Cuban Football Team Captain "Deserts" From the Gold Cup

Raúl Mederos, coach of the Cuban soccer team, at the press conference after the game with Martinique. (El Universal)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ernesto Santana, Havana, June 21, 2019 — The news spread quickly through the international press. The captain of the Cuban soccer team, Yasmani López, had abandoned the team at the Gold Cup of the Confederation of North America, Central America, and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) in the United States. One media outlet called him “the first of the Cuban players to flee” at this event, as if others could follow him.

Like so many other times, the team leadership delayed in making statements, waiting for instructions from Havana, which in turn was waiting to measure the repercussions of the event. Finally, the manager of the team, Raúl Mederos, recognized the act, which happened after the first match against Mexico.

“The team, as everyone knows, did not arrive at the Gold Cup with the full delegation,” said Mederos, “and indeed the number four defender abandoned the team on Saturday night. It’s his decision. None of his colleagues, there are 30 of us, have anything to do with that,” he specified at a press conference before the second game, against Martinique. continue reading

The curious declaration reveals the fear that in Havana they will try to look for supposed accomplices of the “deserter” and, additionally, reveals that a third of the group was made up of “non-athletes,” something customary in these delegations, which come to international matches well-escorted to prevent “escapes.”

The “number four defender” that Mederos alluded to is the 31-year-old captain and defender who had debuted with the national team in the Gold Cup of 2013 and since then had become an important part of the squad. “We only come to the pitch to give what we have, giving our hearts,” were his last words before leaving the team.

The high-profile repercussions and the sleepless nights of the team’s management are logical. By now it’s traditional that in CONCACAF competitions our players take the opportunity to request asylum in the US, like 12 members of the under-20 team did last November in Florida.

In the last six editions of the Gold Cup alone 11 athletes have abandoned the team, not to mention other soccer competitions in other places. Some continue playing the sport and have had success. Others not. But nothing indicates that this bloodletting will stop.

This 15th Gold Cup is being held (at the same time as the other main tournament on the continent, the America Cup) from June 15 to July 7, and 16 teams are participating. Cuba participated five times previously, beginning in 1998 and, for the last time, in 2007, but only in 2003 did it advance to the second round. Now they were competing in Group A with Mexico, Canada, and Martinique.

The Island had already lost the previous captain, the midfielder Yordan Santa Cruz, 25, who was denied a visa for unconfirmed reasons; according to some it was because of a disturbance of public order in Jamaica in 2015. According to others, it was for an unproven accusation of rape in the United States. Santa Cruz is contracted with the Jarabacoa FC de Dominicana and made the goal that got Cuba to this tournament.

When the Cup began, Mederos’s boys seemed the tournament’s weakest team. Their debut on Saturday the 15th against Mexico, which massacred them 7-0, amply confirmed all fears, aside from which it is certain that the Cubans have had problems with arriving on time and even with their uniforms.

On Wednesday the 19th, having already lost the second captain, Cuba fell again in the second game, 3-0, against Martinique, which had been thrashed 4-0 by Canada. Thus, without having scored a single goal, the Cubans were already eliminated in the group phase, fulfilling the majority of the predictions.

If some believe that this could be an insurmountable blow for the new generation of players who cannot see the sun, others believe that this disaster could sound the alarms and call attention to a discipline that is very marginalized despite the enormous and growing popularity of soccer in our country.

The criticisms of this performance, one of the worst in the last 20 years, begins with the poor selection of players starting with the recent National Championship and with the bad management of the lineup, but above all with the dreadful work of the Soccer Federation, which keeps the playing fields in lamentable conditions and refuses to consider including athletes who are on their own in foreign leagues.

In the end, the blame always ends up pointing toward that dark zone from which the instructions come down for the sports authorities, that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether or not they have intentions of carrying out the essential reforms to save the sport, because they don’t determine anything.

 Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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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 Ideas of Freedom: The Debate Continues

The Guatemalan Gloria Alvarez during a speech about populism that went viral on networks. (Screenshot)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, 23 June 2019 — Gloria Álvarez has returned to the charge. She has written How to Talk to a Conservative. This volume is the logical derivation of another very successful and very controversial text of hers: How to Talk to a Progressive. Her new work carries two claims in its subtitles: Why instead of encouraging it conservatism obstructs freedom in our societies  and Why liberalism is much more effective than conservatism to annihilate cultural Marxism. Obviously, Gloria gives the word liberalism the meaning that it is given in Europe and Latin America. In the United States, “liberalism” is something akin to social democracy, at least as far as public spending is concerned.

Meanwhile, the progressives, the socialists and (especially) the communists, felt justly alluded to and berated Gloria: “Is it only the left that makes mistakes?”

Gloria responded intelligently, “How is it possible to come from a nation like Guatemala, with 65% of the people living in poverty, and preach the virtues of the market and minimum government?” continue reading

But, on the other side, the conservative right also attacked her. Gloria is militantly atheist and believers are often intolerant of those who do not worship “the true god,” which is, of course, theirs. Gloria is feminist in the liberal way, that is, without disguises of false morality. She is an ecologist, to the extreme of launching an organization dedicated to reforestation in her country in 2012.

Gloria is, above all, a free spirit. She believes in the decriminalization of prostitution and drug use. People can do with their bodies what they want, because that is the most urgent terrain of freedom. They even have the right to make mistakes like smoking marijuana, snorting cocaine up their nose, injecting heroin or rubbing substances on their genitals that increase sexual pleasure. It is not up to the whole of society, and much less to the State, to dictate people’s behavior in bed. What two adults, or more, what they do in the privacy of a bedroom is their business alone.

Gloria attended a gay pride party Gloria with a T-shirt with a “heterosexual” legend to support the protesters. You do not have to be gay to feel solidarity with the cause of gays.

Gloria does not propose them, much less recommend them, but she knows that freedom includes varied behaviors and attitudes. Freedom even includes the right to die with dignity. As a Spanish suicide wrote: “To live is a right, not a duty.”

As well-known commentators say, Gloria’s ideas often provoke two contradictory attitudes. The bad is that all this usually opposes the most conservative conservatism. The good is that liberalism has been gradually defeating the ideologies that have opposed it since it was born in the atmosphere of the Enlightenment in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The conservatives, the Marxists, the collectivists of all stripes, even the believers, although they do not recognize it, have had to incorporate liberal ideas and beliefs before undeniable rational evidence.

Why, then, resistance to the ideas of freedom? In my opinion, because these ideas arise from the particular psychological nature of certain people. Gloria is a free spirit because she has confidence in herself. Her ideology arises from her psychological structure and not vice versa. Gloria is not afraid of life.

However, there are countless people who are filled with panic and prefer to feel protected by a higher entity. These are the people devoted to strong governments, single parties, or the caudillos. That is why the liberals, the libertarians, the anarcho-capitalists are a minority. A formidable minority that has impregnated the rest of the ideological structures, but it is still the behavior of the entrepreneurs and the free spirits and those without fear.

