Globalization Against Corruption

The Brazilian giant Odebrecht, which with its corrupt practices influenced a goood many Latin American Governments. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, August 18, 2019 — Fighting globalization isn’t just counterproductive: it’s useless. It’s counterproductive, because one of the unforeseen consequences of globalization is the beneficial battle against corruption. Globalization leads us to behave better. When countries were isolated, it really mattered little if country A or B was corrupt. Today, now that they are joined in large circuits, the corruption of the other harms us much more directly.

His majesty the Internet and social media reign. Everything is known instantly and there is an electoral cost for shamelessness. Within the European Union, and within every society, there is less and less patience with nations like Greece, Romania, Italy, Portugal, and Spain that have corrupt practices. Meanwhile, for years the figure of “conflict of interests” has been in the penal code. Until relatively recently German companies could deduct bribes from their habitual costs of doing business. That is no longer possible.

The trend, then, set by globalization is favorable. There is no longer glamour in corruption. In Cuba, when I was an adolescent, there did not exist a moral sanction against dishonesty in the administration of public resources. Jokes were told about thieving politicians and many people aspired to be a “tax inspector” or anything with the object of “making a killing.” That attitude, present in almost all of Latin America, is no longer acceptable. It exists, but it has a social cost. At least it’s a start. continue reading

Roughly speaking, in the world there are 180 nations who deserve to be called nations. Approximately 150 are fundamentally corrupt. It has always been that way. Economic power feeds big shots and big shots increase the resources of economic power. They are two social spheres that complement and mutually reinforce each other. This happens in dictatorial regimes and in the planet’s imperfect democracies.

Corruption does a lot of damage. It generates a growing atmosphere of cynicism. It belies the principle that all citizens are equal before the law, which is fatal for democracy. It hinders competition. It discourages personal effort: why study and do things well if economic success depends on relationships? It raises prices. All are problems.

The most honest countries, according to Transparency International, are the Scandinavian ones and those spawned by Great Britain: New Zealand, Canada, Australia, the United States, and Ireland. The countries of northern Europe are also on the list of the best, although on a second tier: Holland, Germany, the Baltic states.

At the head of the most honest pack is the kingdom of Denmark, but very close to it is Singapore, which contradicts the hypothesis that it is a question of culture. Within Europe, the nations of “Latin” origin are the most dishonest: Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Romania. Even France.

But it’s necessary to go further. It’s not only about “moral rearmament” or the elimination of North American or European visas. That’s not sufficient. It is important to place legal barriers against corruption. In Denmark, for example, the commission that studies and assigns auctions is constituted of experts who have no access to those who offer their services and vice versa.

Antonio Maura Montaner, an honest Spanish politician at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, spoke of his country’s necessity of “broad daylight.” Today he would have recommended the Internet. Every public action should be recorded on a web page so that any citizen can find out what is done with taxpayers’ money, with their money, including auctions.

It is necessary to create barriers between corrupters and corrupt. There’s no need to prevent lobbies from existing, but they must exhibit their comparative advantages via the Internet and not in dark meetings with those who can use their services or products.

In Spain they used to speak, jokingly, of “envelope-taking” journalists. Corrupters would hand them an envelope and they would pocket it with a smile. The Internet, mobile phones, and international circuits — all instruments of globalization — have wiped them off the map. Magnificent.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

__________________

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

Cuban Prisoners Defenders IDs 127 Political Prisoners on the Island

Daniel Llortente, “The Man With the Flag,” was pressured to leave Cuba under threat of arrest. (courtesy)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Havana, 6 August 2019 — One of the most controversial and anticipated figures on repression in Cuba has been updated by Cuban Prisoners Defenders (CPD). The independent organization states that on the Island there are 127 political prisoners and demands that foreign diplomats to call for their release.

In a report published on August 1, CPD breaks down the number into three groups and reports that in Cuban prisons there are 73 convicts of conscience “with accusations that are totally complete and proven false and fabricated, or of a non-criminal nature and absolutely [crimes] of thought.”

During the month of July, Reinaldo Rodríguez Hernández of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Civic Action Front joined the list, “sentenced to one year in prison for a false crime of ’resistance’, while Humberto Rico Quiala was pardoned, as he was on the point of being considered a prisoner of conscience. Activist Yasser Rivero Boni was also released after spending five months in prison for the crime of contempt. continue reading

The CPD notes “that the achievements of freedom for such cases are not attributable to changes in the regime,” but rather to the regime’s interest in avoiding international condemnation. “It is necessary, we remind the diplomatic corps, to be braver and less opportunistic, if we really want to achieve effective changes in this regime that has been deceiving the entire world for 60 years,” they ask in the report.

In the second group, Cuban Prisoners Defenders classifies 24 prisoners as “convicted of conscience” because “they suffer forced labor at home, measures to limit freedom or probation under threats, which the regime also usually revokes and returns them to prison if the activist does not cease his pro-democracy activity.”

In that list is the revocation of parole and deprivation of liberty of Misael Espinosa Puebla who, “in spite of complying with the requirement that he periodically appear before the authorities during his sentence of home confinement, he continued with his firm position against the regime, and has been returned to prison in June.”

According to the report, these prisoners are forced into work unrelated to their “professional qualifications and that does not even allow for a minimum of sustenance,” which demonstrates humiliation as a method of psychological torture in those convicted of [crimes of] conscience to avoid their pro-democratic recidivism.”

Prisoners Defenders has also analyzed the duration of the sentences, whose average is in the 3 years and 8 months, two months longer than the previous year.

The other group that makes up the list includes 30 political prisoners, including Elías Pérez Bocourt, who was released last month after serving a sentence of 27 years and 192 days convicted for the crimes of “accomplice of murder and piracy,” in the case of the  of Taará Nautical Club, where four police officers died.

