Clandestinos, Legitimate Protest or Provocation by State Security?

Since the first days of this year, the Clandestinos group has been spreading images of busts of José Martí covered in pig blood. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 January 2020 —  On January 1, coinciding with the most emblematic date of the Cuban Revolution, which celebrated its 61st anniversary that day, a group called Clandestinos emerged on social networks to take credit for a protest campaign that consists of pouring a red liquid on the busts of José Martí.

“It is not an outrage to the Apostle [as Cubans of all persuasions are wont to call José Martí] but a shout of war against the dictatorship,” Clandestinos explained on Twitter and Facebook, where it posts the photos and videos of stained busts in various cities and other actions against posters of Fidel Castro or graffiti denouncing the “chivatos (informants).

“This weekend let’s have a red tsunami in Cuba. Let there be no province unmarked. Every town. Every neighborhood,” they announced last Friday in a video. “This is a war. […] The time has come. Change is now.”

These actions have provoked an intense debate on social networks. Some approve them, although many dislike the desecration of Marti’s image. However, others fear that it is a State Security strategy to discredit opponents and repress them more forcefully.

The official press accuses the group of staining the national hero and calls its members “counterrevolutionaries,” “vile” and “traitors.” On January 9, the authorities announced that two members of the group had been arrested and investigated for vandalizing busts and billboards, but the organization says it does not know the prisoners.

The movement has disseminated a manual with its procedures and has asked those who sympathize with their cause to unite and act. “Wearing a mask, acting as a oartner,” and using anonymous accounts on social networks to upload the images of the actions, are some of the recommendations offered.

Clandestinos in Cuba, sounds like a diversionist construct of the DSE (Department of State Security), to discredit the opposition and justify the repression,” says the former diplomat Pedro Campos, who adds that these events “can divert attention from: repression, prisoners, no democracy or rights, censorship, high prices and other things.”

A thesis that is repeated in a recent issue of Primavera Digital, entitled The Last Play Clandestinos!, which points out that for the authorities “it became a priority to divide and discredit the internal peaceful opposition (…) for this, nothing would be better than to accuse those who fight for the ideals promoted and exposed in his time by Marti.”

Miriam Celaya is another of the voices that questions the movement and the fact that they act with their faces covered. ” By nature, I am suspicious of masked faces that evoke the Tupamaros (Uruguayan Urban Guerillas), the ETA (Basque Country and Freedom members) and other denominations of ominous remembrance and equivocal causes.” The journalist is committed to “frontal and open-ended resistance against the Castro regime,” in a text published in Cubanet.

Clandestinos has also called to “mark the house of an informant,” a tactic that some do not understand, like music producer Adrián Monzón. “To make them known? To summon the ‘enraged people’? To start a civil war? To raise the passion of those who woke up and no longer inform? To recruit cannon fodder that protects DSE (State Security)?”

The group has reiterated on several occasions that it is not “political” or “opposition,” marking their distance from the dissident movement of the Island, but some support their activism and believe that their tactics are a fresh breeze after the exhaustion of previous strategies.

“There is no other option better than Clandestinos. Open opposition does not lead to anything without access to the media, when the government controls the judges, the prisons the courts… insisting on the same after six decades of failures will lead to to the same result, to nothing,” a commentator responded to Miriam Celaya’s article.

Actor Roberto San Martín is enthusiastic about the Clandestinos, with whom he is in “100% agreement with their ideas…They are trying to bring down the indifference and have achieved the perfect balance between action and how to get attention,” he said in an interview.

The actor justified the use of blood on busts, because Marti “has been manipulated by the dictatorship [that] has used the name of the Apostle for reproach, against the people and for abuse.”

Guillermo Fariñas has been one of the few opposition leaders who has so far spoken on the subject. From Miami, where he was visiting, the dissident said of the members of the collective, “what they do is exercise the right to rebellion.”

“It is a group that does not use the same non-violent methods as ours,” said the winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. “Other opponents and I go on one path, but the right to rebellion exists and they can go on other paths.”

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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.

To Compete in Arguments

Telesur was an initiative of ex-president Hugo Chávez to extend his ideological line to Latin America. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 19 January 2020 — Just a few days ago, Miguel Díaz-Canel has come out in defense of the Telesur chain and has spoken on the practice of attacking the media. The Cuban president crossed swords on the channel, whose programming began to be partially transmitted in Cuba in 2007 and whose short-term future is going through moments of uncertainty.

“Why do they try to boycott it, why do they try to attack it? Why are they who are the so-called ’defenders’ of the famous and who talk about freedom of the press and freedom of expression are not able to really compete in arguments with that medium?” Diaz-Canel questioned in reference to the recent statements by Juan Guaidó regarding reorganizing the channel.

The proposal of the interim president of Venezuela has caused an avalanche of criticism and accusations from the Island, starting with a strident statement by the official Union of Journalists of Cuba (Upec) and continuing to the demands of the president himself, who has chosen to establish himself as a defender of a plurality of information, in a country where only the circulation of media subordinated to the ruling party is allowed. continue reading

Díaz-Canel believes that the content transmitted by the network gives Cubans something to compare “with what they see on social networks” and “with what other media say,” a contrast that in his opinion “is the way in which we have to face these situations.” He then added: “but not from a position of attacking a medium, of throwing unfounded slander on a medium, I believe that this is also perverse, it is provocative, it is dishonest.”

