A Group Of People With Disabilities Organizes Outside The Cuban State

Architectural barriers are a constant in the life of the Cubans that makes life impossible for many people with physical disabilities. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 24 July 2017 — In a crowded bus, two women discuss who is entitled to the disabled seat. While one carries a cane, the other shows an ID card from the Cuban Association of Limited Physical Engines (Aclifim), an official entity with more than 74,000 associates that sets ideological requirements (i.e. fidelity to the government) to maintain membership.

Aclifim, along with the National Association of the Blind (Anci) and the Cuban National Association of the Deaf (Ansoc) call themselves Non-Governmental Organizations. However, complaints about their political bias led a group of activists to create a support group for people with disabilities without any conditions.

The Cuban Inclusive Culture Network, created last year, faces a difficult challenge in a country where much remains to be done for the social integration of people with disabilities. Added to this is the lack of legal recognition that allows its members to work under legal protection. continue reading

Juan Goberna, one of its founders, woke up one morning and was not even aware that it was daylight. After several operations that failed to restore his sight, he decided to start using a cane. In those early days in the dark he approached Anci hoping to take a Braille course and receive a computer program that read texts aloud.

Accompanied by his wife, Goberna arrived at the NGO’s office in the municipality of Central Havana with his identity card in his pocket, five pesos in stamps and a certificate that declared him “legally blind.” “What revolutionary organizations do you belong to?” asked the clerk filling out his form.

The activist still shows indignation when he remembers the scene. “I told her I did not belong to any and from there everything changed,” he explains to 14ymedio. The official informed him that his case had to be referred to the Ministry of Justice to verify if he belonged to any “human rights” group.

Two weeks later they told him that he could not be a member of Anci because the statutes do not allow the disaffected in its ranks. After several attempts and appeals to different entities claiming his right to membership, Goberna has only had silence for answer.

Last year luck smiled on him. During a trip to Peru, organized by the Institute for Political Freedom (IPL), the idea arose, along with other activists, to create an independent entity to “visualize the difficulties faced by people with disabilities and promote a change of thinking towards them.” The organization does not discriminate against anyone because of “their physical, sensorial, intellectual, cultural or ideological characteristics.”

Today, the network has 15 active members and has managed to have representation in several provinces. In September of last year, some of these pioneers attended the VIII International Congress of Persons with Disabilities, held in Medellín, to learn about the work developed in different countries of the region.

The Network collects testimonies from people who are in a precarious situation and are victims of institutional or family neglect and has also identified at least six cases of violation of the right to join Anci, Aclifim or Ansoc for ideological reasons.

Last Saturday, during their last meeting, the members of the independent group proposed to disseminate the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which Cuba is a signatory and whose content is scarcely known on the island. In addition, they want to disseminate updated concepts about disability, accessibility and inclusive culture, among others.

For Susana Más, an independent journalist and member of the Network, “it is unacceptable that people working in the media, intellectuals and artists who are supposed to be up to date in the use of language, work outside these concepts.” The reporter opts for a “sensitization campaign” around the term “person with disability, instead of disabled.”

Relative to the NGOs set up by the government, The Inclusive Culture Network does not consider itself an opposition organization or an enemy entity. “What we would most like to do is to cooperate with these entities, not in the spirit of disqualification or competition, but as something complementary,” insists Goberna.

For the moment, the Network is dedicated to highlighting attitudes and denouncing the existence of architectural barriers, so that those with a disability are not seen as sick, and for those around them to shed their discriminatory prejudices, indifference or pity.

The biggest difficulty they have encountered so far is the negative attitude of the institutions they go to in search of information or to file complaints: the first thing they are always asked is whether they are authorized or if they belong to an official entity.

Doctors With No Right To Laptops

Dental clinic in Candelaria, province of Artemisa. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Bertha Guillen, Candelaria (Artemisa province), 23 July 2017 — “Where is my laptop?” a dentist at the Candelaria polyclinic in Artemisa province asked Friday while attending a patient. The sale of laptops to doctors – at subsidized prices – does not include graduates in dentistry, by a decision of the Ministry of Public Health that is being strongly questioned.

As of the end of last year they have began to sell the laptops for 668 Cuban pesos (CUP), around 25 dollars, for doctors who obtained a diploma before the end of 2015. The list of beneficiaries includes those who have completed a medical mission abroad and requires that they pay the full amount all at once, not in installments.

The public health system employs a total of 262,764 workers in the island, of which 87,982 work as doctors, according to data from the Statistical Yearbook of 2015. The doctors receive the highest wages in the country, a total of between the equivalent of $50 to $70 US per month. continue reading

However, the sector is seriously affected by the desertions of professionals during their missions abroad and the exodus towards other better-paid economic spheres such as self-employment or tourism, of doctors who remain on the island. In addition, physicians must deal with long work hours, material deficiencies and the dissatisfactions of patients.

Since the beginning of this year the doctors have been able to buy laptops in the store for public health workers in the provincial capital. The offer has brought long lines outside the premises and complaints about the capabilities of the equipment.

Since the beginning of these sales, an indeterminate number of laptops has ended up in the informal market, where they are sold for a price ranging between 200 and 300 CUC, between eight and 12 times the original cost.

Recently the official newspaper Granma revealed that each year Cuba collects more than 8.2 billion CUC (roughly the same in dollars) for “the export of health services.”

This month, several meetings in the province of Artemisa notified staff working in polyclinics, hospitals and other health centers that only doctors are entitled to acquire these computers. X-ray technicians, lab workers, and even dental graduates “are not included in this offering,” ministerial authorities said.

The information has generated a barrage of criticism and discontent among dentists and other professionals in the sector. None of them, except graduates in medical sciences, will have access to the merchandise sold in stores authorized for public health personnel. Among these products are also the white coats that are currently distributed on a staggered schedule in Artemisa province.

“This has gone beyond a lack of respect,” said the dentist from Candelaria. “Now it turns out that we are not the same as doctors, but when it comes time to participate in acts of repudiation against the words of Donald Trump, we are.”

Raiza Machín, a dentist from the province, does not speak half-heartedly. “I feel offended, even the self-employed who work in coffee shops wear white coats, how is it possible that as a public health worker we cannot buy them in a store dedicated to us?” asks the professional.

According to the head of the Public Health Workers Union in Candelaria, the information came from the Ministry itself and applies to the whole country. In response to the workers’ discontent, the union representative demanded a meeting with “the highest authority” but has not yet received a response. “For the moment we are not doctors and therefore we can not use the same facilities as they can,” says Machin sarcastically.

“At first they told us that they had to wait until they finished distributing the laptops among the doctors in the hospitals, then it would be the clinics’ turn, and then finally our turn,” says Araceli, a dentist with several years of experience.

