Uruguay’s President Denounces the Imprisonment of Opponents in Cuba

OnSaturday, Uruguay’s president Lacalle Pou speaking at the VI Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), denounced that in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua “there is no full democracy.” (@PPT_CELAC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 18 September 2021 — The president of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle Pou, and the Cuban leader, Miguel Díaz-Canel, staged an exchange of accusations this Saturday at the VI Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), in Mexico. The discussion began when the Uruguayan showed his concern because on the island, and in Venezuela and Nicaragua “there is not a full democracy” and opponents are imprisoned.

Lacalle’s speech began by recognizing that two principles promoted by Celac are “self-determination and non-intervention” but he also described democracy as “the best system that individuals have to be free” and that, for that reason, “participating in this forum does not mean being complacent.”

After that introduction, his criticisms were even more direct: “When one sees that in certain countries there is no full democracy, when the separation of powers is not respected, when the repressive apparatus is used to silence protests, when opponents are imprisoned, when human rights are not respected, we in a calm but firm voice must say with concern that we look seriously at what is happening in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.”

Lacalle’s statements gave rise to a strong exchange of words between the two leaders, which was only partially broadcast on Cuban television, but which is already generating comments in support of the Uruguayan on social networks for his direct comments to the President and First Secretary of the Communist Party on the island. continue reading

Visibly annoyed, Díaz-Canel responded to Lacalle saying that with his words he was showing a lack of knowledge of the Cuban reality. “The courage of the Cuban people was demonstrated for six decades. Listen to your people who collected more than 700,000 signatures against the LUC (Law of Urgent Consideration). Monroism and the OAS is what you have just defended,” he said.

The Uruguayan asked for the floor again and addressed Díaz-Canel: “If there is something that is true in my country, luckily, it is that the opposition can gather signatures, in my country, luckily, the opposition has democratic resources to lodge complaints, that is the great difference with the Cuban regime,” he added.

Lacalle went further and added: “I just want to quote, and they are not my words, it is a very beautiful song and those who sing it feel oppressed by the Government: ’No longer shall flow the blood / Of those who dare to think differently / Who told you Cuba is yours? / Indeed, Cuba is for all my people’,” he added, quoting the song Patria y Vida.

Díaz-Canel, abruptly demanding the floor, replied in a sour tone: “I think that things should not be left unclear, it seems that President Lacalle has very bad taste in music, that song is totally a lie and a construction among some artists against the Cuban revolution.”

The clash between the leaders of Uruguay and Cuba was not the only one on a day in which Celac has shown its deep internal differences, most of them linked to the issue of respect for human rights, authoritarian regimes and repression against dissent.

Mario Abdo Benítez, president of Paraguay, asserted that his presence at the summit “in no sense or circumstance represents recognition of the Government of Mr. Nicolás Maduro.”

“There is no change in the position of my Government and I think it is gentlemanly to say it up front,” said Abdo Benítez. Immediately Maduro responded by shouting from the other side of the room: “Nor mine to yours!”

Later, when it was the turn of the Venezuelan ruler before the microphone, he went further: “And I say to the president of Paraguay: Set the date, place and time for a debate on democracy! In Paraguay, in Venezuela and Latin America! And we are ready to give it, name your place!”

For his part, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, president of Mexico, inaugurated the summit, in which more than a dozen leaders of the region participate, with the call that something similar to the European Union (EU) be built in the area.

In his welcome message López Obrador highlighted the need to “build on the American continent something similar to what was the economic community that gave rise to the current European Union.”

He also criticized the lack of support from the United States Government, as he stressed that since 1961 that country invested 10 billion dollars in 10 years (82 billion dollars at the current exchange rate) for the benefit of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.

“It has been the only important thing that has been done in terms of cooperation for development in our continent in more than half a century,” he said.

He affirmed that it is time to end “the lethargy” and propose a “new and vigorous” relationship, in addition to replacing the policy of “blockades and mistreatment with the option of respecting ourselves.”

For López Obrador, it would be a gesture of “goodwill” for the United States to make donations of vaccines against covid-19 to countries in the region that have not had the possibility of protecting their peoples against the coronavirus.

Cuban leader Miguel Diaz-Canel denounced, for the second time since his arrival in Mexico, the “opportunistic campaign of US interests against Cuba” and that the US embargo has been tightened while the island suffers “conditions due to the pandemic.”

“The interventionism of the United States is a flagrant violation of international rights,” Diaz-Canel said.

For his part, the Bolivian president, Luis Arce, criticized the Organization of American States (OAS) and called for an organization “that functions with democratic practices and that responds to reality by supporting the sovereignty of the countries and without interference.”

“The OAS is useless,” said Arce, who praised Mexico’s work in favor of Celac as an organization that defends that “financial interests cannot be above social interests.”

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

Iron Fist Against Swimmers in Cuba: Fines up to 3,000 Pesos

Among the prohibitions is sitting on the emblematic wall of the Malecón or even walking along the sidewalk closest to the sea, where there are police operations. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 September 2021 — Among the announcements of the reopening of tourism in Cuba for November 15, even with the health risks that this implies, the official press announced that from August 2 to September 10, 1,731 swimmers were fined for “violating regulations” and endangering their own life and that of other people.

This iron fist is wielded against Cuban swimmers, who were fined between 2,000 and 3,000 pesos, while at the International Hotel in Varadero, one of the 15 currently operating and with 20% occupancy, foreign tourists are allowed to enjoy the sun and seashore without limitations.

In August alone, on the social networks of the Sol Palmeras hotel complex, in Varadero, foreign visitors could be seen in images enjoying the beach without any health-related restriction.

The delegate of the Ministry of Tourism in Matanzas, Ivis Fernández Peña, told the AFP agency on September 8 that they “managed to turn” Varadero into a haven of sun and beach. Since April only “0.1% of the more than 50,000” tourists received have tested positive for covid-19, said the delegate. continue reading

The State newspaper Granma took up the information on the fines for swimmers and emphasized that it is a measure to confront “indiscipline in beach areas” with the application of Decree Law 31, which regulates the protocol at the current stage.

The offenders, it was said, were “detected” at the intersections of 1st and 70th streets in La Puntilla, and on the beach at 16th and La Concha, “a situation that increases on weekends,” with the deployment of the police in the municipalities of Playa and La Habana del Este.

It is even forbidden to sit on the emblematic wall of the Malecón or even walk along the sidewalk closest to the sea, a measure that has fueled the anger of Havanans, used to spending long hours enjoying the sea breeze, meeting friends or listening to some music in what they call “the longest bench in the world,” one several kilometers long.

For its part, Tribuna de La Habana also referred to 63 people fined in “East Havana, including the Camilo Cienfuegos district, and 51 in the municipality of Playa.” Hence, the president of the Defense Council in the capital, Luis Antonio Torres Iríbar, and the governor, Reinaldo García Zapata, demanded “greater rigor” from the authorities and called on “the public to respect health measures and standards.”

Havana, a coastal city with an ancient tradition of swimming along its coastline, has gone through the hot summer with its beaches and Malecon closed to those who want to take a dip, even if they just want to get close to the waters to cool off in the middle of the intense heatwave.

The closure of the East Beaches to swimmers, the most popular in the capital, has been a severe blow to the entire economic network of towns such as Santa María, Boca Ciega and Guanabo, in which a large part of the families survive by renting rooms, serving food or managing other entertainments for those who come looking for a quiet day in front of the sea.

Instead, Guanabo has practically become a ghost town, in which the few restaurants and cafes that continue to offer their services to the public only do so via take away and do not allow any customers to sit in their premises. The sands are constantly patrolled by uniformed men who warn those who arrive that they cannot swim.

These strict restrictions have been highly questioned, not only by those who point out the devastating economic effect it has on the private fabric of the area, but also remember that open and ventilated places are the least risky for getting COVID-19. Critics question the fact that state stores are kept open behind closed doors and with long lines, while families who want to enjoy the sea breeze are penalized.

