gas pipes are claiming more and more lives. Opposite, just on a diagonal, the Deauville hotel shines with its blue façade with large balconies that makes it stand out on the Havana coastline. But although only a few yards separate them, the distance between both structures is an abyss: while one is designed for tourists to enjoy the benefits of a trip to the tropics, the other is the trap in which several families live.

No one knows how it is still standing, although most of those who walk hardly notice the danger that hangs over their heads. (14ymedio

The clothes appear on the clotheslines, there is a red shirt and a blue sheet that don’t even move because on this Tuesday there is hardly any breeze in Havana. The apartment on the same corner looks like a mouth with its front teeth knocked out. The upper part is in that magical balance that supports a good part of the city. No one knows how it is still standing, although most of those who walk by hardly notice the danger that hangs over their heads. continue reading

“Here we have experienced several building collapses,” a local resident tells this newspaper. Families rearrange themselves and locate other spaces within the building itself or go to a relative’s house, but the rest of the residents refuse to leave the building. They are reluctant to leave their accommodation because “this is bad, but there is no other option than a collective shelter” where you can live for decades in a city marked by a housing shortage. The other possibility is to rebuild the property, on the same site, but that is unlikely to happen.

The corner of Galiano and San Lázaro did not have the fate of restoration or privilege, but all eyes are on it. (14ymedio)

The corner of Galiano and San Lázaro did not have the fate of restoration or privilege, but all eyes are on it. A landslide in that place, which forces its inhabitants to be permanently removed to another place, would free up a succulent piece of the real estate pie. Now it is a danger for those who pass by, but tomorrow it could be the expensive land for another López-Calleja tower, as Havanans call the enormous hotel under construction in the El Vedado neighborhood.

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The Cuban Government Declared Only One Seventh of the Deaths from Covid, According to National Statistics

A micro-brigade builds vaults for burials in Holguín. (Communal Services of Holguín/Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 May 2022 — The latest demographic data from Cuba’s National Office of Statistics and Information (Onei) are unappealable: in 2021, 55,206 more Cubans died than in 2020. According to a report dated May 11, last year 167,645 people died on the island, compared to the 112,439 who did so the previous year, an increase of 49.1%.

The figure contrasts abysmally with the deaths reported as a result of covid-19 during 2021 by the Ministry of Public Health, 8,177, which indicates an underreporting in the official data of the pandemic on the Island of 47,029 deaths. That is, the underestimation was 85.2% (there were 6.75 times more deaths than those officially attributed to Covid). Or put another way, the Cuban government has declared only a seventh of the deaths from coronavirus.

In other countries, especially those hit by Covid-19 in the first waves of 2020, the authorities corrected the initial figures of the impact of the coronavirus and attributed the anomalies in the excess mortality shown by the statistics of that year to the pandemic. Since there is no other exceptional event in the year – as would be the case if there were a war – this excess can only be attributed to the coronavirus.

At the end of 2020, the Cuban Ministry of Health reported 146 deaths from Covid, despite the fact that the following Onei report, published in June 2021, also indicated a slight increase in mortality: from 109,080 deaths in 2019 to 112,439 in 2020. This represents an underestimation of deaths from the disease of 95.65% (there were 23 times more deaths than those officially attributed to Covid). continue reading

Before the official demographic data came to light, numerous signs suggested that the death toll from Covid-19 was much higher than what the Government was declaring.

At the beginning of 2021, it attracted a lot of attention that the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba was no longer functioning, although the authorities then justified the construction of a new cemetery by saying that the second city in the country “is one of the oldest territories of the country” and, in addition, presented an “increase in conditions such as cancer in different locations and heart attacks.” https://translatingcuba.com/cuban-state-newspaper-denies-with-scant-and-delayed-information-that-there-are-mass-graves-in-cuba/

Months later, in summer, when the pandemic peaked on the Island, it was already difficult to cover the sun with a finger, and the official press reported the expansion of cemeteries in other cities such as Holguín, Ciego de Ávila or Saint Clare.

In addition, testimonies denouncing the presence of mass graves and the bad smell around the cemeteries multiplied on social networks. Faced with the increase in deaths, and in the midst of a growing shortage, the state company for Communal Services lowered the quality of the coffins, an improvisation that caused discomfort among the families of the deceased.