For those who turned on the TV in the middle of the president’s intervention, they must have doubted whether the expected public commitment to respect information freedom on the Island was taking place. Had the time finally come power recognized that citizens have the right to access different news sources, to choose the press they prefer and to have plural publications?

But no, Díaz-Canel was not talking about Cuba, where numerous independent media are blocked, boycotted, their journalists threatened, persecuted, interrogated, detained, stripped of their tools of the trade, ’regulated’ to prevent them from traveling and confined to their own homes so that they cannot cover information. He meant only Telesur.

“We are going to put Latin American content in Telesur and we are going to see who is following people and we are going to see who is following Latin America and not threatening, because we do not threaten the Yankee media or the international media,” Diaz-Canel continued. “We try to generate our content, put out our content, so that people have all the visions, the monopolizing visions, the colonizing visions and the visions that for us are emancipatory and exalting.”

Any of these phrases could be used by the many newspapers, digital magazines and independent publications that have emerged in recent years on the Island, but which unlike Telesur do not have the approval of the Plaza of the Revolution, much less access to national screens that have offered that foreign network more time given to spread propaganda than realities.

When you have a discourse for an external audience and a discourse for an internal audience, contradictions occur that touch the ridiculous. When the freedom of information is used to support a political ally, while the scissors of censorship are sharpened to cut the rights of nationals, it becomes a rhetorical rant, of tragicomedy incongruities.

To accept as valid the rule of “competing in arguments,” which Díaz-Canel calls to respect to save Telesur, would be the end of the press monopoly of the Communist Party of Cuba. Complying with it would lead to allowing within the borders all that is demanded of other governments.

Independent media are ready to accept the challenge of submitting to a comparison between what they do freely and what official media produces under censorship.

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

Cuban Prosecutor Asks for Nine Years in Prison for Jose Daniel Ferrer, His Wife Denounces

Family members and opposition groups have demanded the release of José Daniel Ferrer. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 January 2010 — The Office of the Prosecutor of the Republic of Cuba has asked for nine years in jail for José Daniel Ferrer, general coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), for the alleged crime of injury, as reported by his wife, Dr. Nelva Ortega, in a video disseminated by the opposition organization.

Ortega visited Ferrer on Thursday and received a document from the Prosecutor’s Office detailing the petition. A penalty of seven years each is asked for the other detainees, also Unpacu activists, with the exception of José Pupo Chaveco, for whom eight years are requested.

“Once again they refused to give us medications that he (Ferrer) needs and they did not let us deliver that they had already allowed on previous occasions. We saw that he is very thin, more so than on the last visit, because he is refusing to eat. He is demanding that the food be improved for all general prisoners. He takes a a glass of milk, water and cookies daily,” Ortega added. continue reading

Ferrer, Pupo Chaveco, Fernando González Vaillán and Roilán Zárraga Ferrer were arrested on October 1 in Santiago de Cuba and accused of causing serious injuries to an individual whose wife has denied the charges.

A video broadcast by official television on the Star News sought to damage the image of Ferrer, but its manipulation and editing raise questions, as did as time jumps throughout the footage.

José Daniel Ferrer spent almost eight years in prison after his arrest in 2003, as one of the 75 dissidents who were victims of the Black Spring.

This Friday marks 108 days since Ferrer’s arrest and a campaign on social networks trying to secure his release.

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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 Cuban Government Updates Its Blacklist

The list of prohibited pages updated this week, also includes some  that have been censored for some time including the daily 14ymedio [Intro Text: For the naive, for the uninformed, for those new to social networks, for those who still believe that the media war against Cuba is a digital story, for those who believe everything they read on Facebook, listed here are the most reactionary sites. It is not surprising that among those are those you have “liked” and “followed,” rectifying this is wise. This is a message from Radio Progress, the station of #FamiliaCubana. If you know of others, send a message.]
14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 20 January 2020 – All models that are authoritarian and closed to change have had their list of prohibited readings, censored authors and banned texts. From the inquisition, through Nazism, to the strict Soviet censorship, these models of citizen control have needed to constrain the limits of human knowledge and, thereby, of the written word. In its six decades Castroism has not lacked its blacklist, its catalog of the stigmatized or its punishment of whomever approaches certain titles banished from the pantheon of the trustworthy.

This has happened with literature, with authors such as Guillermo Cabrera Infante and Reinaldo Arenas; with musicians like Celia Cruz and Paquito de Rivera… and, of course, with independent media. This week, the list of digital sites that annoy the Cuban government has expanded again and now includes El ToqueBarrio PeriodismoLa Joven Cuba and even OnCuba. New additions to the glossary of the forbidden. Some radio stations and blogs are accompanied with a warning: “For the naive, for the uninformed, for those who still believe that the media war against Cuba is a digital story.”

It is an honor to be on that list of forbidden, but also the authorities display an infinite clumsiness by spreading a catalog of the media that should not be read. Nothing is as attractive as the forbidden.