“They have strung us along and now that say that we are not doctors, that’s why we don’t get the computers,” complains the dentist. The refusal to allow dentists to buy them became known shortly after the official media assured that the dentists were “guaranteed” laptops.

“Since our title says ‘Doctor of Dentistry’ I have to consider that I am one,” Machín stresses.

By Show of Hands

A man exercises his right to vote in the elections to the Popular Power in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 21 July 2017 — In recent weeks, the official media have spared no space to explain the details of the Cuban electoral system, which they call “the most democratic in the world.” However, the infographics, data and explanations published so far neglect details that “firmly maintain” the mechanisms to avoid surprises.

Between September 4th and 30th the candidates for delegates of the People’s Power will be nominated. The process will occur in the different areas which together make up the 12,515 districts distributed across the 168 municipalities of the country. On this occasion, it is the first step in Raúl Castro’s departure from power in February 2018. continue reading

The call for citizens to participate in these assemblies is traditionally issued by the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) Organization, with a clear political origin and a strong ideological affiliation. From wall signs, personal reminders, to written citations, all are a part of the strategies to call people to vote.

In the days leading up to the meetings, the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) militants who live in each zone meet to agree on the positions depending on the directions that come from the higher levels. In these meetings they are warned how they should act in case any disaffection toward the Revolution is proposed, and which candidate enjoys the PCC’s sympathy.

Only voters of the district have the right to propose and be proposed in the assemblies of each area. In order to do so they have to ask for the floor, speak in the order granted to them and briefly explain the reason for their proposal. The nominee must show his agreement with being proposed and only then will he or she be put to a vote.

All voters may express their opinion for or against the candidate and the vote is made directly and publicly, in the same order in which each candidate was proposed. Each attendee has the right to vote for only one nominee and in the event of a tie a new nomination is initiated.

When the Electoral Law in its article 83 remarks that the vote is “public,” it minimizes one of the most important keys of the electoral system of the Island and that make it more controllable by the powers that be. At that initial stage of nomination, voters must express their preference by show of hands, that is with their faces uncovered. In a country full of masks and fears, few dare to show their neighbors a preference for a critical citizen.

When in one of these assemblies an elector proposes a candidate with a reputation of being politically uncomfortable, he knows that, immediately, the militants of the neighborhood will request the floor to discredit the nominee. The mechanism of “cauterization” of any nomination that does not conform to the tastes of the ruling party will be activated immediately.

In the midst of the meeting, a member of the PCC will warn in a loud voice, “this man is in the pay of the empire,” and someone else will speak up to express his doubts because someone “who feels himself to be Cuban votes in favor of this mercenary…” The performance seldom has to be carried out, because the instinct for self-preservation dissuades the majority of voters from suggesting a dissident for delegate.

They find it so difficult to encounter someone who, from dissenting positions, aspires to be a delegate, or to find another who dares to propose one to the assembly. How many will raise their hands in favor of a dissident after the militants make it clear they do not like the nomination? Almost nobody. This simple trick will have ensured the first and most important purge of the electoral system.

To ensure the minimum secrecy required by the vote, it would be enough to distribute a simple piece of paper among each of the participants so they could write the order of their candidate preferences. But that would add the privacy that the ruling party wants to avoid at all costs.

This variant would have the added value of eliminating the chance that someone, in the midst of counting the raised hands, violates – consciously or otherwise – the provision that allows each person to vote for only one candidate. In short, it would smooth out the process and make it more democratic and effective.

Not for nothing, was the elimination of voting on the nomination of candidates by a show of hands one of the proposals most repeated by those who believe that the current electoral process would be governed by new legislation as promised by Raul Castro in February 2015.

Changing what looks like a detail of slight importance, a methodological pedantry, would open a space for the plurality of citizen participation; it would allow us to express ourselves without fear on a critical topic: the presence of different thinking among the base.

Keeping the first piece of the Cuban electoral framework as it is now is only a way of perpetuating the fear that harms the civic action of a good part of the population. It is precisely the suppliers of this fear who prefer to leave things as they are.

Police Impose “House Arrest” On Journalist Sol García Basulto

Independent journalist Sol García Basulto. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 June 2017 — Independent journalist Sol García Basulto is under new restrictions of movement after police imposed a “precautionary measure of house arrest” during an interrogation held Monday in the city of Camagüey.

The 14ymedio correspondent responded to a police summons at ten o’clock in the morning. First lieutenant Yusniel Pérez Torres, from the criminal investigation and operations unit, issued an detention order effective during the time of the interview, which lasted a little over an hour.

The officer informed her that the investigative phase of her case had been concluded and a file had been opened for the alleged crime of “usurpation of legal capacity,” (that is, practicing a profession for which a person is not licensed). Going forward, the reporter can hire an attorney to represent her in the process. continue reading

The officer also warned Garcia about her job of interviewing and collecting information on the public right-of-way. In particular, he spoke of an article on “the subject district delegates to the People’s Power,” and article that the reporter denies having written.

Since last March, García and independent journalist Henry Constantín Ferreiro have been harassed for being part of the editorial team of La Hora de Cuba magazine and collaborating with other digital media.

Constantín is the regional vice president of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) in Cuba and is not authorized to travel abroad to attend regional body meetings.

The crime of “usurpation of legal capacity” can be penalized with a sentence of between three months and one year of deprivation of liberty. The IAPA believes that these allegations are contrary to international provisions and supports the right of both reporters to “seek, receive, disseminate information and express opinions.”

At the end of Monday’s detention, the officer drafted an act of release and “a precautionary measure consisting of house arrest” against Garcia.

The first lieutenant informed her that she cannot leave the province and nor “have a social life.”

The journalist demanded a copy of the documents but the official assured her that he had no obligation to give her anything in writing. Henry Constantin “will be notified shortly,” according to the police.

On the accusation of usurpation of the legal capacity to exercise journalism García Basulto concluded that she has only exercised her “freedom of expression of speech and of the press recorded in the Constitution of the Republic and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

They Lost their Homes and Freedom Because of ‘Maria’

The life of Yuris Gabir Garrote Rodríguez was turned upside down when he was sentenced to ten years in prison in 2015 for carrying a cigarette with 0.38 grams of marijuana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 22 July 2017 — The future could only bring good things. His son grew up and his passion for photography allowed him to rub shoulders with numerous artists. But the life of Yuris Gabri Garrote Rodriguez was turned upside down in 2015 when he was sentenced to ten years in prison for carrying a cigarette with 0.38 grams of marijuana. The strict Cuban legal system destroyed all his projects.