All of this contrasted with the triumphalism of the Government of Miguel Díaz-Canel, which boasted of having vaccinated the vast majority of its population with antidotes of national origin –- Soberana 02, Abdala and Soberana Plus -– which to date have not yet been approved by the World Health Organization.

The data provided by the State are those that then appear in the world statistics on the pandemic, which is why Cuba appears as one of the countries with the lowest mortality from covid on the planet. If it were confirmed that the more than 55,000 deaths were due to covid, it would rank, in absolute numbers, in 23rd place in the tables, between Chile (57,680) and Hungary (43,643).

In relation to the size of the population, the Cuban data is among the worst in the world. On the Island, 4,929 people per million inhabitants died. Only Peru (6,529 per million) and Bulgaria (5,356) registered worse figures. In the United States it was 3,009 per million.

For the rest, the latest Onei report reflects the general decline in the population: 11,113,215 registered in 2021 compared to 11,181,595 in 2020, a downward difference of 68,380. If deaths are subtracted, 13,174 Cubans are missing from last year’s census compared to the previous year.

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There Will be a Privileged Exchange Rate for Producers of High-Demand Goods in Cuba

A store that takes payment only in hard currency at 3rd and 70th in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 15 May 2022 — The Cuban government announced this Saturday that it will establish a special exchange rate for some state and private producers of high-demand goods. Without further details, the Minister of Economy, Alejandro Gil, explained that these sectors, “in a selective and gradual manner,” will be able to obtain foreign currency at a price between the official rate of 24 pesos to the dollar and that of the informal market, which reaches 125 pesos.

This move comes two years after the first freely convertible currency (MLC) stores selling groceries and other staples were opened.

According to the minister, a scheme for the sale of foreign currency will be implemented in a “gradual and selective” manner and the Government will agree with suppliers on the prices of commercialization in Cuban pesos, Radio Rebelde published.

Gil explained that this new process will be focused on the production of food and high-demand products. “Today we have a missing piece in the design of the country’s monetary functioning, which is the sale of MLC, that is, of foreign currency, to the population that has a demand for it.”

Regarding the price of the currency, the minister pointed out that it is impossible to maintain a stable offer at the official exchange rate, since this “would require an amount of these currencies that would force us to give up the support of the main needs of the population,” adds the media official.

Also, according to the minister, after this step it is possible to “think about re-establishing the sale of foreign currency to the population.” continue reading

The announcement was made during Gil’s presentation in the National Assembly that is in session this weekend and immediately provoked strong criticism.

The economist Pedro Monreal harshly evaluated the official decision: “From the initial dream in 2020 of adopting a single exchange rate, it has gone to three rates: the official one (1:24), the informal one (1≈ 115) and the “secondary”(not yet quantified). One more nail in the coffin of the ’ordering [task]*’ and a possible source of illegalities,” he wrote.

In February of this year, the Cuban economy minister explained that the stores in MLC are a lifeline. “You sell in MLC or you don’t have (currency), because debt is paid or commercial credit is only guaranteed with currency,” he said at the time and defended the opening of stores that take payment exclusively in foreign currency.

The stores in MLC began to operate in Cuba at the end of 2019, first with offers of electrical appliances, hardware or furniture to capture the “dollars that escaped the country,” according to explanations given by the minister at the beginning of 2022. In the summer In 2020, the first markets for food and toiletries appeared, also in foreign currency.

The opening of these stores has been surrounded by strong popular criticism. Cubans complain that the commercial network in Cuban pesos has hardly any products on offer, while in the markets in MLC merchandise is supplied with more regularity and diversity.

During the popular protests last July, foreign currency stores were stoned and looted in several locations in the country. Product resellers have also generated a thriving business of buying in MLC and then offering these goods in national currency at sky-high prices on the informal market.

In his speech at the National Assembly this Saturday, the minister also indicated that the country’s imports between January and April of this year totaled four times its exports.

Exports of goods were about 590 million dollars in those four months, while imports reached about 2.397 billion dollars.

The island’s trade deficit, therefore, stood at 1.807 billion dollars, slightly more than three times the total volume of exports in that period.