Because to all authoritarians citizens are like naive children who must be told what to do, what to read, what to eat, how to think. A paternalistic and controlling model like Cuba’s cannot accept that individuals choose how they are informed. Accepting that reality would be like recognizing that the system failed, that the ‘New Man’ created in the laboratories of social alchemy, indoctrinated since childhood and forced to behave as a soldier or as a monk, now wants to decide what he reads, what he hears and what he sees. continue reading

The updated list of sites banned this week, also includes the list of what has been censored for some time, among them the daily 14ymedio that we produce as a group of colleagues from within Cuba. It is an honor to be on that list of forbidden, but also the authorities display an infinite clumsiness by spreading a catalog of the media that should not be read. Nothing is as attractive as the forbidden.

Now, readers have a detailed list of where they should look, by what channels they should be informed, what web addresses they should visit and what content they should be sure not to miss. Censorship is terrible and dangerous but also awkward. Forbidding ends up consecrating, harassing ends legitimizing, burning books at the stake or blocking digital pages ends up exalting them and making them more visible and visited. It has happened on many occasions throughout history and it is also happening with Castroism.

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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.

Without Liquified Gas, "Lighting the Firewood, Like Our Grandmothers"

This Thursday at the point of sale of Estancia y Lombillo, of the Municipality of Plaza de la Revolución, the line to buy liquefied gas formed as soon as the Cupet truck unloaded the canisters. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 18 January 2020 — After one in the afternoon last Thursday, Eloísa and Miguel were preparing lunch for their grandchildren who were about to return from school when they were moved by a noise they felt in their window. It was the liquefied gas truck. The roar of the canisters crashing into each other put the entire neighborhood on the run and in a few minutes the line was in place at the point of sale ay Estancia and Lombillo, in Havana’s Nuevo Vedado neighborhood.

Both grandparents went down the stairs of the building without thinking twice and in a few minutes were already, rationbook in hand, asking who was last in line*. “I turned off the kitchen and ran down because after listening to what they said on television one cannot afford to miss a delivery. There are four of us. Before the gas came every 21 days and it was enough for us, but now it comes every 32 days and we have to make do, there isn’t any more,” says Eloísa.

Now, “to make it last longer,” there are “small luxuries” that can no longer be enjoyed, she explains. “No chicken roasted in the oven, or baking my bread, which I like so much. The gas will be only be enough to cook the basics, the day to day.” Eloísa was just over 30 years old when the Special Period came into her life and she says she “stresses” at any event that reminds her of those times in which she raised her children in the midst of “so many needs.” continue reading

Also in line is Justo. In a wheeled cart he brings 12 canisters, as the messenger for many families who work all day and they pay him to be aware of the arrival of rationed products sold through the rationbooks. “I’ve been coming for two days, yesterday I spent the whole afternoon waiting for the truck but it didn’t arrive. I left empty-handed,” he says.

“My clients are on tenterhooks since they reported on television about the shortage of gas and the new measures for its sale. They all insisted I hurry and I’ve been here since before the truck arrived, ready to buy,” explains the man, who is number one in a line of about 14 people.

The state-owned company Union Cuba-Petroleum (Cupet) and the Ministry of Energy and Mines announced that the inventories currently on the Island “do not cover consumption, so there have been effects” in the sale of liquefied gas to the population. According to its website, this company is responsible for “ensuring the supply of fuels and lubricants” and “complying with the importation of fuel at the levels agreed to in the supply contracts.”

Since this product began to be sold off the ration book in 2013, in parallel to the “rationed” system, it has become the fastest growing form of energy in homes in Cuba. Today it represents approximately 60% of total fuel consumption, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics and Information.

At the end of the year, not only was the rationed delivery of liquefied gas regulated but also the delivery of new contracts was halted due to an “increase in capacity.”

Four months ago, Raúl García Barreiro, head of Energy and Mines explained that, in the context of the “new energy situation,” although in August and September there were problems with the provision of liquefied gas, the full supply for the population was “guaranteed for the whole year.”

However, just at the beginning of 2020 there was an announcement of the need to take “measures to reduce consumption” of liquefied gasuntil there is “a stable supply” and Cubans have been called on to adopt “saving” measures and “efficient use” of this energy source.

In the line are some messengers with their carts loaded with up to 12 canisters for their customers. (14ymedio)

After Monday’s announcement, many have lost hope. This is the case of Abel Cartaya, in Matanzas, who asked the Minister of Energy on Twitter for the reasons why he has not been allowed get a contract for liquefied gas.

Cartaya tells this newspaper that a year ago he was able to assume ownership of his partially complete house, although it is still “under construction” and that from the first moment he went with his ration book to get a contract for gas.

“In the offices where the procedures are carried out, they informed me that the contracts were halted until further notice. Last year I went on three occasions and they answered the same thing. Last week I spoke with an employee of the gas sales point below my house, and I asked him the same question and the answer was similar to the others. They won’t give me any date,” he tells at 14ymedio.

At the liquefied gas sales point that Cartaya visited, employees are “directed” to organize a sale “every 60 days,” one of the workers informed him on Tuesday.

“Right now, the contracts for unrationed sales are halted, since the country does not have the necessary means for it, whether it comes by hose, regulator, cylinder or canister, there is currently a shortage of the product due to the blockade [American embargo]. The containers the country currently has are intended to guarantee service to customers who already have a contract,” explained Cupet.