According to information from the Ministry of Health, in the last seven days, Havana has registered 40 deaths from covid-19 and 4,028 infections. This Friday it reported 501 cases and four deaths: two in Boyeros, one in Marianao and one in San Miguel del Padrón.

The sanctions released this month are in addition to the 549 imposed between February and July of this year by the control and supervision bodies of the Havana government and the police. The highest incidence was detected in the popular councils of Guanabo and Cojímar.

In July of this year the opening of beaches was denied. On the 21st of that month, the figures for the pandemic showed 1,222 infections by covid-19, for a total of 7,745 cases. “When the epidemiological situation of the territory improves and access to these areas is approved, the news will be duly reported by the relevant official media,” the capital’s government networks announced.

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Ongoing Blackouts, the Story that Never Ends in Cuba

The National Electrical Union confirmed that power outages will continue on the island. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 September 2021 — It’s the story that never ends,” says Leonardo, one of many people affected by the island’s ongoing power outages, in response to the explanation offered by Unión Eléctrica (UNE), the state power company. On Sunday morning UNE director Lazaro Guerra claimed power had been completely restored but warned that there would still be outages.

Though power has been restored, it does not mean that the problems with electric service the country has faced in recent days have been solved, as Guerra acknowledges. This was reiterated in a social media post which states that, if current conditions continue, “expectations are that disruptions in electricity service may occur due to a deficit in generating capacity.”

The company offered its “apologies for the inconvenience,” which only further frustrated those affected. “I don’t know how long this will go on. Every day there are new outages and repairs. When will they finally restore service everywhere?” asks Linney

Karlos made forty-seven calls to the designated UNE telephone line, #18888, for reporting power outage. “When I wasn’t getting a busy signal, it rang but no one answered… Nine hours without power and continue reading

, from what I read, it’s going to be the same tomorrow. It’s infuriating to see what’s going on and that nothing is being done about it. Every day there’s a new breakdown and the saddest part is that they still charge you during the outages.”

14ymedio reported that a disruption on Saturday left several provinces in the dark until Friday night, a situation that in some cases lasted until dawn. The blackout was described in the state-run press as “an oscillation in the 220-thousand volt transmission lines.”

This unusual anomaly caused thermoelectric plants in Holguín and Santiago de Cuba, as well as engines at a fossil fuel power station in Moa, to drop off the national electric grid, causing a fall in generating capacity that led to a widespread blackout.

14ymedio received several reports indicating that by the early morning power remained out in areas of Santiago de Cuba, Holguín and several provinces in central Cuba. It was also confirmed on Sunday that the outages had spread to Guantanamo and Granma provinces.

Cubans are all too familiar with Guerra’s explanations: the failures are the result of technical problems resulting from lack of timely maintenance, which depletes the system’s reserves when demand is high.

The bad news is that maintenance to restore generating capacity is planned but, according to Guerra, it is dependent on the ability to get financing as well as the state of the nation’s electric grid.

At the moment outages are reported at CTE Otto Parallada, Units 5 and 7 at CTE Maximo Gomez, CTE Antonio Guiteras, Unit 5 at CTE Tenth of October, and Units 3 and 4 at CTE Antonio Maceo.

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

Diaz-Canel Went to Mexico for Wool and Returned Shorn

In the spacious hall full of presidents, the veneer of a democratic ruler with which the Mexican executive tried to paint Díaz-Canel did not last long. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 20 September 2021 — Everything seemed to be going according to the script drawn up in Havana. Miguel Díaz-Canel had been received with all the honors by the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and the accolade was to be completed with the relaunch of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac). But shortly before the official visit ended, something went awry.

In the large room full of leaders, the veneer of a democratic ruler with which the Mexican executive hastily tried to paint Díaz-Canel did not last long. It was enough for the Uruguayan president, Luis Lacalle Pou, to express his concern that in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua “there is no full democracy,” for the First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party to shed the character he was trying to present.

Not used to another person, microphone in hand, questioning him, the engineer – for whom no one voted at the polls – deployed his rusty rhetoric. Instead of accepting the criticism, announcing that what happened on July 11 opened a path of inescapable and urgent democratic change, or taking advantage of the moment to announce an amnesty for political prisoners, he preferred to appeal to the pitiful discourse of blaming others for the lack of freedoms on the Island.

He missed another opportunity.

It is worth remembering that the person who challenged him is not someone continue reading

far from the Cuban drama. In recent years, thousands of Cubans have gone to Uruguay fleeing the poverty and repression on the island. Many have continued to other nations, but others have stayed and settled in that southern country. Lacalle Pou knows very well the drama that these “common rafters” carry on their shoulders. He has every right to question the reasons that led them to flee.

So the Uruguayan asked to speak again and, in a brief but historic intervention, put his finger in the authoritarian wound. He quoted some verses* from the song Patria y Vida to the man who has fined and imprisoned thousands of Cubans who have hummed what has now become the soundtrack of freedom. It was the punch that ended up deflating the false “good mood” of the entire visit to Mexico.

Furious, decomposed and stammering, Díaz-Canel took the floor and responded. It would have been better to keep silent but tyrants have some well-marked weaknesses, one being that they do not know how to remain silent and they feel it’s a defeat if the opponent has the last word. They sin by wanting to crush the other with their words, when they cannot lock him up in jail.

Arrogant and annoyed, it occurred to him to accuse Lacalle Pou of bad musical taste and insisted that the song was a “construction among some artists against the Cuban Revolution,” without realizing that he was just confirming what the Uruguayan had denounced: that a clan self-designated as the sole voice of Cuba arrogates to itself the right to say what the homeland is and what is not, who can claim it and who can only be condemned to be gagged.

And so ended what could be Díaz-Canel’s last trip to an international event. Wounded in his pride, stripped naked in public like the Castro’s clumsy apprentice tyrant, those last few feet on the way to the plane must have been hell. As much as López Obrador and his chancellor tried to clean up his image, it was clear that in Latin America the Plaza of the Revolution is becoming less convincing with its discourse and is increasingly rejected for its human rights violations.

The same week that they lost old Europe, after the forceful vote condemning the repression of the July protests that took place in the European Parliament, the Cuban ruler is eating the dust of ridicule in Mexico. On the island, despite attempts to censor part of the skirmish with Lacalle Pou, the video of the latter “singing the truth to him” has quickly gone viral.

The clever old olive-green foxes of Havana have taken notice. His straw puppet falls apart, he is unpresentable, it is a danger to leave him at the mercy of international microphones and within the reach of any political figure who may question him. He no longer serves them for that.

We will have to be attentive to whether Díaz-Canel goes to New York to attend the next session of the United Nations General Assembly. The probable absence of the Cuban president will prove that his trip to Mexico was a “trial balloon” that confirmed the rejection of him in world forums.

López Obrador will also have drawn some conclusions and, although he seems willing to open his wallet and delay the long end of Castroism with his support, he must have realized that whoever hangs out with dictators ends up getting dirty. This Saturday, part of Díaz-Canel’s filth also rubbed off on the Mexican ruler.

*Translator’s note: The verse quoted (in English translation) was:

No longer shall flow the blood
Of those who dare to think differently
Who told you Cuba is yours?
Indeed, Cuba is for all my people

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

The Mexican President Comes Out of the Closet and Makes His Castroism Public

Miguel Díaz-Canel and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, during the parade for the Independence of Mexico. (Presidency of the Republic)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Joel Ortega Juárez, Mexico, 17 September 2021 — Miguel Díaz-Canel, nominal president of Cuba, appointed by Raúl Castro, Fidel’s brother, both of the dynasty in power since 1959, has been invited by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known familiarly as AMLO) to the ceremonies celebrating the beginning of the Independence of Mexico.