*Translator’s note: Tarea ordenamiento = the [so-called] ‘Ordering Task’ which is a collection of measures that includes eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and others. 

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Three Other Cuban Baseball Players Escape, Two are Already in the US and the Third is in the Dominican Republic

Juan Miguel Fernández and Roberto Álvarez are two of the three players who left the island between Friday and Saturday. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 May 2022 — The bleeding of Cuban baseball players does not stop. Between Friday and Saturday Juan Miguel Fernández, Dairon Pimentel and Roberto Álvarez left the island. “The sad reality of Cuban society and the disparate problems of a country have also been transferred to baseball players,” said journalist Francys Romero.

Fernández and Pimentel, both from Mayabeque, are already in the United States and will seek an opportunity with one of the Major League teams. “The destination is no longer even MLB, the Dominican Republic or Mexico,” said Romero in Béisbol FR! “The course is to try to find a future.”

Fernández, who had a 60-day journey, brings his experience in two National Series defending the colors of Mayabeque. The young athlete threw more than 50 innings. Romero stressed that his “top fastball speed has ranged between 91-92 miles and he hopes to be able to increase those records to continue his career in baseball.”

Of Pimentel it must be said that in 2020 he presented favorable numbers in minor categories with a .376 average, three doubles and four triples. “In the current Youth National being held in Cuba, he participated in 12 games between third base and center field,” Romero noted. continue reading

Before Fernández and Pimentel, the Cuban athletes Luis Enrique González and Daniel Pérez, originally from Cienfuegos, arrived in the United States last March. A peculiar case is that of González, who in 2020 was excluded from the Under-23 team on the grounds of testing positive to covid-19. A situation that was ruled out by a healthcare provider to Pelota Cubana. The young man is already in Baltimore, where he is looking for an opportunity with the Orioles.

The abandonments occur in the framework of the island’s announcement to play the Caribbean Baseball Series again in 2023. The 65th edition of the tournament will take place next February in the Venezuelan cities of Caracas and La Guaira with the participation, for the first time, of teams from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Panama and Curaçao.

This Saturday, Roberto Álvarez’s stay in the Dominican Republic was confirmed, the preferred route of several athletes to leave Cuba and seek an opportunity in MLB teams.

Álvarez, who was part of the Matanzas team, is noted as a “skilled outfielder.” At 23, he will seek free agency and then sign with a major league organization. “He is an athletic player with an excellent physique… Among his most recognized tools are speed, defense and arm,” explained Francys Romero.

The departures of Fernández, Pimentel and Álvarez are added to that of Crisptohfer Pérez, who left for the Dominican Republic on May 7. The Cuban outfielder started in the Under-15 World Cup held in Panama during the summer of 2018 and in the current Youth Championship he led the hits list with Pinar del Río with 12.

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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 Prostitution of the Compliment

“The first time he offered me 500 pesos if I let him put his hand under my blouse,” says a girl. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 15 May 2022 — A new form of macho exhibitionism (even more sordid) is spreading in Havana. Instead of unzipping their fly they choose to show their wallet. They no longer whisper to their victim what they would like to do to them or what they would like her to do to them: “Look girl, if I catch you I’m going to…” or any other nonsense. Now the offer is priced in pesos, dollars or telephone recharges.

As is known, compliments, even the most “elegant,” have fallen out of favor. Although part of the female population may perhaps feel flattered when a man tells her something about the beauty of her eyes or the charm of her smile, it must be accepted that, in the end, it is an assault on privacy, which, depending on how rudeness demeans you, can become an insult.

A teenager who is still in junior high school has had to change her daily route to school to avoid the proposals that the same guy makes to her every day. “The first time he offered me 500 pesos if I let him put his hand under my blouse,” says the girl, noting that the man, who could be her grandfather, explained it to her in stronger and more direct terms. “Every time the figure went up, he launched into something more daring, until he showed me a hundred dollar bill, but that time I didn’t even understand what he meant.”

A young woman who sells fruit juices in a Havana market had to ask the custodian not to allow the entrance of a regular customer who bought a bag of lemon juice every Saturday by putting a hundred-peso bill on the counter and adding under his breath” For the other juguito [little toy], I’ll give you whatever you ask for.”