The incessant controls and an inflexible penal code make the island one of the places in the world where drug possession and trafficking are judged with greatest severity. Cuba also ranks sixth in terms of number of prisoners per inhabitant, with an estimated 60,000 people living behind bars in the country. continue reading

Garrote was very unlucky, say friends and family. He had already had problems several years earlier when police found in his house two issues of the magazine Cannabis, a Spanish publication dedicated to the culture of cannabis. They also confiscated a poster with the drawing of a leaf of the plant that adorned his bedroom with its defiant silhouette.

Not a single gram of weed was found during the search, but he was tried because he was “acquiring enough culture about marijuana to successfully engage in” a business, according to court records. His detention occurred in the middle of the so-called Operation Coraza, a turn of the screw against “illegalities” that allowed the courts to apply exemplary sentences.

In Cuba the law tends to be as flexible as circumstances and power require. The independent lawyer Amado Calixto Gammalame, member of the Legal Association of Cuba, recognizes this. “The judicial treatment given to each person can be a bit capricious.”

For decades, the fight against marijuana has also been an ideological issue and official propaganda described republican Cuba as a place where vices such as prostitution, gambling and drug addiction proliferated. Maria, as many on the Island call cannabis, was a symbol of capitalist decadence.

This battle with political visions has remained to this day, despite the fact that other Latin American countries, such as Ecuador and Paraguay, have decriminalized its use in public spaces for personal consumption, although without fully liberalizing it.

If Cuba is the extreme of intransigence on the continent, on the other end is Uruguay which, after the definitive legalization of marijuana sales and production in December 2013, this month began to market small envelopes of 40 grams in more than a dozen pharmacies.

This decision has not done the government of the island any favors. Recently the authorities affirmed that the liberalization of cannabis in some countries of the region is nourishing the drug traffic.

The secretary of the National Drug Commission of Cuba, Antonio Israel Ibarra, said that so far this year they have seized three times the drug that was confiscated in the same period of 2016. For those who expected a relaxation, the official delivered a strong phrase: “We have not legalized it (marijuana), nor will we legalize it.”

This statement is in line with comments by Raúl Castro at the Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) held in Chile in 2013, when he remarked that on the island the drug would be fought “with blood and fire.”

Tourist guides warn that the island “is not a good place to smoke a joint” and murderers and rapists live in prison alongside inmates convicted of carrying a few grams of cannabis in their pockets. The “stain” of this criminal record on the history of anyone is a serious stigma when it comes to seeking employment.

Despite the severe punishments and controls, the consumption of the herb has not been eradicated. Marijuana has become common in the festivals of artists, successful entrepreneurs and the ruling class itself. But few of them dare to cry out in public for its decriminalization, for fear of being considered criminals.

A good part of the weed arrives aboard ships that land in the coasts. Its cultivation is also a juicy business for those who dare to plant the elongated herb, especially in the eastern part of the island.

In September of 2013 the young musician Roberto Carcassés improvised controversial verses in the middle of an official act: “I want to free the Five Heroes, and free Maria. Free access to information, to have my own opinion,” he sang in an unforgettable chorus whose reference to marijuana was clear.

Two years after that rhyme, the penal code remained just as tight and Yuris Gabir Garrote Rodríguez returned to jail.

For Iraiz Piña Gutiérrez, a 64-year-old from Holguin, the punishment was not just to be incarcerated for six years. The court also ordered the seizure of her home, a penalty that applies to anyone who “produces, traffics, purchases, stores or consumes” illicit drugs.

In a search in her house the police found ten chocolates “stuffed with marijuana,” says the former prisoner.

Aged and with only the clothes she wore, Piña left the prison after serving her sentence but still seeks justice for a case she considers “fabricated” against her. She has traveled to countless state agencies to get them to give her back her house and her “reputation,” but few want to hear or help a “marihuanera”, she tells 14ymedio.

For Lorenzo, a resident of Timba who prefers to change his name to tell his story, the feeling of helplessness will not let him sleep. He lost the house he inherited from his father because his brother kept several pots of marijuana in a room that was under the same roof that had, for years, a separate entrance.

“We did not get along and split the apartment so that everyone had their share,” he explains. Lorenzo had a thriving cafe but it all ended when a police raid found his brother’s little plants. After submitting several complaints, he has been told that the confiscation of the property is an “unappealable” decision because “that’s how it is with marijuana, there is no middle ground,” ​​a lawyer said.

Dozens of Opponents Attend Mass in Honor of Oswaldo Paya in Havana


Our apologies for not having subtitles for this video.

14ymedio, Havana, 21 July 2017 — At least 40 activists attended a mass in tribute to opponents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero on the fifth anniversary of their deaths, on Thursday evening. The ceremony took place in the church of Los Quemados in Marianao, Havana, and passed without incident.

The daughter of the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), Rosa María Payá, traveled from the city of Miami, where she lives, to participate in the memorial. About 60 people attended the mass, among whom were family, friends and opponents of the Castro government.

Among the activists who participated were former Black Spring prisoner Félix Navarro, the dissident Manuel Cuesta Morúa and the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler.

Speaking to 14ymedio Rosa María Payá said she found “the whole of civil society represented” to honor the memory and legacy of his father. “[All opponents] agree fundamentally: this system does not work and we have to change it.”

Berta Soler said that “the Cuban regime thought that killing Oswaldo Payá was going to do away with him” but that was not the case because “he lives among us.”

Oswaldo Payá founded the MCL in 1988 and died on 22 July 2012 with Harold Cepero, after the vehicle in which they were traveling, driven by the young Spanish politician Ángel Carromero was driving, went off the road and hit a tree.

Payá’s daughter is carrying out an intense international campaign to demand an independent investigation of the case and maintains that the death of her father was a murder orchestrated by the authorities of Havana, and that the car was purposefully run off the road.

A report by the international Human Rights Foundation (HRF) points to “solid indications” that the car in which Payá and his companions were traveling was hit by another vehicle before the crash.

Virginia Dandan, The Expert Who Asks No Questions

The UN Rapporteur on Human Rights and International Solidarity, Virginia Dandan, with the president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), Fernando González. (EFE / Joaquín Hernández)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 15 July 2017 — The visit to Cuba by United Nations expert on Human Rights, Virginia Dandan, ended this Friday. The press conference she offered before leaving fueled expectations, after spending several days in an intense program of meetings and activities “on the ground.”

In her statements, however, the official from the Philippines made no mention of the human rights situation on the island, but merely praised its system of international cooperation. In passing, she regretted the country’s limitations in accessing new technology, due to the US embargo.

Her analytical myopia revived the criticism of many towards international agencies linked, or not, to the United Nations. An international “bureaucracy” that no longer responds to its original meaning and has become a lever of influence for some governments to manipulate its mechanisms and officials. continue reading

This practice came to a head when representatives from North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba joined the Permanent Council on Human Rights in Geneva. That these confessed violators occupy such responsibilities is not the most worrisome, rather it is that the rest of the world accepts it without pressing for their immediate dismissal.