Particularly serious is the situation of the 10,000 people who are in prison, according to the CPD’s count, for crimes of conscience classified in the Criminal Code as “pre-criminal.” The figure, the organization indicates, has been provided by a senior government official with whom they maintain contact, “an important regime leader, reformer and contrary to the state of current uncontrolled repression.” In Havana 1,800 people are imprisoned as “pre-criminals.”

These types of sentences have been denounced on multiple occasions by organizations such as Amnesty International and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which warn against a law that punishes citizens with penalties of one to four years in prison for an alleged crime that they have not yet committed. To this is added the strategy, widely used in recent years, to forbid activists and journalists from traveling outside Cuba by telling them that they are “regulated.” The organization Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu) also warns that, lately, another control mechanism is being used consisting of offering dissidents the opportunity to “voluntarily” leave the country as an alternative to their expulsion.

Prisoners Defenders has also analyzed the duration of the sentences, whose average is 3 years and 8 months, two months longer than the previous year.

If the case of prisoners from whom a common crime overlapped with a crime of conscience is added, the figure skyrockets, the most common penalty being life imprisonment.

In more than 73% of convictions for political reasons an aggravating crime has been added, a common practice so that these inmates cannot be considered exclusively “prisoners of conscience” and therefore the organization recommends that any protest or act of opposition be peaceful, thus avoiding the possibility of receiving more than 20 years. Prisoners Defenders says it is continuing to get human rights organizations to consider these as cases of conscience.

Unpacu, with 49 activists of conscience convicted or charge, accounts 51% of the inmates tallied by the organization.

Cuban Prisoners Defenders, linked to Unpacu, is a group engaged in analysis, study and action, and collaborated with groups of Island activists and relatives of political prisoners to collect data.

________________

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

More than 25,000 People Sign Petition in Support of Cuban Stowaway Remaining in U.S.

The 26-year-old man has been transferred to Krome detention center in Miami-Dade county.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 19, 2019 — Yunier García Duarte, a young Cuban who landed in Miami last Thursday on a flight from Havana hidden in the plane’s cargo area, has now obtained legal representation. More than 25,000 people have also asked the government to allow him to remain in the United States.

“I risked my life. I hope they allow me… if they deport me, I’ll be tortured. I am urgentely asking them to consider my case. I came here because this is a country of human rights,” said García Duarte in a telephone interview with Telemundo 51.

García described a very difficult journey during which he was barely able to breathe in the plane’s cargo hold. The stowaway had been working as a baggage handler at Havana’s José Martí International Airport. El Nuevo Herald was able to confirm that the Cuban Interior Ministry is taking García’s escape very seriously and is conducting investigations at the scene according to airport employees. continue reading

Wilfredo Allen, one of the most prominent immigration attorneys in southern Florida, has agreed to provide legal representation to García, who told authorities he fears being returned to the island.

“I spoke with García Duarte’s family on Friday and Saturday. I also spoke with him over the weekend. I have agreed to be his attorney and am hopeful my client will be able to win this political asylum case,” said Allen in a telephone interview with El Nuevo Herald.

“The first thing we will do is request an interview to demonstrate ’credibe fear’ as soon as possible. After the interview we will ask that he be released on parole,” added the attorney, who said his team is already preparing a political asylum case.

Even if García is released, he might not be granted legal status under the Cuban Adjustment Act because, according to Allen, entering the country as a stowaway is illegal under U.S. immigration law.  The 26-year-old has been transferred to Krome detention center in Miami-Dade county.

“If we manage to get him out on bail or on parole, we will have a political asylum trial in a Miami court. If he is not granted political asylum, he will be defended at Krome,” Allen added.

“A defense can be made based on political persecution resulting from past events or from possible consequences of a person’s actions. I think we can present a strong case of future persecution against Mr. García Duarte,” he explained. “Given all this, I am hopeful that we will be successful and he will be allowed to stay in the United States,” he said.

García has received massive support for his actions on social media. Groups of Cubans living in Florida have called upon local politicians to help the stowaway remain in the United States.

“Those of us who familiar with the sad reality of Cuba know that, if he is deported, he will be sent directly to serve a long sentence in one of the Castro dictatorship’s dungeons. I therefore join in calling upon immigration officials to issue a parole release that would allow him to remain in the United States,” wrote the iconic exiled singer Willy Chirino on Facebook.

A petition campaign on Change.org has recieved more than 25,000 signatures in little more than seventy-two hours. It asks the American government to grant the young man asylum.

Back on the island, his family has still not gotten over the shock. “He didn’t say anything to us. Yesterday he came home, he bathed, he ate and he went to work as usual,” said his sister, Yudeysi García, on Friday in Havana. The stowaway’s 2-year-old daughter remains in Cuba.

More than a dozen Cubans have escaped the island as stowaways on airplanes. Most died while making the attempt. The official Communist Party press has not reported anything about the incident.

________________________

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

Speaking of Cowards

It is unjust to speak of cowards, especially when to be brave can turn out to be excessively costly.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, August 16, 2019 — “Of cowards nothing has been written” is very unjust. In addition to inaccurate it is unjust, especially when to be brave can turn out to be excessively costly.

Many times in the commentaries of various texts that are published in the independent press there appear those whom they describe as “servile eunuchs, obedient scabs, accomplices of the dictatorship,” all those who do not dare to speak out publicly in face of the abuses and arbitrary actions of the Government. It’s necessary to point out that they are speaking about the majority, about millions of people, parents of families who every day have the obligation to bring home bread to their children.

One must exclude from that list the true believers, who have the foolishness, the stupidity, and why not, the nerve, to continue defending the current state of things in the country. It’s not worth venturing numbers on both sides of the scale to determine if those who don’t protest one way or another stand on the side of those who believe or in the group that pretends. continue reading

The magnitude of cowardice in Cuba is not a sign of the lack of humanity of its inhabitants, but rather an indication of the degree to which repression has reached.

