Arrests This Sunday Of More Than A Hundred Activists Across The Island / 14ymedio

Activists supporting the Ladies in White on Sunday June 21 on 5th Avenue. (14ymedio)
Activists supporting the Ladies in White on Sunday June 21 on 5th Avenue. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 June 2015 — Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), reported early Sunday the arrest of 48 members of that opposition organization to prevent them from reaching the Sanctuary of Cobre in the east of the country. In Havana, fifty Ladies in White were also arrested at the end of their pilgrimage near the Church of Santa Rita, with over a hundred arrested across the country.

The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, and her husband, Angel Moya, were intercepted leaving the headquarters of the movement in the Lawton neighborhood and prevented from going to Mass, according to the dissident Martha Beatriz Roque. Both were taken to a detention site located in Tarará, east of the capital, where presumably they found the other detained Ladies in White.

The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, and her husband, Angel Moya, were taken to a detention site located in Tarará

Other activists reported that their homes were surrounded, as was the case with the independent reporter Agustín López Canino. The home of this activist, in the village of El Globo on the outskirts of Havan, was surrounded by a wide operation that he managed to evade, although later the police intercepted him in the vicinity of 5th Avenue in Playa municipality.

So far, the complete list of those arrested is unknown. It was planned that around five in the afternoon, the Ladies in White of Aguada de Pasajeros in Cienfuegos would try to attend Mass at the Jesus of Nazareth Catholic Church, where they were prevented from attending on 21 June by the church’s priest, Padre Tarciso.

Two activists from the United Anti-totalitarian Front (FANTU) are still on a hunger strike to demand that the priest reverse his decision and allow the women to enter the temple.

Holguin’s First Pet Store Opens / 14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa

Red Squirrel Pet Store is the result of the initiative of a private entrepreneur. (Fernando Donate / 14ymedio)
Red Squirrel Pet Store is the result of the initiative of a private entrepreneur. (Fernando Donate / 14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa, Holguin, 1 July 2015 — The first pet store in the province of Holguin opened in the first week of June, under the name  hasThe Red Squirrel. The place, the fruit of the initiative of a private entrepreneur, is located on Cuba Street at the corner of Jose Antonio Cardet in the provincial capital and raised the curiosity of passersby outside its door.

For now, there are more who come to look than to buy. Nor is there any lack of critics surprised by the prices and some of the products for animals that can’t be found even in the stores for human beings. In line with State-run establishments that allow payment in both currencies, all the merchandise can be acquired in convertible pesos (CUC) or its equivalent in national currency (CUP). continue reading

The offerings, for now, include the sale of four breeds of dogs. A Pekingese or a Czech Shepherd sells for 40 convertible pesos, while a Chow Chow costs 60 CUC and a German Shepherd 70 CUC. These prices reflect the investment of at least two months salary to acquire one of their beautiful pets.

In the store you can also purchase a wide range of dog accessories such as harnesses, toys, flea and tick collars, shampoo, combs, toothbrushes and toothpaste. The offerings do not end there, those who are going to travel can buy pet carriers and there are also pet beds for the home, dishes, clothes and even shoes. Among the “clothing” one can find sweaters, robes and winter coats, despite the almost always high temperatures in Cuba year-round.

Buying a pet can cost two months of the average Cuban salary

There is also a hair salon for animals, which includes bath, combing, trimming, cutting toenails and cleaning the ears.

The client, as an additional offering, may obtain training on the upbringing and care of the animal. The pets can have a clinical examination in the store and if they present a health problem, be referred to the veterinary clinic.

Luis Rodríguez Hijuelo, owner of the premises and possessor of a license as a breeder-seller of companion animals, says that there are already many people, especially children and teens, who are receiving advice for free.

Before opening the store, Rodríguez Hijuelo worked as a street vendor. Holguin health authorities prohibited his trading in squirrels, one of the animals he offered, arguing that they could be carriers or transmitters of many diseases. That experience is what gave him the idea to name his new business The Red Squirrel.

In the future an expansion of the business will allow him to increase the quantity and variety of animals, Rodríguez expects, and he also plans to sell birds such as cockatiels, canaries, exotic poultry and cats, such as Siamese cats.

 

The Fall of the Embassy Wall / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

The "Anti-imperialist Tribune" has tried for decades to cover the facade of the country now called to be a friend. (AFP / File)
The “Anti-imperialist Tribune” has tried for decades to cover the facade of the country now called to be a friend. (AFP / File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Madrid, 2 July 2015 – In a few days they will change the letterhead, replace the name plaque, and hoist the flag. This building with its green-tinted windows by the sea will cease to be called the Untied States Interests Section and become the United States Embassy in Havana. A transformation that transcends the question of a name, one with political, symbolic and even linguistic connotations.

The date chosen for the reopening, between the United States’ Independence Day and the anniversary of the assault on the Moncada Barracks, will enter the history books and mark a new anniversary to remember. However, only practice will have the last word on how the site will transform or expand its functions. For now, the questions are many. continue reading

Will national television stop broadcasting those programs denigrating Cuban dissidents where they use images of them entering the Interests Section, now the embassy? Will the police no longer wait outside for independent reporters to confiscate their technologies or the diplomas they received from the journalism courses held there? Will they return to us that piece of sidewalk facing the sea, where today the police block pedestrians because of its proximity to the gate of the diplomatic site?

It will be enough to say “the embassy” for all of us to know they mean this site, by the sea, with the green-tinted windows, which has ceased to be “the enemy.”

Freedom of movement for American embassy officials should also be guaranteed, along with respect for their pouches and mailboxes. The ability to contact, visit and meet with civil society will have to stop being stigmatized. Now the diplomats of that country will be guests at commemorations and public acts. We might even see their faces in the Plaza of the Revolution during the May Day parade.

Hopefully, with the new diplomatic site we will also free ourselves from the enormous masts that disfigure the face of our city in front of the building’s façade, with which the Cuban government once wanted to cover the electronic ticker that displayed news items. Those times already seem long gone. The “anti-imperialist plaza” itself has lost a reason for being in a country whose president has smilingly shaken hands with the occupant of the White House.

The embassy will promote events, thematic film festivals, conferences with institutions, and concerts, as do those of other countries such as Canada, Spain, the Netherlands and Italy. Then we will see the stars and stripes on posters, flyers and invitations to cultural activities. Those who wear hats and dark glasses when they approach the place or contact its officials, now will arrive with uncovered faces and chins raised.

However, one of the most significant changes that will occur is in the language. People will stop the use of subterfuges to refer to the place and call it, directly, “the embassy.” Without nicknames, without specifying the country or detailing the ownership. It will be enough to say “the embassy” for all of us to know they mean this site, by the sea, with the green-tinted windows which has ceased to be “the enemy.”