The Mexican president has come out of the closet and made public his support for Castrismo, a late-arriving definition of the president’s political preferences, ideologies and fanaticism. His right-wing opponents are on the verge of a fit of hysteria.

The Castro supporters of the 4T (“Fourth Transformation”, as López Obrador calls his government, which would mean the fourth fundamental change in Mexico after Independence, the Benito Juárez Reform and the Mexican Revolution) will be able to stop playing ostrich and proclaim openly his admiration for the Castro dynasty, probably convinced that AMLO’s coming out of the closet is a “turn to the left” that demands the unconditional support of “the communists” and the “revolutionaries” to confront the coup plotters of the enemies of change and of the people.

Some former communists, other “Marxists” do not care that the current government represses feminists, leaders of native communities, teachers, normal students, workers in many hospitals, the doctors themselves. They don’t care if it fires tens of thousands. It is enough that continue reading

it receives the Cuban president with all honors to give support to López Obrador for his defense of “socialist Cuba.”

Militants or left-wing parties, such as the Communist Party of Mexico, have very critical positions towards the AMLO government — on September 14 they marched down Reforma Avenue with a large banner that read “without workers’ power there is no real change.” They now contradict themselves and are moved by the visit of the dictator and organize demonstrations welcoming “President” Miguel Díáz-Canel in defense of the “achievements of the Revolution.”

To affirm that is an insult for Cubans, especially for the most oppressed. Cuba is an island where something similar to a so-called socialist social formation ceased to exist a long time ago. Some old PRI members inside and outside Morena have always been Castroites. It is a phenomenon that needs to be studied, one which allowed the Mexican authoritarian system to shield itself against the emergence of guerrillas in Mexico, and Castroism to have an exit door to the “West.”

This “Castroist pax” was not exempt from tense episodes, since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. López Obrador himself has said that he had differences with Fidel Castro when he came to the inauguration of Salinas and when he gave asylum to Carlos Ahumada. During the PRI government, at different times, Cuba suffered the expulsion of several of its diplomats accused of carrying out espionage activities.

We must not forget that Mexico, in the voice of the then Foreign Secretary Manuel Tello, argued that Cuba was “incompatible” with the Pan-American democratic system, at the same time that it abstained from voting on the expulsion of Cuba from the Organization of American States. Only abstention is what the Mexican pro-Castro members, mostly PRI members, remind us every time they can, as an example of dignity and “congruence” with the “principles of Mexico’s foreign policy of “non-intervention” and respect for the “right of self-determination of the peoples.”

The balance of 62 years of relations between Mexico and Cuba is one of great sympathy with the Castroism on the part of the the PRI, PAN and, now, Morenist governments. This idyll obeys a convincing policy of blackmail before the gringos, but with limits. Mexico never wanted to trade in oil to avoid the shipments from the USSR to the island. In a word, when it came to definitions, Mexico aligned itself with the United States. The force of the myths is very impressive.

Faced with all that gibberish, it is almost impossible to criticize the Castro dictatorship. Whoever does it is “an agent of imperialism, the CIA or a traitor.”

The PRI governments are not criticized for the massacres committed against the people, but they are respected for their policy of “non-intervention” in relation to Cuba.

Faced with all that gibberish, it is almost impossible to criticize the Castro dictatorship. Whoever does it is “an agent of imperialism, the CIA or a traitor.” The PRI governments are not criticized for the massacres committed against the people, but they are respected for their policy of “non-intervention” in relation to Cuba.

In Cuba there is an immense amount of business controlled by the high bureaucrats of the Cuban Communist Party, the Army and the State companies. Those bureaucrats are billionaires. They are a new class, as Milovan Dijlas called it in Yugoslavia long ago.

The famous Ochoa Case made clear the existence of a policy to provide foreign exchange that included drug trafficking from Colombia, created and promoted by Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro himself.

This unbearable reality has been recounted by the most prominent writers and is part of the new music of young people, also of cinematographic and theatrical creation, of all kinds of arts. It is in the word of mouth of the people, despite the terror of a police society, where neighbors denounce their neighbors or even relatives their own relatives.

Overcoming hunger and terror, two months ago, first in San Antonio de los Baños and later in many cities and towns on the island, people came out to demonstrate. The response of the State and of Díaz-Canel was brutal: they went out to beat the protesters, intimidate them with weapons, and then detain hundreds at the doors of their homes or even by invading their modest homes.

Testimonies of women, young people, children, mostly from poor neighborhoods in Havana, Camagüey, Matanzas, Santiago de Cuba, recount the abuse, torture, beatings and arrests of many people whose whereabouts were unknown for weeks.

Except for some Trotskyist groups, including one within Cuba, almost all the “left” on the continent and in Europe continue to worship the  Cuban dictators. This attitude favors the most vulgar anti-communism, which uses repression and hunger against the people as a sign of the “condition” of repression and misery that “communism” produces. Those who defend the Castro dictatorship are, paradoxically, the best propagandists of anti-communism.

Continuing the ostrich policy and refusing to see reality has very high costs for the radical struggle against capitalism throughout the world, including the island of Cuba.

While the Mexican president receives Díaz-Canel, several thousand Cubans are crowded into Mexican territory and participate in caravans to break the savage siege of the National Guard against them. Cubans continue to flee in small boats or in improvised rafts made of tires in order to find something different to be able to survive and send money to their relatives.

AMLO adores remittances, as he says it whenever he can. In that he also agrees with Díaz-Canel. They speak against imperialism, they are disappointed in denouncing the blockade, but Cuba receives millions of dollars. Without remittances, hundreds of thousands or millions of Cubans would experience famine.

That prison socialism, of hunger and a cheap brothel, is exactly the opposite of that which the peasants, workers, intellectuals, students and women fought under the leadership of the “bearded young men” Fidel, Camilo, Abel Santamaría and Che Guevara, among others. before the Castros showed themselves as autocrats. Cuba stopped being a socialist country long ago. The fight for a society free of exploiters, oppression and absolute lack of freedom has to break with the cult of dictatorships such as the Castro regime. Without breaking with that model of barbaric socialism and communism, the anti-communist groups will be strengthened.

It is very pathetic that some political forces that have suffered ineptitude, fraud, and crimes against popular opponents by the López Obrador government fall into the trap of “greeting” Díaz-Canel’s visit as a leftist and anti-imperialist sign.

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

Covid in Cuba: New Restrictions in Trinidad: ‘Soon the Numbers Will be Much More Alarming’

Image of the Trinidad hospital shared on social networks to denounce the collapse of the center. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 September 2021 — It has not been three days since the official press announced the preparation of the city of Trinidad for the return of tourism starting in November, but until that time comes, there will be little opening. This Thursday, new restrictions come into force to contain coronavirus infections, which in recent days have been skyrocketing in the town.

The previous day, the municipality had 275 positive cases — far ahead of Sancti Spíritus, with 175 — and on Thursday, 212. The province maintains an accumulated incidence of 1,849.59 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

On social networks, images and testimonies multiply of Sancti Spiritus citizens that show the overwhelmed situation in the Trinidad hospital. “Although the city received a group of doctors as reinforcements, the situation is so critical that they cannot cope,” says a post on Facebook about the city.

“The province is still experiencing an increase in cases and if we multiply those that are emerging by the probable number of contacts (10 on average for each one), soon the figures will be much more alarming,” said Deivy Pérez Martín, a member of the Committee Party central and first secretary of the organization in the province.

To try to contain the rate of infection, the measures that come into force today especially affect mobility restrictions, to avoid non-essential traffic. All administrative procedures and shopping centers are paralyzed, including bakeries, restaurants and state and private cafeterias, which will only be able to sell food until 2:00 in the afternoon.

On weekends, no establishment may open and businesses operated by continue reading

the self-employed are closed, except for those selling take-out food, which will be allowed to carry out the activity until 1:00.