It is detected in the workers of the state sector who work under difficult conditions without complaining; in those who accept the plunder of their salary in joint ventures, where the state employer is left with the majority of what the foreign investor pays for that scheme; in the thousands who leave to carry out international missions, sometimes at the risk of their lives, and meekly accept that the State will keep 70% of the value that is paid for their work.

Cowardice appears among the workers of the non-state sector who continue suffering the absence of a wholesale market, the pack of inspectors who hound them, the taxes that bleed them dry, the abuse of capped prices, the permanent dismissive insults of the official media sources that demonize them, the hypocritical stance of the officials who one day describe them as indispensable and another reduce them to a complementary part.

Cowardice is sensed in that false unanimity of members of parliament, in the massive marches on May 1, in the simulated fighting spirit of those who participate in a repudiation rally or in the silence of those who witness it. In those who inform on their friends or family members.

Cowardice shines in the journalist who doesn’t dare to stake his position on asking an official the uncomfortable question that everyone is waiting for, in the artist who withdraws a picture from his exhibition, the playwright or the filmmaker who deletes a scene, the writer who tears out a page from his original work to get it printed, the singer-songwriter who gets rid of his controversial songs so that his concert is allowed, the comedian who chokes on his best joke because he wants to continue hearing applause…

What causes the most pain is seeing how the brave crack.

Sometimes “showing them the instruments” is enough. Nobody can validate the certainty of the legend of Galileo murmuring “and yet it moves,” what is indeed historically confirmed is that Giordano Bruno burned at the inquisatorial stake for not renouncing his “heresies.”

But who is going to ask a university professor to dare to tell his students something that contradicts the dogma, or a last-year student to renounce the golden dream of his degree defending that classmate who is going to be expelled for not being a revolutionary?

It hurts a lot to see how the brave crack.

All of the aforementioned examples are common knowledge for anyone who lives in Cuba. They are not exaggerations; the cruelest tools aren’t even mentioned.

This Saturday, in front of the Ministry of Communications the most likely thing is that they suspend the protest, let us say the presence, of the young people who had gathered to show their dissatisfaction, let us say their opposition, with the elimination of the SNet network. Very few will go and those who try will not be allowed to get there.

Throughout this week a group of State Security officials trained in the sophisticated techniques of frightening decent people have been put in charge of dissuading leaders and threatening enthusiasts. They have resorted to everything.

Nobody should condemn these kids for cowardice, none of them has any reason to feel cowardly. The accusing finger should be pointed elsewhere.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

__________________

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

The Truths of Omara Ruiz Urquiola

Meeting of Omara Ruiz Urquiola with the ISDi authorities. (Courtesy ORU)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 9 August 2019 — Omara Ruiz Urquiola has lost weight. Since two weeks ago when it was announced that she had been fired from her job at the Higher Institute of Industrial Design (ISDi), she not only suffers from the loss of her source of income, but from the injustice she perceives in the lack of reasons and, in addition, the institution’s smear campaign against her.

“I am a free woman and everything I have done is to assert my status as a citizen,” she tells 14ymedio in the doorway of her house as one of those torrential downpours of summer evenings falls.

After making her dismissal public, the ISDi published a post on its Facebook page entitled Omara’s Lies in which it states that at no time was she “fired, expelled, terminated, made surplus, made available, or any synonym for breaking the definitive work link of any teacher.” In addition, they argue that the teacher “was present in only the first 15 minutes of a 1 hour 10 minute meeting.” continue reading

“Here is the recording of the meeting, listen to it and then we can talk. I’m going to walk away because I don’t want to hear it again,” says Ruiz Urquiola.

The audio, about fifteen minutes, records the words of Sergio Peña, rector of the Higher Institute of Industrial Design (ISDi), to fifteen teachers who are enough to conclude that, when Ruiz Urquiola leaves the meeting, the official had already given all the details: “That was the information, I’m all ears,” says Peña.

Omara Ruiz Urquiola with her students in the house with green roof tiles. (Courtesy ORU)

In the audio the rector explains that for the coming course he cannot “defend” the current staff of the ISDi and that the institution will hire based on the needs it has. “To all of you, we will give you a letter of recommendation so that, if you want, you can find a new center,” he says. In addition, he adds that the new structure was made at the end of the semester and will materialize in the month of October. Peña also clarifies that they did not want to give this bad news through a message or a call, and that is why they had called the meeting even though the teachers were enjoying their vacations.

During the meeting, the rector argued that Omara Ruiz Urquiola was among those affected because last year she had only 32 hours of classes in a semester and had not participated in design-related events, such as the Forma congress, which the ISDi organizes every two years.

Ruiz Urquiola refuted this statement and clarified that she had been involved in the congress, as the paper published in the catalog indicates, but that she could not go physically because she was sick with the Zika virus (transmitted by mosquitos).

“At the meeting, while I was dismantling Sergio Peña’s points one by one, the department head who wrote the report about me not only did not say anything, but she lowered her head. She did not even confirm the Zika, which she was very aware of because I called her and explained myself, and she even told me how bad it had been for her when she suffered that illness on one of her trips to Guyana,” she says.

Milvia Pérez, dean of the ISDi and one of the people who have hindered the teacher’s work, was also present at the meeting. “Milvia went to see my department head and demanded that she assign another teacher to my classroom to monitor what I said. My boss said no, that she would have done that if she had wanted to but that it violated academic protocol.

“They cannot reduce my fixed position status when my evaluations have all been positive, not a single point has been made against me. They have visited me in many classes and all evaluations are satisfactory. It is too forced, and that is why I believe that there has been the reaction of solidarity that has been seen, because my students say it.