This makes me think that it is very likely that How to Talk to a Conservative will successful in penetration and sales, as was How to Talk to a Conservative. This volume is the logical derivation of another very successful and very controversial text of hers: How to Talk to a Progressive, but it will hardly convince those who support a conservative view of human beings.

It is possible for people’s ideas to change, as shown by a thousand valid examples ranging from Octavio Paz to Mario Vargas Llosa, but it is much more difficult to renounce one’s psychological structure and self-perception.

In any case, the debate continues and it is very positive that Gloria Álvarez is the standard-bearer of the virtues of the ideas of freedom. It is excellent.

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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.

SNET Administrators and Users Use Twitter to Demand Change in Cuban Law

To enter SNet a person needs to know someone within the system who connects the potential user with an administrator who issues a name and a password. (David Himbert)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 June 2019 — SNet administrators and users are participating in a Twitter protest this Sunday to demand that Cuba’s Ministry of Communications (Micom) make changes in the new resolution that allows the network’s operation to continue. The organizers have asked that messages be sent with the hashtag #YoSoySNet (I Am SNet) this Sunday, 23 June, between 12 noon and midnight.

SNet, is an independent wireless network of more than 40,000 members that focuses on the exchange of offline content, video games and instant messaging.

“The time has come to fight for our space, the one in which so much effort has been invested. We have played, shared, enjoyed, several people have even ended up living together and forming families after getting to know each other in this Matrix,” they say in their call to action.

In a parallel effort, the group’s administrators continue to collect signatures throughout the country, also targeted to a solution that allows SNet to continue operating. This coming 29 July, the resolutions by which Cuba’s Ministry of Communications regulates private networks will go into force, preventing the power of the equipment from exceeding 100 milliwatts, which would result in the closure of SNet. continue reading

The followers of SNet are reluctant to accept the idea that Resolutions 98 and 99, approved by the Micom, will go into effect on the 29th with the current language.

Ernesto Nunez, one of the promoters of the Twitter protest, is aware that this initiative will not have an impact as significant as he would like but he trusts that, together, the actions will work.

“The Ministry can not ignore the avalanche of mentions on Twitter from Cuba from the last Twitter protest, the one on Saturday for #bajenlospreciosdeinternet (Lower the Prices of the Internet), and the one for SNet on Sunday, all addressed to them,” he said.

As of nine in the morning on Sunday some thirty users of the social network Twitter had begun to post messages with the hashtag #YoSoySNet, most of them also including references to the official Twitter account of the Ministry of Communications.

For an Internet user who posts under the nickname of Lumita, the official decision to implement these regulations shows that:

“No one understands the impact that #Snet has on our lives… if you have not experienced it is impossible to explain… seriously study, investigate, inform yourself… they are taking away years, dreams, money, education, time… so many people asking for this, and they say nothing?” ..@MINCOMCuba #YoSoySnet

— Lumitaa (@Lumita82) June 23, 2019

Several computer experts consulted by 14ymedio believe the limited milliwattage allowed in the new regulations taking effect on 29 July to be very harmful. It will affect the “low latency” of the links, necessary to be able to efficiently play video games or stream videos. In order to maintain a satisfactory connection between several points, the community would have to invest in the purchase of a large amount of equipment to allow a connection among several blocks of a locality.

SNet basically works with Ubiquiti brand wireless antennas — popularly known as NanoStation and also Mikrotik — most of which have an operating power from six and to 10 times the limits imposed by the upcoming legislation.

The administrators of SNet have proposed to the authorities the creation of “a special license” so that the network, as it exists today, can connect to the Etecsa’s web browsing services and continue to benefit its users.

Williams Fibla, responding to insults that have been launched by several official spokespeople against the clients of state telecommunications monopoly Etecsa in recent weeks to lower rates and improve web browsing services, insisted that those who are making this demand of Micom are not “mercenaries,” as the official spokespeople are claiming.

But even within the community of users and administrators of SNet, not all voices agree on the best methods to demand a change in the legislation.

The idea of the protest has generated criticism in one of the pages of the SNet Facebook community, some of whose administrators warn that they do not recognize any demands that are not generated by they themselves.

From the Twitter account @snet_cuba, which defends the protest, an inclusive message was sent to their colleagues:

“We will continue to fight for them too, because we understand that it is not just a pseudonym. #SNET Street Network that means the network in every corner of the country has the name it has, and we all have the same interests.”

Another administrator, who did not want to reveal his name, supports the Twitter protest. “This is how a project as good as SNET in all of Cuba is presented at the international level” and he believes that the project can become “recognized by the Cuban State. Everything is a matter of will and support on their part. That’s why we want to shout loud #YoSoySNet, so that we are heard and given a legal place in society.”

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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 Customers Demand, For the Second Time, that Etecsa Lower Internet Prices

One of the many calls that circulated in networks asking for rebates to the state telecommunications monopoly. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 June 2018 — The Telecommunications Company of Cuba (Etecsa) is going through difficult times on the island. In just 15 days, the state monopoly has been confronted by its customers twice on social networks with the hashtag #BajenLosPreciosDeInternet, demanding a reduction in prices and improvements in services.

The second day of protests took place this Saturday, just two weeks after June 1st when the #BajenLosPreciosDeInternet hashtag rose to number one on the Island, even above other traditional hashtags from the government. Unlike on the first launch of the Twitter protest, on June 15th Etecsa officials prepared to counter the online protest.

In 24 hours the hashtag #BajenLosPreciosDeInternet became a Trending Topic in Cuba, with messages published by a wide variety of users of the popular social network. Students, computer engineers, clients of the domestic service known as Nauta Hogar, independent journalists and activists were some of those who denounced Etecsa’s high prices. continue reading

In return, the state monopoly and several official spokespersons spread messages with labels such as #CubaInformatiza (Cuba computerized) and #CubaMasInternetvsBlock (Cuba More Internet vs. the Blockade [i.e. US Embargo]). The official accounts of Etecsa also published infographics and figures on the evolution of mobile telephone services, internet connectivity from homes and wifi zones, together with data regarding web browsing from mobile phones.

Inventario (Inventory), a statistical analysis project, counted the participation in the protest, identifying a total 1,061 unique users, 7,412 tweets in which the hashtag #BajenLosPreciosDeInternet was used, of which 2,256 were original tweets and 5,156 retweets. At the end of the day, the most used hashtags turned out to be #bajenlospreciosdeinternet with 2,675; #cuba with 322; #tarifaplananautahogar [rate plan for home internet service] with 56; #etecsa with 47; #aldeatwitter [twitter village] with 47; #bastaya (enough already) with 30; #cubainformatiza (computerized Cuba) with 24;  #abajotodoslosbloqueos (down with all blockades) with 24; #abajoelbloqueo (down with the blockade) with 19; and 18 for #cubanos plus 16 for #somoscuba (we are Cuba), according to the same source.

The hashtags generated a heated controversy on the networks. On one side were the customers who demanded a decrease in the prices of services, especially data packages to connect to the internet from mobile phones, as well as an improvement in the operations of the Nauta Hogar domestic connection and the rates of the navigation from the wifi areas, currently 1 CUC per hour (roughly equivalent to $1 US, or nearly a day’s pay in Cuba).

