With More Travelers, Cuban Customs Heightens Control / 14ymedio

Havana's Airport (14ymedio)
Havana’s Airport (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 24 June 2016 – Cuba’s General Customs of the Republic has announced that it will strengthen the infrastructure of detection in air and sea terminals throughout this year to counter “phenomena such as drug trafficking, violations of the security of the country and smuggling of endemic species,” according to a report in the official press on Friday.

Moraima Rodríguez Nuviola, assistant director of Customs Control Systems, in a meeting with the press on Thursday, highlighted the need to strengthen “risk management, the preparation of forces, and the acquisition and mastery of modern technologies.”

With the increasing number of tourists in recent months, following the immigration reforms that eased travel for Cubans beginning in 2013, the work of the customs service has experienced an increased “level of complexity,” especially in detecting communications technologies coming into the country, because of the advancements in these technologies in recent years, said Rodriguez Nuviola.

Customs keeps a tight control over satellite transmission and reception equipment, literature critical of the Government, controversial audiovisual materials and technology to create wireless networks. During the strict customs searches, which include scanning each bag, they also look for external hard drives and other data storage devices.

Methods of circumventing the restrictions have diversified, acknowledged the official, and there has been an increase in “diverse methods of hiding the introduction of these methods into the country (bringing them in parts and pieces hidden inside the frames of similar equipment).”

Between January and May, the entity foiled a total of 41 cases of transportation of drugs, among them six kilograms of cocaine and seven of marijuana. During this period, they also detected 817 violations defined as the “introduction of devices, satellite equipment and subversive literature aimed at the counterrevolution.”

There has also been an increase “in attempts to bring in weapons, parts and ammunition and an increased detection of subversive printed materials in different formats,” said Rodriguez Nuviola.

In the absence of a legal framework for commercial imports destined for private hands, many travelers use their personal baggage to bring into the country goods such as clothing, footwear and medicines, which are subsequently sold on the informal market.

With regards to bringing in undeclared cash, in the first five months of the year Customs detected at least 47 cases in which they have recovered the smuggling of 1,598 Cuban convertible pesos, 63,924 dollars and 1,100 euros.

In the face of new conditions, Nelson Cordobes Reyes, first deputy head of the Cuban Customs, reinforced that the “control activity in the field of Aviation Security at the exit from international airports, particularly for direct flights to the United States” will be strengthened. Customs will also invest in new “technical means of detection and control.”

Cuban activists and opponents have regularly denounced the confiscation by the authorities of literature, computers, external hard drives and business cards. As a rule, despite following the process for reclaiming possessions, travelers are unable to retrieve the items confiscated from them.

Everything Focused on Fidel’s Ninetieth! / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 24 June 2016 — This is not about the lottery or a charade. On the contrary, it’s about an absurd and unfortunate violent and viral “cult of personality” attack.

I remember in the early sixties when some government kiss-up had the idea of coming out with a postage stamp with the face of Fidel the guerrilla on it, and almost immediately, in a gesture I now consider meant to play well in the media, he was ordered to withdraw it.

But with the passing of time photos of the “maximum leader” appeared in public offices, workplaces, factories and schools. The media wrapped everything around his figure and the leader was turning a blind eye because apparently he was pleased by it. His ego was growing and growing.

Since January of this year, not a single day of the calendar has passed in which the printed press, radio and TV have failed to refer to the 90th birthday of the “eternal leader.”

Just to cite a few examples. At the National Council of the Workers’ Central Union of Cuba (CTC), in a country where there are so many and diverse labor problems that affect workers, the CTC considered one of the most important tasks of the labor union movement to to pay homage of the indisputable leader of the Revolution on his 90th birthday.

In another example, forestry workers celebrated the day set aside for them by planting ninety cedars as a sign of respect for Fidel’s “ideas and legacy.”

Even the “renewed” La Rampa Fair, in its 17th edition, will be dedicated to the leader’s 90th birthday.