Shared public transport is paralyzed, except for essential workers linked to health, commerce, education, the food industry and community services. Cars or tricycles will be able to circulate.

For their part, private vehicles will be allowed to circulate on alternate days, according to the last digit of the plate: Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the case of even numbers and cars without registration; Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for odd numbers. On Sundays, no means of transport may travel that has not been authorized.

From 2:00 pm it is forbidden to move around the city on bicycles, electric and combustion tricycles, in addition to circulating on the street in a general way.

“To stop this travel we have to adopt extreme measures in the province, the people have been asking for measures constantly,” said Pérez Martí, who believes that if the numbers of infections in Trinidad continue to rise, it is because the residents do not follow the serious restrictions.

“The [measures] that we have been applying since September last year are more or less the same as those that have been put into practice in all the provinces, but they have not always been applied effectively. There has been a lack of systematic control and discipline, and all this because there is no requirement,” he said at the meeting on Wednesday held to review the situation.

However, the people of Sacti Spiritus are not clear on how the new measures can help to reduce the pandemic. “On the contrary, everything is going to get worse,” a Trinidad resident tells 14ymedio, “because if there is nowhere to get the little food, it will be worse.” People even joke, the woman continues, wondering if the covid “understands odd and even plates.”

Among the readers of the provincial newspaper, Escambray, the division has once again been seen between those who consider it a good idea to restrict mobility and the many who consider that time limitations mean more queues or more people on the street in the same period of time.

“My dad went to his bodega (ration store) yesterday at 5:30 in the morning and returned at 12 o’clock; just for eggs he risked his health, look at how many hours,” says one reader, while another reproaches that common citizens have to go on foot for medicines but they see that “the leaders drive around in cars with their families.”

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

Fidel Castro’s Cooks: In Squalor or Opulence, Both Adore Him

Erasmo Hernandez, former cook to Fidel Castro and owner of a private restaurant, Mama Ines. (Tripadvisor)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Rosa Pascual, Madrid, September 18, 2021 — “I love the comandante as though he were my father, as though he were my brother. If he showed up here today and told me, ’Flores, I need your hand,’ I would cut off my hand and give it to him. If he told me, ’Flores, I need your heart,’ I would give him my heart …”

Fidel Castro’s cook has lost his mind. He no longer knows how to count to ten and lives in a dilapidated house in Havana that has almost no furniture. He has little to put in his mouth but tobacco. He is sure of only two things: he adores his comandante and he is afraid. Of what, we do not know.

Flores is one of the late president’s two former cooks who were tracked down by journalist Witold Szablowski for his book How to Feed a Dictator, published by Oberon. The other is Erasmo Hernandez, owner of a Havana restaurant, Vieja Mama Ines, and resident of a world a thousand light years away. This is the world of Cuba’s nouveau riche, where lobster is on the menu (and served) every night. The thread that connects Flores with Erasmo is not exactly Fidel Castro himself but the devotion they both feel for him.

It is not unlike the thread (spaghetti, if you like) that connects the world’s evildoers. Szablowski has tracked down the people who fed five of the last century’s most cruel dictators. He approaches the task like an explorer, relying mainly continue reading

on the pick-and-shovel work of persuading his subjects to talk to him. To a greater or lesser degree, almost all the cooks profess a certain enthusiasm for those whose stomachs they filled. Not surprisingly, in certain ways they took on the roles of the dictators’ mothers.

This was literally the case with Enver Hoxha, a five-foot-eleven diabetic and leader of Albania for forty-one years whom Mr. K — the only cook who did not want to give his name — had the difficult task of feeding. K lived in terror during the years he was forced to cook for a man who ordered the executions of 6,000 people. He got the job after two of his predecessors died. To keep Hoxha and his stomach happy, the modest chef had the brilliant idea of asking the dictator’s sister to teach him how to cook dishes just like their mother had. The effort had the desired effect on Hoxha’s mood. “Who knows how many people’s lives I saved that way?” K wonders.

The lives of these men all depended on keeping the supreme leader and his family in good health. Perhaps the clearest example in the book is provided by Otonde Odera, who cooked for the fearsome Idi Amin. One night Odera had prepared a rich, sweet dish that Moses Amin, the dictator’s 13-year-old, ate until he vomited. Alarmed by the boy’s intense stomach pain and terrified by the crazed father screaming that Odera had poisoned the boy, the chef ran to the hospital. Medical staff explained that it was nothing more than indigestion, which he promptly reported to his boss. “Later I would find out that he was holding the phone with one hand and pointing [a gun] at the head of one of the cooks with the other,” Odera recalls.

Sadam Hussein, who used to make his cooks pay for dishes he did not like, became obsessed with security after the Gulf War. At a time when economic sanctions limited food shipments into the country, he had multiple luxurious palaces built in which food was being constantly prepared.

The idea was that no one should know for sure where the dictator was at any given moment, so his presence was feigned at different residences. Tons of food ended up being thrown away. Why wasn’t it given away? “It was the president’s food, prepared only for him. No one else was allowed to touch it.”

His cook, Abu Ali, knew how much food the Iraqi dictator wasted but still admires him. He is grateful to Sadam for everything he was given. (He escaped the stresses of the palace when he was allowed to take a job as a cook in a luxury hotel.) Moreover, he considers Sadam to be, by far, the best member of his family: “Of the entire Al-Tikriti clan, Sadam was the only good person. I really don’t know how he could have grown up with them,” Ali says.

But let’s move on to dinner. The book is divided into five parts, each corresponding to one the five meals of the day. This chapter, one of the most important, is dedicated to Fidel Castro. The comandante was, as is well known, crazy about dairy products, particularly yogurt, cheese and ice cream. Of the latter, he could eat anywhere from a relatively sensible six scoops to as many as twenty, according to hyperbolic accounts by the senile Flores.

What did Castro eat? His favored vegetable dishes. (He was crazy about Erasmus’ vegetable soup, telephoning the chef even in his retirement years to order it.) Though he did not much like meat, he would eat it under certain conditions. Lamb with honey or coconut milk and roast suckling pig marinated in mojo criollo were his favorites. He did not mind fish either: a ceviche, some eels and fish in mango sauce. There was lobster, of course. “Fidel eats a W-H-O-L-E lobster by himself. Everything else is for sharing. He’s like that. He always shares everything,” says Flores.

Both cooks report that Castro was not very demanding when it came to food. He was satisfied with simple dishes and cooked his own spaghetti, which he learned to make in prison and which he would not allow anyone else to prepare for him. This is because — and it will come as a surprise to no one — Fidel was a know-it-all. So much so that the ever-faithful Erasmus acknowledges it was “the only defect” he had.

“Once he went to visit a former teacher. He went straight into the kitchen and instructed the cook on how to fry plantains,” recounts Erasmo. “As president he often ate at the Havana Libre, the best hotel in Havana. He told the cooks how to prepare red snapper, lobster, duck confit…”

Castro does not fare badly compared to others in the book. Szablowski looks beyond the personal stories of these individual cooks. All are extremely complex characters, whom he portrays in full chiaroscuro. They saw and experienced the horrors up close and kept their mouths shut. For the sake of their own lives. And their own pockets. In the course of his research, the author, (he himself briefly worked as a cook as a young man) found his subjects’ fates reflected in those of the common people and the reprisals they suffered.

The stories are truly horrifying, although in the Cuban version the subjects were not confronted with the execution of a family member but rather with the pain of exile. Julia Jimenez, a Florida-based physician, left the island as a teenager. Her aunt now runs a private guest house in Matanzas which Szablowski visited to experience the local cuisine. There, the Polish author feeds on authentic dishes prepared by Juanita. “My aunt is from the Nitza [Villapol]* school,” Jimenez explains.

Here the thread leads to the Special Period and the hunger that drove her family from the island. “I lost twelve kilos, seven of those in the first year after the fall of the Soviet Union,” says Jimenez. “It was then that my father decided he couldn’t wait for Fidel to come up with a solution.”