 

Great Expectations And Some Criticism For The Reopening Of Embassies / 14ymedio

Outside the US Interests Section in Havana (14ymedio)
Outside the US Interests Section in Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana — This morning, like any other, outside the building of the United States Interests Section in Havana, the day dawned full of people waiting to apply for a visa to visit or settle in the neighboring country. Few of those gathered were aware that today the date will be announced for the opening of the embassies of the United States and Cuba in the respective countries. After six months of negotiations, the Cuban Foreign Ministry said Wednesday in a statement that the expected date will be 20 July. Previously, the official press had opened the door to the possibility that there would be an announcement, without providing an exact estimate of the date.

Under the harsh sun of the Havana morning, people gathered with umbrellas and sunglasses outside the office in hopes of finding their names on the list of those who would have to go into the building for the visa process. Nothing indicated that this day would end more than 54 years of diplomatic confrontation, they didn’t even learn of the public appearance of the US president Barack Obama, meanwhile it was happening. continue reading

When asked about the change of the US Interests Section into an embassy, most of those interviewed showed a tendency toward cautious optimism. Such is the case with Ruben, a retiree who has visited Miami three times and is going for a third visa, who said that, “This was coming, now we have to think what is going to happen next, because changing the name of a building is not a magic act, nor does it solve the things of now right now.”

Consuelo, 56, was accompanying her sister who wanted to visit her daughter who emigrated four years ago. “No, I didn’t know that today would be the day they would say there would be an embassy, but I hope that with this news the officials are a bit softer and give my sister a visa,” she commented.

Felix Navarro Rodriguez, a regime opponent living in the town of Perico, Matanzas province, believes, “They never should have established contact between the two governments behind the backs of Cuban citizens, the backs of those in the opposition, and the backs of the different factors that should have been taken into account.”

However, the regime opponent believes that, as this has occurred, “There should be a mechanism that can facilitate relations with Cubans, in a diplomatic site totally within the law. In any event, the dissidence is also going to have many variables against it, such as limitations on participating in events, using the Internet navigation rooms, and taking the courses consistently offered by the United States Interest Section in Havana. Those of us who have taken a critical position on the reestablishment of relations, we see that this situation will get worse.”

“Those of us who have taken a critical position on the reestablishment of relations, we see that this situation will get worse.”

The symbols that have, for decades, represented the enemy will return to Havana and some — like Ramón Estupiñán Fajardo, retired from the Ministry of Construction and living in San Miguel del Padrón, Havana — are not satisfied.

“I’ll never forget when we took down the American eagle from the monument to the Maine. Now they say they will reopen the embassy and the Yankee flag will again fly on the Malecon. I have no doubt that the eagle will also be returned to its place, but I think this is only going to bother me and a few of us who remember those times with emotion. It seems to me that most people are happy, but there is a lot of naiveté in this happiness, as long as they don’t end the blockade it’s like nothing has happened. Another thing is that they respect us and that is not achieved at the negotiating table.”

For Elizabeth Batista Acosta, a housewife and resident of the city of Camagüey, the change could mean dreams, a family reunion. “I have two brothers who I only know through photographs, because I am the youngest of the three and they went to the United States on a raft when I was starting elementary school,” she recalls. “They never wanted to return and they won’t give me a visa to go see them. I don’t know how things will be, but I imagine that if they open an embassy and the tension between the two governments eases a little they might come to visit me and my mother and bring flowers to the old ones at the cemetery.”

“Human rights and democracy are unconditional US values. Havana says have their own values. The diplomatic relations will give rise to new opportunities that will tell us who is right”

Yampier Gonzalez Cuervo, a self-employed woman who recently cancelled her license for the food sales, insists that the opening of the embassy “Is not that important.” This resident of Vedado in Havana believes that, “The good will come after (…) I had a snack bar near Linea Street and if they open the embassy I might start it up again, because I’m sure I would have more customers. Perhaps, also, with this measure more yumas (Americans) will come, and who knows but that one of them might fall in love with my business and want to invest to expand it.”

“We’ve had 56 years of the same, and it’s time to change things. It will be a long process but I believe it’s on the right track. I saw Obama’s speech, but I was left with a lot of doubts. What will the conditions be for the opening? When will the ambassador be named? Who will it be,” asks Raul Medina, a bus driver from Hialeah (in Florida).”

“I came to Miami in 2003, when George W. Bush was president. I remember very well that I could only travel to Cuba once every three years, back then,” explains Maria Suarez, living in Miami, who had gone a long time without seeing her family because of that law. “I hope diplomatic relations between the two countries help Cubans from there and from here so we can be ever more united. I don’t understand much about politics, but I do know that we shouldn’t go backwards.”

For Marifeli Perez-Stable, a professor of sociology at Florida International University in Miami, Obama’s announcement closes the first stage since December 17. “The US diplomats will travel throughout the island in order to learn about the Cuban people, civil society and, why not, the government officials in the provinces. After 54 years of absence, the American flag will fly at the embassy on the Malecon. The road from now forward won’t be easy. Human rights and democracy are unconditional values of the United States. Havana says they have their own values. The diplomatic relations, I’m sure, will give rise to new opportunities that will tell us who is right.”

Following the publication of the Cuban president Raul Castro’s letter to his American counterpart, some readers of the newspaper Granma expressed their desire to know the contents of the letter Jeffrey DeLaurentis, chief of the United States Interest Section in Havana delivered in the morning to the Cuban Foreign Ministry. “We expect a better future for the Cuban people, but it seems that we will continue with the secrecy, or perhaps Mr. Obama asked president Raul Castro not to publish his letter?”

Chronicle of a Visit Postponed to Jagüey Grande / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Eliecer-Avila_CYMIMA20150628_0004_16
Eliécer Ávila

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 28 June 2015 — Last Friday afternoon, my wife Rachell and I were going to the city of Jagüey Grande in Mantanzas Province. Several friends were waiting for us there to spend a weekend together talking and discussing future projects. We were going to see Alexey, a motorcycle mechanic and computer genius, as well as Carlos Raúl, a young pastor whose temperament and values make him stand out. Nevertheless, our planned getaway ended far differently than we initially intended, and not because of our will.

We were faced with several organizational challenges before we left the house. We had adopted our second puppy the night before and she was in very bad shape. Moreover, Rachell had to work until five o’clock and run like a marathoner in order to meet all her obligations and get home just in time to leave. Nonetheless, luck was on our side and we quickly caught a bus leaving Havana.