Dariel de la Rosa Pérez, who hashtagged Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel in his tweet, posted:

“We want to be connected, it is a basic right in this century. We can’t have a country where its rulers say the country is ’of the humble, with the humble and for the humble’ if they have services with prices that only the rich can afford. #BajenLosPreciosDeInternet @DiazCanelB

— Dariel De la Rosa Pérez (@darielrp) June 15, 2019

The data packages to surf the Internet from the mobile phones sold by Etecsa the range from 7 CUC for 600 megabytes to 30 CUC for 4 gigabytes, the latter the equivalent of the entire monthly salary of a professional.

Users such as one posting under the name Chawi alluded on Twitter to the subsidizing of cellphone balances for employees of Etecsa and other officials who were very active in the social network with official hashtags. “Etecsa seems to have recharged its workers’ accounts so that #BajenLosPreciosDeInternet does not trend. That is a sign that there is concern, we are doing well!! We will continue until we are heard,” he wrote.

Internet user Abel Cartaya, meanwhile, questioned why those who demand a reduction in the Internet rate are branded as “traitors” and added that following this logic, those who demand “direct or multi-party elections will have to ask for diplomatic immunity.” — Abel Cartaya (@AbelCartaya) June 15, 2019

The journalist and director of the independent media Barrio Journalism, Elaine Díaz, also joked about the unusual frequency of publication on Saturday from several official accounts. “I propose that all citizen Twitter protests occur on weekends. We pay the high Internet prices and they have to work Saturday and Sunday,” she wrote.

On the other side of the controversy were the Twitter accounts that promoted the official hashtags and accused the protestors of responding to a conspiracy launched from the United States and of supporting the Helms-Burton Act.

Cuba’s Minister of Communications, warned that the current Constitution “defends the democratization of cyberspace [and] condemns its use (…) for purposes contrary to the above, including the subversion and destabilization of sovereign nations.” pic.twitter.com/emF8XUydWQ — Jorge Luis Perdomo (@JorgeLuisPerd20) 15 de junio de 2019

Several customers responded to the minister questioning the real willingness of the authorities to extend the use of the internet within Cuba. The authorities have prioritized what they call the “social use” of the network in universities, work centers and wifi zones, but every day there are more voices demanding to be able to connect from homes and with more favorable prices.

Internet browsing from cellphones began on December 6 on the island and in its almost six months of implementation complaints from users have accumulated, due to high rates, constant crashes and poor coverage in several areas of the country.

In the virtual protest on Saturday, netizens also complained about the bandwidth congestion at various times of the day and the poor customer service that responds — most of the time — with evasive answers. However, it was the prices that dominated the discussion along with the need to depend on family members abroad to top-up the accounts of their relatives in Cuba, due to the low salaries paid on the Island.

Numerous Cubans from the diaspora joined the Twitter protest on the grounds that they are financing the connectivity of their families on the island through top-ups for cellphones and web browsing. A presence that the official spokesmen indicated as proof that the protest had been “fabricated from the outside.”

Several of the users who participated in the protest announced that they will maintain the use of the hashtag and that they plan new tweets of this type for the coming weeks.

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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 Human Rights Group Adds President of Etecsa to List of ’Violent Repressors’

Mayra Arevich Marín, director of the telecommunications monopoly, Etecsa.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 June 2019 — On Friday, The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) added Mayra Arevich, executive president of the state telecommunications monopoly Etecsa, to its database of violent repressors, according to a statement released by the organization.

The FHRC, based in Miami, has also added Ernesto Gómez Novoa, second chief of the General Customs of the Republic of Cuba, blogger Iroel Sánchez and director of the CubaSí site, Manuel H. Lagarde to the list.

Averich has been classified as a violent repressor by the Foundation “for publicly inciting hatred” against the journalist and director of 14ymedio , Yoani Sánchez. In its statement, the FHRC warns that these attacks may open the possibility of acts of violence” against and they are happening “at a time when the government is intensifying its war propaganda against citizens.”

On Twitter, Sánchez said she would hold Averich responsible, “for any damage” suffered by her or her family from the dissemination of a “message of hate and misogyny” that the official spread in her account of that social network. continue reading

“A violent repressor is not only the person who strikes a peaceful opponent, but also the one who incites, foments and encourages the exercise of violence, as established by international norms,” explains the FHRC. “It is important that government officials and the Party know that their actions have inescapable individual responsibilities that do not diminish over time.”

“Among the participants of this recent orgy of insults are the pens of two collaborators of the State Security: Iroel Sánchez and Manuel H. Lagarde,” the text points out.

“Both had been included in our permanent database of Cuban white-collar repressors for months, but from now on they have reached the category of violent repressors,” he adds.

The NGO, based in Miami, noted that this is not the first campaign to against the journalist meant to kill her reputation. It also called attention to the “ferocity” deployed against her and the “uncharacteristic incitement” to violence.

Juan Antonio Blanco, director of the FHRC, said that people who feed hate “should take note that they assume legal responsibility before international courts.”

“This is now the case if Yoani Sánchez is the victim of physical aggression by fanatics, or by police agents disguised as an ’enraged people’, for the simple fact of her request for a reduction in the abusive prices of that state monopoly,” he said.

During this month there have been several digital protests through the social network Twitter with the hashtag #BajenLosPreciosDeInternet (LowerThePricesOfInternet). The first day of the demands occurred on June 1, the second on the 15th and a third is scheduled for this Saturday the 22nd.

Unlike the first occasion, on Saturday, Etecsa officials prepared to counter the online protest and verbally attacked the participants with accusations of being financed from the United States.

In less than 24 hours, the hashtag #BajenLosPreciosDeInternet became Trending Topic in Cuba, with messages published by a great variety of users of the social network. Students, computer engineers, clients of the domestic service known as Nauta Hogar, independent journalists and activists were some of those who denounced the high rates charged by Etecsa.

In return, the state monopoly and several official spokespersons spread messages with labels such as #CubaInformatiza and #CubaMasInternetvsBlock. The official accounts of Etecsa also published infographics and figures on the evolution of mobile telephone services, internet connectivity from homes and Wi-Fi zones, together with data from web browsing from mobiles.

The data packages to surf the Internet from mobile phones sold by Etecsa range from 7 CUC for 600 megabytes to 30 CUC for 4 gigabytes, the latter the equivalent of a professional’s entire monthly salary.

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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.

Coach of the Cuban Football Delegation Confirms Defection of Yasmani Lopez

Yasmani López deserted after the game with Mexico on Monday according to Miami press. The federation remains silent.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, EFE, Havana, June 19, 2019 — “The team, as everyone knows, did not arrive at the Gold Cup with the full delegation and indeed the Number Four defender (Yasmani López) abandoned the team on Saturday night. He is the only player that is now no longer with us,” confirmed Raúl Mederos, coach of the Cuban football team.

The coach explained in a press conference before the Cuban team’s match against Martinique that the decision of the midfielder and captain of the team was an isolated incident. “Regarding Yasmani’s case, it’s his decision. None of his colleagues, there are 30 of us, have anything to do with that. It’s his decision, he made it and he carried it out,” pointed out the manager in statements gathered by AFP.