But Erasmo sees the past differently. “Fidel can be criticized for a lot of things but he was very upfront about the things he did,” he says. “People often ask, ’Didn’t he expropriate land?’ He expropriated his family’s land too. ’Didn’t he force people to leave the country?’ He didn’t force them. He said if anyone wanted to leave, they could because he was building a country where you couldn’t dine on lobster every day. What are you saying, Witold? That I serve lobster in my restaurant every night. Look, you’d better not say that. Come, let’s go to the kitchen and make something else.”

The book ends with dessert, which is none other than Pol Pot, the only brutal dictator in the book who employed a cook so loyal to the party that she held diplomatic posts. Yung Moeun’s anecdotes about the genocidal Cambodian ruler are sprinkled throughout the book like appetizers until her experiences become the focus of the last chapter. Her final statement is chilling: “You ask if I loved him. After listening to everything I’ve told you, I will answer you this way: How could you not love him?”

*Translator’s note: a Cuban cookbook author and TV personality often referred to as the Cuban Julia Child. Villapol hosted a cooking show on Cuban television from 1948 to 1997 in which she showed viewers how to prepare traditional Cuban dishes using the limited supplies available on the island.

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Boston Cardinal Quarantines for Barely Six Hours After Visiting Cuba

After a trip to Haiti and the Dominican Republie, Cardinal O’Malley of Boston celebrated mass in Santiago after an only six-hour quarantine.  (EFE / Estudio Revolución / CubaDebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 September 2021 — On September 9, Boston Cardinal-Archbishop Sean Patrick O’Malley asked President Miguel Diaz-Canel to pardon demonstrators who participated in the July 11 protests in Cuba. The request was specifically for those who had protested peacefully. Authorities responded by defending their position, claiming once again that those who were arrested are being detained because their actions were violent.

O’Malley chronicled his tour through the island in his blog along with references to the anniversary of the September 11 attacks and stops he made during his brief Caribbean tour to the Dominican Republic and Haiti. In the post, he reveals that he quarantined for only six hours before celebrating mass at the Shrine of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre. People arriving from abroad are required to undergo PCR tests and follow isolation protocols for several days. The cardinal makes it clear, however, that the rule does not apply to high-ranking visitors.

“I also spoke with [President Díaz-Canel] about the demonstrations that took place this summer and asked for a pardon for those who took part in the demonstrations in a non-violent way,” the cardinal briefly notes. In the next line he goes on to mention the Cuban president’s concerns over a drop-off in remittances.

“The government of Cuba is, of course, very concerned that the remittances Cuban-Americans were sending to their relatives are now much more difficult to receive and continue reading

that the travel possibilities to Cuba have also been greatly restricted. It was a very cordial meeting, and I gave the president a copy of the Holy Father’s latest encyclical, ‘Fratelli tutti’.”

Earlier, O’Malley had participated in a meeting between Catholic Cuban doctors and health care professionals from the New York medical organization SOMOS, who had traveled with O’Malley to Cuba. The same delegation later accompanied him to a meeting of a more political nature, in this case with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, who recounted the deeds of Cuban health workers around the world.

The cardinal must have been remarkably impressed by the foreign minister’s words. Not only does he make no mention of the abusive conditions under which international brigade doctors must work, but he also criticizes those who question them.

“One of the things the Cubans have done since the revolution is to train large numbers of doctors and send them all over the world. For example, the Foreign Minister told me they have about 250 doctors working in Haiti alone. Of course, the program has come under attack by many, but certainly, the whole area of medical care and public health is a very important part of the ethos of the Cuban Revolution,” he writes.

One of the stops on the tour organized by the government for the cardinal was the Finlay Vaccination Institute. “They are working in conjunction with MIT and several hospitals in the United States and have been able to develop several vaccines that they are distributing to other countries, as well as to the Cuban people. It was impressive to see what the Cubans have done,” he adds.

The cardinal also made several visits of a religious nature, among them a mass on the Feast of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre at the shrine in Santiago, and a celebration at the tomb of Jaime Ortega, who died in 2019 and who is buried in Havana’s cathedral.

Commenting on the post, Dagoberto Valdés views the visit positively, though he understands the reluctance on the part of the public, who view the archbishop as an emissary sent by Pope Francis to encourage dialogue with the Biden administration, as happened prior to the normalization of diplomatic relations in 2014.

Valdés believes the cardinal’s reference to the July 11 demonstrations as well as the request to allow humanitarian aid to enter Cuba from the United States through Caritas were a good gestures.

Valdés, the founder of the Center for Coexistence Studies views the mention of the collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as a meaningful development. It is an arrangement that, hitherto, had not been widely known. If true, it would demonstrate — he maintains — that such collaborations do not pose a threat national sovereignty.

“It’s likely that the most important thing about the visit of Pope Francis’ advisor to Cuba is not what was reported but the beginning of a mediation to resolve the conflicts between the governments of Cuba and the United States as well as between the civil society and Cuban leaders. Let’s move beyond from the event to the process. From a past we do not want to repeat to a different present and a future that is truly new,” he says.

Valdés is in favor of real dialogue, not a sham, and if it materializes he demands that it be “for freedom, to move peacefully towards democracy. A dialogue for Patria y Vida (Homeland and Life).”

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

The Smell of Metal on Metal, Life Has the Aroma of Pig Iron

The railroad in Cuba ended up collapsing, the locomotive of our lives remained still. (Archive / TV)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 18 September 2021 – I was stopping the train. This is not a metaphor. I would arrive at the platform with my mother and sister in the middle of the morning. The station and switchboard workers told us there were no longer scheduled departures. This was true for others, but we were not ordinary mortals: my father drove the locomotive, guided the iron serpent that would end up slavishly braking before our feet.

I was the daughter of a hero. He did not carry a shotgun, but rather drove the metal monster that populated every child’s fantasy. The difference is that I had him at home, I didn’t need to fantasize. They dreamed of an engineer, I lived with one every day: his long and agonizing days without getting home, the celebration of his return, and the fear that a bad crossing would end his life.

There is nobody on a platform at four in the morning. Just you and the belief that someone is going to pick you up. But we had no doubts. Whatever happens, no matter what they say… shortly, a snorting monster will pull up. Who made us believe that? My father: he assured us he would be there, despite the near misses, the unexpected and the derailments. He gave us confidence.

And there we were without hesitation. My mother, my sister and I, holding hands in that mixture of continue reading

humidity and the sound of cicadas that are the train stations in the middle of “Cuban nothing.” Knowing that fate had given us our own titan of iron and steel, with a whistle at hand.

First it was just the belief, then a light wind came that tousled the hair behind our ears as the scent flooded us. It smelled of pig iron. This is what “perfume” is called when it comes from the friction of metal against metal when a convoy full of wagons stops on the line… it smells like pig iron, a word widely used in the rail industry, although to most people it sounds rare and novel.

My maternal grandmother knew this well because she had to incessantly wash the uniforms of her husband, also a railway employee.

Ana knew very well the “stink” that is left when, from the cabin, someone “puts the brake” on a locomotive that is dragging dozens of wagons screeching along the rails. It also creates some very peculiar crusts; they are black and when you remove them from your face with your fingers they feel very hard. They are the waste, on the human body, of the railroad.

It was the time when clothes were starched, which Ana did so well. She was the best. I ironed the edges of my grandfather and father’s shirts. They had an emblem in their pocket, on the gray cloth, that captivated us; it was a white rectangle embroidered in black of a locomotive giving off smoke. I always wanted (and managed it several times) to drive a train.

My paternal grandfather had a “doll’s hand.” One day, faced with the imminent crash, he threw himself from the locomotive but his ring got caught on a metal ledge. Then, like a magician, he would show us his four-fingered hand and we naive girls would laugh. They were the war wounds of our people. The killings of a railway clan.