“It is inconceivable that I am in that situation, it is a great, great nonsense, a rudeness to get rid of me under any pretext. The problem they have is that I haven’t given them the pretext, they don’t have it and they have to invent it,” she denounces.

For Ruiz Urquiola, her dismissal is a maneuver of State Security and has a political background, as evidenced, she believes, by her exclusion from a new professional meeting.

“Four days ago I was informed that I am banned from participating in the Bauhaus Centenary, which is organized by the Palace of the Second Cape: Center for the Interpretation of Cuba-Europe Cultural Relations, to which I was going as a panelist. This event is sponsored by the German Embassy in Cuba and the Office of the Historian of Havana, and the latter is the one who vetoed my participation,” she says.

Now, Ruiz Urquiola’s idea is to demand her rights in the ISDi, although she has already been warned of the likely futility of that, with previous examples such as those of actress Lynn Cruz and biochemist Oscar Casanella. Her only option for now is to file a wrongful termination claim with the labor appeals court: “My health comes first, also the psychic damage is already noticeable; in me it is physically reflected by the weight loss, my body is feeling it.”

Ruiz Urquiola’s goal is to get her job back and the professional privileges that go with it. She is also demanding moral compensation for damage to her image. “They’ve use social media to make and corroborate crazy, fraudulent accusations, including professors who were at the meeting and are directors of the institution. I knew they gunning for me,” she laments.

She is also demanding that those directors be investigated and removed from their positions.

“They have lied, thay have abused their power, they have no way to undermine my judgment and have used their power to bully me. The day all my demands are met, then I will return to ISDi but otherwise no, because, simply, the social and psychological damage is great and irreparable. I have not done anything to be in this situation,” she defends herself.

Urquiola graduated in Art History in 1996 and taught at the Higher Institute of Art (ISA), where she was head of the Department of Scenic Design for the Theater Arts major. In 2009 she arrived at ISDi as a contract professor and in 2011 she became part of the permanent staff of the institute, where she passed her assessment as an assistant teacher of higher education.

That same year she received the recommendation of her students and won the Golden Chalk Award for “the quality of her teaching, her professional preparation and her role in the training and improvement of younger generations.”

Those who are or have been her students, in addition to some teachers of the institution, have come out in defense of Ruiz Urquiola on social networks and have launched a request for the teacher to return to the institute which already has more than 600 signatures and dozens of support messages.

Omara Ruiz Urquiola’s ’Golden Chalk’ Award

For Glenda Álvarez, a graduate of ISDi, Omara Ruiz Urquiola is “a jewel,” and her Semiotics classes were a “relief” within “the torments of the basic cycle” of subjects.

“Omara was my Cuban Culture teacher and the truth is that I could not imagine a better teacher for the position or a more appropriate subject for her. Omara taught us to love Cuba. The passion with which she gave her classes and the ease with which hours and hours of precious information about our country came to mind, combined to keep a class of 60 tired design students, alert and listening, “says Javier González, another of her students.

Yenisel Cotilla, also an ISDi teacher, said: “Being a teacher goes beyond knowledge, it is about making a mark on students, changing their lives. ISDi students deserve a teacher like her, that is more important than anything else.”

“From the first day I was captivated with Omara, the first class left me so full of emotions that I could not help telling her (…) She never influenced us in any way with her political ideas, quite the contrary, she showed us things that we didn’t know about our own history, things that made our sense of patriotism grow, with it I discovered a story that encouraged me not to miss a class…” said another student, Flavia Cabrera.

These messages are now a source of relief the Ruiz Urquiola. “Everything the ‘kids’ have done,” drives her to continue forward.

___________________

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

Cuba’s Deputy Minister of Higher Education: Professors Must be "Activists of Revolutionary Politics"

An article by Cuba’sDeputy Minister of Higher Education was published on the page of the Ministry of Higher Education on August 14. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger
14ymedio, Havana, 16 August 2019 — A few weeks after the dismissal of Professor Omara Ruiz Urquiola, Cuba’s Deputy Minister of Higher Education (MES), Martha del Carmen Mesa Valenciano, has been given the task of defining the attitude a university professor should have. Her criterion has the merit of clarity since, according to her, teachers in higher education have to behave as activists of “revolutionary politics” of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC).

In a text published on the official page of the MES, the official refers to the case of Ruiz Urquiola without mentioning her name. Mesa Valenciano acknowledges that the professor’s complaint, which circulated in social networks, motivated her to “take a tour” of Cuban higher education and make clear the official position regarding teachers.

“You are a university professor in order teach timely, constructive, contributing and supportive criticism and to build a better society together,” says the Deputy Minister, for whom “the wrong procedures, the bad actions of cadres, officials, leaders must be fought against,” without confusing these criticisms “with disrespect or with positions contrary to ‘revolutionary principles’.” continue reading

Mesa Valenciano cites the case of another professor, again without citing his name, who, in her opinion, “initiated a strong criticism of the decisions of the” Cuban leaders, “without perceiving that, with his irresponsible behavior in the comprehensive education of his students he confused them and showed them a wrong path.”

The official borrows a phrase from Fidel Castro, where he defined the educator as “an activist of the revolutionary politics” of the Party and an advocate of ideology. Mesa Valenciano adds to the citation that whomever does not feel this way “must give up being a university professor” on the Island.

Her statements have been questioned on social networks. The journalist and university professor José Raúl Gallego strongly criticized the official’s words. “This is being said by a Deputy Minister of Higher Education in Cuba, but also published by the official website of that institution. The Cuban university undermining human rights,” he denounced on Facebook.

“While the networks are scandalized with the exclusionary, dogmatic and antidemocratic statements of Vice Minister Mesa Valenciano; the University of Camaguey shares them calmly on its Facebook profile and calls for “reflecting together for Cuba, for higher education and especially for the young people we educate,” Gallego added.