El Nuevo Herald wrote this Monday that López, 31, who last Saturday played with Cuba against Mexico in the second game on the opening day of the Concacaf tournament in Group A and which his team lost by 7-0, disappeared afterwards from the Caribbean team.

With the loss of López, Cuba loses one of the most important players on the team.

It was also learned that for the game against Mexico, the Island’s team received its uniforms only a few hours before the match, which was played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena (California).

López, a native of the town of Morón in Ciego de Ávila province, debuted with the Cuban team precisely in the Gold Cup in 2013 in a match against Belize and ever since has been a fixture on the national football team.

López’s defection keeps the tradition of turning Concacaf tournaments in which Cuba participates into the best system the island’s players have to escape and remain in American territory, where they immediately request political asylum.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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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.

Economic Minister Gil on Accommodating Cuba’s Import Mentality

14ymedio biggerElías Amor Bravo, Economist, June 13, 2019 — It seems the Castro regime has appointed an economics minister, Alejandro Gil Fernandez, who is actually funny. I don’t know if it was done with good intentions or in an effort to further confuse the situation, but during during a conference at the Eighth Congress of the National Association of Economists and Accountants of Cuba he said that “the import mentality accommodates and restrains initiative and creativity.”

Well, turn out the lights and let’s go! And if you are the last person to leave, make sure you close the door.

Is Mr. Gil really in a position to assume the responsibilities of his new position if he thinks this way? I have serious doubts. Let me explain why. continue reading

The regime’s obsession for what it calls “putting resources into production and taking them out of imports” represents an autocratic approach to the economy more typical of the mid-20th century than an era of globalization and internationalization.

Even in the old days, countries that imported equipment, technology and business know-how used these resources to overcome their economic backwardness, eventually becoming advanced nations. Some European countries such as Spain, as well as the Asian tigers decades later, benefited from this development model in which imports were essential to getting ahead.

The question is: How do you finance these imports when you are poor — very poor — and do not have the resources to do it? Carefully. Cuba has never done this. Before 1959, pre-financing the sugar harvest and signing trade agreements with the United States provided the country with adequate resources to finance its imports.

In this regard Cuba was at the international forefront and its economy was solvent. Under the guidance of the Central Bank of Cuba the peso and the US dollar were at parity. Cuban gold reserves were held in safekeeping by the Federal Reserve Bank in Washington. It now seems unbelievable that Cuba could been in such a position but that is in fact the reality.

The poverty preventing Minister Gill from importing equipment, raw materials, and foreign technology is the direct result of the communist model itself, which is based on a centrally planned economy and the absence of property rights.

For the past sixty years the communist regime has been unable to develop industries and activities capable of producing the goods and technologies the country needs to progress economically. The only solution is a complete change of direction. Neither quick fixes to the economic structure, or to its supply chains, nor efforts on the part of workers — no matter how much my colleagues on the island might promote them — will resolve the backwardness and inability of the Cuban economy to finance what it needs from abroad to move forward.

I do not understand why the Castro regime has adopted such an autocratic, Stalinistic approach to managing an economy that is unable to feed its people. This doctrine — more appropriate for pre-WWII fascist and communist regimes — holds to the belief that many goods can be produced domestically, thus avoiding an eventual “accommodation” of imports, or something like that, at least as it is explained in the Communist Party newspaper Granma.

Minister Gil is wrong in his assessment on the role of imports in an economy such as Cuba’s. First, he is wrong to claim that “imports prevent industry from developing.”

Just the opposite. Industry needs support from oversees to modernize its equipment and to be more competitive. It needs to bring in the latest technologies, or least technologies that are becoming somewhat obsolete in the most advanced countries. Industries need intermediate goods, such as raw material and fuel, and capital equipment from abroad. Without importing these things, industry falls behind, deteriorates and ultimately disappears.

The minister is also mistaken when he says that “the debt burden is greater than the economy can support”. The origins of Cuba’s foreign debt are many. The minister knows this. For example, there is one type of debt that has its origin in the superfluous expenditures squandered each fiscal year to sustain unprofitable state-owned companies that must be sudsidized to remain in operation. There are also the outlays for the “basket of goods,” subsidized consumer essentials which are distributed to the public little by little. This type of indebtedness is a heavy burden that grows and grows uncontrollably to the point of exhaustion.

In essence, since this type of debt does not generate wealth, it does not add value to the gross domestic product. However, if foreign debt is used to modernize a country’s business technology, communications, water supplies and electricity, then there will always be financing available. The problem is that the Castro regime long ago lost its credibility as a borrower and no lenders want to see their money being misspent. This is something you should consider, Mr. Gil.

You know the solution. The economy is broken and doors have to be opened so that private business initiatives come in and take control of various sectors of the economy. It is pointless to talk over and over about “quality supply chains” because economic development and modernization in the 21st century is global and international, and cannot be conceived in local and territorial terms, much less in autocratic terms. That is all part of the past.

And one more bit of advice: the economy is not a “battlefield” and does not require some “frontline” or soldiers taking up arms. You have to forget all that. An economy is the art of efficiently committing resources, which are sometimes scarce, to achieve a wide ranging set of goals. And to achieve this objective and promote economic prosperity and sustainability, the only thing you really need is the desire to do things right and not recklessly obsess over a script that no one is following anywhere else in the world.

You only have to look at what is happening in China or Vietnam. They have managed their debt really well and the results speak for themselves. Even when Vietnam was a net importer, the population frequently suffered from famine. Since adopting its policy of Doi Moi,* not only is rice no longer an issue, but Vietnam now exports it to other Asian countries. You know what the solution for Cuba is: Doi Moi and private ownership of land.

Mr. Gil should be made aware that that economics teaches us that a country does not have to produce everything it needs, only things in which it specializes and which are cost competitive internationally. Specialization creates the income needed to buy what you need from the global marketplace, and makes structural transformation and economic development possible.

Cuba once followed that model, which was a real success prior to 1959. I do not know if it will come back but something must be done. And the longer it takes, Mr. Minister, the worse it will be.

*Translator’s note: a set of reforms adopted in 1986 by the communist government to create a market-oriented socialist economy.

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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.

Trivago Sued for "Trafficking" in Confiscated Properties in Cuba

A lawsuit has been filed against Trivago, a German transnational specializing in accommodation search services. (Trivago Business Blog)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Havana, 19 June 2019 —  This Tuesday, the law firm Rivero Mestre LLP, based in Coral Gables, Miami, filed a lawsuit against Trivago, a German transnational specializing in hotel and lodging search services, for “trafficking” with properties confiscated by Fidel Castro’s regime at the beginning of the 1960s.

The lawsuit, under the provisions of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, gave notice of the interests of the law firm’s clients to companies that include Expedia Inc., Booking Holdings, Inc. and their respective subsidiaries and affiliates threatened litigation if those companies “do not cease trafficking and compensate the plaintiffs within thirty days of the notification.” Expedia Inc. and Booking Holdings, Inc. have their legal headquarters in the United States.