Lacking the slightest respect for their targets, these indecent assailants project on their victims the low self-esteem they have for themselves. As if they were at a fair where sexual favors are auctioned off, they put a price on touches that are not caresses, on contacts of the flesh that remain in outrage. They price each part of another’s body with the added value of what they want to do with it.

The street is difficult and money is worth less and less. The values ​​have also been degraded and it is difficult to calculate how steep the slope is. This new form of sexual harassment is another symptom of this degenerative disease, of this multiple trauma that the country suffers. continue reading

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Cuba Only Produces 59 Percent of the Medications Necessary for Public Health

At the beginning of the year, 136 medicines from the basic catalog were lacking and an improvement was expected in the middle of the year. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 15 May 2022 — The Cuban biopharmaceutical industry has only produced 59% of the basic catalog of medicines destined for the public health system, so far this year, official media reported this Saturday.

The president of the state business group BioCubaFarma, Eduardo Martínez, explained that of the “basic list of medicines” of 627 products, “369 are currently produced,” according to the official newspaper Granma. As of April, “143 medicines are missing in one or more provinces.”

According to Martínez, “among the main causes of drug shortages are the unavailability of raw materials and necessary materials (94%) and plant shutdowns due to breakage or maintenance (6%).”

Martínez reiterated that behind the non-availability of supplies are often the economic sanctions of the United States against Cuba.

In January, 136 medicines were lacking out of the 359 that BioCuba Farma provides to the basic table each month, and it was expected that by the middle of this year the outlook would improve. In 2021 only 121 drugs were produced, on average. continue reading

During the past year, there was a serious shortage of basic medicines, which affected treatments for diseases such as arthritis, as well as antihistamines, anxiolytics and antidepressants.

The shortage of basic products, such as food and medicine, was one of the main economic elements in the anti-government protests of July 11, the largest in decades.

On the other hand, the Cuban authorities also announced this Saturday that they are extending the possibility for travelers to bring food, toiletries and medicines to the island without tariff limits, “as accompanied luggage.” This extension will be from July 1 to December 31, 2022, according to Cuban General Customs on its website.

This measure was announced after the protests of July 11 of last year and was extended until June 30, 2022, by the Ministry of Finance and Prices. Now, the ministry assures that they maintain this temporary decision to relax the limitations “taking into account that the conditions that supported this measure are maintained.”

The current legislation in Cuba on the importation of luggage consists of a complex system of points and weight limits that establishes tariffs on excess items brought by travelers.

In the case of medicines, up to 10 kilograms are allowed to be brought into the country.

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Five Young Cubans Arrested for La Guinera Protests are Released

The young Emiyoslán Román Rodríguez was released after an appeal. (DarcyBo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 May 2022 — Five young people from La Güinera, in Havana, who received sentences for the popular protests of July 12, were released after an appeal, according to an announcement by the Cubalex Legal Information Center and the activist Salomé García. Those released had received sentences of between nine and 18 years in prison.

The young people are Marlon Brando Díaz Oliva, 20 years old, whom the Prosecutor’s Office had asked for 15 years in prison, but who received a sentence of 18. Also the young Marco Antonio Alfonso Breto, 19 years old, who denounced having been tortured with cigarette burns and for whom the Prosecutor’s Office requested 15 years in prison and who received a nine-year sentence.

Others of the young people released are Fran Daniel Roy Sotolongo, 19, Yensy Jorge Machado González and Emiyoslan Román Rodríguez, both 18.

Roy Sotolongo was charged with assault, bodily harm, public disorder, damage, incitement to commit a crime, and sedition. The Prosecutor requested 15 years in prison and he was sentenced to nine. When he was arrested he was in the Compulsory Military Service and initially, his case was transferred to the Military Prosecutor’s Office.

“However, this body rejected it, alleging that in this criminal process the majority of those involved are civilians, therefore, they would be prosecuted under ordinary justice for the alleged crime of sedition on a date yet to be determined,” according to the data collected by Cubalex about him. continue reading

Machado González was also sentenced to nine years in prison for the crimes of public disorder, attack and instigation to commit a crime, but in October of last year, the Prosecutor’s Office changed the charges to the crime of sedition.