This is happening in all the cultural, political and labor spheres in our country, because the top leadership demands and prioritizing all this “North Korean Style” tribute, to this 90th birthday that will be celebrated this August 13th.

Total Addiction to Power / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 22 June 2016 — Some years ago the Latin American left abandoned the guerrilla struggle as the main way to gain power, choosing to use, instead, the existing democratic institutions and mechanisms in their respective countries.

The problem presents itself when, through these same institutions and mechanisms, they must leave power. Then we see the machinations begin, the changing of constitutions, the setting aside of democratic institutions, abuses of power and other aberrations of a totalitarian character. The examples are endless.

In Argentina, since the opposition with Macri at the helm won the elections, former president Cristina Fernandez and her adepts have tried every possible way to make it difficult for them to exercise power.

In Venezuela, when the Chavistas lost their majority in the National Assembly, they started and still continue a process of disavowing the work of the Assembly, even going to the extreme of creating an unconstitutional monstrosity they call “the Congress of the Country,” which includes ignoring the call for a mid-term referendum.

The Chavistas are violating all democratic laws, documents and regulations, and continue to protest and even receive support from their external minions when they make a call to order.

In Bolivia, the self-styled “first indigenous president” tries to hold another referendum, ignoring the results of the previous one, so that he can be re-elected in perpetuity.

In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega is again nominated for president for the November elections.

In Brazil, the offensive against the government that replaced Dilma Rousseff has not ceased and now, as it that weren’t enough, former president Lula de Silva reappears, wanting to present himself as a candidate for president in 2018.

The left, when it gets a taste of “the honey of power,” becomes totally addicted. They must be urged to find an effective treatment to avoid this.

Remittances To Cuba A Record $3.3+ Billion in 2015 / EFE, 14ymedio

As of this spring, Western Union is sending remittances from the US to Cuba (Business Wire)
As of this spring, Western Union is sending remittances from the US to Cuba (Business Wire)

EFE (via 14ymedio), 23 June 2016 – The sending of remittances – money primarily from family and friends to Cubans on the island – has experienced the “most dynamic growth” in Latin America, with a record 3.354 billion dollars sent in 2015, according to the Havana Consulting Group.

Between 2008 and 2015, remittances to Cuba grew by 1.907 billion dollars, an annual average increase of 238 million dollars, “an event without precedent in the Cuban market where remittances to the island officially began in 1993,” according to Emilio Morales, the president of the group based in Miami.

Morales attributed much of the growth to the easing of “restrictions and limitations” on the sending of remittances, especially that stemming from the “rapprochement” between Cuba and the United States, under the leadership of US President Barack Obama.

Another factor in the change has been the “huge increase” in travel between the US and Cuba; in 2015 a total of 538,433 Cubans and Cuban-Americans made round trips between the United States and Island, or vice versa, an increase of 328% over 2007.

Venezuela and the Years of Fidel Castro’s Hysteria / Iván García

Caricature from the Mexican caricaturist Fernando Llera, taken from his blog.
Caricature from the Mexican caricaturist Fernando Llera, taken from his blog.

Ivan Garcia, 16 June 2016 — It was a winter morning in 1978. The director of Antonio Maceo secondary school — housed in the old Teachers’ Normal School in the Havana burough of Cerro — announced in melodramatic tones that students at the campus must prepare for an imminent attack by the United States.

His harangue went, more or less, something like this: “The imperialist enemy never ceases in its efforts to prevent us from building socialism and practicing proletarian internationalism with our brothers in Africa. Therefore, we must be prepared to defend the victories of the Revolution. Everyone, from the young to the old, must know how to fire a gun.” Continue reading “Venezuela and the Years of Fidel Castro’s Hysteria / Iván García”

Cubans And Foreigners Competing For Hotel Rooms / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata

It is estimated that domestic tourism will grow by 13.8% this year compared to 2015. (14ymedio)
It is estimated that domestic tourism will grow by 13.8% this year compared to 2015. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 20 June 2016 — With the arrival of summer on Monday, Cubans are obsessed with getting an “all-inclusive” package tour to enjoy the school holidays. However, domestic demand is affected by the simultaneous growth of foreign tourism — up 11.9% since January — and the insufficient number of hotel rooms.