On May 2 of this year, the Administration of President Donald Trump decided to end the suspension of the application of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, in retaliation for the alleged interference of the Cuban government in Venezuela. continue reading

Under this law, naturalized Cubans in the United States and Cuban-Americans can sue companies who engage in business using properties that were confiscated by the Castro Revolution.

Trivago, based in Dusseldorf, Germany, reported an approximate profit of 1.2 billion dollars last year and the Expedia group, based in Washington, earned some 11.2 billion, according to John S. Kavulich, president of the United States-Cuba Economic and Trade Council, based in New York.

Since the activation of Title III, several lawsuits have been filed against entities of the Cuban State that exploit the confiscated properties in association with foreign companies. The first was presented by the heirs of the previous owners of the ports of Santiago de Cuba and Havana against the US Carnival Cruise Company.

Exxon Mobile sued the Cuban corporation Cimex and the Cuba Petroleum Union, while the Cuban-American Mata family sued the Gran Caribe Hotel Group, the Cubanacán SA International Trade and Tourism Corporation, the Gaviota SA Tourism Group, and the Cimex SA Corporation, among others.

Although Meliá, the foreign company that manages the largest number of hotels in Cuba, was not originally included in the lawsuit, it was notified that according to the law, should it not pay compensation or within 30 days end its operations that involve “trafficking with stolen goods,” it will be sued for up to three times the current value of the property.

Cuba does not recognize the legal standing of the Helms-Burton Act and guaranteed investors the full support of the State, although it is not clear how they can defend the companies before the courts of the United States. The European Union, for its part, has promised the government of the island — where it is the main foreign investor — that it will stop the sanctions issued by US courts against companies from the old continent.

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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.

Two Literary Awards Announced for Cuban Authors

Manuel Moreno Fraginals is the Cuban historian who gives his name prize from the INSTAR institute.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 June 2019 — Literature lovers have a double opportunity with the announcement of two new awards for Cuban authors.

The Hannah Arendt  Institute of Artivism (INSTAR), directed by independent artist Tania Bruguera, has announced the first edition of the Manuel Moreno Fraginals award, which will be awarded to a critical essay on the Revolution.

The objective of the award is “to generate written works and public dialogues about this period, which interpolate, answer and present an alternative to the official history.” continue reading

All Cubans over 18 years old and resident of the island can compete for the prize, endowed with 5,000 CUC and the publication the winning submission in eBook format, by submitting a text of at least 250 pages.

The deadline for the submission of the texts, which can be sent as of Tuesday, will be October 17, 2019. The jury, composed of historians Abel Sierra Madero, Lillian Guerra and Rafael Rojas, will announce the winner in February 2020.

On the other hand, Verbum Publishers has also announced a call for submissions for the for the Myths and Legends of Europe Children and Youth Literature Award, directed, in this case to any author, Spanish or Latin American, who submits with a work written in Castilian.

The submissions should be stories of a length between 4 and 7 pages and aimed at readers between 8 and 12 years of age, addressing historical and/or fantasy curiosities inspired by European myths and legends.

Manuscripts can be sent by email to the publisher, beginning Tuesday and ending on 31 July 2019. The decision will be announced in September and the prize consists of the publication of the story in the anthology to be published Verbum Publishers late of 2019.

The publisher will give a copy of the book to each award-winning author at a presentation in November.

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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 Forbid Journalist Henry Constantin to Travel Outside Cuba

The refusal to allow Henry Constantín to travel is added to those received last month by several collaborators of ’La Hora de Cuba’, when they tried to attend different international events. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 June 2019 — The authorities again prevented the independent journalist Henry Constantín from leaving the country, as he prepared to attend the next General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), in Colombia. The director of La Hora de Cuba will not be able to participate in the event because he is “regulated” — Cuban State Security’s preferred euphemism — and can not travel outside the country, according to Constantín himself speaking to 14ymedio.

Before buying the ticket for the trip, the reporter visited the Identity Card offices in Camagüey on Tuesday where he was informed that there is an exit ban in force against him. On this occasion the reporter did not even arrive at the airport where the officers of the Directorate of Identification, Immigration and Foreigners (DIIE) denies exit to those who are “regulated.”

“It had been little more than three months that I had not been ’regulated’, since March 8,” the reporter told this newspaper. “I returned from my last trip a week ago and they are forbidding me to leave again.” The refusal to allow Henry Constantín to travel is added to those received last month by several collaborators of ’La Hora de Cuba’, when they tried to attend different international events. continue reading

“The repressive wave, which started in 2016 against La Hora de Cuba, has had periods of greater and lesser intensity, but the vigilance over the most active members of the team, the prohibitions on leaving the country or moving freely within our own borders have been maintained, depending on the most important events and our publications,” he explains.

Constantín explains that there is “a succession of acts” against his family and the collaborators of the publication he directs that have “intensified” since the last half of last year. “The harassment has gone from death threats, and attacks on social networks to prohibitions on leaving the country,” he added.

As has happened in previous situations with other civil society activists and independent journalists, the immigration authorities did not provide details on what procedures a person has to perform to appeal the travel ban.

Previously the authorities prevented three of the Camagüey magazine’s collaborators — Inalkis Rodríguez, Iris Mariño and Sol García — from taking a flight to Trinidad and Tobago where they had been invited by the Simone de Beauvoir Leadership Institute to an event on the participation of women in society.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, based in Havana, has repeatedly denounced the use of travel restrictions as a repressive measure against government opponents and activists.

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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 Many Faces of Tarara

All that’s left of Tarará’s funicular is a tangle of iron (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 19 June 2019 — Few Cuban neighborhoods have changed as much over time as Tarará, east of Havana. It went from being a glamorous condominium to a children’s pioneer camp, then it became a hospital for children affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident and later in a Spanish school for Chinese students. Everyone who is asked has different memories of the site.

The popularity in Cuba of the series Chernobyl, produced by the American HBO network and spread on the island through the ’weekly packeta semi-underground compendium of non-official entertainment sold on flash drives and other media — have put a spotlight on Tarará. The official media have attacked the script of the American series, which they accuse of being biased and of not showing the medical attention that many affected children received in Tarará in the years after 1986.

Yanet, 45, spent several weeks during primary school at the José Martí Pioneers Camp in this neighborhood. For her, memory has other tints more related to teaching activities and the student organization. “From first to sixth grade I went almost every year to Tarará, where we had classes and did recreational activities in the afternoon,” she recalls. continue reading

“I liked to go because it was fun but I also missed my family. The beach is very nice and there was also one of the best amusement parks in all of Havana but it got spoiled with time and there is nothing left,” she says. The City of the Pioneers, as it was also known, was inaugurated in July 1975 by Fidel Castro.

“That was a typical Robin Hood gesture,” reproaches Yanet. “It was like saying they took the houses away from the rich people who left Cuba and gave them to the children and families that used to be poor, but over time they also took them from us.” The huge chalets, the condominiums with French windows and large terraces, still recall their bourgeois past.

In the 525 houses of this small paradise only 17 families remain of those who originally lived in Tarará in the ’50s. The rest emigrated or lost their property after the arrival of Fidel Castro to power.