The journalist, currently residing in Mexico after being expelled from his position at the University of Camagüey, reported that just this Thursday the rector of the University of Havana, Miriam Nicado García, was invited to give a speech at an event on university autonomy in Mexico. “It is a pity that I did not find out in the morning so I might have gone there and read the article of Vice Minister Martha Mesa to her fellow rectors, to see what they think of university autonomy in Cuba,” he said.

The headquarters for higher learning in Cuba has been criticized for the expulsion of students and teachers due to political issues. In June 2017, the professor and philologist Dalila Rodríguez was expelled from the Central University of Las Villas and was relieved of her credentials due to her proximity to groups that promote religious freedom.

University student of journalism Karla Pérez González was expelled a few days later, after being accused of belonging to the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement and “having a strategy from the beginning of the course to subvert young people.”

Her case sparked a wave of indignation and speaking in her favor were ‘official-friendly’ voices such as the singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, who wrote in his blog: “How brutish we are, coño, and decades go by and we don’t learn.”

The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) added Carmen Mesa Valenciano to its list of “white collar repressors.” Other officials who are on the FHRC list are Sergio Luis Peña Martínez, rector of the ISDi; Ernesto Fernández Sánchez, Deputy Assistant Director; Milvia Pérez Pérez, Dean; and María Deborah Maura López, Department Head.

___________________

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

Cuban State Security Threatens Several SNet Users and Administrators with Prison

A new protest is planned for this Saturday by SNet users, but there are divisions in the group and some choose not to support it. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 August 2019 —  A few weeks ago he was a young man obsessed with playing video games, finding company and chatting through the night, but now he watches his back, seems nervous and has not touched a computer keyboard for days. Chen is his nick, the mask behind which he hides to talk about what some of the users of the SNet wireless network are experiencing in recent days.

“After the meeting we held in the park in front of the Ministry of Communications last Saturday, I went to my girlfriend’s house and was there for several hours,” he says. “When I left, there were two men waiting for me and they told me that they knew everything I was doing and that I should be very careful because I was being manipulating from the United States to go outside to protest.”

Chen’s astonishment did not fade. He is one of those few Cubans who has no family on the other side of the Florida Strait, but the two State Security officers who intercepted him assured him that “mercenaries paid from Miami are trying to get young people to throw themselves into the street,” telling them that the most recent chapter of frictions between SNet and the authorities “is the time to foster a confrontation and overthrow the Revolution.” continue reading

The young man is a specialist in video game heroes, he knows perfectly the story of Anti-Mage, Earth Spirit and Shadow Fiend, characters of the popular DOTA 2, but suddenly he has been caught in a saga of “revolutionaries” against “mercenaries,” according to the State Security officer who spoke more as the meeting continued. “You crossed a line, because you were summoned very close to the Plaza of the Revolution and there were minors among those who were there,” he was warned.

“If this Saturday, August 17, you reappear there, we will respond with the full weight of the law, and those who called the meeting will be responsible,” concluded the agent, who only identified himself with the brief name of Camilo.

In the conversation, some SNet administrators were accused of having sold themselves to imperialism and were told on the web “things happen that undermine morale and there are people who are lining their pockets.”

The largest wireless network that exists on the Island, with more than a decade of existence and 40,000 users, is experiencing days of internal tension. A group of node administrators has decided to abide by the new regulations that came into force on July 29 and accept the official offer to be subordinated to the Young Computer Club (JCC), a decision that will make them lose autonomy and scale.

If these conditions are accepted, SNet users will have to wait for the JCCs to evaluate videogames and other tools that they want to add to the network and they will have to go through a commission that determines whether or not they have political problems, or if they threaten morality, ethics or the figure of national political leaders, as was clear in a meeting held on Monday between several administrators of SNet, officials of the Ministry of Communications and executives of the JCC.

Some of those who called the public protest a few meters from the Ministry of Communications for August 17 have retracted and have called on social networks for people not to attend. For that reason there is great confusion about whether SNet users will come next Saturday.

Chen’s story agrees on several points with the complaint made early this Thursday by Ernesto de Armas. On his Twitter account, the young man reported that State Security stopped him at home a few hours earlier. “They threatened me, falsely accused me of things, even threatened me with jail. I am very sad that this happens just for defending SNet in my country. I don’t hurt anyone,” he wrote.

Armas has been one of the most active Internet users in favor of the permanence of the wireless network and has published numerous messages with the hashtag #YoSoySnet (I Am Snaet). After learning of his arrest, dozens of Twitter users responded with words of encouragement and showed their support. “Be calm Ernesto, that’s the way things are here, don’t worry much, nothing happens, they’re just creating a bit of terror, don’t let them do it. Raise your head and move on,” a tweeter advised.

Among the arguments put forward by State Security officials who have interrogated several members of SNet is that the call for protest has been made in a place very close to the Plaza of the Revolution, “a strategic point that the enemy wants to defile,” one of those detained who preferred anonymity told this newspaper. “They repeated that all this is manufactured by the same people who staged the LGBTI march of May 11.”

_______________________

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

Five Killed in Mayabeque by Lightening

Every year between 16 and 17 million storms occur worldwide. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 August 2019 — Five people in Cuba died on Thursday after being hit by lightening at La Puntilla beach in Santa Cruz del Norte, Mayabeque, as reported by the official press.

The deceased are two adults and three minors who have not been identified and whose ages are not yet known, although the local press said they will report the details later.

A minor was treated for the same event at the Alberto Fernández Polyclinic in the town, and transferred to the Juan Manuel Márquez Pediatric Hospital, in the capital, after being stabilized.

The authorities of the Party, the Government and the Administration of Santa Cruz del Norte went to the scene.