Since 2008, when Cubans were granted the previously denied permission to book rooms in hotels, domestic tourism has seen a sharp increase and is estimated to grow by 13.8% this year compared to 2015. The island currently has about 61,200 rooms in about 300 hotels. The Ministry of Tourism plans to add some 3,790 new rooms and repair 5,677 others, by December. Continue reading “Cubans And Foreigners Competing For Hotel Rooms / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata”

Assassins, Accomplices and Victims / Ángel Santiesteban

14 May 2016 — We are now looking at another anniversary of the execution of the young men who, in 2003, tried to hijack the Regla ferryboat and were shot by the dictatorship. As is well known, it was one of the most vile assassinations of the so-called “Cuban Revolution, on an extensive list that has grown in their five decades of totalitarianism. It claimed the lives of a group of defenseless young men who only longed to reach a horizon that would offer them lives of dignity.

They were executed, despite the deception in the negotiations with the responsible authorities, who assured them that if they surrendered absolute nothing would happen to them, especially because they had done nothing to harm any of the passengers on the ferry. After a summary trial they were shot. This is story in its briefest version. Continue reading “Assassins, Accomplices and Victims / Ángel Santiesteban”

Latin America in the Mirror of ‘Brexit’ / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

A demonstration against the costs of the Mercosur Summit in 2014. (Digital Analysis)
A demonstration against the costs of the Mercosur Summit in 2014. (Digital Analysis)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 June 2016 — Rupture can only be possible if there was once an agreement, a relationship or love. In the eyes of Latin America, Brexit seems like the story of a mature friend embroiled in the bitter litigation of a divorce, provoking a certain envy in those who have never managed to mate. In this world, while some arrange their departure from an alliance, others yearn for the marriage of an agreement.

When the British vote this Thursday on a referendum to decide whether the United Kingdom will remain in or leave the European Union, the major impact of in Latin America should be a reflection on unitary structures, their reason for being and their fragility. On a continent where, in recent years, there have been innumerable groups, alliances and regional councils, each one more ineffective than the last, comparisons are inevitable. Continue reading “Latin America in the Mirror of ‘Brexit’ / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

The Goytisolo Palace, A Jewel Of Cienfuegos About To Disappear / 14ymedio, Caridad Cruz

The Goytisolo Palace, also known as La Catalana, in Ciefuegos
The Goytisolo Palace, also known as La Catalana, in Ciefuegos

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Caridad Cruz, Cienfuegos, 19 June 2016 — One of the greatest treasures of Cienfuegos, the Goytisolo Palace, lies in ruins amid official apathy to the rescue of this emblematic building in a city declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005.

Declared a local monument, the Goytisolo Palace, or La Catalana as it is also known, was built by Agustín Goytisolo Lezazarburu, a Biscayan born in 1812 who came to Cuba in search of opportunities in the 1830s. Continue reading “The Goytisolo Palace, A Jewel Of Cienfuegos About To Disappear / 14ymedio, Caridad Cruz”

Cooling Off / 14ymedio, Luzbely Escobar

Boys bathing in the rain in Havana. (14ymedio)
Boys bathing in the rain in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luzbely Escobar, Havana, 21 June 2016 — With the coming of summer the evening downpours are back. Almost daily, in the evening, the sky is loaded with black clouds about to burst. Sometimes we get the “deluge” and sometimes not. When it happens, invariably the boys in the neighborhood come out together to have fun in the rain.