Along the way we were also planning on visiting Playa Larga Beach for the first time to enjoy some relaxation. However, a highway patrol car and two State Security agents cut our dreams short when they stopped the bus on which we were traveling as it entered Jagüey Grande. continue reading

A highway patrol car and two State Security agents cut our dreams short

They ordered us off the bus and forced us into a Soviet World War II ambulance with a sign reading “Maintenance.” We were then transferred back to Havana as we sat on toolboxes. Before that, all our belongings were taken from us, as they uttered the only phrase they echoed throughout the whole journey: “There won’t be any Somos más in Jagüey Grande.”

We experienced moments of both fear and love inside that steel box. It felt like it was falling apart every time it hit a pothole, while its back doors were barely kept shut with wire. The return trip took two hours, but there were moments when adrenaline helped us surmount the hunger, the discomfort, and the abuse we were enduring. Nothing bonds people like sharing a just cause and enduring the ensuing consequences.

We were then taken to the police headquarters of Havana’s Cerro district, and there began the agonizing process of confiscating of all our belongings. Underwear, toothbrushes, deodorant, lipstick, phone chargers, and of all things, two sanitary napkins were confiscated. In short, an endless list of “tools of delinquency.”

The police officer in charge of this painstaking search did not hide his discomfort at having to inventory all that stuff. He was from Guantánamo Province, a large, pleasant, polite man. His attitude towards us undoubtedly troubled the State Security Agents. The same occurred when I was detained in Santiago de Cuba, and the police officers who recognized me tried to greet me, but the head honcho in charge that day ordered them to stay away from the detainee.

After the seizure of our possessions was complete, they took Rachell to a one-person cell, and they put me in a group cell. It was packed with men who seemed like they had been there for several days, sharing the unbearable heat and darkness. It did not take more than five seconds for the obligatory question: “What are you in for?” “Because I think” I replied.

He reiterated, “The Communist Party here has created mechanisms for people to express themselves and complain about anything they want.”

The youngest man there approached me and said: “Oh wait! Wait! That’s why your face looked familiar! You’re from the UCI [University of Information Sciences]!” And he added: “Man, you really let him have it!”* He gave me a friendly embrace and started laughing. He later told me he was in a rock band, and that they ended up fighting the police on “G” Street in Havana because they would not allow them play their music there, while constantly harassing them for identification papers. It was a short conversation, because once the others joined in, the officer in charge of political crimes ordered that I be taken to a one-person cell.

A while later I was transferred to an office so that an individual who introduced himself as Captain Marcos could “have a talk” with me. This young man said the most absurd things one could ever hear. “Eliécer! In that absurd democracy you like, there are thousands of Houses of Representatives, Senates, and Congresses! So to make any decisions, they all have to agree! That’ll never happen here! Can’t you see what they’re doing to Obama?”

Captain Marcos reiterated: “The Communist Party here has created mechanisms for people to express themselves and complain about anything they want.” He also sarcastically asked: “Have you seen any demonstrations? Don’t you get it? (…) The people support this Party and the Constitution. So you and the four little crazies who follow you, and we know who they are, aren’t getting anywhere. You don’t represent anybody,” he stated authoritatively.

I managed to respond that if things were as he said, that no one listens to us or pays attention to us, then why don’t they leave me alone and let the people decide? Why do they keep the people of Jagüey Grande and the whole country from knowing who I am? Of course, he would not answer my questions.

Instead, Captain Marcos repeated that it is they who will always be in charge in Cuba, to which I replied: “That hasn’t happened anywhere in the world.” I further provoked him by assuring him that, “One day there will be a democracy here.” He responded with the threat that I would be thrown in jail. While I showed Captain Marcos that I wanted to be a young man of today, he spoke like an old man of yesteryear. While I was trying to help repair Cuba, he was amazed that I would think there was anything political to fix.

Exasperated with me, Captain Marcos ordered me back to the dungeon. Now it was Rachell’s turn. Surely the interrogator thought it would be easier to pressure a woman, but instead, at one o’clock in the morning, Rachell – who had not even had a cup of coffee all day – gave him a lesson on courage and convictions. I overheard when they returned her to her cell, accusing her of disrespect. I blew her a supportive kiss from behind iron bars as they led her past my cell.

An hour and a half later, all our belongings were returned, and we were released.

In closing, I would like to tell Raúl Castro that it was a great honor for me to have been sent to one of his dungeons because of my beliefs. If he recalls the past, he will know what I mean, and that I will not give up.

Luckily, history never stops.**

Translator’s Notes:

*In 2007, Eliecer who was then a student at Cuba’s University of Information Sciences and actively engaged in coordinating support for the Castro regime on the Internet, was chosen to engage in a dialog with Ricardo Alarcón Cuba’s former ambassador to the United Nations and then president of the National Assembly. A video of this event later went viral worldwide; a version with English subtitles is here. Ultimately, Alarcon lost his post in the National Assembly. Eliecer’s account of his subsequent transition from regime supporter to democracy activist is here.

**Eliecer is referring to Fidel Castro’s speech at his trial after leading the assault on the Moncada Barracks in 1953. Entitled La historia me absolverá (History Will Absolve Me), in his speech Castro said it would be an honor for him to endure Fulgencio Batista’s dungeons, that he would not give up, and that unstoppable course of history would inevitably prove he was right.

Translated by José Badué

The Siege of Tania Bruguera Is Lifted / 14ymedio

artista-Tania-Bruguera-Yania-Suarez_CYMIMA20150522_0011_13
The artist Tania Bruguera at the front door of her home. (Yania Suárez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 June 2015 — Last Friday, June 26th, a police official paid a visit to Tania Bruguera to inform her that the charges against her were being temporarily lifted. The artist refused to sign the offer, and demanded that the charges be permanently lifted, without any restrictions on her returning to her own country.

This information was made public by a message sent through the #yotambienexijo (“I also demand”) platform nearly six months after Bruguera was detained while preparing to give a performance in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución. At the time of her arrest on December 30th, the authorities also confiscated her passport, without which she cannot leave the country.

Bruguera decided to launch the Hannah Arendt Artivist Institute during the Havana Biennial. For more than one hundred consecutive hours, she led the reading, analysis, and discussion of Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism. The event was ignored due to relentless police pressure, a very noisy street repair right in front of the artist’s home, and the subsequent arrest of Bruguera and several companions.

In the text published last Monday on the #yotambienexijo platform, the artist explained that the deal offered her “is unacceptable blackmail, whose intention is to control my art and silence me as a citizen.” Meanwhile, she is suing the Cuban Ministries of Culture and of the Interior for damages incurred during last December’s events.