In her statements, the Philippine official made no mention of the situation of human rights on the island, but merely praised its system of international cooperation

After that, there is little room for astonishment, but Mrs. Dandan has succeeded in sparking outrage against the agency she represents. Despite being an expert, she allowed herself to speak from disinformation about a government that does not hide from – and even prides itself on – violating the fundamental rights of its citizens.

It would have been enough for the expert to search in the social networks to find evidence of the situation Cubans live in. She would have seen the videos with the mobs gathered by the government shouting “down the human rights” and images of police searches where copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are taken as “proof” of the crime of subversive activity.

If, before arriving in Cuba, Dandan did not have time to check the internet, just looking out the window of the vehicle that brought her from the airport to the city she would have noticed the cult of personality that crushes, bores and frightens. The numerous billboards and posters that along the way impose the image of the two brothers who have ruled the country for almost 60 years are a distinctive detail of a totalitarianism, and should not have gone unnoticed by her keen eye.

On the other hand, Mrs. Dandan specializes in the area of ​​education but did not go out into the streets of Havana to ask a child about the teaching of human rights in his or her school, or, more precisely, the rights of the child. Instead, she preferred meetings in the comfortable halls of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with Peoples or in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Undoubtedly, the Government of Raúl Castro estimated the usefulness of the expert’s visit and scheduled it to take place a few days after seeing the new Bilateral Agreement with the European Union

The expert could have inquired of any passer-by whether they belonged to one party or another, or who their favorite candidate is for the upcoming election, to receive the disturbing answer that there is only one party and the president is not directly elected. But was Virginia Dandan willing to listen to that part of reality?

Undoubtedly, the Government of Raúl Castro estimated the usefulness of the expert’s visit and scheduled it to take place a few days after seeing the new Bilateral Agreement with the European Union and its clause regarding respect for human rights that have so greatly bothered officialdom.

This situation coincided with the change of rhetoric of the United States and the new policy of Donald Trump towards the Island. “A good moment,” the Place of the Revolution surely must have thought, to pull out a letter and generate some positive headlines about human rights.

However, the opinion of the chosen expert has been so precarious and biased to make the diagnosis that she didn’t even manage to amortize the investment made by the Government to cover her days spent on the island.

In the case of Cuba, Dandan lost the opportunity to put her ear closer to parents, elders, young people, entrepreneurs trying to carry out an independent project and activists who report frequent human rights violations. She preferred to listen to the victimizers instead of the victims.

Ethical Defense Of Migration

Migrants cross the Guatemalan border with Mexico. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jose Azel, Miami, 18 July 2017 — In an earlier article I argued that migration is an individual right; an expression of the desire for freedom to improve one’s quality of life. At that time, I wanted to emphasize the libertarian defense of open immigration, taking care to clarify that open immigration is not the equivalent of uncontrolled immigration. It does not imply guaranteeing the right to eligibility for citizenship, social benefits or other governmental services.

I defined open immigration only as the right of people to freedom of movement to enter a country by places established for inspection, where specific reviews are made to protect the nation from diseases, enemies, and crimes. People have the right to cross a border seeking freedom and happiness. But borders mean something. continue reading

People have the right to cross a border seeking freedom and happiness. But borders mean something.

Here I want to focus on the ethical aspect of open immigration based on the book by Michael Huemer Intuition Ethics. Let’s start with an experiment of reflection. Imagine that Juan, hungry and poor, goes to the local market to buy food with the little money he has. There, the salesman is happy to do business that allows Juan to meet his needs.

You, knowing Juan’s intentions, forcibly interrupt his movement, to prevent him from reaching the market. Unable to reach it, Juan remains hungry.

Your conduct is morally wrong because now you are responsible for Juan’s hunger. This reflection provides an analogy to the government’s restriction of immigration. Note that potential immigrants would like to travel to a country where there are entrepreneurs eager to hire them for mutual benefit. And governments use armed border guards to prevent by force those people from entering the country to work. But note also that your treatment of Juan would not be morally permissible even if some of the following conditions were present:

  1. If you want to prevent people who are already in the market having to compete with Juan for the products of food stores.
  2. If you are concerned that Juan influences the culture of the market in ways you disapprove.
  3. If you were concerned that, given your program to help the poor, you would have to give Juan free food by taking it away from others who are in your program.

These considerations are analogous to: (1) Immigrants taking jobs from low-skilled native workers. (2) Immigrants changing the local culture. (3) Immigrants using government services. These considerations do not justify their actions to prevent Juan from reaching the market. Their actions are immoral from the point of view of moral realism. However, there are other moral focuses.

Moral realism holds that some values ​​are objectively true. That is, the truth of those values ​​does not depend on one’s attitudes. But not everyone accepts moral realism. Relativists, for example, consider that what is right or wrong must be determined by what society approves or disapproves. For a relativist, the truth depends on the culture of each person. Others, like the subjectivists, consider that what is good, bad, right or wrong, depends on people’s attitudes.

Libertarians, always distrustful of authority, defend open immigration with the premise that governments must adopt the same ethical standards as people

Libertarians, always distrustful of authority, defend open immigration with the premise that governments must adopt the same ethical standards as people. In contrast, based on some variant of the “social contract” theory, non-libertarians believe that governments are exempt from the moral restraints that apply to people. Under the theory of the social contract we all have implicitly agreed to grant the government the right to the monopoly use of force in exchange for protection. We have accepted, in an implicit contract, that the Government acts immorally.

But social contract theory does not provide a satisfactory explanation for why the government should be exempt from the moral rules that apply to the rest of us. These rules imply a commitment to the moral equality of individuals, a supreme respect for individual dignity and rights, and reluctance to use force or coercion. In other words, these libertarian values ​​demand that Juan be allowed to come to the market without hindrance.

_______________________________

José Azel is Senior Researcher at the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, and author of the book Mañana in Cuba.

It Is No Longer Forbidden To Get Rich In Cuba

The MarAdentro paladar (private restaurant) in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 19 July 2017 — The most controversial point of the Conceptualization Of The Economic And Social Model has been changed with discretion and without public announcements. The concentration of property and wealth that was prohibited in its first version, is only regulated in the final document, released after the last session of Parliament.

The change of formulation, which is of major importance, has passed without pain or glory in the national and foreign press. However, that relaxation entails a victory for the reformist forces within the official apparatus. A triumph that paves the way for the mid-sized private company on the island.