In Santiago de Cuba, in the neighborhoods of Altamira, Ciudamar, Antonio Maceo and Versailles — although “the comment is on the street so it came out on the news” — they still have supplies and nobody is without gas, a resident of the area told this newspaper.

“The point is that all this is reminding people of what happened in the Special Period when there was nothing to cook with. Some have burners, electric pots or rice cookers, but there are those who do not have that and it is logical to panic. Nobody wants to have to cook with coal or firewood again, it is inhuman,” he added.

In other locations near the capital, such as Candelaria or San Cristóbal, “nobody has a contract,” said a Artemis resident by telephone. “Only the elderly who have some health problems or the sick. Right now we are looking for how to fill the spare we have before the desperation of the people grows and the product is gone, because everyone already saw what was said in the news,” added the woman, who said that in her house they alternate between the electric burner and the little canister to make it last longer.

“What I see that is happening is a ’situation’ with energy, more than anything, but I do not understand how you can save on liquefied gas. If you have to cook, you have to cook, the water must be boiled so as not to get sick**, in short, we will return to the firewood… well, if you have a patio [i.e. can cook outside]. And those who don’t will have to look for coal which is not easy to acquire,” she laments.

Ivón and Nadia Linares, two sisters residing in the municipality of Güira de Melena, are preparing to return to the years when most of the food in the house was cooked with firewood. Based in an agricultural area but with little wood vegetation in the province of Artemis, the two women have to walk long distances to collect fragments of branches and trunks.

“Those who are going to win are those who sell coal and they have already raised the price of the bag,” says a woman from Artemisa. (14ymedio)

“Those who are going to win are those who sell coal and they have already raised the price of the bag, now it is very difficult for you to find one below 50 pesos,” laments Ivón, who says she has become accustomed to cooking with the cylinder of liquified gas. “I kept it for cooking beans, rice, heating the children’s milk and left the wood to boil the towels, heat water for the bathroom or cook the root vegetables.”

Nadia does not believe that electricity is a substitute for liquefied gas. “The electric bill goes up a lot if you cook with the burner and also here all the equipment we have has been breaking down little by little,” says the woman in reference to a small kitchen, a very rustic water heater and a water heating device sold to the residents of their community during the years of the so-called Energy Revolution promoted by Fidel Castro.

“In this neighborhood almost no one has a working electric burner,” says the woman. “Here we are cooking as our grandmothers cooked, lighting the wood, blowing a lot of air into it to keep it going and with all the soot-filled cauldrons, it’s the same as a hundred years ago.”

Translator’s notes:
*In Cuba people establish their places in line relative to those just ahead of them and just behind them, and then are able to move around, and even leave and come back (if the line is very long), and so on.
**Cubans must boil their tap water to make it safe to drink.

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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 Arrogance of Cuba’s Political Police

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 17 January 2020 — In the last decade there have been several recordings of police interrogations that Cuban activists have managed to make and bring to light. In many of them, State Security officers are heard intimidating, threatening and behaving themselves like the owners and lords of the whole country, above the law, above human life and above citizens’ rights. But the audio achieved by the photographer Javier Caso during an “interview” with the political police is invaluable as a testimony and as an X-ray of an entire era.

The Cuban, who lives in the United States and is the brother of the renowned actress Ana de Armas, recently visited the island and repeatedly contacted actress Lynn Cruz and film director Miguel Coyula. It was enough for him to meet with his friends of a lifetime to receive a summons from the Department of Immigration and Foreigners. Once there, a script was developed that was well known to dissidents, opponents and any independent journalist who has ever been summoned to this type of police trap.

The audio recorded by Caso, who by the mere fact of recording the voices on a device shows great courage, manages to convey the absurdity of the situation, the arrogance of the interrogators and that atmosphere where the individual is at the mercy of a surveillance device and control capable of ignoring the Constitution, the Criminal Code and whatever legal resolution there is on this Island. The young photographer met two men who personify the true power that controls Cuba, above deputies, ministers and presidents. continue reading

It is a grotesque and cruel face that springs from the impunity of a repressive institution that has been running freely for decades

The officials are ridiculous, they mouth barbarities such as that the Cuban police are the fifth best in the world or dare to decide who can be called an artist or not, although they themselves may not know one iota about creative expressions or contemporary art.

The great triumph of Caso is to take, with apparent naivety but with much intelligence, the conversation to a point where the seguros have to take off their masks and show the true face hidden under bureaucratic formalities and an apparent respect for order. It is a grotesque and cruel face that is born from the impunity of a repressive institution that has been running freely for decades and whose arrogance ends up opening it to ridicule in this conversation.

Since new technologies broke into the Island, there have been many testimonies (photos, audios, videos) that attest to the lack of a framework of rights in which we Cubans live, but this recording has a special merit. In addition to the quality with which one listens and the equanimity of the person being questioned to get the officials to expose themselves, this testimony causes an outrage that is not easily placated. The more we hear of it, the greater is a rage that grows and becomes a decision and a conviction: we cannot allow the political police to continue ruling Cuba.

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

Yasel Porto and Cuban Baseball: The Messenger Must Always Die

Porto already had to defend himself against the accusations of Víctor Mesa, to whom he said he expressed his opinions “as long as possible, there, in the places where the decision makers will see them.”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ernesto Santana, Chicago, 11 December 2019 — The  “reappearance” of Yasel Porto on Cuban television, in what turned out to be just program re-broadcast, is revealed as a crude and typical trick of disinformation, but it is also a sample of the nature of the expulsion of the popular sports reporter and commentator, which is not just the result of a clash between a journalist and a senior sports executive.