In the 80s, coinciding with the boom of the Soviet subsidy, the huge complex came to have a cultural center, seven dining rooms, five teaching blocks, a hospital, an amusement park and even an attractive cable car that crossed between two hills over the Tarará river; all that remains of it today is jumble of rusted iron.

Now, the village is preparing to undergo a new reconversion, as the arrival of a group of 50 Ukrainian children, descendants of those affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, has been announced.

Another of the changes in Tarará, and one that has raised the most complaints, is the closure of the Celia Sánchez Manduley School for Asthmatics and Diabetics, a boarding school in which the teaching hours were combined with the specific training to manage these diseases. Asthma affects 92.6 Cubans of every 1,000 inhabitants of all ages, according to data from the National Asthma Commission and the Cuban Society of Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology.

Although one year has passed since the closure, the center’s alumni and their families are still waiting for a response from the Education authorities.

Tarará became a hospital for children affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident. (Enrique de la Osa)

Luis Alejandro, the fictitious name of one of the students, remembers the five years he spent there between 2008 and 2013 pleasantly. “That school had no relationship to the rest of the country, there were excellent professionals, everything was great,” he recalls. The students spent the whole school week in the boarding school, they arrived on Sunday at six in the afternoon and left on Fridays, after lunch in a bus from the school itself.

“We had a routine. Like all those in boarding schools we got up at 6:00. The first thing we did before washing was to take the medication,” he says. Despite the fact that in the rest of the country’s schools the concept of snack was eradicated years ago, Luis Alejandro and the other asthmatic patients received three daily snacks in addition to the meals.

But the most important thing was the treatment for his illness. “The time there helped me a lot and there was never a lack of medicines, we got used to doing breathing exercises and learned to live with the disease.” Diabetic students were also taught to inject insulin themselves and to measure their blood sugar.

But one day everything ended. “The closing came without anyone expecting it, the first thing that happened was that the Ministry of Public Health ordered that the hospital be converted into one to serve tourists, in the style of La Pradera (a center for healthcare for tourists). This experiment did not work and they closed it, that’s when the problem started, because without a nearby hospital to deal with all the conditions [affecting the students], the school could not stay,” he recalls.

“The first step they took was to close registration [for new students], then they waited to graduate to the last year of ninth grade and then they closed it in June of that last year,” explains Luis Alejandro. The place still belongs to the Ministry of Education but the property is suffering from lack of use and maintenance.

Since the school was created in 1985 and until 2013 (the last year for which data are available) there were more than 5,000 asthmatic children and around 500 diabetics who attended there. The installation was close to the beach and that pure air was very beneficial for asthmatics.

On June 29 of the last year, the same day of the closing of the school, Carlos Javier Acosta, one of the students, lamented the situation on Facebook. “Today really was a sad day for me, it was the last day of a school that saw part of my childhood and adolescence, the school where I learned to live with my illness, where I knew friendship, where I was trained as a good person, where I learned to be independent because I was a boarding school student.”

For others, the saddest day was when they said goodbye not only to Tarará but also to the country. “My father had bought a piece of land in the place and built a nice two-story house with an ocean view,” recalls Gerardo Ponce, a Cuban exile whose family left the island with only what they could “carry in their suitcases,” he recalls. His father had set up a small pharmacy business that was confiscated in the early 1960s.

“I don’t want to go back because it is not what it used to be and I do not want to spoil my memories,” he says.

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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 New Electoral law Consolidates the Monopoly of the Communist Party

Under to the draft electoral law, voters will still not know what the candidates think. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escober, Havana, 20 June 2019 — The draft Electoral Law, published in the official media on Thursday, confirms the most adverse predictions about the official rejection of any political reform.

The text, which the deputies of the National Assembly of People’s Power will no doubt approve, maintains, with a new wording, the “ethical foundation” of the old law in affirming that the Electoral System “highlights the capacity, values, merits and prestige of the candidates as the only elements to take into account by the voters to cast their vote, to which end their biographies are publicized in public places well in advance of the day of the elections.”

To make it even more clear, the following subsection excludes “all types of individual electoral propaganda and any other action aimed at tipping the voters’ decision in favor or against a candidate.”

That a law dictates the “only elements” that voters can take into account to cast their vote is, in addition to humiliating, absurd because in the privacy of the ballot box each voter will take into account whatever he or she wants. continue reading

What they may not be aware of is the candidates’ opinions. That is going to occupy the Candidate Commissions, the other monster that the new Law inherits from the previous one.

Title VII deals with describing the composition and functions of these commissions, which are basically responsible for preparing and presenting the lists of candidacies for the municipal and provincial assemblies, as well as that of deputies to the National Assembly of People’s Power. These lists consist, in number, to the number of positions to be filled, so that there is no possibility to choose between one or another candidate, only to approve a candidate or not.

In the specific case of the National Commission, it also carries out the candidacy project to fill the positions of President and Vice President of the Republic, as well as the President, Vice President and Secretary of the National Assembly of People’s Power and the members of the Council of State. These positions, however, are voted only by the Members of Parliament.

The members of the all-powerful commission are representatives of the official institutions that exert political control in all sectors of society: the Workers’ Confederation of Cuba, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Women, the National Association of Small Farmers, the University Student Federation and the Federation of Secondary Students. Its designation is a power of the respective national, provincial and municipal top leadership of these organizations.

As is known, the top leaders of these so-called mass organizations are part of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and some of them sit on the Politburo. The statutes of these entities all contain a condition that ensures anyone filling these positions is loyal to the Party and the Revolution.

Before preparing their respective proposals, these commissions are entitled to “consult the opinion of as many institutions, mass and social organizations and work centers as they deem pertinent,” which obviously includes the opinion of the organs of State Security.

With this neatly tied package it is naive to consider that the creation of a National Electoral Commission (CEN) as a permanent organ is a significant step forward, nor is the reduction in the number of deputies, which from now on will number 474 instead of the current 605.

Different opposition organizations have drafted proposals for a new electoral law that would allow for a multiparty system and competition among the candidates. None of those approaches has been taken into account.

The project that is now being debated consolidates the power monopoly of the Communist Party and gives continuity to ideological exclusion and discrimination for political reasons. If a reformer manages to sneak into the next Parliament or the new Council of State, he or she will necessarily have to be a skilled simulator.

Cubans residing abroad continue to be excluded from the electoral process, and, despite their prominence (via their remittances) in the family economy, will remain isolated from the possibility of electing local representatives and deputies to Parliament. Meanwhile active military, permitted to vote but not to run for office in many democratic nations, will continue to be candidates here.

Despite the “nicely tied package” represented by the electoral path in this new legislation, it is not armored against the corrosive acid of the opportunists: Those who wear masks for years, applaud, nod, show themselves as trustworthy beings for the party apparatus and, the moment they feel they do not risk their necks or their positions, change their position. And even those who, eager to maintain the system, promote reforms that end up breaking it.

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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.