As the press has explained, Cuba is one of the countries most affected by lightning in the world, with a high concentration of strikes in the north of Pinar del Río, the interior of Havana, Artemisa and Mayabeque, and in the west of Matanzas, especially during the rainy period from May to October.

Each year lightning strikes an average of 65 people in Cuba, this being the first cause of death caused by weather phenomena on the Island, which between 1979 and 2013 have left 1,682 dead.

________________

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

A Cuban Man Arrives in Miami in an Airplane’s Cargo Hold

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 16, 2019 — A Cuban immigrant arrived in Miami Thursday night hidden in the baggage cargo area of a commercial airline arriving from Havana.

The man, who was dressed in a T-shirt with the logo of Ecasa Cuba, the island’s airport and aeronautical services company, has been identified by Miami’s Telemundo 51 as Yunier García Duarte, a 26-year-old Havana airport worker.

“We opened the door, went inside and heard a noise… A voice screamed: ’It’s not a dog, it’s me, it’s me.’ All he said was that he wanted water, that he was scared they would call to his family,” reported an airport employee who wanted to remain anonymous.

One of García’s aunts in Havana told the news media, “He’s my nephew. I saw that he was O.K. What I most want is for him to be able to stay in that country and have a better future. I am very worried about him.”

Telemundo 51 was also able to speak with Garcia’s father, who said he thought it was a joke when his son called from Miami to let him know.

In a video recorded by the passengers on the Swiftair flight, agents of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service can be seen detaining the migrant, who must now request asylum if he intends to stay in the country.

_________________

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

18 Hours to Santiago de Cuba on a Chinese Train

The dining car on board the new Chinese trains is still not operational. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, August 15, 2019 — Alfredo and his family welcomed the news that the train from Havana to Santiago would be adding new passenger cars purchased from China. After not visiting their family in eastern Cuba for years, they would now be able to make the journey quickly, economically and safely. They bought tickets and their children were excited to finally experience the inside of “a real train.”

One morning in August, after a delay of almost three hours, they heard an announcement from La Coubre terminal’s loudspeakers to board “the long iron snake” that was arriving huffing and puffing a few yards from the waiting area. “When I got to the platform, I noticed that there was a policeman and a train attendant in every car,” Alfredo tells 14ymedio.

Once all the passengers had taken their seats, they were “read the riot act.”  The attendant explained that the minimum fine for improper behavior was 200 pesos and that getting off at stations before the final destination was forbidden. The policeman added that passengers could only go from their seats to the bathroom and back, and were not allowed to walk between cars. continue reading

Windows on air conditioned cars must be kept closed (14ymedio)

“Officials get off at every stop to make sure that no one leaves the train, not even the smokers,” recounted one surprised passenger. By the time the train departed Havana, children were still excited by the new seats and the train whistle but some passengers were already feeling uncomfortable.

“The trip itself takes fourteen hours to Santiago but it was delayed,” complains Alfredo. His own journey lasted almost eighteen hours, during which time his family went from euphoria to discomfort, desperately wanting to get out of the car and stretch their legs.

In another car, whose seats are cheaper because there is no air conditioning, sat Maricela, a woman who had been employed by the railroad company for twenty years but had never boarded a train in all that time. “The trains now are not like they were when I was young and was a transportation engineer for the Western Railroad Company,” she recalls.

“Back then the cars were nice, very comfortable, but that didn’t come as a surprise to anyone,” notes the 67-year-old retiree. “Now everyone wants to take photos as though this were the Eiffel Tower. I don’t know what all the happiness is about. It’s just an ordinary train, with not a lot of comforts,” she adds skeptically.

One of the few novelties the new vehicles have is a cell phone app that tells passengers and family members the train’s location in real time and its estimated time of arrival. But the app does not allow travellers to reserve or purchase tickets. “In the old days you didn’t need that. Trains arrived at every station right on time,” says Maricela.

The new train does not have a separate baggage car. Passengers must store their luggage and other packages in the space above their seats. After numerous complaints, rail employees informed passengers that the company is considering imposing restrictions next month on the size of suitcases, which would be limited to roughly 62 inches.

The size seems small to passengers accustomed to traveling with bulky luggage — typically filled with food, gifts and accessories — which they carry on their backs when they go on vacation.

When the new trains first went into service, passengers were not allowed to bring food from home onboard but now they can, though employees ask that they take special care to keep things clean. “In the car where I was, there was a cold water fountain which the attendant said had more than enough of water for the entire trip,” says Alfredo.

Although TV news reports had indicated that the new trains would have a dining car, it is not operational at this time. “They don’t think it even works,” adds Alfredo, who wonders how passengers are going to eat if they are not allowed to walk between cars.

A seat in a car that is not climate controlled costs 70 Cuban pesos while one that is air conditioned costs 95. For 20 pesos more you can get a snack consisting of a medium-sized ham and cheese sandwich with a canned soft drink that the attendant hands out during the trip.

For the last three years this route has had no new rail cars; they have always been second hand. (14ymedio)

Each car seats seventy passengers and there is adequate space between seats for them to stretch their legs. But as the rail attendant points out, “The cars are very long and they put a strain on the locomotives, which aren’t new.” This combined with train tracks that are in poor condition contribute to frequent delays.

At Santa Clara the train had to change engines. Employees explained this was due to the extra weight of the cars, which the engine could not handle. This technical maneuver further delayed a trip whose departure had already been pushed back by an hour.

Before getting off at the final destination, passengers had to present their tickets with their names, surnames and identity card numbers as well as their seat numbers. “It’s so that, if something is lost or broken on the train, they have someone to look for or investigate,” Alfredo speculates.

The train finally pulled into the Santiago de Cuba station. After it had stopped, the car doors opened and a surge of humanity spilled out at full speed. Relieved and tired, passengers were eager to get away from the railcars and locomotive as quickly as possible.