Yasel Porto was removed after asking that the Cuban baseball manager Higinio Vélez be replaced, which made him suspect this was the cause for which he was punished. But it has not been essentially because of it, nor because he has expressed only an individual opinion. Maybe not even because he stepped over the red line. Simply, he was already classified as a target to demolish. His elimination had already been planned, and then the right time came along.

Among the notable aspects of this scandalous injustice is, above all, the fact that the suggestion the presidency of the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB) should replace Vélez was made by Porto, in passing, and he immediately emphasizied that the determining factor was not to substitute one manager for another, but to make “radical changes” in Cuban baseball “because, if not, whoever comes will be in the same situation.” continue reading

It is well known that, although the depth of the changes requested by observers and specialists varies, the vast majority agree that the role of Higinio Vélez has been disastrous with regards to the results obtained in the national sport in recent years. So we have a message addressed to that majority: the only opinion that matters is that of those who control both the FCB and Cuban television.

It is noteworthy that, in the post-production of Bola Viva (Live Ball), Porto’s proposal will be preserved even if it did not coincide with the opinion of the sports newsroom that scripts the program. And the difference between a Rodolfo García, a former presenter, and the sanctioned journalist is abysmal — thanks to a decision that goes far beyond the administrative.

Only a few weeks ago we could see on the internet a brief interview by Porto of Camilo Rodríguez, the catcher ejected from a game in Havana’s Latin American Stadium, which seems an international record. The expulsion of the uncomfortable is a norm at all levels of the country, although here it is an extremely annoying case for the upper hierarchy.

For several years, Porto has been dedicated to advocating for a unified team with the best of Cuban baseball from outside and inside the country, for demanding honesty and transparency from sports officials and for broadcasting Major League games on television.

He has also promoted the meeting of Industriales players on both shores, has conducted interviews with our stars in the Grand Tent — only published on social networks — and, on top of everything, has related to important major league figures and has produced important audiovisuals with economic independence from the country’s authorities.

Everything, of course, in favor of the glory of national sport, as evidenced by the usual and always awarded Baseball program, where he has dedicated himself to rescuing forgotten facts and figures from our ball with the support of such outstanding and endearing connoisseurs as Ismael Sené.

Just over a year ago, before the accusations from Victor Mesa in Miami, Porto published a reply on his Facebook profile where he detailed the principles of his work and declared that he was “living for baseball and not from baseball.” In addition, he said he expressed his views “as long as possible, there, in the places where the decision makers will see them.”

“For some I am a communist, for others a gusano [’worm’], but luckily, for most, a Cuban who tries to contribute to his country’s baseball,” he continued, claiming to defend his truth over personal relationships and ideological differences. In fact, he described his friends as “very diverse because of their political positions.”

As we see, there are no lack of reasons for him to become a target of the powerful. And not only because he is the opposite of a Vélez who lives at the expense of the players and watches out more for the interests of the Government than for those of baseball, or the opposite of a sports journalist like Rodolfo García himself, so reverent with the political hierarchy.

Yasel Porto became, for that hierarchy, a terrible example for all of official journalism. His colleagues have perfectly understood the lesson. Only one of his colleagues in the sports newsroom of television, Renier González, has supported him through his social networks. “Cuba needs people like Yasel Porto, who are not interested in positions or welfare, people who do things for the good of society,” he wrote. The rest are silent.

Although none of the sessions of the popular consultation on baseball throughout the country has been disclosed, it has been leaked that there is a broad rejection of the permanence of Higinio Vélez at the head of the FCB. But not even if this repudiation was paid attention to would it mean that popular opinion had been taken seriously.

Porto would hardly be vindicated if Vélez were replaced, because one of the journalist’s sins has been precisely to become a spokesperson for a majority. That, in the logic of social control in Cuba, requires severe punishment so that others learn and journalism does not become what it should be, a vigilant and critical entity with power.

Some believe that the messenger has been killed by mistake, despair or injustice, and they do not understand the real point. No message is wanted and this is the premise: the messenger must always die.

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

Cuban Regime Has Changed its Repressive Tactics

Since 2018, the strategy of informing activists about their “regulated” status — that is they are not allowed to travel outside the country — at the time of passing through the Immigration window has become more common. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 December 2019 — The methods of the Cuban Government to repress the opposition have grown in subtlety in recent times, as has been denounced on multiple occasions. The most recent organization to call attention to this fact is the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC), which released a statement on Monday that warns of this change and launches a battery of recommendations to address it.

For the FHRC, the new formulas consist of blocking the exits or trips abroad of people critical of the Government (the government defines them as “regulated”), the increase of administrative measures against non-militant critics, the immobilization of activists in their homes to cancel their meetings and activities, and the fabrication of common criminal cases to justify prison sentences. On the upper end of the scale is the ultimatum to leave the country with the threat of more serious measures if they decide to stay.