Links to #yotambienexijo sites:
Restaging of Bruguera’s Tatlin’s Whisper 6 in Times Square in NYC
Twitter
Facebook

Translated by José Badué

Diary of an Alcoholic / 14ymedio, Hector Reyes

Patients’ beds in the rehab ward of Santa Clara Psychiatric Hospital (Photo: Héctor Reyes)
Patients’ beds in the rehab ward of Santa Clara Psychiatric Hospital (Photo: Héctor Reyes)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Hector Reyes, Santa Clara, 13 June 2015 — His story starts with a bottle and ends in a psychiatric ward. More precisely, it ends in the rehab ward of Santa Clara Psychiatric Hospital. With the help of pills and shots, Néstor will try staying for 21 days in order to escape alcoholism’s downward spiral.

The room where the young man is hospitalized does not have a refrigerator, or a television, or lockers to store his belongings. It has only one bathroom without water. Once in a while, one of the six men confined in that small space with only a one working fan, asks out loud “Why?” but nobody in that “cage” answers him. continue reading

Routine is part of the treatment. Wake up, take medications, doze off until breakfast, wait for the meeting with the therapist, snack time, lunch, and more medications. Everyday is the same for three weeks in order to prevent any attempt to fill in the hours with rum and hard liquor. The drugs used to combat addiction range from Carbamazepine to one dose of dextrose per day.

Treatment also requires isolation. Psychiatric patients have the right to freely visit their homes, but alcoholics can only leave the premises if accompanied by a medical staff member. Roque Tejera, another patient hospitalized in that same room believes that being locked up and medicated seems to help. Meanwhile, from a bed at the far side of the room, Lian Morales says that psychotherapy is what gives him the most strength not to relapse.

“I’ve been here six months, and every time I get out, I go back to getting drunk,” explained Orly Ferrer, as he shooed away the flies buzzing all over the room. His story is corroborated by the testimony of doctors and nurses who have seen many patients promise not to drink anymore, and then end up hitting the bars.

Alcoholism ranks among the ten top causes of death in Cuba, and according to official statistics, 45.2% of the population above fifteen years of age consumes alcohol, especially those between 25 and 42.

Alcoholism ranks among the ten top causes of death in Cuba, and according to official statistics, 45.2% of the population above fifteen years of age consumes alcohol

A few months ago, psychiatric expert Dr. Carmen Beatriz Borrego Calzadilla told the official press that the consumption of alcohol is most prevalent among the youth. The health professional stated: “Among adolescents, the consumption of alcohol is often associated with self-determination, fun, entertainment, and modernity.”

Some enter rehab because of family pressure, from families undone by the ravages of alcohol and violence. Others, such as Néstor, sought medical advice in order to be admitted to rehab after a disastrous drunken spree. The Psychiatric Hospital’s emergency room policy states that if a patient arrives on his own will, he will be admitted, if there is a bed available.

They come because they have consumed everything, from rum bought with convertible pesos to homemade concoctions. Noel Ponce, another alcoholic in rehab, says that one of his methods consists of pouring concentrated honey in a sealed tank with a valve. He explained: “You attach a coil to it and heat it up until it bubbles and secretes alcohol.”

Alcoholics from the lowest economic strata, such as retirees and the unemployed, rely on all types of moonshine to quench their daily thirst for alcohol. For many, even the mouthwash available at pharmacies ends up being a way of getting plastered.

Alcoholism is rarely discussed in Cuba, and when the domestic media does focus on it, it almost always does so superficially. The majority of television spots on this issue emphasize its connection to traffic accidents. Programs with a more psychological bent, such as Vale la pena (It’s worth it), attack consumption without mentioning the reasons behind it.

Alcoholism is rarely discussed in Cuba, and when the domestic media does focus on it, it almost always does so superficially

In many Cuban television series and movies there is often an alcoholic, a funny character zigzagging as he urinates from one lamppost to the other. Conversely, the documentary Havana Glue tackles the situation in all its extent and gravity. This movie, directed by the young filmmaker Lupe Alfonso, takes in the opinions of artists, intellectuals, and the average citizen about the consumption of alcohol in Cuban society. It has yet to be broadcast on national television.

In order to help the patients out of the situation they find themselves in when they enter the rehab ward, doctors also recommend physical exercise. Santa Clara Psychiatric Hospital has a room fitted with exercise machines that improve physical and mental health, apart from keeping the patients busy. One of the room’s attendants said: “This space is too small. They should give us the space used for the emergency room.” Due to lack of space, they cannot use the treadmill or the rowing machine.

The other part is made up of psychotherapy, based on the approach of Alcoholics Anonymous, a program that began in 1935 with a New York businessman who began talking to other drinkers about his struggle with sobriety. Today there are more than 100,000 AA groups in about 150 countries.

“Personally, psychotherapy overwhelms me, it depresses me,” commented one of the patients who shares the room with Néstor. Some of the stories shared during sessions raise important issues, while others are heartbreaking or hilarious. The volume increases as the minutes go by and the patients vent.

Since the medical authorities refuse to release statistics, the weight of the problem in rural areas cannot be measured. Six young rural men have just ended up in this small, hot ward of Santa Clara Psychiatric Hospital. When they get out of here, they will return to their small towns, where due to a lack of recreational options, the bottle has become an inseparable companion of social interactions.

Translated by José Badué

Inventory of Differences / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Talk about the lack of unity within the Cuban opposition has already become commonplace. (Marc Gautier / Flickr / CC)
Talk about the lack of unity within the Cuban opposition has already become commonplace. (Marc Gautier / Flickr / CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 26 June 2015 – To talk about a lack of unity within the Cuban opposition has already become commonplace. Among the causes of these lamentable circumstances are enumerated some peculiarities rooted in the greatest depths of our history, whose paradigmatic example is warlordism.

However, there are also rational reasons because opponents gather in separate airtight rooms. First of all, in political vocations. Liberals, socialists, Christian democrats, anarchists, social democrats and other less profiled denominations assume positions about certain topics that can become irreconcilable.

The mere fact of recognizing these nuances sparks commentary from all sides that the most important thing is to dislodge the tyrants from power and that such minutiae can wait until democracy is achieved. But it is not enough to make the immense sacrifice of overlooking future programmatic differences. The spokes in the wheel, the weights, the headwinds, the points of honor that hinder or prevent reaching agreement usually arise from unexpected places.

Here are the most common obstacles to consensus: continue reading

The Cuba-US Dispute

Before December 17, 2014 the discussion centered on whether or not the US economic restrictions toward the island should be maintained, what some call “the blockade” and others “the embargo.” The mere choice of one of these words has prevented prestigious leaders from signing a collective declarationen masse. On this plane we also find the issue of Americans traveling to the island, the reopening of embassies and eventual normalization.

Some are betting that the rigidity of the Cuban system cannot be maintained in an environment of good economic and diplomatic relations with the neighbor to the north. Others believe that the commercial interests of the United States could take precedence over human rights and in the end would award the Cuban Government the benefit of undeserved legitimacy.