Venezuelans in Ecuador, X-ray of the Hunger Emigrating All Over Latin America

Caption: Lines of Venezuelan migrants trying to cross the border between Colombia and Ecuador. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, June 16, 2019 — An emaciated man with soot-colored clothing and tattered shoes walks alone with a firm step and carrying a bedroll in the direction of the Rumichaca bridge between Ecuador and Colombia; it is one of those doors of hope for the Venezuelans fleeing hunger and poverty.

With two crevices on both sides of the face, which draw the outline of his jaw and skin burnt by the sun and inclemencies of the Andes, this Venezuelan named Fredy Ramón Castillo, 60, has covered more than 2,000 kilometers from Valencia, in the state of Carabobo, to the main entrance to Ecuador and has spent eight days walking.

“My salary wasn’t enough to buy medicine and I decided to leave Venezuela to help my mom,” he says before breaking into tears over his situation, shared by some 2,000-3,000 compatriots, up to 5,000 on critical days, who cross this border. continue reading

It’s a border that in 2018 alone was crossed by more than a million Venezuelans, of whom more than 220,000 did not register their exit from the country through official points, according to official data.

Venezuela, in the last five years, has faced a grave economic crisis, aggravated by shortages in food, medicine, basic products, and services like electricity or potable water, insecurity, which has led more than four million to leave their country and swell the biggest and fastest movement of people in recent history in Latin America.

Ecuador is the fourth largest recipient of Venezuelans in Latin America after Colombia, Peru, and Chile, and has an estimated population of more than 300,000 Venezuelans, a figure that could approach half a million by the end of the year, according to predictions by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

It is also the country in the region that receives the most emigrants in proportion to its size and number of inhabitants.

Every day about twenty buses arrive at the border with Ecuador from Colombia, where the exodus to the South American region begins, although many individuals alone or in groups make the trip on foot. That’s the case for half a dozen men and women in their twenties, who arrive almost in a faint at the territorial border with two babies, and their lives in barely two suitcases on wheels and several bundles they have taken turns carrying on their long journey.

“We started 19 days ago,” Edison Mendoza, from the state of Lara, tells Efe, with his one-and-a-half-year-old daughter asleep on his lap.

His goal is also to get to the Peruvian capital, where he has family members, after having ruled out Ecuador, “because not having anything to eat has motivated us to travel all this way, and what we don’t have.”

According to a recent report tracking the flow of the Venezuelan population in Ecuador by the International Organization (OIM), 54.4% of the Venezuelans began their journey between one and seven days before arriving at the main entry ports, with their average cost being between $100 and $500.

Also, 46.3% travel alone, 42.9% with family members, and 10.6% with non-family groups, and 33.8% of those surveyed at the border expressed their desire to remain in the country, 52.3% plan to settle in Peru, and 12.4% in Chile.

With a dollarized economy and a regular delivery of remittances to Venezuela averaging $20, Ecuador has become, for many, an option to start from nothing.

The profile of those currently entering this country is changing in relation to recent years, as international bodies emphasize, with an increase in women (44.7%), and the vast plurality with only a high school diploma (43.6%), while in previous years the number of college graduates was greater.

“We can say that in the first stage of the movement were the heads of families, and now since a year ago they had their economic resources and can manage a family reunification,” Vladimir Velasco points out to Efe. Velasco is the district director of the Ecuadorian Ministry of Social Inclusion (MIES) in the border city of Tulcán, adjacent to Rumichaca.

A few meters from the international bridge, at the common divide, a bus chartered by OIM makes its last stop on the trip from Colombia and on its steps, a worker from the organization tells the Venezuelan passengers descending to separate into groups of those staying in Ecuador and those who will continue on to Peru, which since Saturday has required a humanitarian visa.

Near the group of recent arrivals, three young Venezuelan porters hope to get a few coins by helping the migrants carry their belongings to the area where they must go to sort out their documentation.

They receive pesos and dollars of the new kind from emigrant passengers, that they throw to them, “some days we come, others no,” says Lewis Cuello, from Caracas. If they are lucky they can even send something to family in Venezuela, the so-called Bolivarian Republic.

On both sides of the crossing several buildings of international organizations like Acnur, Unicef, International Red Cross, World Food Program, ONG, local governments, and ministries have become for many of the travelers a stop and boarding house on their journey.

Children use play spaces and older people charge their cellphones at an authorized point, get their health checked, or simply receive food during a wait that can last several hours. The majority of the travelers who cross the Ecuadorian border do it with identity cards and passports, although 2.5% do not have documents, especially minors, the responsible entities state.

Between the beginning of February and the end of March of 2019, the Ecuadorian government demanded that Venezuelans entering the country present their stamped criminal records, a measure suspended by the law.

Despite leading regional forces to confront the phenomenon, advocating for flexibility and “open arms” policies toward the vulnerable population, Ecuador’s president, Lenín Moreno, has announced that a humanitarian visa will be required, following the Peruvian example.

From Rumichaca each day between four and eight humanitarian buses, depending on the demand, depart for Huaquillas, on the border with Peru, a flow that could slow down once the provision adopted by Lima goes into effect.

A small square that hosts the humanitarian installations at the crossing with Colombia has become a big waiting area where Venezuelan families crowd with their belongings.

Génesis Camacho, 24 and a native of Zulia, waits her turn to be able to feed her small son thanks to the Food Bank. She traveled with her husband by bus and is thinking of settling in Ecuador where her entire family is already. “We were the last,” she says.

There are more and more cases of mothers migrating with their children, the elderly, and disabled people who, at an earlier stage, did not consider it.

A “growing” tendency, according to the deputy high commissioner of the UN for Refugees (Acnur), Kelly Clements, who in her first visit to the Andean country told Efe that the majority of the Venezuelans on the move throughout the region need “international protection.”

The massive exodus of Venezuelans was accelerated starting in 2016, and has increased in the last two years, in parallel with the power struggle between the Chavista leader Nicolás Maduro and Juan Guaidó of the opposition, who is recognized as interim president by more than 50 countries.

As almost everywhere on the continent, many begin at a crossroads with a sign that pleads: “I’m Venezuelan, I’m hungry, please help me.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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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 Latest ’Timonazo’*

On the horizon, the Cienfuegos thermoelectric plant. (Gustavo Rumbaut Martinez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 18 June 2019 —  Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel’s recent speech at the Congress of Cuban economists recalls that old perestroika joke that showed Mikhail Gorbachev driving the car of Soviet socialism. Each time the taillights indicated that it would turn to the left it ended up turning to the right.

Popular political terminology uses the term ‘timonazo’* to describe that sudden and surprising act of changing course. In this case, the sudden turn of events focuses on the idea that “you have to jump to a new moment and know that the plan will not come from above.”

The president himself described the measure as “bold and very revolutionary” and added that it demanded “objectivity, realism and conscience.” continue reading

Those who have patience to study the final documents of the last Communist Party Congress, in particular the conceptualization of the Model, the Guidelines and the 2030 Development Plan, will find that socialist planning is defined in all of them as “the fundamental component of the system of management of economic and social development” that must combine “its centralized nature with the decentralization and autonomy required in the intermediate and grassroots instances.”