To address this new strategy, the FNRC is asking the international community and NGOs to readjust the methodology used to collect repression data in order to include these cases that could be omitted: recording house arrests, “regulated” status, accusations of “pre-criminal dangerousness,” and administrative sanctions, in addition to providing a complaints channel for the injured. continue reading

Other suggested measures are the establishment of databases of the individual repressors that include all types of personal and professional data, as well as the accusations they make against citizens; the application of international sanctions on them and their families, which may consist of denying them visas or prohibiting the sending of remittances to them from abroad; and facilitating telecommunications for citizens who show their interest in reporting.

The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba admits that the arrests have clearly dropped, from 9,942 in 2016 to 2,873 in 2018, according to data from the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, whose activity has ceased but whose data gathering been assumed by the Cuban Center for Human Rights.

However, this decrease in arrests is not due, the organization said in its statement, “to the fact that the authorities have become more benevolent, but to the greater effectiveness of the complaints of more and more citizens with access to digital technologies joined with the creation of customized databases abroad with information on repressors, which has already led to international convictions and sanctions.”

According to the FHRC, since the international rejection sparked by the Cuban government’s actions in the Black Spring of 2003, repressive methods have been blurred to lessen criticism while maintaining levels of coercion.

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Challenging Her Dismissal from the Historians Office to Denounce "Arbitrariness"

Genlui is prohibited from entering the office if she is not accompanied by the administrator or a specialist. (Cubanet)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 January 2020 — Claudia Genlui Hidalgo, a worker at the Office of the Historian, was fired at the end of December after giving a talk on independent art at the Embassy of the Czech Republic. Genlui filed an appeal with the Attorney General’s Office this week despite her distrust of the usefulness of the process.

“I do not believe I will get my job back and much less the position that I had within the Office of the Historian. They were very clear and it goes beyond whether or not I committed an infraction. It has long annoyed them that I was in that position. When, in April, I commented on the arrest during the Biennial of Luis Manuel Otero, who was arrested supporting Daniel Llorente, there was already pressure placed on my to step down, but I decided I would not,” she tells 14ymedio.

As she recalls, at that time the pressure also came from her boss, who sent her a message saying she should ask to leave the workplace because she came out in defense of the artist, who is also her partner. “It didn’t seem fair and I didn’t ask to leave. I stayed there, but it generated a lot of tension,” she adds. continue reading

Although Genlui does not have good expectations fpr the outcomes of the process she has started now, she argues that she has decided to carry it out “to give visibility to the process” and to expose “all those cracks and arbitrariness that they have committed and are committing.”

For the curator there are many intellectuals and people who “were once linked to a position within the institutions as workers and, for thinking differently or relating to people who think differently, were subjected being fired from their workplace or other sanctions, as is the case with Oscar Casanella.”

Now the Prosecutor’s Office has a maximum period of 60 days to respond to the art historian, who handed them a copy of the legal document sent by her lawyers on December 30. “In that appeal the facts are narrated as they happened,” she claims.

The workers of Factoría Habana, the art gallery from which she was expelled, reject the measure imposed on her, according to her version. “One of them protested because in the meeting that was held to talk about my expulsion he was not allowed to be present while he was on vacation and only found out about it through the networks. Upon returning he made his position clear, as did my other two colleagues. Even the administrator has supported me at all times,” she says.

Despite this, Genlui is prohibited from going to the office if she is not accompanied by the administrator or a specialist. “The other day I wanted to go up to pick up some things that I had left. The fact that they wouldn’t let me pass was shocking to me, but it’s the order they have been given,” she explained. “Concha Fontenla, my director, neither defended me nor condemned me, just simply sent me a message to tell me that she wished me luck and, more recently, another to wish me a Happy New Year.”

The historian says that the fair thing would be for there to be a trial in which she can state all the reasons why she considers the measure unfair and where she can learn the true reason that she has been permanently fired from her job.

Before being fired Genlui held the position of principal specialist of Factoría Habana, which, in practice, made her director of the institution. In addition, she is part of the San Isidro Manifesto and has carried out several works related to independent art and curatorships such as the Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara project, The Flag Belongs to Everyone.

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The UN Expresses Concern for Working Conditions of Cuban Doctors on Missions

Cuba negotiates with third countries for payments for its doctors and then gives the doctors themselves a small portion of that pay. (United Nations)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 6, 2010 — The United Nations expressed concern for the working conditions of Cuban doctors sent on medical missions, according to a document made public and sent to the Island last November. The Cuban Government did not respond.

Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, and Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on human trafficking, sent a letter to the Cuban Government expressing concern after the complaint by Cuban Prisoners Defenders, a European NGO, that accuses the authorities of human trafficking and slavery through its medical missions.

“The working conditions reported could be considered involuntary servitude, according to the indicators established by the International Organization of Labor. Involuntary servitude constitutes a contemporary form of slavery,” the reporters wrote to the Cuban Government, which still has not responded to the missive. continue reading

Cuban Prisoners Defenders, in its denunciation, gives details about the conditions in which thousands of Cuban doctors and professionals work in the rest of the world. More than 75% of their salaries goes into the hands of the Cuban Government.

The exportation of services is the principal source of income for the Cuban economy and has averaged more than 11 billion dollars a year in the last decade, according to official sources.