The definitive version of the Conceptualization has few essential differences when compared to its first proposal released in May 2016. The “most discussed” document in the nation’s history has become old to the extent that the internal and external reality outstrips it in momentum. continue reading

Perhaps the fear its becoming irrelevant led its drafters to prefer the present tense to formulate precepts and principles for future application. A grammatical style that has confused more than one naïf, who took what they dreamed of achieving and projected it as already done.

To avoid pressures, the managers of the document also clarified that it isn’t about a “finished and static template,” but rather an “active and perfectible pattern.” This condition avoids dogmatic interpretations, but it also gives the Conceptualization a very comfortable elasticity for those who implement it.

Despite the vagueness of certain concepts, one of the statements in the text provoked strong arguments from the beginning. Item 104 of the original version read: “The concentration of property and wealth in natural or legal persons is not allowed.” A bucket of cold water for the entrepreneurs.

During the months that the document was discussed at Communist Party headquarters and among other chosen ones, no other matter provoked more debate. Some warned of the dangers of categorically denying this accumulation of wealth, and others pointed to it as the end of the present system. The latter just lost the game.

The new version softens the prohibition and clarifies that the concentration of property and material and financial wealth in non-state natural or legal persons will be regulated. The change in nuance shows that pragmatism prevailed above orthodoxy.

However, there is also no carte blanche so that a citizen can create a restaurant franchise or purchase numerous homes for rent. The Conceptualization is not deprived of the excessive scrupulousness of the official discourse that praises humility and stigmatizes the prosperous, but nor does it allow itself to be owned by those who promote strict egalitarianism.

If in the initial version of a starring element of the text was the absence of the concept of “exploitation of man by man,” whose eradication is the main objective of the socialist system, now it continues to be present through a euphemism.

In Cuba, “ownership by non-state ownership and management of part of the surplus of the work of contracted persons is allowed,” it reads; but immediately clarifies that “socialist relations of production prevail.” Something very different from what happens in “social systems based on the exploitation of the work of others,” according to this new version.

With its patches and changes, the Conceptualization has ended up being a demonstration of the different tendencies of those who participated in its final development. A sequence of ideas to please both reformers and conservatives, to sit well with both dogmatists and innovators. The editors intuited that Thomas More did not get his head cut off for writing Utopia, but for being disloyal to the King.

The concept of privatization that is presented in its pages is a good example of these contradictions. It talks of “temporary transfer of ownership or management of certain means of production owned by all the people to non-state economic actors” and goes on to warn immediately that such a transfer should not “compromise the principles of our socialism.”

To calm those who fear the distribution of the pie, the document pointed out in its first version that the state retains the capacity for strategic decision or domination over these means. Something softened in the final version, where it “maintains the exercise of the principal powers that correspond to him by virtue of the status of representative of the owner.”

The changes in the text show the fluctuations in the coming course and also its anchors in the past. The current Conceptualization presents as “particularly relevant antecedents” the Programmatic Platform born from the First Congress of the Communist Party and the Program of the Cuban Communist Party that was issued in 1986. At first, however, the document only recognized as precedent “History Will Absolve Me.”

The nuances introduced in the new version are the result of what has happened in the last year: the death of former President Fidel Castro, the crisis of the leftist governments in Latin America and the coming to power of an unpredictable actor in the United States. The document that was born to be letters chiseled in marble now looks like an elastic canvas full of patches and gaps.

The Simple Story Of Roof Sealant

Short circuits in ceiling lamps, leaks and stains are some of the consequences of poor placement of a sealing cover on the roof. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana 20 July 2017 — One day they came carrying rolls of roof paper to waterproof the roof of this concrete block where we live with more than a hundred families. Those state employees were deaf to the warnings. “We do not need coverage here,” some neighbors told them. “No apartment leaks when it rains,” said others. However, the installation continued its course without listening to the citizens, like all directions “from above.”

There was no way to convince the authorities that this multifamily building, built in the years of the Soviet subsidy, had other emergencies. Water pipes have collapsed over the years and the lightning rod has been inactive for decades. “What we have is a roof sealer and that is what we are going to install,” said the head of the team of workers who for several days toiled over our heads. continue reading

Shortly after, the cover began to breakdown in several places. The rainwater accumulated underneath and, as it could not evaporate in the sun, leaked into the houses. The residents on the top floors have suffered all kinds of problems as a result from that awkward decision. Short circuits in ceiling lamps, leaks and yellow stains that increasingly cover a larger area in the ceilings. What should have been a solution, has become a real headache.

Now the community is battling to remove the sealing sheets, but the authority to do so does not arrive at the same speed with which some bureaucrats ordered it to be installed. The most daring residents have ripped off the pieces above their own apartments, while the most cautious wait for official directions from above.

During the years the cover has remained in place, several areas of the roof have been filled with mold and have developed cracks due to moisture, a damage that, now, each affected resident must repair with the resources of their own pockets.

A few yards away, in the neighborhood of La Timba, several families have been demanding that they be given roof paper — at affordable prices — to repair their homes. With summer rains, their homes “get wetter inside than outside,” they say. Some have approached our concrete building to get what we obtained in the lottery of state inefficiency.

The history of this sealing or roof paper is just one of the thousands of absurdities that Cubans are forced to deal with every day. A sample of how the country’s resources are wasted on superfluous tasks designed to fill in the numbers or meet irrational goals while the real difficulties are avoided or hidden.

The useless roof covering has not only left significant damage in several apartments, but has further hurt the decision-making ability of a community, a group of neighbors that does not even have sufficient autonomy to remove the shreds of the mistake that remain on our roof.

‘Fidget Spinner’, The Toy That Has Taken The World By Storm, Arrives In Cuba

Samuel, 9, playing with his ‘fidget spinner’. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 17 July 2017 — Samuel is nine years old and has broken several of the windows in his building playing ball. His nearest neighbors see that he is very calm these days since his mother gave him a Fidget Spinner, a fad toy that some schools in the US, UK or Argentina have had to ban because of the distractions they cause among students. The toy has just landed in Cuba.

Simple and hypnotic, the little amusement with bearings can spin for several minutes. There are lights, phosphorescent colors, patterns and it even can emit repetitive tunes. In reality it is like the old yoyos or the spinning tops have returned, this time made of plastic.

Until a few weeks ago there were only a few specimens on the island, but in the summer vacation its presence has multiplied and it has become one of the most common requests from children to their parents. Although not yet sold in the legal market, illegal networks have versions for all tastes. continue reading

“It is said that it can help to alleviate the deficit of attention but it does not convince to me, because I have not seen any scientific work that demonstrates it”

The spinner was created in 1993 by the American Catherine Hettinger, age 62, who suffers from myasthenia, a disease that weakens muscles and generates fatigue. Her difficulties led her to create this game for her daughter to be distracted and it is believed to combat anxiety and attention deficit problems, coming to be used in the US as a therapeutic toy even though its benefits are not credited on a scientific basis.