This tongue twister is supposed to be the master key that opens all doors and, as established in the verse with which Fidel Castro defined the concept of revolution, it is about making sense of the historical moment to change everything that must be changed.

Since Raul Castro rehearsed, in companies led by the military, what was ultimately called “the improvement of the business system” the attempt has been made to extend the experiment to the rest of the economy, which means granting new powers to the directors of the ’productive entities’. But it had to be done step by step, gradually and “defining the limits with precision in order to achieve companies with greater autonomy.”

The idea that the plan will not come from above can mean taking a stand in the most critical (and masked) internal discussion of the socialist system: How to define the degree of representativeness of the State as an intermediary between the workers and the ownership of the means of production. Half a century ago, a discussion just like that one ended the tanks of the Warsaw Pact rolling into Prague.

It was Alejandro Gil, Minister of Economy and Planning, who announced in the Congress of Economists the good news that starting next year, in order “to propitiate with objectivity and intentionality, as far as possible,” it will be “the workers who design the plans of their companies.”

What no one has explained is how a measure of this nature, which according to Díaz-Canel has been “demanded for years by the workers,” can match its final results with the ambitious forecasts of the 2030 Development Plan, designed with brutal verticality from the top of Olympus.

Maybe we are in the presence of a new version of what in the 90s was baptized as a Special Period in Times of Peace. At that time it was argued that the basic laws of socialism would be put on hold and that, for a time, the market would be partially liberated to save the conquest of the Revolution. Officially, this provisionality has not been terminated, among other things because the Soviet Union has not been resurrected and because they have not wanted to renounce the irreversibility of the system.

At first glance, the solution that is now publicly proposed is to give workers the power they have never had. Paradoxically “the criminal action of imperialism” with the resurgence of economic restrictions may have influenced these ’revolutionary solutions’ with no clarification regarding whether they are provisional or final.

The most pessimistic think that this ‘timonazo’ is another misleading ignition of false indicators to once again make us believe that “now we are going to build socialism,” but which, in reality, only underlie the purpose of staying in power.

The question is whether there is room for optimism.

*Translator’s note: “Timon” means tiller or steering wheel. “Azo” is a word ending that suggests a ‘hit’ or a ‘blow’. 

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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.

Central Planning of the Economy, What For?

Cubans wait in line to buy milk powder. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, June 3, 2019 — The Castrist regime announces the beginning of the process of drawing up the economic plan for 2020, the main instrument to intervene in the state economy. The information in the newspaper “Workers” speaks of the beginning of the analysis meetings with workers for the economic plan preparation and the budget corresponding to the next year. An initiative that claims to make a more participatory and flexible plan, in accordance with the desires of the Minister of Economy and Planning.

The question, paraphrasing Fidel Castro in reference to elections, is: What For? Confidence in the economic planning over six decades is directly responsible for the backwardness and general impoverishment of the Castroist economy. And now, undeterred, they have embarked upon what they call “indentifying internal reserves and strengths in each territory and company, exploiting the potential of productive linking, and exporting more, without limiting productive growth.” Hopefully they achieve it, but I see it as complicated. continue reading

Communism introduced central planning of the economy as an alternative to the market in the allocation of resources that were always scarce for alternative purposes. By substituting the mechanism of supply and demand, and price adjusting, with decisions by planning bureaucrats almost always remote from reality and tangled in dubious calculations of calories, weights, and other evils, the Cuban economic system was turned upside down in a matter of years.

From the first moment, the economists still holding their positions at the head of the companies that had not yet been confiscated to become property of the state, realized that the model was on its way to disaster. And thus it has been. Castroist economic planning has the merit of not having been right in even a single year in its forecasts, and in particular, since 2006, with the opening of small spaces to private activity, the results are even worse.

Why does this happen? Why, despite the insistence of the authorities and the efforts made in its preparation by the administrative management and the workers to improve the results of the planning, are the results worse and worse? Are we facing a demand for real change in the Castroist economy?

One can think what one likes, but in my understanding, yes. On the one hand, the bureaucrats continue buried in their calculations and estimations that never seem to end, with an increasing volume of norms, regulations, and provisions. Before it was easy to “plan,” by listening to a long and boring speech by Fidel Castro, it was already known how the accounts would have to be squared. Now the matter is worse.

For one thing, one has to read a panoply of documents so boring as to be useless, like the new Constitution, or the so-called Conceptualization of the Cuban Economic and Social Model of Socialist Development; even the most optimistic must read the Foundations of the National Plan for Economic and Social Development until 2030, and finally if one still has the desire, the so-called Guidelines for the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution for the 2016-2021 period.

As they say in Workers, “to these documents must be added speeches, interventions, directions, and articles referred to the topic, which would serve as a basis to develop proposals with ’all the tools,’ with clear definitions and a strategic character.” With so much reading, and so much iron, economic decisions lose that spontaneity and richness that the market offers them when the objective is to satisfy the consumer.

In the end, the planning is a game that ends in a bad result. Because even if on the one hand they want everyone to participate, and I have my doubts that that would be easy to achieve, on the other hand, from the ministry (previously the communist Junta Central de Planificación [JUCEPLAN], or Central Planning Board) nothing is left to improvisation, and the premises are being established for the plan, so that no one leaves out even a single comma from the framework that really concerns the ruling leadership. This is what we have. Unfortunately the priority of customer service is replaced with some undefined “potentialities to contribute more to the strategies and priorities of the economy,” and end up the same way.

The truly worrying thing is that they are committed to playing this dangerous game, just as things are. The Cuban economy no longer works, and it has exhausted its tail engines, for what will have to be thought about changing on the fly. There have already been several scares like the absence of products in markets, but worse times will come. One doesn’t have to be a strategist to know that things are going to get worse, and that the year 2020 will be characterized by a situation of a lack of cash flow, of unbearable foreign debt that will asphyxiate the impoverished Cuban economy even more, without anyone moving a single finger.

The design of the plan, if they insist on this communist nonsense, would have to be oriented toward promoting to the maximum amount what is working in the Cuban economy, but the ideological priorities and the historical complexes prevent the regime’s authorities from adopting the fundamental decisions to place Cuba on an even plane with the rest of the surrounding countries. That would mean more markets, more property rights, more economic freedoms, more private business sector. A plan that allows the private sector to assume the global operation of the economy, concentrating the largest percentage of resources, and driven by an accelerated privatization of the productive and business capital of the country.

Studies confirm that gains in productivity and creation of value in the Cuban economy are centered in small business deals by self-employed people and entrepreneurial initiatives. It makes no sense to continue restraining these economic agents for the benefit of loss-making state-owned companies and a budgeted sector that is drowning the country. Central planning of the economy must be removed to let the market take its place.

It’s no use to establish priorities like “increasing production or services bound for export and satisfying the demands of export entities; achieving the maximum use of existing capacities, and assuring the processes aimed at satisfying the demands of the internal economy, fundamentally of food, transport, computerization of society, housing, construction materials, renewable energy resources, medicine, and tourism,” if the economic agents involved in them are not capable of driving these objectives and find themselves so limited and conditioned in their operation, that they can barely survive.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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