The recognition of the reforms made by the Government

Between those who think that, “As long as what has to change isn’t changed, nothing has changed here,” and those who believe that “In this house of cards the slightest movement could lead to the collapse,” there is a large gradation.

This has led some to consider self-employed people as accomplices to the dictatorship, because with the payment of their taxes and their growing habits of consumption they sustain the dictatorship. While others see them as the most dynamic part of the population, who by empowering themselves economically could point the way to political emancipation in defense of the middle class.

The reluctance at every step of the reforms, adjustments, or whatever they prefer to call them, awakes in some the suspicions that it is all about an operation of recycling to maintain themselves in power – a fraudulent Change – and in others hopes that behind every little change there could be lurking a tropical Boris Yeltsin.

In the event that the announced but not yet proclaimed legislation opened the tiniest crack for the participation of the opponents, the divisions would become more pronounced

The attitude toward elections

Not going to vote, voiding or leaving the ballet blank and, more recently, casting one’s vote in favor of a lesser evil or for some malcontent who has managed to get past the controls, are the different attitudes with which some want to demonstrate their disagreement.

The Government’s announcement that it will formulate a new Electoral Law has given the issue new scope for disagreements, as there are those who believe it makes sense to disseminate proposals that could open a space to something like a multiparty system; on the other hand, those who see in the new law another maneuver by the regime to buy time or who call for an independent plebiscite.

In the event that the announced but not yet proclaimed legislation opens the tiniest crack for the participation of the opponents, the divisions would become more pronounced between those who accept involving themselves in the hard-fought elections, and those who consider participation in them as something that gives the game to the dictatorship, and even as a betrayal.

In the street or indoors

Although a consensus is seen in the opposition for the renunciation of violent methods, especially weapons or terrorism, there is a clear difference between those who have chosen to express their differences by going out into the streets, and those who express their critiques through documents, programs or opinion columns. From both sides there are sincere calls to weigh as valid the methods chosen by each grouping or individual, but still, in isolation, expressions appear that label a posture as uselessly provocative proposals of victims, and another as a convenient methodology, free of risk and displaying little solidarity with those who dare to receive beatings.

We are not willing to easily give way before a semantic dilemma; we all agree that it would be easy for the other to accept our terminology

Terminology

I have left for the end an element that affects the text that I am writing. The difference between use the labels Government or the authorities, and others who use the terms regime, dictatorship or tyranny, is perhaps one of the most frequent differences in the opposition endeavor. Other incompatible binomials enter there, like the already mentioned embargo-blockade, or election-voting reforms-cosmetic changes, exile-diaspora, not to mention how difficult it is to classify someone as an opponent, dissident, activist, or independent journalist.

To this is added the generational definitions, which mark a dividing line between those who have spent “more than thirty years in the opposition,” and the recent arrivals; or the contrast between having suffered a prison sentence versus having been detained for only a few hours.

We Cubans depend too much on orality, and are not willing to easily give way before a semantic dilemma. Moreover, we all agree that it would be easy for the other to accept our terminology.

Of course this is an incomplete inventory, I could have mentioned the way in which the role of the churches is seen in the problematic Cuban politics; the choice between remaining on the island and leaving for exile; the relentless pursuit of “doing something” or the patient resignation that time and biology will do its work; with or without dialog with the Government; resisting arrest or letting them take you prisoner; accepting financing from foreign organizations or rejecting it on principle; attending a government-sponsored “Rendering of Accounts” to channel complaints, or not attending to deny its legitimacy; going abroad to participate in events or declining invitations to not miss even a minute of the main struggle, and so on, until we run out of imagination in choosing the very colors of our arrogant identity.

Juan Abreu: “Executions in Cuba Are an Untold Story” / 14ymedio, Yaiza Santos

Juan Abreu: ‘1959. Fall from Grace,’ fragment (oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm)
Juan Abreu: ‘1959. Fall from Grace,’ fragment (oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yaiza Santos, Mexico, 27 June 2015 – Painter and writer Juan Abreu (b. Havana, 1952) has taken on the inordinate task of painting, one by one, all those executed by the Castro regime. The work in progress is entitled 1959 but encompasses 2003, the year in which Lorenzo Capello, Barbaro Sevilla and Jorge Martinez were sentenced to death in a summary trial, accused of “acts of terrorism” after trying to reroute a passenger ferry to escape to the United States. They were the last executed by the Cuban government. “Let it be known,” says Abreu.

The project emerged, he says, recently, by chance: “I was doing some paintings that had to do with the firing squads in Cuba, because I was struck by the character, the loner that they are going to kill. I had seen some paintings by Marlene Dumas of Palestinians and then I approached the subject. When I started researching, suddenly the faces of all these people began to appear. I began to look at the faces and read, and suddenly I realized that I was going to have to paint this. Not only as a kind of pictorial adventure, which it is, because of the quantity of portraits and the complexity of the genre, but also because it seems to me that I have a certain moral responsibility.” continue reading

Juan Abreu: ‘1959. Carlos Baez’ (born in 1937, shot in 1965), fragment (oil on canvas, 27 x 35 cm)
Juan Abreu: ‘1959. Carlos Baez’ (born in 1937, shot in 1965), fragment (oil on canvas, 27 x 35 cm)

Of the executions in Cuba, he continues, “It is an untold story. Not only untold, but also they have tried to hide it, and when they have spoken of it, the effort has always been to discredit the protagonists, branded as outlaws or murderers. These accusations lack any kind of historical evidence. They were people who rebelled, the same as Fidel Castro rebelled against Batista, they rebelled against Fidel Castro.”

The death penalty, explains Abreu, was not contemplated in the 1940 Constitution which the Revolution originally claimed it would restore: “They [the Castro regime] imposed it. The trials completely lacked any kind of safeguard. Sometimes even the lawyer spoke worse of the condemned than the prosecutor did. They were Soviet-style trials: you already knew you were guilty as soon as they caught you; you knew that they were going to kill you or put you in jail for thirty years.”

In order to gather as much information as possible, he contacted some of the few people who have devoted themselves to the topic in the United States, like Maria Werlau, from the Cuba Archive, or Luis Gonzales Infante, a former political prisoner who sent Abreu his book Rostros/Faces, where he compiles names and photos of those dead by execution, from hunger strike or in combat during the El Escambray uprising, those seven years that historians like Rafael Rojas consider a civil war and that Fidel Castro called a “fight against bandits.”

Evilio-Abreu-Gonzalez-Oil-cmsJPG_CYMIMA20150625_0014_16

Other documents he has found easily on the Internet, like videos from the period and photographs from the free press that still existed in Cuba when the Revolution triumphed. Hence, the executions of Enrique Despaigne, doubled over by two shots at the edge of a ditch, or Cornelio Rojas, whose hat flew together with his brains against the execution wall. Abreu confesses that what impacted him most was “the gruesomeness and cruelty” of some of the cases.