The Cuban medical missions in the region are controversial. The New York Times reported that medical attention in Venezuela was used to get votes for the Government. Bolivia and Ecuador ended their contracts with Cuba after turbulent incidents, and the government of Jair Bolsonaro, in Brazil, pushed for the removal of the doctors, considering the agreement with Cuba a form of “modern slavery”.

The Cuban Government contracts directly with third countries for payment for its doctors but gives the doctors themselves a small fraction of the pay. The pay goes into their accounts in Cuba, and the funds are frozen to ensure that the doctors will fulfill their three-year contracts. In case of defection from the mission, their pay passes to the Government.

There are no legal work agreements, and Cuban Prisoners Defenders has documented working shifts of 62 hours per week, restriction of movement and surveillance by the supervisors of the program.

“Many professionals reported receiving threats regularly from Cuban State officials in the countries where they are sent, and women doctors have suffered rape while participating in international missions,” says the document published by the United Nations.

The U.N. is also concerned about the punishment for doctors who decide to abandon the missions outside Cuba.

“Doctors considered deserters will not be able to return to Cuba for eight years, and the families who remain in Cuba will be subject to stigmatization and repercussions from government entities,” explains the text.

In the letter, Cuban Prisoners Defenders says that other professionals—teachers, engineers or artists—will also be submitted to similar work conditions and lives.

The U.N. asked Cuba for an explanation about the conditions related by the NGO, but the government of Miguel Díaz-Canel didn’t respond. Cuba has denounced what it considers a U.S. “campaign to discredit” the work that its doctors are doing in the Exterior. Cuba says it uses the doctors’ earnings to sustain the national health system.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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Police Search Home of Reporter Iliana Hernandez

Activist Iliana Hernández has spent several years confronting authorities, who submit her to strict control with frequent brief detentions. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 8, 2020 — The police began a search of the home of reporter and activist Iliana Hernández in the early hours this morning in the town of Cojimar, east of Havana, according to a report from CiberCuba.

“A group of people appeared suddenly at the home of the activist, and the spokesman was an official who identified himself as ’captain Lázaro Zamora,’ police investigator,” reported the website to which the activist also contributes.

“Good morning, first of all turn off the phone,” the police official told Hernández when the reporter inquired about the reasons for the search. “The police proceeded to snatch away her phone and cut off communication,” adds the note. continue reading

The activist has spent several years confronting authorities, who submit her to strict control with frequent brief detentions. On May 11 she was arrested during the march organized by the LGBTI community in the central Paseo del Prado in the direction of the Malecon.

On that day, several activists, among them Hernández, were intercepted and violently arrested by police and State Security agents.

A month later she was detained again when she was heading to celebrate her 46th birthday, and a week after that, again, for organizing protests demanding a reduction in the prices charged by Etecsa, the state telecommunications company.

The activist has been one of the people most involved in these campaigns that in summer kept the authorities in suspense about the number of people joining them by getting the topic trending with the hashtag #BajenLosPreciosDeInternet (Lower Internet prices).

Police searches and raids on the homes of opposition figures, activists, and independent journalists have been a frequent repressive tactic in the past half century in Cuba. As a general rule, officials seize literature, work materials, electronic devices, and mobile phones.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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14ymedio’s Faces of 2019: Alexander Otaola, "Youtuber"

Lately through his YouTube program, ¡Hola! Ota-ola, Alexander Otaola has led the initiative known as the “January halt”.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 26, 2019 — The Cuban presenter and influencer Alexander Otaola Casal had a meteoric rise in 2019 through his program, ¡Hola! Ota-ola, where he mixes humor, interviews, political activism and entertainment. Born in Camagüey in 1979, Otaola took his first steps as an actor at age 10 in school performances and soon after joined a group of theater aficionados in the Casa de la Cultura in the city.

As a teenager, Otaola hosted a provincial television program, Mundo de Fantasía (Fantasy World), and he also was on Radio Cadena Agramonte. For three years he was part of a group of radio actors and interpreted several childike characters. At the age of 15 he wrote two screenplays.

In 1992 he was chosen to be part of the cast of ¡No!, an adventure series, and after a year of recording in Havana, he returned to Camagüey to finish his media studies with a specialty in acting. In 1997 he joined the Conjunto Dramático de Camagüey, where he interpreted several classical characters, and two years later he decided to live permanently in Havana, where he worked at Radio Progreso and Radio Arte. continue reading

Otaola performed in several series and telenovelas, and in 1998 he requested a visa from the U.S. lottery and arrived in Miami in 2003. He worked as a waiter for five years, then a baker and had other jobs until he resumed his career in 2008, acting in soap operas and shows on Spanish television. In 2010, Otaola received an award for Best Theater Monologue of the Year, and in 2011 he obtained recognition as Best Monologue Actor in the International Festival of Short Works.

Lately, and through his program ¡Hola! Ota-ola on YouTube, he has led the movement known as the “January Halt”,  which promotes cutting off remittances, telephone recharges and trips from the exile community to the Island. His audience in Cuba grows every day, and the official press avoids mentioning his work, since he is a harsh critic of the Regime in his show.

In April 2019, the program ¡Hola! Ota-ola had been on the air for two years, and according to data, more than 9,000 people were watching it every day.