But not everything was jokes or anecdotes. One day they started calling home to give condolences. Supposedly I had died in a train accident. It was my first and last name, but it was not me, but a younger, homonymous cousin who had been trapped by the crash in his early teens, accompanying his father, also an engineer. The scars accumulated on us.

In the mid-nineties, my father came home with a grimace on his face and a jacket that smelled of blood. His locomotive, failing to stop, had run over a herd of goats. We daughters jump on the feast; we were very hungry and he knew it. He was a provider; in those pieces of flesh and bone he gave us his “last hunt.” Then the railroad in Cuba ended up collapsing, the locomotive of our lives remained still.

However, the aroma lingers. My family smells like pig iron. My father died a little over a week ago and I returned to the symbolic platform of waiting. First the wind came and shook my short hair. The railwayman’s daughter knows only one perfume. It is the balm of existence, the same one I felt when I stood on the line in the middle of the morning and unknown voices assured me that the train was not going to stop, but I knew it would: I smelled what was coming.

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Time Magazine Names Cuba’s Otero Alcantara as One of 2021’s Most Influential People

The recognition comes to the artist at a time when the Cuban government is keeping him in jail as a result of the protests on July 11.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 September 2021 — The American magazine Time has names the Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara as one of 2021’s 100 most influential people of 2021, in the feature’s opening section labeled “Icons.”

The most visible face of the San Isidro Movement (MSI), who is now once again imprisoned since the protests of July 11, appears with, among others, the Korean-American poet, writer and teacher Cathy Park Hong, the Russian dissident Alexei Navalny and the prominent Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotudeh.

The magazine highlights his fight for freedom of expression and his uncompromising stance against power and recognizes that Otero Alcántara “is a symbol of and a leader” for the MSI, which it defines as “an influential group of artists and intellectuals” who demand greater freedoms in Cuba.

The recognition comes at a time when the Cuban government is keeping the artist in jail, accused of the crimes of “public disorder,” “instigation to commit a crime,” and “contempt” for events that occurred last April when a collective birthday was celebrated that ended with the residents of the neighborhood in the street chanting the musical theme Patria y Vida.

A victim of harassment and persecution by the political police since continue reading

2018, Otero Alcántara has suffered dozens of arbitrary arrests without bowing down in his fight for freedom of expression in Cuba.
The repression against the artist intensified in November 2020, when several activists began a hunger strike to demand the release of rapper Denis Solís, until the police broke into the headquarters of the San Isidro Movement in Havana Vieja on the night of November 26 and arrested the 14 activists who were inside the building.

This action led to a group of artists and intellectuals arriving on November 27  at the entrance of the Ministry of Culture to demand a response from the authorities of the sector, an unprecedented protest in this group mainly caused by the outrage generated by the repression against the strikers in the arts union.

But the harassment did not end there, at the end of last April Otero Alcántara once again declared a hunger and thirst strike to demand that his rights be respected, after living through more than a month of police siege to his home to prevent him from going out on the streets.

On that occasion, State Security entered his home at dawn and transferred him to the Calixto García Hospital, where he was constantly under the control of the political police without explanation, until he was released a month later.

Other names of Cubans that have appeared on the cover of Time are former president Raúl Castro, in 2015, and in 2008 journalist Yoani Sánchez, who is now the director of the digital daily 14ymedio.

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

The Most Violent Line in Cuba is the One for Cigarettes

A line this Wednesday to buy cigarettes in front of the El Exquisito de Fornos market, at Neptuno and Marqués González, in Centro Habana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 15 September 2021 — Insults and many, many shouts among the tumult, this was the scene on Tuesday morning in front of the El Exquisito de Fornos market, in Neptuno and Marqués González, in Centro Habana. The reason? The sale of unrationed cigarettes, a product that has been in short supply for months and keeps smokers and resellers confronting the drop in sales in state markets.

“They put the chicken out for sale very early and the line was very calm, but when the cigarettes arrived, there was this aggressiveness, something that is very common here in the neighborhood because of cigarettes,” a resident from the capital neighborhood, who was trying to buy meat, told 14ymedio this Wednesday.

In El Exquisito de Fornos each person was allowed to buy only one package, which contains ten packs. They sold two varieties of H.Upmann: without a filter, at 245 pesos, and the Selecto, at 280, in addition to Popular Fuerte, at 210.

“Most of those you see there are not smokers. They buy and then resell,” explains another resident who lives in Neptuno, a few blocks from the market. “For example, the Popular cigarette package is resold on the street for continue reading

800 and 1,000 pesos and a single pack of H.Upmann costs up to more than 100,” he details.

Since the end of last year, the cigarettes that were sold freely, from the Popular, Aromas, Titanes and Criollo brands have disappeared from the network of state stores and cafes. The first to disappear were those that were sold in national currency, but the shortage also reached the supply that was for sale in foreign currency.

The government of the capital announced at the beginning of last July the sale of cigarettes in a regulated manner, in the rationed market, and specified that this point had been reached “due to problems with the availability of the raw material.” The measure was extended to the whole country a few days later and the head of the Ministry of Internal Trade, Betsy Díaz Velázquez, explained that, although it is not a product that is part of the regulated family basket, its sale will be controlled, due to the “deficit of a monthly demand amounting to 37 million packs” to “avoid hoarding.”

Other officials from the ministry itself insisted that the “intermittences in production” are due to difficulties “with the arrival of raw materials in Cuba.” They explained that for this reason the volumes of this product available for sale do not ensure 100% of the country’s demand.

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

Cuban Artist Tania Bruguera Will Participate at the Freedom Forum in Miami

The Cuban activists and ’artivista’, Tania Bruguera. (Twitter)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Miami, 16 September 2021 — Cuban artist and activist Tania Bruguera will speak at the next Oslo Freedom Forum, which will be held in October in Miami with the Venezuelan opponent Leopoldo López and the Nicaraguan journalist and human rights activist Berta Valle, among other participants.

The organizing entity, Human Right Foundation (HRF), announced this Wednesday that Bruguera, one of the leaders of the 27N movement, made up of young artists who on November 27, 2020 gathered in front of the Cuban Ministry of Culture to ask for freedom of expression, joined the list of speakers.

Bruguera, a multidisciplinary artist who has shone through her performances and participated in events at the Tate Modern in London and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, was in Cuba when peaceful protests broke out on July 11.

The activist could not participate because, like many other artists, the Police did not allow her to leave her home on those days, but in August she signed a petition from more than 150 intellectuals to the Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, in favor of a change of political course and the end of the repression of “a people disgusted by the lack of freedoms.” continue reading

The Oslo Freedom Forum, which was not held last year due to the covid-19 pandemic, will take place in Miami on October 4-5.

In addition to Bruguera Leopoldo López will also take part. López was first a prisoner and then a refugee in the Spanish embassy in Caracas before fleeing to the European country. Also taking part will be Nerta Valle, activist, wife of Nicaraguan opposition politician Félix Maradiaga and on exile in the United States since 2019.

According to the Human Right Foundation, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalni, who is in prison in his country after surviving a serious poisoning, will participate with a speech read by a representative.

The forum’s theme this year is “Truth Ignited.”

“This year we are amplifying the voices of those who tell the truth to power and awaken movements that seek justice and challenge authoritarian regimes,” said HRF when announcing this meeting in Miami.

Other confirmed participants are former Belarusian presidential candidate and opposition leader Svetlana Tijanóvskaya, Uighur Chinese minority activist Akida Pulat, Iraqi political cartoonist Ahmed Albasheer and Amnesty International Secretary General Agnès Callamard.

Also Burmese activist Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, psychiatrist and co-founder of refugee aid organization Humanity Crew Essam Daod, Eritrean activist Filmon Debru, Hong Kong activist Glacier Kwong, and Steve Jurvetson, co-founder of the venture capital fund Future Ventures.