“I just saw one, although I had read about the subject,” says Maria Antonia, 69, a retired psychiatrist who specializes in working with children. “It is said that it can help to ease attention deficit, but I’m not convinced because I have not seen any scientific work that demonstrates it,” she clarifies.

In Cuban schools it has not yet started to be a problem, but the spinner has been banned in schools of several countries. “It distracts students while they are in class and that conspires against the learning process,” says the psychiatrist.

“In the last weeks of the course a student started to bring one to classes and I had to take it from him and call his parents,” recalls Mercedes, a second-grade teacher in the Plaza de la Revolución municipality. The educator says that she did not do it “because it was bad, but because all the students were fascinated and wanted to spin it all the time.”

In many countries, businesses promote it as an ideal anti-anxiety device, to achieve greater concentration and also in cases of autism and hyperactivity. Forbes magazine considers it an indispensable toy for the office and it is among the most popular item on Amazon.

José Carlos, 38, travels as a “mule” between Havana and Panama City at least twice a month. Since May he began to add the famous spinners to the merchandise he imports. “First I brought one to my son and then the neighbors ordered them from me, but now I bring them to sell,” he says.

Small, cheap and light, the funny little toys are the perfect product to go through customs without major problems

Small, cheap and light, the funny little toys are the perfect product to go through customs without major problems. “I bring some made only of plastic, others of plastic and metal and the most sophisticated with lights,” says José Carlos. In his last importing trp he managed to introduce fifty units in the country.

“They sell between 5 and 15 CUC depending on the model,” a solid business if you consider that they cost between 2 and 3 dollars in Panama. “With the sale of these toys I think that I will be able to complete fixing the bathroom in my house, so I hope that the excitement lasts a long time,” he says.

José Carlos does not fear state competition, because the toy sales network managed by the Ministry of Internal Commerce has, in his opinion, a poor and outdated supply. “When the products arrive here, they are no longer fashionable out there,” he mocks.

The problems in the production and sale of toys in Cuba fueled debate in the last session of Parliament, when Deputy Aymara Guzman, President of the José Martí Pioneers Organization, acknowledged that the Government does not have a defined strategy for its “production, distribution and sales.”

The circulation of toys in the state market decreased from about 118 million pesos worth in 2012, to just over 94 million today. The fall has been noticed in the lack of variety and in the long lines outside the stores when Three Kings Day approaches, the day Cuban children are given Christmas presents. The demand has grown, fueled by families with higher incomes or who receive remittances from family abroad.

The high costs and the low quality of the goods in the children’s stores has led to many parents choosing to buy toys manufactured by the self-employed, or imported through the illegal market. This situation generated complaints among parliamentarians, who called for the state to have a greater presence in toy market.

The circulation of toys in the state market decreased from about 118 million pesos worth in 2012, to just over 94 million today

In a park in Havana’s La Timba neighborhood, two girls are taking turns passing the object from the tip of their index fingers to the tip of their noses. For more than an hour they try pirouettes and possible movements. Another child looks at them with a mixture of hope and envy.

But the taste for spinners is not just children’s thing. Among some young people it has become an essential object that accompanies them on their nights out and meetings with friends. This Saturday, some were incessantly roaming around Havana’s Calle G, where countless urban tribes gather every weekend.

“It relaxes me and I can’t look away when it’s spinning,” Jennifer, 16, tells 14ymedio. The young woman proudly says that she was the first person to have one of these toys in her La Lisa neighborhood. “This is the latest, what you have to have not to be out of it,” she says.

In the middle of the night, some lights are seen on both sides of the central street as more young people arrive. Pedestrians are alternately curious and surprised at the peculiar object. “It’s even good for attracting a date because it attracts a lot of people,” says Jennifer.

Havana, Nostalgia Capital

Any former times were better, is a refrain that is being fulfilled to the letter in Cuba.(Lahabana.com)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 16 July 2017 — The walls full of photographs of old city landscapes and a whole host of famous artists from the Cuban Republic, record album covers from the same period, and old advertising posters from the 40’s and 50’s.

In a central space, an old off-duty Victrola captures the prominence of the small restaurant. On the tablecloths, old long-playing vinyl records double as tray holders, while the coasters are vinyl 45’s.

In this private business –as in many similar ones that began to proliferate in Old Havana and in other parts of the city since the so-called “Raul reforms” — the whole atmosphere exudes that unmistakable inspiration on the past, a cult that has been seizing the capital as an epidemic. “Any former times were better,” states a refrain that is being fulfilled in Cuba. continue reading

But it is not just any past. No. Because, curiously, these enthusiastic private entrepreneurs show no interest in appealing to the socialist aesthetic of Soviet encouragement that occupied thirty years of Cuban national life without silencing the native spirit. There are no matrioskas, balalaikas or “Russian dolls” characters decorating the stained glass or interiors of these businesses or on piñatas and private catering salons dedicated to children’s parties.

The paradox is that, after almost six decades of Castro regime, the republican liberal ideal is returning, camouflaged in its cultural symbols. (CC)

There’s nothing that evokes the indestructible Cuban-Soviet friendship of an era when almost all the members of that Cuban proto-entrepreneur were born, who today prefer to revive the Republic’s prosperity of strong Yankee influence and forget the hard years of drunken rule on the Island.

That explains why one can find decorations of a Benny Moré’s album cover and not ones of Van Van or Isaac Delgado in any of these environments. The glossy and smiling face of Kid Chocolate may be staring at us from the walls, but not the face of Teófilo Stevenson.

There is no doubt, glamour is a Western capitalist product. Although, as is the case, it is a glamour as old and encased as that of Cuba in the 1950’s, which — as is always the case in societies without rights, where mediocrity prevails — ends up being a model that tends to be standardized.

Because, as usually happens in the presence of any opportunity to thrive advantageously, there is no shortage of scoundrels who have decided to take advantage of the new lode that offers this sort of aesthetic for nostalgia to extract their own revenues, as is clear from a detailed announcement published in the very popular web site Revolico, where for the price of 25 CUC, or its equivalence in CUP (625 pesos), you can buy a collection of 27,000 Cuban photographs from before 1959, “for the walls of your business.”

The paradox is that, after almost six decades of Castro regime, the republican liberal ideal is returning, camouflaged in its cultural symbols. (CC)

“The history of our country lives through image,” a message tries to encourage while promoting the sale of a “wide selection of photos of cafes, hotels, streets, houses, monuments, shops, historical sites and main streets and avenues of the Cuban capital.”