Like that of Antonio Chao Flores, who at 16 years of age fought against Batista – the magazine Bohemia had him on its cover as a hero of the Revolution – and at 18 years of age he fought against Castro, and was required to drag himself from his cell in the La Cabana fortress to the execution wall without the leg he had lost in combat because the guard took his crutches from him. “It is from the savagery of the system’s punishment mechanism that one feels fury that all this that has happened has been forgotten. If I was Chilean or Argentinean, this would immediately demand attention.”

Abreu says that the project is becoming gigantic and that he cannot stop. For now, he has painted some twenty of the 6,000 total that he estimates were executed in Cuba in that almost half-century. Via a Youtube video [see below] he seeks photographs from all who may be aware of any victim.

No one has answered him from Cuba – “There, to have a relative who was a prisoner or who had been shot, was anathema, because of the amount of false propaganda against them” – but people have answered him from the United States. For example, one sent him the photograph of her neighbor in Cuba, whom she knew from childhood, who used to greet her kindly and whom she eventually learned was made a prisoner and executed. It was when media control was complete, and an absolute silence, when propaganda was not served, covered these kinds of cases.

“The death penalty in Cuba has always been used as a means of social threat. When they ask me, “But why has the regime lasted so long?” I answer: It has lasted for many reasons, but among them because it is a system that kills. You know that they will kill you. And there is no safeguard: There is no judge or lawyer who can defend you, and if they decide that you have to be killed, they will kill you. And if you do anything against the system, they will kill you. Death is a very effective deterrent.”

Juan Abreu: ‘1959. Man Alone,’ fragment (oil on canvas, 35 x 27 cm, collection of Carles Enrich)
Juan Abreu: ‘1959. Man Alone,’ fragment (oil on canvas, 35 x 27 cm, collection of Carles Enrich)

Forged by the generation of his friends Reinaldo Arenas and Rene Ariza, Abreu says that “kind of strange fury” that he feels about Cuba has not abandoned him since he left the Island with the Mariel Boatlift, and that after so many years, he has decided to stop fighting it. “Towards Reinaldo (Arenas), for example, it seemed to me a great betrayal. In our last conversation, two or three days before he killed himself, we were talking about that precisely, and he told me, ‘Up to the last minute. Our war with those people is to the last breath of life.’ It surprised me a little why he was saying that to me, but of course, he already had his plans. Maybe I like lost causes, but I will continue infuriated.”

By way of poetic revenge, he hopes that his project 1959 – which he calls “completely insane” – ends up one day in a museum. “Because a hundred years from now, when no one remembers who Fidel Castro was, these paintings will be here and people will say, ‘And what about these, so pretty?’ And that, truthfully, is very comforting.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDmzdQFbBtE#t=101

“Literature Does Not Matter. Many Other Things In Cuba Matter More” / 14ymedio, Yaiza Santos

David Miklos, Ahmel Echevarría and Carlos Alberto Aguilera inthe meeting organized by CIDE in Mexico City. (14ymedio)
David Miklos, Ahmel Echevarría and Carlos Alberto Aguilera inthe meeting organized by CIDE in Mexico City. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yaiza Santos, Mexico, 22 June 2015 – The Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE) in Mexico City organized from 16 to 18 June, the meeting “Poetics of the Present: Narrating Cuba 1956 to 2015,” opened by critic Christopher Domínguez Michael and closed by the journalist Homero Campa. It was a meeting between young writers living on the island and intellectuals of the same generation living in exile.

The first group included the narrators Jorge Enrique Lage and Ahmel Echevarria, members of what has been called “Generation Zero” of Cuban literature; for the second there was Walfrido Dorta, a researcher of the City University of New York,Waldo Perez Cino, an editor living in Leiden (Netherlands), and the poet, novelist and essayist Carlos Alberto Aguilera, co-founder of the journal Diaspora(s), who is currently living in Prague.

At the end of the session, in which  the Mexican writer David Miklos and the Cuban historian living in Mexico Rafael Rojas also participated, 14ymedio spoke with five special guests. Their answers are a sample of the different approaches and fruitful dialogue that took place during those three days. continue reading

14ymedio, Yaiza Santos. In a society where the free market exists, the relationship between writers and readers can clearly be seen, for example, in how many books are sold. Those of you on the island, how do you observe your relationship with your readers?

Jorge Enrique Lage. I don’t observe. But it is because there is no physical media in Cuba, no space for criticism. There is no infrastructure that allows you to think in those terms: has my book sold, how successful has it been… I don’t expect criticism, and the feedback with readers comes when you talk to them. But reading reviews or knowing that all the books sold in a bookstore, I’m oblivious.

Nor do I care. Because the problem of lack of space is critical, but not for literature. Literature doesn’t matter. It is critical for everything else. Lacking space for journalism, truthful journalism, current commentaries on politics and economics. And when there is space for all that, it will at some point include space for literary criticism.

Ahmel Echevarria. I think this relationship is mostly displayed in the presentation of a book, and a literary activity or simply in a party with friends, because I don’t believe that at the level of the State – well, to call it the State is to say everything, because everything belongs to the State – there are devices that are analyzing that.

When the book fair is analyzed statistically, there are numbers that I’m not very sure reflect what actually happens: there are a number of people attending the book fair, but in reality, of those hundreds or thousands of people, how many people are consuming literature? So, like Jorge, I don’t expect this statistic for me. What interests me in thinking about literature, making literature, is having fun, talking with friends, and the rest, if it comes it comes.

Question. Has nothing changed with the digital landscape? I think, for example, that you, some on the island, some outside, as has been mentioned in this symposium, keep in touch via the Internet.

Carlos Alberto Aguilera. It is that one doesn’t write for the readers. Who are the readers? The readers don’t exist. I’m not saying that a reader doesn’t exist, that head that can connect with your literature and in some way is going to understand it or recycle it, or do something with it.

This happens in very determined micro-communities. But they are not the readers. There is no way to write for the readers: it is too large a mass, too heterogeneous. If my book can sell or not, it’s not a question for me: it’s a question for the publisher. It doesn’t interest me, and it has never been a constraint to the way I write.

“That what we call Cuban literature, the less Cuban it is, and the less literature as an institution is, the better.”

Waldo Pérez Cino. I agree totally with Aguilera, but invert the point of view: he says for an author, the readers don’t exist, but for the readers, the authors do exist. And from this point of view, the Internet has produced a kind of de-territorialization, of circulation of the book, of circulation of texts, and of the way the visibility of authors circulates. What Carlos said is true, but if you look at it in reverse, effectively there is a chance for the readers, for those potential readers, who even when they have not read a particular author, they can identify a name, a mark of style or an attachment. Thirty years ago, it would probably have been impossible to circulate references to as many authors as today.