The list is completed by Obianuju Catherine Udeh, aka DJ Switch, a Nigerian activist who is a DJ and musician, and Arthur Holland Michel, a Peruvian-born writer and researcher specializing in the military applications of artificial intelligence.

According to HRF, a human rights organization headquartered in Montreal, Canada, the forum’s program in Miami will include colloquia and lectures by activists, academic experts and politicians from around the world, as well as art installations and live musical performances.

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

In His Quest to Save the Cuban Regime, Lopez Obrador Gives a Boost to Diaz-Canel

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, during his speech at the military parade for Independence, in the Zócalo of Mexico City. (Presidency of the Republic)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mexico, 16 September 2021 — With a speech during the military parade that commemorates the Independence of Mexico every year and a place on the stage, it was clear this Thursday the leading role that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador reserved for his Cuban counterpart, Miguel Díaz-Canel.

Despite the words of the Mexican president a few days ago, the Cuban was not just another guest: it is the first time that a foreigner participated in this event from such a privileged place, delivering a speech on the presidential platform before the main figures of the Government.

The importance of the visit was not only noted by López Obrador, since from the moment the delegation left from the airport in Havana it was clear that it was not a routine trip. At the foot of the ladder, Raúl Castro himself, Vice President Salvador Valdés Mesa, along with the ministers of the Armed Forces and the Interior, among other figures from the Cuban leadership, said goodby to him in the morning.

In his speech, Díaz-Canel appealed to the usual victimizing rhetoric. “We suffered the attacks of a multidimensional war with an opportunistically intensified criminal blockade with more than 240 measures in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic, which has such dramatic costs for everything,” complained the hand-picked president, while denouncing that his government is the victim of “an aggressive campaign of hatred, misinformation, manipulation and lies mounted on the most diverse and influential digital platforms that ignore all ethical limits.” continue reading

With cries of “freedom,” “freedom for political prisoners in Cuba” and “long live free Cuba,” some twenty Cubans showed their outrage at the presence of Miguel Díaz-Canel in Mexico. (14ymedio)

López Obrador’s message did not lag behind in pointing out to his northern neighbor the ills that afflict the Island. “In all frankness, it seems bad that the United States Government uses the blockade to impede the well-being of the people of Cuba with the purpose that they, forced by necessity, have to confront their own government,” he said, and asked: “I hope President Biden, who has a lot of political sensitivity, acts with that greatness and puts an end, once and for all, to the policy of grievances towards Cuba.”

The Mexican president, also in an unprecedented gesture, spoke to the Island’s exile community, mostly in Florida. “In the search for reconciliation, the Cuban-American community must also help, putting aside electoral or partisan interests,” he declared. “We must leave resentments behind, understand the new circumstances and seek reconciliation. It is time for brotherhood and not for confrontation. As José Martí pointed out, the shock can be avoided, with the exquisite political tact that comes from the majesty of disinterest and of the sovereignty of love.” And he exclaimed, twinning both countries in the same phrase: “Long live the independence of Mexico, long live the independence of Cuba.”

“We may or may not agree with the Cuban Revolution and with its government, but having resisted 62 years without submission is an indisputable historical feat,” said López Obrador in a message that several analysts have already classified as directed to Washington and seeking another diplomatic thaw.

To this, the Cuban historian living in Mexico Rafael Rojas replied: “That maxim, unfortunately, has not been fulfilled nor has it been fulfilled in Cuba for sixty years,” he said in a tweet. “Whoever disagrees is excluded in multiple ways, from prison to exile.”

In the Cuban delegation notably was the presence of Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Calleja, Raul Castro’s former son-in-law and CEO of the military conglomerate Gaesa, which is on the list of companies sanctioned by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the United States, and who was presented at the event as “principal advisor to the President of the Republic of Cuba.”

Meanwhile, a few yards from the Zócalo, where the ceremony was taking place, a score of Cubans gathered at the central corner of 5 de Mayo and Palma to protest the presence of Díaz-Canel.

With cries of “freedom,” “freedom for political prisoners in Cuba,” “down with Díaz-Canel” and “long live free Cuba,” they showed their outrage at López Obrador’s invitation to his Cuban counterpart to participate in the celebrations on the Mexican independence.

That same group, mostly young Cubans, said that this Friday they will again demonstrate in front of the Cuban Embassy.

Anamely Ramos, a Cuban curator and member of the San Isidro Movement, megaphone in hand, shared with those present her reasons for being outraged by this visit and gave an overview of the current situation that the Island is experiencing in the midst of the crisis and the shortage of supplies in the markets to buy food and other basic goods.

He also spoke of the repression that the Government unleashed, following the order of Díaz-Canel, against the July 11 protests on the island. “The testimonies of the people who have managed to get out of jail are terrible,” she told those present. “Cuba is not that tropical paradise where people live happily and there is social justice. Cuba is a dictatorship, a totalitarian regime that does not allow any type of individual freedom that does not allow citizen political participation.”

The young woman said “it is inadmissible” that the president of Mexico has invited Miguel Díaz-Canel to the independence celebration, whom she defined as “a dictator.” As this newspaper was able to verify, among the protesters there was a Cuban who provoked the participants by repeating slogans in favor of the Government of the Island and recording with his cell phone.

On the ground, on some posters, the protesters wrote one by one the names of the detainees of July 11th, and the songs from the last few months that have supported a change on the island, such as Patria y Vida, by Yotuel Romero, sounded from the speakers. Gente de Zona, Descemer Bueno, Osorbo and El Funky, and Que se vayan, the most recent song by Willy Chirino .

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

Tele-Classes Begin in Cuba, Though Students’ Homes Have Neither Pencils nor Notebooks

The school year in Cuba will begin on September 6 with tele classes. (Bohemia Magazine)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana | September 02, 2021 — Four days before the school year begins, there is no trace of notebooks or pencils for the students, but there is a lot of uncertainty. This Wednesday’s Roundtable program on State TV, dedicated to the restart of classes, which will be in tele-class mode, did not clear all doubts either.

“I thought that yesterday at the Roundtable they would have already broadcast the television schedule with the subject’s programming, but I have not seen it published yet,” Ana Miriam Rosado tells this newspaper. As a nurse, she is always working during tele-class hours, and her mother is in charge of ensuring that her 11-year-old daughter does not miss the lessons.

She explains that her daughter has already been promoted to sixth grade, but in reality “she has not been able to finish because the school year was interrupted” by the advance of the pandemic, which forced the suspension of face-to-face classes in January 2020. “Today I called the teacher to find out what content they were going to give and he told me that the tele-classes will be a consolidation of the same material that was taught the previous course,” she says.

“Here we have the books they gave us when she finished fifth grade, and they graded her and everything, but we don’t have notebooks, pencils, continue reading

or ballpoint pens,” laments Rosado, referring to the school supplies, which up to now, the school has always provided. “I will have to invent, because you cannot even buy the stuff in the stores to complete what little they give you for school, as was done every year. The only thing that is currently available for sale in the state stores are food and cleaning products.”

“Here we have the books they gave us when she finished fifth grade, and they graded her and everything, but we don’t have notebooks, pencils, or ballpoint pens”

Another issue that worries parents and one which has generated many doubts is how the vaccination process will be carried out. Many relatives wonder without finding an answer: Will children be forced to get vaccinated? What options are there for parents who do not want to get them vaccinated?

These are questions that the Roundtable did not answer, where the Minister of Education, Ena Elsa Fernández Cobiella, reported that, at the beginning of this month, the vaccination will begin for students who are in 12th grade, third year of Technical and Professional Education and third and fourth of Pedagogical Training. For this group, the official assured, the courses will be face-to-face starting October 4th.