Such an offer is not limited to photographs, but also includes “old maps, postcards, bus lines, architectural drawings, prints, very good quality scans of old beer advertisements such as Cristal, Hatuey and Polar, the loose propaganda of Cigar brands, hotels, casinos, beverages and much more that constitute a large and valuable treasure trove of value.” A whole cult to the pre-revolutionary past that shows the persistence of a lost paradigm, the more ingrained and endearing, the more decadent and ill-fated the present and the more uncertain and gloomy the future.

The paradox is that, after almost six decades of Castro regime, during which the ruling power spent the greater part of its efforts trying to erase the era of the 57 years of the Republic — “pseudo republic”, they call it — trying to impose a model (this one is truly “pseudo” socialist), falsely proletarian and alien to the national culture and aspirations, the liberal ideal of the Republic is returning, camouflaged in its cultural symbols, and today it grows as a cult to the memory of those “better times,” when prosperity and wealth were  plausible goals and not crimes.

As a result, and in view of the inability to project a promising future, the much-vilified Republic has become the symbol of paradise lost, and returns to occupy a place of preference in the collective imagination, despite the fact that more than 70% of Cubans today were born after 1959 and have been (de)formed under the doctrine of austerity and sacrifice.

While ideological battles and blistering anti-imperialist speeches continue to occupy public spaces, the enterprising class and the chameleonic Castro power cupola invent themselves a marketing Cuba. (CC)

However, the use of symbols pertaining to the Republic is not exclusive to the small niches of the private economy. The mediocrity and lack of imagination also reach the almighty State-Government-Party that almost controls the entertainment industry. Recreating the past before 1959 has become a very lucrative source of income even for the slayers of the Republic themselves, especially since American tourism became the main target of socialist marketing.

This is demonstrated, for example, by the careful reconstruction of old hotels, bars and other spaces destined for international tourism, which for decades were decadent localities or simple ruins, whose architecture and interior spaces were recently rescued to recreate the elegance and style of the ambiance of pre-revolutionary Cuba.

In this way, while ideological battles and fiery anti-imperialist discourses are maintained in public spaces and in the official press, for the indoctrination and control of the native proletarians and for the sake of regional progress, both the nascent entrepreneurial class and the chameleonic Castro regime have invented themselves a marketing Cuba, a parallel reality disguised as Republican era tradition and artificially rescued for the solace and delight of foreign visitors, who pay in dollars for attending this kind of theme park: a country frozen in the middle of the twentieth century.

And it is not necessary to deny a past that, which, for better or worse, is part of Cuban culture and history and represents a period of prosperity and expectations of that young nation. What is truly sad is that six decades under the regime have left us with the legacy of a people who, instead of pushing towards the future, assumes the past as a paradigm that, beyond its lights and democratic conquests, was sufficiently imperfect to incubate in its core the longest dictatorship in the hemisphere, in whose hands the destinies of all Cubans continue to be. It’s a shame.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Daniel Ortega Resuscitated ‘Somocismo’*

Demonstrations against Somoza’s dictatorship in the late 1970s. (El Heraldo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Hector Mairena, Managua Nicaragua, 18 July 2017 – July 19th marks the 38th anniversary of the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship, without a doubt the most important date in Nicaraguan history. However, its meaning and consequences – even its ultimate causes – are still under discussion. Divergent opinions emerge not only because of the political and social contradictions of Nicaraguan society, but also because many of its protagonists see their personal experience through the lens of their narrative and interpretation of what happened.

The greatest alteration, however, has come from the propaganda interests of the Ortega regime, which has perverted the equitable analysis of the events. As Fidel Castro once said, “history is a byproduct of facts,” and the official version is written by power, altering or denying facts, removing or placing protagonists.

The overthrow of Somocismo was achieved through innumerable acts of individual and collective heroism, and it is precisely for that reason that one side has tried to mythologize it, while the other demonizes it, which is understandable in a society given to attributing extraordinary events to providential causes. continue reading

But it was not a miracle, nor was it a spontaneous event. It was the outcome of a decades long conflict between democratic and dictatorial forces. And just as this day of the struggle for democracy was not the first – because the history preceding July 1979 is abundant in guerrillas and uprisings that raised democratic flags – nor would it be the last.

The overthrow of the Somoza regime was only possible when the joint actions of the democratic forces and the massive involvement of the population crystalized in the final phase of the armed insurrection in a favorable international context. Thus, it was possible to resolve the main contradiction that had existed in Nicaraguan society since the 1930s, between democracy and dictatorship.

In the social sphere, the anti-Somoza participants embraced a wide range that reached the extremes of society: from the sectors of the bourgeoisie excluded from a share of power, to the lumpen proletariat. An unquestionable success of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), and the insurrectional faction in particular, consisted in cementing that alliance on the basis of a democratic program that aroused an unprecedented and unrepeatable national consensus

Although the Sandinistas were the hegemonic force, it is necessary to remember, although it seems obvious, that they were not the only ones in the anti-dictatorial fusion.

One the political plane, two large blocks joined in the objective of that historical moment. On the one hand, the center-left block articulated in the People United Movement (MPU)/National Patriotic Front (FPN); and that of the democratic right grouped in the Broad Opposition Front (FAO).

On the military plane, the FSLN, with its three expressions, had absolute dominance, although in the final insurrection smaller units of the Nicaraguan Socialist Party (PSN) operated through the so-called People’s Military Organization (OMP), subordinate to the Sandinista command and tiny groups of the Maoist Popular Action Movement (MAP), which acted on the margins.

Special mention should be made of the media and journalists, which for decades were a daily vehicle of denunciation against the Somoza regime. It is impossible to hide the role played by La Prensa and its director Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, or that played by Radio Corporation and other broadcasters. Although their role is beyond dispute, today the Ortega version disdains it.

The overthrow of Somocismo, which was required to open the way to a democratic process, became the Sandinista Popular Revolution. Political pluralism, one of the three pillars of the program called for by the anti-Somoza alliance, was soon shunted to a lesser role at the convenience of the Sandinistas, and was only tolerated to the extent that it did not jeopardize the new power.

The consequences were not long in coming. Already in the first post-Somoza year there began a rapid settling of political forces around a new conflict between the Sandistas and the Anti-Sandinistas. The mistakes made in economic management, the loss of the social base of the peasants, and an early alignment with socialist countries – despite the formal non-alignment of the country’s foreign policy – ended up destroying the consensus.

The open intervention of the Reagan administration was a spur to the remnants of the defeated Somoza Army and to dissent in the countryside. The confrontation was radicalized, the social conquests foundered and civil war ensued, the consequences of which divided and bled the country to the limit.

With the withdrawal of military support from the USSR – already in its own terminal crisis – with the economy of the country destroyed by the war, and especially with the majority of citizens calling for a change, by the late 1980s the FSLN was helplessly forced to convene early elections. The results opened up once again the possibility of leading the country towards a democratic process, a path that the Ortega regime, allied with the corrupt liberalism, would destroy, in the same way that it destroyed the old FSLN to turn it into a group of docile subordinates, under the command of a family.