Most of the students in the country are on vacation in these weeks, and don’t miss an opportunity to play soccer or baseball on any corner. When the downpour comes, instead of trying to find shelter under a roof, they walk the streets looking for puddles to splash in and enjoying everything falling from the sky. Continue reading “Cooling Off / 14ymedio, Luzbely Escobar”

Nespresso Will Be The First Company To Export Cuban Coffee To The US / 14ymedio

A farmer selects ripe coffee. (EFE)
A farmer selects ripe coffee. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio (With agency information), Havana, 20 June 2016 — The Cuban coffee will again be exported to the US after more than 50 years. Nespresso, of the Nestlé group, will be the first company to do so, as reported Monday by the Reuters agency.

Cuban coffee is one of the products of the island’s non-state that the US State Department authorized for import this April. Cuba’s National Bureau of the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) rejected the measure and charged that it was an attempt to influence Cuban peasants and separate them from the state, saying that it “cannot be permitted, because it would destroy a Revolutionary process that has provided participatory democracy, freedom, sovereignty and independence.” Continue reading “Nespresso Will Be The First Company To Export Cuban Coffee To The US / 14ymedio”

The Crisis Hits Cuban Doctors In Venezuela / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

The island earns more than 8.2 billion dollars from the "export of health services." (EFE)
The island earns more than 8.2 billion dollars from the “export of health services.” (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miami, Mario Penton, 21 June 2016 — Tania Tamara Rodríguez never thought of fleeing the Cuban medical mission in Venezuela and become a “defector” who is prohibited from entering her own country for eight years. The plight of the island’s health professionals in Venezuela has led an increasing number to seek refuge in neighboring countries or to take alternative work to meet their needs in the midst of the economic crisis in that “Bolivarian” nation.

“The situation of doctors and aid workers Cubans is terrible. The whole time you are living under the threat that they send you back to Cuba and you lose your mission. You’re afraid they’ll take away all the money – which is in official accounts in Cuba – and if they take some disciplinary measure they will revoke the mission,” says Rodriguez. While working in a clinic lab in the “Barrio Adentro” mission, her salary of 700 Cuban pesos (about $26 US) is deposited in Cuba and she has the right to an account of 280 dollars a month and a card giving her 25% off on purchases at Foreign Exchange Collection Stores (TDRs) in Cuba. Continue reading “The Crisis Hits Cuban Doctors In Venezuela / 14ymedio, Mario Penton”

A Ridiculous Declaration / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 17 June 2016 — It is completely ridiculous that the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC), a totally government organization that tries to present itself as “non-governmental,” issues a statement about the desecration of the bust of a popular Venezuelan singer, Ali Primera, that occurred in that country, when they’ve never been concerned to protest against similar events that happen in Cuba.

Here, in the face of the complicit silence of UNEAC, statues and monuments of colonial and Republican eras have been systematically destroyed, ones that although they have not been welcomed by the current authorities, form a part of the history and identity of the nation, independent of their political ideologies. The busts of many important figures in cities and towns have disappeared, opening spaces, for example, to convert the Avenue of the Presidents in Vedado — once dedicated to remembering the country’s presidents — to place foreign figures which should have been placed in Fraternity Park, which was constructed with this objective. Also accepted has been the changing of the names of public buildings, streets and avenues, as an act of political opportunism, along with the implementation of many other outrages.

All this has been a negation of the supposed national identity that they say they defend “with the sword and shield.”

If UNEAC, as a governmental organization, had to issue a statement in support of the discredited Venezuelan government, and its even more discredited president, it should not hide between this reprehensible act: it should do it openly.

No Diploma Certifies Us As Parents / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes in Old Havana, on Father’s Day Sunday without a single flower. (14ymedio)
The statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes in Old Havana, on Father’s Day Sunday without a single flower. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 19 June 2016 – Those of us who have had the joy of being parents spend our lives asking ourselves whether we have done well, if in the strict judgment our children will make about our work will we earn a good score, a mediocre grade or, instead, a resounding disapproval.

The Venezuelan singer Franco de Vita says it is “not enough” to feed our offspring, surround them with comforts and conveniences, or guarantee that they receive an education, we must also respond to their questions. But our answers, which we have to improvise in a second, will be the most momentous memories our children have of us. Continue reading “No Diploma Certifies Us As Parents / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”