In the case of students who are between 12 and 18 years old, she said that vaccination is scheduled to begin “on September 5th,” and she specified that sixth grade students are included in this group. She added that the idea is to resume the course in the face-to-face mode for them as of November 8th. “Vaccinations for children in Primary Education will begin on September 15th, therefore, they will resume the course in person starting November 15th,” she said.

Despite the inconveniences of the resumption of classes, many of the mothers have not stood idly by. This is the case for Linda Reloba, who has already agreed to go this weekend to the La Cuevita Fair with a friend: “You will always find everything there, so I hope to solve some of the problems with notebooks and pencils, because if not, I don’t know where or what my children are going to write with.”

She is upset because “at school they have not given the materials as they always do” and the only thing she has to start the tele-classes with are books that she was given at the end of the previous year.

Nor was it mentioned on the Roundtable, Reloba complains, “if they are going to sell new uniforms before the start of classes or if they are going to take other measures, such as allowing them to wear street clothes.”

It is a concern shared by many other families, who have to deal with the fact that their children have grown or gained weight and the uniform of a year and a half ago will not work for them.

The other option is to compare these materials on the black market, but “a 200-page lined notebook does not cost less than 75 pesos and neither do the graph ones that are used for mathematics.”

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

Two Ways Out for a Decaying Cuba: Reinvention or Collapse

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in San Antonio de los Baños, where the July 11 protests began. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Sebastian Arcos Cazabon, Havana, September 11, 2021 — The brutal repression following the popular protests of July 11 seems to have stabilized the political situation in Cuba. However, the regime must understand that, despite its long history of repression, the current calm is fragile. There are several reasons for this. First and foremost, the protests broke a very important psychological barrier: the conviction — meticulously cultivated by Fidel Castro for decades — that publicly demonstrating against the regime was impossible and pointless. When that dam broke in Eastern Europe, it signaled the beginning of the end for Marxist totalitarianism there.

The second reason is that the causes underlying the protests will not go away anytime soon. The regime has lost almost all political legitimacy and, when it comes to economics, is intrinsically incompetent The Cuban people no longer believe in the official dogma and know that their situation will not improve under the Cuban Communist Party. To make matters worse, the Covid-19 health crisis has reinforced the image that the regime is inept and intolerant. The popular rebellion has now spread even to the public health sector. The third reason is that, despite their declarations of solidarity, neither Russia nor China is willing to support a destitute and parasitic regime.

It is clear that Raul Castro’s policy of continuity is unsustainable. The regime is at a crossroads, its ruling class paralyzed, clinging to repression and reluctant to adopt serious reforms. The opposition has been radicalized because, rather than extinguishing it, the wave of repression has only added fuel to the fire. This is a bad omen for Cuba’s communist oligarchs.

In his essay “Totalitarian and Post-Totalitarian Regimes in Transition and Non-Transition from Communism” (2002), Mark R. Thompson describes the evolutionary process most of these regimes follow. According to his thesis, Cuba should now be moving from “frozen post-totalitarianism” to a “decomposing post-totalitarianism.” The final phase is characterized by intransigent and paralyzed leadership, ideological decadence, lack of continue reading

political and economic legitimacy, widespread popular cynicism and increasingly counterproductive repression. Sound familiar? The theory holds that, once a regime begins decaying, it either reinvents itself or collapses.

With the Cuban regime at a crossroads, academic literature points to several possible options it has for reinvention. This is not a matter of making predictions but rather about applying lessons from the past to current circumstances. In addition to Thompson’s essay, there is another important analytical reference: Samuel P. Huntington’s classic The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late 20h Century, published in 1991.

 The Chinese Model

Known in academic literature as “post-totalitarian hybrid” or “market Leninism,” this alternative requires a pragmatic leadership that accepts the need for improving people’s quality of life in order to insure the continued political dominance of the communist party. This is achieved by replacing the centralized economic model for one which favors the free market and private property. This would be the worst option for the democratic opposition because, as in China and Vietnam, it would guarantee the communist party’s hold on power. If there are supporters of this approach within the party, they have been silenced by Raul Castro’s hardline faction. In addition to political pragmatism, this alternative requires speed and determination, three ingredients which the country’s oligarchs do not currently seem to have in abundance. I believe the probability of this option being chosen is low.

 Controlled Transition to Democracy (and the Rule of Law)

Defined by Samuel Huntington as “transformation,” this option consists of a deliberate transition to free elections and full democracy initiated and controlled, from start to finish, by the regime. According to Huntington, half of the thirty-five transitions that occurred between 1975 and 1991, such as those in Spain and Chile, were these types of transformations.

This approach has benefits for everyone. On the one hand, it avoids violence by funneling all internal and external interests and actors in the same direction. On the other hand, the ruling class does not have to pick up the tab and ends up in a more advantageous economic and political position than the opposition. This option requires a powerful reformist faction within the regime that would prevail over the hardline faction, something that does not seem realistic in today’s Cuba. Unless the balance of power changes radically, I believe this is unlikely to occur.

Tolerated Authoritarianism (Putinism)

Academic literature also points to the possibility that one system can be set aside, either deliberately or unexpectedly, in favor of a different system. For example, the transformation initiated by Gorbachev in the USSR was interrupted by a military coup that tried to reverse it.* The coup’s failure quickly led to a democratic replacement (a “transplant,” according to Huntington).

The Cuban regime could begin a limited transformation in hopes of convincing a pragmatic U.S. administration to accept an authoritarian regime in exchange for political stability on the island. If the United States blesses this transformation with diplomatic and economic normalization, the regime could freeze the process and remain in power as an authoritarian Putin-style kleptocracy.

This option is viable because it plays on the fear, shared in certain American military and intelligence circles, that a collapse of the regime would turn Cuba into a failed state, preyed upon by drug traffickers and terrorists. According to this hypothesis, which has the hallmarks of having been planted by Cuban intelligence, it would better suit U.S. interests to reach an understanding with the regime than to contribute to its collapse.

This option is very attractive to Cuba’s oligarchs because it can be implemented relatively quickly and without the significant economic or political changes required by the first two. On the other hand, the disadvantage is that authoritarianism is more vulnerable to political winds than totalitarianism. A robust democratic opposition could force a transplant, thwarting the oligarch’s plans and turning the limited transformation into a full-blown transition. Although this scenario presents the regime with more uncontrollable variables — it depends, for example, on who happens to governing the United States at the time or how effective activist Cuban exiles turn out to be — I believe it is a more likely outcome than the first two.

Continuity or Collapse 

The worst outcome for everyone would be if the regime decided to continue following its current course of repression and limited reform. As previously discussed, this option would resolve none of the chronic problems that led to the July 11 protests. Sooner or later, the people will return to the streets and the regime will be forced to either ramp up its repression to intolerable levels or give up power. A vicious cycle of growing opposition followed by more repression followed by more opposition is unsustainable and could end in civil war, as happened in Romania in 1989.** Even if the pro-Castro elites were inclined to unleash rivers of blood, the tragic end of Nicolai and Elena Ceausescu should give them pause.

Finally, those hoping for U.S. military intervention should consider the example of Afghanistan. Setting aside the damage foreign intervention would cause to Cuban nationalism, events in Afghanistan demonstrate how little appetite the United States currently has for foreign military adventures. On top of that, the obvious incompetence of the Biden administration in handling a matter of utmost importance to U.S. national security should be enough to rule out the idea of an interventionist option for Cuba. Among the insiders, incompetence abounds.

Translator’s notes:

*Though the military was involved, the attempted coup was actually led by eight senior officials from the Soviet goverment, Communist Party and KGB.

 **Spontaneous mass protests led to the overthrow of Nicolai Ceausescu on December 22, 1989. He and his wife Elena were executed three days later after a summary trial. The provisional government subsequently promised free and fair elections, which took place five months later. While thousands died or were injured in the course of the uprising, the event might better be described as a brief period of violent civil unrest rather than a civil war.

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