Walfrido Dorta. Look, right now I’m reading the last column of Gilberto Padilla in On Cuba, which is just about online literature and the phenomena of literature produced starting only from what the reader asks for. A model totally opposite to that offered by Aguilera. Padilla speaks of those teenagers who write novelas in installments and continue with what their readers are asking for. With this, clearly, online literature is moving in diametrically opposed patterns.

Question. What specific thing would you like to happen tomorrow, for example, to improve the state of Cuban literature?

Carlos Alberto Aguilera. Which was totally destroyed. Seriously. I think that what we call Cuban literature, the less Cuban it is, and the less literature as an institution is, the better.

Walfrido Dorta. That there would be independent publishers. That the State not be the only source of any kind of initiative. That will greatly threaten the state of things. Beyond that, improving writing, and in terms of intellectual networks, this is the first thing that will have to fade into the past.

Jorge Enrique Lage. I would not ask for anything. Literature is one of the centers of my life, but in Cuba there are so many things lacking, that to ask something for literature would be irresponsible. Literature doesn’t matter. Many other things in Cuba matter now, and we are talking of thousands, millions of people, for whom literature in their lives means nothing and they need so many other things.

So I would separate Cuban literature in relation to the “Change” [in the Cuban political system]. I see it as two separate spheres: although at some point they connect, but literature has nothing to do with the Change. The Change is for other reasons, other needs.

In Cuba, many things other than literature matter now, there are millions of people for whom literature in their lives means nothing and they need so many other things.

Ahmel Echevarria. For me, if anything, that they fix the streets.

Waldo Pérez Cino. I think that for literature, neither for the Cuban nor the Icelander, you cannot do anything institutionally. Literature is what is, or it is not what it is not, period. It exists to the extent that it is written, and that it is produced. What could be done, perhaps, is for distribution (or circulation, although that’s used more for periodicals than books), but, well, that would not be for literature. And much less for literature marked with a national seal.

Question. For those who live outside Cuba, do you see yourselves returning to Cuba, living in Cuba, working in Cuba, at some point?

Walfrido Dorta. No, not right now. But to throw stones at yourself is irresponsible and uncertain, then I don’t know. One has very fresh in one’s mind the limitations, the traumas, and the impediments that are still there; they weigh heavily when it comes time to decide.

Waldo Pérez Cino. In my case, at least, a “final” return, to use a Cuban government adjective – “final” exit – no, I don’t see it at all. But I can perfectly imagine, not now, but indeed in the future, a kind of coming and going, of in some way being in Cuba, of spending seasons in Cuba and seasons outside.

Walfrido Dorta. When one hears the question, you think now about the “final,” which was my answer. Coming and going, yes, I see it, clearly. Because for example, if one chooses an academic career in the United States, the links with Cuban institutions are almost inevitable.

Carlos Alberto Aguilera. If you are talking about something final, it is not a question I ask myself, and it is not something final… I have never been back, and I have refused to be published inside Cuba, even in journals I admire, such as “La Noria,” as long as there is this regime. And it is a personal question. If I see myself returning to Cuba, coming and going, I think I would only go to Cuba if the worst happens – my mom lives in Cuba – otherwise, no.

 

Nearly 2,800 Cubans Have Tried To Reach The US Coast Since October / 14ymedio

Cuban boat people rescued by the Mexican Navy. (Secretariat of the Navy of Mexico)
Cuban boat people rescued by the Mexican Navy. (Secretariat of the Navy of Mexico)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 23 June 2015 — A total of 2,796 Cubans have tried to or have arrived in the United States by the maritime route in the first eight months of the 2015 fiscal year, according to figures from the US Coast Guard (USCG) published by Martí Noticias.

The statistics, covering the time between October 1, 2014 and June 22, 2015, equals 76% of the number of Cubans who tried in the previous fiscal year (3,677) and includes operations of interception and disruption conducted in the Strait Florida, the Caribbean and the Atlantic, and the so-called “dry feet” that touched American soil. continue reading

The figure, published by Martí Noticias is an increase of 84 people compared to those reported by the by the USCG on June 18, when the repatriation of 32 rafters intercepted between June 6 and 10 was reported.

Back in October, the Coast Guard demonstrated concern about the increase in Cuban rafters arriving on the coast of Florida, which some Miami voices call a “silent exodus.”

A total of 3,940 migrants were intercepted at sea or managed to touch land in the 2013/2014 fiscal year, double those recorded in 2012 (2,129 Cubans) and even higher with respect to those of prior years: 2011 (1,870 Cubans), 2010 (1,976 Cubans) and 2009 (1.740 Cubans).

However, in fiscal years 2007 and 2008 a total of 7,866 Cubans and 5,766, respectively, attempting to arrive by sea to the United States, much higher than the figures of the last fiscal year.

Cuba Aims It Will Have 110,000 Tourist Rooms For 2030 / 14ymedio

Tourists in Havana. (14ymedio)
Tourists in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 June 2015 – Those who want to reserve a room today in a hotel in Varadero, Cayo Coco or other tourist areas hear frequent warnings of “it’s full” or “there are few rooms.” The increase in international tourism in the first quarter of the year, coupled with greater summer season demand by Cubans on the island, is forcing authorities in the tourist industry to plan an increase in lodging that could reach 110,000 rooms by 2030.

Experts gathered in Havana at the 10th International Seminar on Journalism and Tourism, being held at the Jose Marti International Journalism Institute, also addressed the importance of foreign investment in the sector. continue reading

At the meeting on Monday, the Ministry of Tourism’s business director, Jose Daniel Alonso, delved into the details of “The 101 new business opportunities for the expansion and diversification of infrastructure,” in hotels, included in the portfolio of opportunities directed to foreign investors, according to the official press.

Alonzo stressed the strengthening of investments in the southern area of Cienfuegos-Trinidad, north of Camaguey, Las Tunas and Holguin, although he did not rule out the possibility of making investments in other regions. The official said that by 2020 it is expected that 85,000 rooms will be completed and by 2030 the projected number is 110,000.

The facilities for deep sea diving and nautical recreation, as well as city tours and nature tourism are among the options Alonso described with “great untapped potential.” He also addressed real estate investment associated with tourism, which with the implementation of 13 projects expected by 2020, all of them under the new regulations of the Foreign Investment Act.

The event was attended by 70 industry professionals from 12 countries, including the United States, Ecuador, Colombia, Italy, Panama, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. This seminar is held annually under the auspices of the Cuban Journalists Union and with the participation of the tourist press circle.

Cuban Customs Detected 29 Drug Cases So Far This Year / 14ymedio

Watching a report broadcast by the main news about the work against drugs at customs.
Watching a report broadcast by the main news about the work against drugs at customs.