Although July 19, 1979 meant the end of the Somoza regime, its cultural heritage survived in practice and in the subconscious of important sectors of the population and even among militants and leaders of the FSLN. Thus, the Revolution did not manage to banish that disastrous legacy of Somocismo. In the last decade it has sprouted again under Daniel Ortega’s return to power, which has reversed the democratic conquests and resurrected the practices of the defeated regime.

New wine – and not so new – in old wineskins. Thus, and this time not by a miracle, it is already in an irreversible process of decomposition.

_________________________________

Editorial Note: This article was published in the blog of Héctor Mairena

*Translator’s note: ‘Somocismo’ refers to the movement to try to reestablish the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza which was overthrown in Nicaragua in 1979.

Mass Celebrated At Ladies In White Headquarters ‘For The Freedom Of The Cuban People’

The priests Castor Álvarez and José Conrado Rodríguez celebrate Mass at the Ladies in White headquarters in Havana. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 June 2017 — On Monday afternoon, in the presence of 27 people, priests Jose Conrado Rodríguez and Castor Álvarez celebrated a mass at the Ladies in White headquarters Havana’s Lawton neighborhood.

Berta Soler, leader of the women’s group, explained via telephone that they gathered at the building with “a lot of discretion” to avoid State Security preventing the Mass. “It was very important to hear from those two priests, as we are not able to get to the church, the church has to come to us.”

José Conrado Rodríguez told 14ymedio that the Mass was also a way to show that they both support “the right of the Ladies in White to attend Mass every Sunday” in the Church of Santa Rita, in the Cuban capital. continue reading

“That is also part of religious freedom and the right that people have to practice their faith,” added Castor Alvarez, who presided at the mass with Rodriguez.

“We feel as priests a concern to bring our faith to Cuban society,” added Alvarez, a native of Camagüey and for whom it was a joy to be able to share with the activists and “pray together for the freedom of the Cuban people.”

“We are part of the people and we want to enjoy freedoms, we want them to let us have peace and tranquility and share all the good that we Cubans have in order to progress,” added the pastor.

Along with the Ladies in White, attending the mass were the former prisoner of the Black Spring, Angel Moya, the activist Raul Borges, and the opponent Yosvany Martinez, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).

For more than a year, the political police have prevented this civil society group from attending Santa Rita Church and carrying out its Sunday walk on Fifth Avenue.

The Year Of The Lost Mangos

There are hardly any mangos in Havana markets while in the east of the country they are rotting. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 18 July 2017 — “Everything smells like rotten mango,” says Pascual Rojas, who lives on the outskirts of Manuel Tames, a Guantanamo municipality where part of the mango harvest has been lost, leaving a total of 2,600 metric tons of rotten fruit in recent weeks.

“The rains of May and June were already announcing what was coming to us,” explains this peasant born among the furrows and pigsties. “For years we haven’t seen anything like this, where the bushes yield so much fruit,” but “it all turns into flies and garbage,” he complains.

In the deep countryside, where the farmers know how to interpret the signs of each plant and animal, the groves filled with mango trees were a source of worry to more than one. “I told my brother that it would be very difficult to get all that fruit to the people,” recalls Rojas, who considers what has happened to be a “crime.” continue reading

“This is a area where there are different varieties of mango, but the mameyson, manga and bizcochuelo are much harvested,” with the latter being very popular for its sweetness and immortalized in the traditional songbook. “All that sweetness has become bitterness,” complains Rojas, who has seen how “mountains of mangos became black and filled with bugs.”

The rainfall of recent weeks has been a boon to Cuban agriculture, experiencing its worst drought in more than a century. Farmers in the area also managed to keep the pests such as anthracnose – a fungal disease – under control. And they have worked to ameliorate the aging of the plantations, but the faltering state framework was again not up to par.

The largest losses are found in the mango crops of the credit and service cooperatives in areas near Bayate (Popular Council of El Salvador) and Manuel Tames, which could not efficiently process the crops with the state-run canning industry .

More than a third of the 6,794 metric tons of mango that were contracted for with producers in the area ended up being spoiled during the month of June, according to a Ramón Sánchez Ocaña, a fruit specialist at the Provincial Delegation Of Agriculture, speaking to the local newspaper Venceremos.

The official explained that the factory located in San Antonio del Sur started operations 20 days after the planned date. The other plant, located in El Guaso, was also working at half of its capacity because of a shortage of cans in which to pack the pulp. To the technical problems was added the inefficiency of the state service in charge of haulage and collection.

“We had many problems with transportation and truck breakdowns,” an employee of the Acopio Provincial Transportation Base in Guantanamo, who requested anonymity, told 14ymedio. The problems were mainly due to “breakdowns and complications in fuel supply,” he says.

“We took a big hit on boxes, because if we don’t have them we can’t bring the mangos to the factory in good shape,” he adds. He blames the several factors that joined together to cause the disaster on the “bad organization” of the state company.

This opinion is shared by Manuel, a farmer living in the vicinity of the Ángel Bouza Credit and Services Cooperative, one of the most affected by the losses. “Here the pigs have had to eat mangos morning noon and night, because there is nothing else we can do with so many mangos,” he says.

“Even the children, instead of throwing stones, were throwing mangos because they became worthless when we realized that they would not be able to transport all these boxes from here,” he explains. “This happens every year, and this time the television came to film it and then shared it with the National Assembly, but it is nothing new,” laments the farmer.

Little is said about the producers’ losses. “There are people here who are thousands of pesos in debt because they had put a lot of money into this harvest,” adds Manuel. “My brother-in-law lost more than 5,000 pesos with all this and who is going to pay back that money now?”

During the last session of Parliament the heavy losses reported provoked criticism among the deputies and annoyance among the consumers in the agricultural markets who saw the news on the national media.

“In Havana I have to pay between 3 and 5 CUP (Cuban pesos) for a medium mango, but in the East they are rotting without anyone being able to eat them,” complains Clara Carvajal, 71. The images transmitted on the national television “are pitiful,” she adds.

On the island the mango has a seasonal consumption cycle, which starts after the rains of May and ends in September. “Mangos are only available for a few months and nevertheless the State gives itself the luxury of leaving them in the fields.”

Far from Guantánamo, in the municipalities of Güira and Alquízar (Artemisa province), where they produce fruits and vegetables for the capital, the situation is also worrying.

“If we don’t do some serious work it will be the same here,” said a farmer with a basket of mangos on a small cart pulled by horses. “This is the year of the lost mangos,” he says while pointing out the branches loaded with tasty fruit that rise along the side of the road.