As for the young Román Rodríguez, sentenced to 12 years in prison, when he was arrested he was subjected to interrogations and his possible membership in foreign organizations, especially those based in Miami, was questioned. The young man was captured along with his two brothers. His case was brought before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, according to activist Darcy Bo.

“This means that during the last two weeks the Cuban State has been subject to very serious reviews that have not been carried out for several years. Minors deprived of their liberty are a key issue on which each of these groups of international experts demanded accurate and detailed information,” Bo wrote in a Facebook post.

On Friday, the United Nations Committee on Torture described the high number of arrests in Cuba as “alarming” and declared that the State had taken measures “manifestly contrary to the Convention against Torture.”

Before the release of the five youths, the activist Salomé García, questioned that other protesters who were also captured in La Güinera and not released, such as Eloy Bárbaro Cardoso, an 18-year-old university student, as well as Brunelvis Cabrera and Dariel García. “Enough of mock justice, we know that the institutions are not independent, free them all,” Garcia demanded on Facebook.

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Cuba Continues to Build Hotels with Money of Unknown Origin and for Non-Existent Tourists

Hotel Grand Aston La Habana, recently built by Gaesa on the Malecón. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 May 2022 — More than 8,930 rooms of the almost 78,000 that Cuba has will remain empty in 2022. The Cuban economist Pedro Monreal, reports that some 1,473 million dollars were invested in these rooms, without revealing the origin of this investment.

Monreal suggests adopting “a pause” in hotel investments and targeting the island’s priorities. “Receiving 2.5 million international visitors in 2022, ’would leave a surplus’ of more than half of Cuba’s hotel rooms,” says the economist on his Twitter account. He calculates that only 32 tourists will rotate per room in 2022, compared to 69 in 2018.

Meanwhile, the economist also points out, investment in agricultural activities and in the sugar industry plummeted, with a fall of 50.8% in the first, and 80% in the second, “with respect to the relative weight they had in the total investment the previous year.”

It was the minister of the branch, Juan Carlos García Granda, last week at the inauguration of the FitCuba International Tourism Fair, who gave the exact number of tourist rooms that the Island has: 77,809, in a total of 240 hotels. Of these, he boasted, 59,000 have a Wi-Fi connection.

These numbers contrast with the dire state of the sector, which has not raised its head since the appearance of covid-19. Although the Cuban government foresees a recovery and the arrival of some 2.5 million travelers, the truth is that in the first quarter of this year only some 313,908 vacationers arrived on the island, a tiny number when compared to the same quarter last year, the year’s best, before the pandemic. continue reading

In all of last year, the Island received a total of 573,944 international travelers, 60% less than in all of 2020. A few days ago, the Government presented the more than 450,000 tourists received until April as a success, since it is seven times more than the number that arrived last year in the same period, but the comparison is misleading, since with respect to 2019 the difference is more than one million.

Due to the invasion in Ukraine, Cuba has also lost the Russian tourist market, which had grown, while the arrival of Canadians, who were the main source of travelers before the pandemic, followed by Americans, collapsed. These last two nationalities continue to lead arrivals on the Island, but in much smaller numbers than in previous years.

With this evidence on the table, last week the Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero, rectified the too optimistic forecasts for 2022 of his own colleague in charge of tourism, García Granda, and stated that, in reality, the recovery will have to wait until 2023.

Added to the above is the explosion at the Saratoga Hotel on May 6 in Havana, which caused the death of at least 46 people and has perhaps irreparably damaged the facilities that were about to reopen to receive tourists after a long closure due to the pandemic.

In this unfavorable context, many wonder why the Government continues to invest enormous sums in a sector with poor short-term prospects. “New hotel investment is not justified in a context of food insecurity,” writes Monreal. “The reasonable thing would be to modify the current pattern of investment to reassign to the agricultural sector (and other activities as well) what today is dedicated to building hotels that are going to operate with a low occupancy rate,” adds the economist.

The origin of the funds dedicated to the construction of hotels remains a mystery since the Government has not announced any large-scale foreign investment in this sector controlled by the military-controlled Grupo de Administración Empresarial SA (Gaesa).

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