________________________

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

24 Hours in the Life of a Havana Market with ’Capped’ Prices

Agricultural market of San Rafael street, in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 16 August 2019 — On Thursday it was novel but by Friday seemed customary. On the first day of the ‘capped’ prices outside Havana’s San Rafael Street agricultural market, it looked like almost any other day if it weren’t for small details barely noticeable to those who do not frequently visit one of the most important points of sale of vegetables, fruits, meat and pork in the Cuban capital.

“Hurry now, we don’t know how long it will last,” said a young man at the entrance who brought some pieces for the butcher in the trunk of his Chevrolet. A seller of sunflowers and roses asked a friend to buy three pounds of black beans “now that they are cheaper” and a young woman complained that “all the avocados are unripe.”

The price boards, some written in chalks and others printed in ink, already showed the new maximum prices that have been imposed on private, cooperative or self-employed markets throughout the capital. With a blurring here, one paper that still showed the old number below, a gesture of disbelief there, and another of relief from the other side of the stands, such was the first day of capped prices: a staging in which in at any moment the inspectors could break in. continue reading

“In the end, what has become clear is that we will pay the salary increase from our pocket,” said a butcher in the afternoon, when any the product he had to sell at less than 45 Cuban pesos (CUP) a pound had “flown”  off the stand. While flicking the flies away, and in the small space without refrigerators where the ribs and the pig’s legs are sold, the merchant displayed his disagreement with the official decision.

“All the money we no longer earn along with what the producer doesn’t get to invest in his business and fatten his animals, is what they have put in the pocket of state workers; you can’t tell us it’s not a gift from the Government. ” The man, becoming an instant economist, opined that “in two months there will be no pork fat here.”

A lady, happy that cassava does not exceed 4 CUP a pound, took the opportunity to fill her bag with a dozen of these roots, although she also criticized that the cabbage, of poor quality and small, was also selling at 4 CUP a pound. This is the new ’capped’ price and she noted that before “it didn’t cost even half that.” Such are the new measures, which force the traders to lower the prices of some products while offering a comfortable margin to raise them on others.

The variety common to the San Rafael market barely suffered. The vendors did not protest but the customers did not seem to be partying either. During the first 24 hours of capped prices, each party played its role and followed the script. When the store opened its doors this Friday, the young man with the Chevrolet had not arrived, the butcher warned shoppers to make an orderly line because he had few steaks, and the cassava stand was empty.

__________________

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

Lady in White with Serious Health Issues Receives Conditional Release From Prison

Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz Miranda. (Berta Soler)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 August 2019 — The Lady in White Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz Miranda received a conditional release from prison — known as an extrapenal license — this Saturday, several family members confirmed to 14ymedio.

Cruz Miranda was admitted to the intensive care ward of La Covadonga hospital in Havana, reported in serious condition. Although there is no final diagnosis, doctors told family members that it could be lung cancer. The activist was sentenced by the Guanabacoa Municipal Court in 2018 to serve one year and four months in jail for the crime of “threat.”

The trial in which the activist was convicted was “rigged,” said Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White. Clara de las Mercedes Iznaga, daughter of the Lady in White, accused State Security of “orchestrating” a case to condemn her mother. continue reading

The activist was held in El Guatao prison, in Artemisa and then transferred to a prison in Ciego de Ávila. Due to the worsening of her state of health, she was transferred to Havana, her home.

Cruz Miranda, a former political prisoner, had also belonged to the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu). In 2016, she was arrested after she shouted anti-government slogans in the area of the Capitol building in Havana.

Soler told Diario de Cuba that Cruz Miranda is still in the intensive care ward and listed in serious condition. “It is still in the hands of the La Covadonga doctors service and under the responsibility of the DSE [Department of State Security] and the Cuban regime what could happen to her.”

“Cruz Miranda was taken to prison in good health last year and it has been three months since her condition has deteriorated gradually and every day she has gotten worse, being imprisoned, in the hands of the DSE and paramilitary medical personnel,” she said.

Soler clarified that the extrapenal license “is a conditional release” so the activist continues at the mercy of State Security forces.

“To go anywhere and do anything, including temporarily leaving the country, she will have to ask permission from the Cuban State… We are making arrangements so that she can receive the best specialized care,” she added.

__________________

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

Cuban Baseball Player Yasiel Puig Obtains US Citizenship

Upon arrival in the United States from Cuba, Puig signed for the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers. (Instagram)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 August 2019 — Cuban baseball player Yasiel Puig announced this week that he obtained U.S. citizenship. The Cleveland Indians outfielder arrived in the United States in 2012; he performed his naturalization ceremony in Miami, according to a team spokesman.

Puig, who until last month played with the Cincinnati Reds, uploaded a photo on social media on Wednesday waving a small American flag. “Thank God for this great opportunity to be a US citizen,” he wrote.

Puig escaped from Cuba seven years ago after several attempts to leave the country. Shortly after his arrival in the United States the publication LA Magazine released the details of the player’s trip, which involved smugglers and a drug cartel. continue reading

The smugglers, under the control of Los Zetas, organized a boat to pick up Puig and three other people on a Cuban beach and took them to the Yucatan Peninsula where they remained hidden in a motel room until the traffickers received the payment demanded.

Upon arrival in the United States, Puig signed for the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Currently, the 28-year-old slugger has hit .357, with a home run and six RBIs in 11 games with Cleveland.

Last Monday, the player decided to withdraw his appeal to a three-game suspension for his participation in a brawl when he was a member of the Cincinnati team.

Puig will begin serving his suspension from Monday’s game in which the Indians, who are tied at the top of the Central Division of the American League, start a series of three games against the Boston Red Sox.