Translated by Regina Anavy 

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Researcher and Essayist Tato Quinones Dies in Havana

Throughout his life, Serafín ’Tato’ Quiñones dedicated himself to defending the values of Afro-Cuban culture. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 12, 2020 — The researcher and essayist Serafín ’Tato’ Quiñones passed away in Havana this Sunday afternoon at age 77. Considered an expert in Afro-Cuban matters, the also-historian published several studies on racism in Cuban society and the Abakuá fraternity.

Born in Havana in 1942, Quiñones worked as a history professor and journalist, and was also the founder of and a contributor to numerous publications, carried out several socio-cultural investigations, and worked as a screenwriter for television programs.

Self-educated, controversial, having a deep knowledge of diverse religions and practices of African origin, Quiñones leaves a hole that is difficult to fill in the national culture. continue reading

Several of his stories, compiled under the title Al final del terraplén, el sol (At the end of the embankment, the sun) won the David Prize in 1970 and his volume A pie de obra (1990) showed his maturity as a narrator. One of his most recognized books is Ecorie Abakuá: Cuatro ensayos sobre los ñáñigos cubanos (1994), which consists of four essays of short length.

Throughout his life, Serafín ’Tato’ Quiñones dedicated himself to defending the values of Afro-Cuban culture and the participation of ñañigos and abakuá in the wars of independence. He made several documentaries that highlight the syncretic particulars of Cuban santeria, among them La magia del tambor in reference to the Batá drums.

In his book Afrodescendencias, he mixed genres like chronicle, interview, storytelling, legend, and essay to tackle the link between blackness and race, oral tradition and slavery, racism and society. A volume with a relaxed but critical tone which includes testimonies from Cubans whose activism or participation in secret societies, like abakuá, put them face to face with social and political prejudices.

After learning of his death on Sunday, on his Facebook wall, the professor and essayist Julio César Guanche published a message in homage to Quiñones. “The most learned babalawo of Cuba has died, the most complete historian of the Abakuá fraternity, a champion of the popular world.”

For his part, the professor Esteban Morales lamented the death of this “man of pure heart and commitment to the homeland… We lose him when we need him most for the decisive battle that we must fight against racism.”

One of his last public presentations happened in September when he gave the conference Addodis and Alakuata: A brief attempt to broach homosexuality seen from the Cuban popular religion of the Orishas.

His wake will be held at the funeral home at Calle 70 and 29th in the Havana municipality of Playa.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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14ymedio’s Faces of 2019: Beatriz Batista, Protecting Animals

Beatriz Batista studies social communication.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 25, 2019 — Beatriz Batista, a young woman of 21 years, is a student of social communication, and she gained popularity in 2019 as the principal organizer of the first demonstration for animal rights in Cuba, held in April. The demonstration took place on calle 25 in Vedado, Havana, and went from Quixote Park up to the Colón Cemetery. It was the first independent demonstration in the last half-century where signs were allowed to be carried.

Unexpectedly, the demonstration brought together more people than expected, and Batista appeared hopeful. She said this would mark a before and after in the struggle to end violence against animals.

Months later, in November, the young woman again mobilized in favor of a law to defend the rights of animals, motivated by the visit of the Spanish Royals for the 500th year of the founding of Havana. The authorities carried out massive sweeps of street dogs and killed them in order to keep the streets “clean”. Batista, together with other animal rights supporters, organized a protest in front of Animal Control and was able to get a meeting with the authorities to discuss the subject. Both parties were satisfied with the advances achieved, and in spite of slow results, already some significant commitments have been made by the Government.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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Mexico Wants to End the Lines to Apply for Visas in Havana

The Mexican embassy has not yet shut down the previous appointment website, although it has already explained its future mechanism.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 January 2020 — The Mexican Embassy in Cuba is preparing a new system to apply for visas that will come into force soon, although it has already detailed how it will be done. Online appointments will put an end to the lines, as well as the ’business’ that some make out of the current system, hence the announcement boldly highlights the phrase “Remember that obtaining times and appointments are free.”

The new formula, Citas Cuba (Cuba Appointments), will require entering a page not yet available and the link to which will be provided to a registered user with passport data. The holder must select the procedure that he wishes to perform once he has accessed his space and there he will be assigned a turn from the list that has been digitally created.

The user will receive their turn by email and must appear on the day and time assigned with the documentation required for the procedure and the printed appointment. If they have not received it, they can enter the system and find out when the last appointment was.

In Cuba, the slowness and lack of digitalization of most procedures generates long waiting times and lines. Many people who do not have the time available to lose it in these procedures are willing to pay to save their time, which has resulted in an informal business usually covered by retirees who supplement their low pension selling places in line.

The previous mechanism to obtain a consular appointment at the Mexican embassy was harshly criticized and accused of mishandling. The applicants complained that the online registration did not work and the appointments were sold out a few minutes after each month’s places for interviews were announced.

This created another informal appointment buying system, which cost between 300 and 500 CUC (roughly the same in dollars). The digital classified sites offered the possibility of obtaining “an appointment at the Mexican consulate, without lining up and with guaranteed success.”

Outside consular headquarters, located on 12th at the corner of 7th in Miramar, west of Havana, it was also common to find people who were loitering and offering “a quick appointment for next week,” a phenomenon that was further enhanced when Mexico introduced 10-year visas and multiple entries, much requested by the mules, who travel especially to the Cancun area, with short and cheap flights.

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