14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 25 June 2015 — The General Customs of the Republic (AGR) has detected 29 drug cases since early this year, as published on Thursday in the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth). In the past six months, according to official media, they have seized about 51 kilos combined of cocaine, marijuana, hashish and synthetic cannabinoids.

The most common practice for introducing substances into the country is hiding them inside flashlights, cars and spare parts, swivel chairs, TV screens, soap, screws, boxes of food, religious objects, shoes and other articles. continue reading

Among the cases detected, in at least 23 of them the narcotics was in supposed gift packages, according to the traffickers. However, Customs clarifies that saying that the article in which the drugs are hidden “belongs to a friend, or someone who paid them to deliver it to their family, does not exonerate the passenger from the responsibility enshrined in Cuban law, which is intransigent before the importing of drugs and psychotropic substances.”

Customs also has detected attempts to take large amounts of Cuban medications out of the country, as well as smuggling of cash and precious metals. Since January, they have uncovered 293 cases of taking out tobacco, raw materials and cigars. Also high are attempts to take protected wildlife species out of the island.

The drugs are often hidden inside flashlights, cars, religious objects. shoes or other items

At a press conference, José Luis Muñoz Toca, Customs Technical Director specified that as of May 31, there were 73 cases involving arms smuggling. In addition, “We also detected media and equipment hidden in suitcases intended to support subversion activities in the country,” the official explained, without giving details of the nature of goods confiscated.

More streamlined customs procedures

Cuban Customs’ most pressing objective is arm itself with international standards before the eventual avalanche of tourism expected from the normalization of relations with the United States.

Without referring directly to this issue, the head of the AGR, Pedro Miguel Perez Betancourt emphasized that among the key priorities is to satisfy all passengers and that the Customs service performed at the border is exercised “Within the frame and law conferred by law for any processing, operation or baggage screening.”

The official said that efficiency in the offices has improved and that, “The time spent in customs procedures at airports has decreased considerably, from 45 minutes in 2011 to 25 minutes in 2015.”

Among the difficulties faced by Customs is corruption, because employees are constantly submitted to the pressures of bribery. Concern about maintaining the integrity of the employees in the airport terminals is most intense in regards to drug trafficking cases.
The officials explained that they are trying to do a better job on three parallel tracks: improving technological capabilities, the professional development of the workers and a greater degree of rigor in the controls on the part of the leadership.

Implementation of clearance by weight to reduce the number of times luggage is opened and implementing a new automated clearance system is still being tested and could reduce the time per passenger.

Muñoz Toca, director of Technical Customs, said they have reduced procedural errors and stressed that, “Most of the complaints and disagreements arise from delays in clearance and inappropriate behavior of employees at that time.”

According to officials, most complaints stems from the delays that arise from delays in clearance and inappropriate behavior of employees

He added that the complaint system has been perfected. “Today international airports have offices for reception and processing of complaints with groups to investigate and clarify the complaints and a subsequent evaluation in the legal commissions,” he explained.

He also addressed the commitment of Customs to, “Simplify and streamline procedures starting with the introduction of new control techniques and information technology which should contribute to supporting the commercial management of the country.”

At the press conference, no reference was made to the repeated complaints of the harassment to which civil society activists and political opposition leaders are subjected to, in a selective way, usually being minutely searched and having equipment and documentation seized on their return to the island.

Eight UNPACU Activists Who Recorded A Video Remain Detained / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Santiago de Cuba, 24 June 2015 — Eight of the 15 Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) activists from the Altamira neighborhood in Santiago de Cuba who were arrested Monday while filming an independent video remain in jail, the leader of the organization, José Daniel Ferrer, said Wednesday/

In a telephone call with 14ymedio, Ferrer said that among those still detained include singer Omar Sayud Taquechel, Fernando Vazquez Guerra and Romualdo del Risco Martin, who continue to refuse food at the police station known as Micro 9. In another detention center in the city, commonly called “the motorized,” Héctor Velázquez Gómez, José Roberto Núñez, David Fernández Cardoso, Anibal Ribeaux Figueredo and Franklin Álvarez Fernández are in jail.

A video posted on UNPACU’s YouTube channel, with hundreds of visitors so far, caught the moment when security forces violently fell on young people who were involved in filming on a Santiago street while carrying a flag Cuban.

Emigrating in the Third Age / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

An old man. (Silvia Corbelle)
An old man. (Silvia Corbelle)

14ymedio biggerGeneration Y, Yoani Sanchez, 23 June 2015 – The building where I live is like a diminutive Cuba, where the larger country appears represented with its vicissitudes and hopes. Fourteen stories that at times offer a biopsy of reality or a representative fragment of life outside. For years, the emigration of young people has marked the life of this ugly concrete block, constructed 30 years ago by some optimistic microbrigadistas* in order to put a roof over their children’s heads. The majority of these children, now men and women, do not live on the island today. However, the exodus has also spread to a worrying extent among those of the third age.

A few weeks ago in the hallway I stumbled upon a neighbor whose children left some time ago for the country to the north. Between postcards at Christmas, visits every now and then and nostalgia, the family has tried to overcome separation and the pain of absence. The man of the family, now retired and almost 70, commented to me that he was selling his apartment. “I’m leaving,” he said, smiling from ear to ear. Another retiree who overheard, spat out derisively, “You’re nuts! Why are you leaving if all that’s left to you are ‘two shaves,’?” alluding to the possible brevity of the existence ahead of him. continue reading

Not to be outdone, the mocked one replied, “Yes, it’s true, all that’s left for me is ‘two shaves,’ but I want them to be with a Gillette.” With a pension of barely 20 CUC a month, a home that every day shows the passage of time and the lack of resources to repair it, the future emigrant won’t be stopped by gray hairs or old age. What is making so many seniors choose to relocate abroad despite age, health and the uprooting of their lives? They also feel the lack of opportunities, the day-to-day difficulties, and – most significantly – end up concluding that the social project to which they gave their youth has defrauded and abandoned them.

They feel the lack of opportunities and the day-to-day difficulties, and have ended up concluding that the social project to which they gave their youth has defrauded and abandoned them

“All I want is a peaceful old age, without having to stand in line all the time,” the determined old man explained to me. For him, his country is synonymous with shortages, problems getting food, an old age of racing to get potatoes and fighting against those who want to get ahead of him in the line to buy eggs. The apartment he built with his own hands for the enjoyment of his children now has peeling walls and a clogged toilet. “With my pension I can’t arrange to get things fixed,” he detailed.

Even the elderly are packing their suitcases on this island… and from the scale model that is this Yugoslav-style building, old people are also saying goodbye.

* Translator’s note:
For more information about microbrigades see page 26 of this report by Cuban architect Mario Coyula.