__________________________

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

Cuban Authorities Acknowledge the Existence of "Wanderers," a Taboo Subject in the Official Press

“Destitutes or wanderers, the name we use to define them is not the most relevant,” says a psychiatrist. (Radio Television Marti)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 August 2019 — An extensive report published on Thursday on the Cubadebate site addresses a topic taboo, to date, in the official press of the Island. With testimonies, figures and specialists’ opinions , the article recognizes the existence of “wanderers” or homeless people in the country, especially in the city of Havana.

For decades, articles on homeless people have been published exclusively in the independent press. Commonly, the authorities do not provide figures on the incidence of the problem and often official voices criticize the appearance on social networks of images of beggars that “distort the image of Cuba.”

However, Alejandro García, a psychiatrist and head of the Department of Mental Health of Centro Habana, confirmed to Cubadebate that he has been working with people living on the streets for more than 16 years and clarifies that “the destitute or wanderers, the name we use to define them is not the most relevant.” continue reading

“I have never been able to completely rehabilitate a person with this disorder,” adds the doctor, who says that the majority of Cuban wanderers are of working age and that “alcoholism is one of the most frequent causes for falling into this behavior.”

Around the tourist areas, in the most central streets of the cities and in the vicinity of markets it is common to find these homeless, most of the time asking for alms, with ragged and dirty clothes or with religious images accompanied by a container where passersby can place some coins.

“The majority are people who lost their homes, their families, their jobs, and end up living on the street without commitments or a sense of belonging anywhere,” Garcia explains.

For the psychiatrist, one of the great difficulties in helping these needy people is that “they refuse to institutionalize themselves, to establish a classic social life, that is, to live in a family, to accept social norms and there comes a legal, ethical and social conflict, because you can’t force a person to stay home.”

The article includes several testimonies citing the reasons that have taken these wanderers to the streets. From an HIV patient who does not have a home, to a woman who says that when her husband left she stopped liking her home and now prefers to sleep in front of the Capitol building.

During the decades of the 60s and 80s, the so-called Idler Law was in force in Cuba and penalized those who did not study or work. Citizens who were prosecuted for this crime were forced to take a job, generally in agricultural work, street cleaning and other occupations that most rejected because of the difficulty of the work and the low salary.

With the arrival of the crisis of the 90s and the appearance of an incipient private sector, the State could no longer guarantee a job for every person of working age and the legislation was repealed, one of the reasons that the report points to as a trigger for the increase in the number of homeless individuals who roam the streets.

Garcia references several initiatives — the Caballero de Paris project is one example — which have been created to focus attention on these homeless people. In 2015, an action protocol was established in the capital for admission, diagnosis, care and social reintegration, which has not achieved its objectives due to the distrust of many of the wanderers.

For his part, Ramón González, an official of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security of the Old Havana municipality, recognizes that Havana is “the Cuban province where there are the most wanderers in the country. Every day at nine in the morning a bus leaves, paid for by the labor department, to pick up those people.”

The bus circulates through the main streets of three municipalities of the city: Old Havana, Central Havana, and Plaza of the Revolution, and then heads towards the Social Protection Center known as Las Guásimas, just outside the city. But, along the way, many destitute people hide to avoid being caught.

Frequently the independent press denounces the forced collection of wanderers, clandestine vendors and people with psychiatric disorders when some official visit is passing through the area where they circulate or spend the night.

González, however, believes that “due to the ignorance generated around the program, some of the citizens who see the bus collecting people, imagine that we will imprison them. Especially since, sometimes, we have to adopt verbally aggressive behavior, but some are capable of attacking us.”

The bus collects around 30 people daily to transfer them to Las Guásimas. Some stay for a while in the center but others escape at the first opportunity to return to the streets.

________________

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

United States Tightens Requirements to Qualify for Cuban Adjustment Act

The updated guide for the adjudication of cases through the Cuban Adjustment Act ”makes modifications on the documents that the applicants must present.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio,  Havana, 15 August 2019 — The United States has tightened the requirements for the children of Cubans born abroad to qualify for the Cuban Adjustment Act. From now on, it will be essential to present a Cuban passport or a letter of citizenship, according to a memorandum published Tuesday by the United States Immigration Service (USCIS).

Until now, Cubans who had not been born on the Island had to register with the Cuban consulate to obtain nationality and regularize their status in the United States under the Law that, since 1966, has allowed them to obtain permanent residence after living in the country for one year.

Now, instead, they must obtain the aforementioned citizenship letter endorsed by the Cuban Government. continue reading

As Alejandro Hezquez Sánchez, an expert immigration lawyer, explained to El Nuevo Herald, until now, a birth certificate was considered proof of Cuban citizenship in the United States.

“The USCIS documents affirmed that the passport was the best proof of citizenship, followed by the birth certificate issued by the Ministry of Justice or failing that the consular certificate, issued by the Cuban consul. In 2017 the consular certificate was eliminated as proof of citizenship,” said the lawyer.

Since 2018, to issue a birth certificate to a foreign-born Cuba, the applicant must ask from the document from at least one of their parents and registration in Cuba’s Department of Immigration and Aliens. As of now, USCIS no longer considers this document valid to qualify for the Adjustment Act.

“Basically the children of Cubans have to continue taking the same steps: they register at the consulate, wait for a birth certificate to be issued before the Civil Registry, but then they have to take a third step which is the registration before the Department of Immigration and Aliens which issues a ’resolution’ of Cuban citizenship, or letter of citizenship. Only when that file is completed can they request  a Cuban passport,” explained the lawyer.

Another lawyer who is an immigration expert, Wilfredo Allen, told the press that “the most serious thing (…) is that it prevents applicants from appealing the decision if it is negative”

“Over 20 years I have accompanied many Venezuelan descendants of Cubans in their process to regularize [their status in the United States] through the Adjustment Act. This further complicates the procedures for this group that is in a vulnerable situation,” he said.

__________________________

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