Weakness, Fear And Inability Erode The Cuban Government / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The empty chair with the Oswaldo Payá prize “Freedom and Life” that the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro could not come to Cuba to receive. (Networks)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 23 February 2017 — The recent “diplomatic” action by the Cuban Government to try to prevent the presence of foreign personalities in a private event in Havana to receive a symbolic prize bearing the name of the late regime opponent Oswaldo Payá, denotes the weakness, fear and incapacity that characterize its actions since the visit of Barack Obama to Cuba and the subsequent death of Fidel Castro.

According to the declaration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) in the newspaper Granma, the plan was to mount an open and serious provocation against the Cuban government in Havana, generate internal instability, damage the international image of the country and, at the same time, affect the good progress of Cuba’s diplomatic relations with other states.

According to MINREX, Almagro himself and some other right-wing individuals had the connivance and support of other organizations with thick anti-Cuban credentials, such as the Democracy and Community Center, the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL), the Inter-American Institute for Democracy, and a person they call a CIA terrorist and agent, Carlos Alberto Montaner.

In addition, says MINREX, since 2015 there has been a link between these groups and the National Foundation for Democracy in the United States (NED), which receives funding from the US government to implement its subversive programs against Cuba.

The dictatorship of the proletariat, which prevailed in Cuba 57 years ago, has thus invented an “anti-Cuban” (against Cuba or against themselves?), “imperialist”, “counterrevolutionary” and “CIA” hoax behind what could have been a small and simple limited ceremony; in short, if they had been allowed to hold it without the presence of foreign guests it would have served the Government to improve its image with respect to the rights of Cubans as citizens and shown some tolerance.

If they were a little bit capable they could have “stolen the show,” but we already know that in Cuba ‘counterintelligence’ dominates in its broadest sense.

Their response to this assessment is given by the MINREX note: “Perhaps some misjudged and thought that Cuba would sacrifice its essence to appearances,” as if appearances are not an example of essence. It is the ignorance of the dialectic relationship between form and content.

But in short, not one step back. According to MINREX the military state is in danger from this provocation, without arms, without masses, without leaders who enjoy wide support among Cubans on the island. We cannot give ground to the “counterrevolution,” — they say — as if it were not precisely the defenders of the indefensible regime themselves who prevented the revolutionary changes that would lead us to prosperous, democratic Cuba, free of authoritarian hegemonies, with all and for the good of all.

It is weakness, fear and incapacity that led the government to put its repressive character on full display and to miss the opportunity to have been hospitable to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States and to have discussed with him the conditions for possible ties to that Inter-American body.

If they were a little bit capable they could have “stolen the show,” but we already know that in Cuba ‘counterintelligence’ dominates in its broadest sense.

The organizations and individuals who prepared the event have a vision different from the government’s on the ways in which politics and the economy should be conducted in Cuba and, of course, it was an opportune moment to promote the positions of change previously promoted by the Leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Payá, who died in circumstances demanding further explanation.

The actions of the Cuban government favored what the organizers of the event ultimately wanted to demonstrate: the absence of space in Cuba for different thinking

But if something like this can destabilize the regime, it should do the same!

The government’s actions provoked exactly what it was trying to avoid, creating more interest among Cubans and international opinion in the Varela Project and in how Oswaldo Paya died, a man who might not have been to the liking of the government and other cities, but who lived on the island, worked there and from from within promoted a peaceful and democratic change of the system, with all his rights as a Cuban citizen. Something to respect.

The Cuban government’s action, vitiated by extremism, Manichaeism, intolerance and repression, favored what the organizers of the event ultimately wanted to demonstrate: the absence of space in Cuba for different thinking, the existence of a tyrannical regime that impedes freedom of expression and association, and that it intends to continue to govern based on jails, police and repressive security agents.

The repression of the opposition, socialist dissent and different thinking, pressures against the self-employed, the stagnation of the reforms proposed by the Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba itself, the voluntary efforts to try to control the widespread corruption generated by statist wage system, in short, everything that is being done by the senior bureaucratic hierarchy is generating chaos that undermines and will burst the system from within from ignorance of the laws of economic-social development.

They don’t know where they stand! Don’t try to put the blame on others later.

This service against a “socialism” that has never existed will perhaps be the best historical legacy left to us by these 60 years of voluntarism, populism and authoritarianism of Fidel Castro communism, such that the most retrograde forces of international reaction will eternally thank the “Cuban leadership.”

Undercover American Tourists in Cuba / Iván García

AFP photo taken from Vivelo Hoy

Ivan Garcia, 23 January 2017 — Miami Airport is almost a city. And the American Airlines’ departures area is a labyrinth, with dozens of corridors and passages. That’s why Noahn, an American living in Michigan, arrived five hours before his flight’s scheduled departure time to Varadero.

He was travelling with his wife, his eight-month-old son carried in an arm-sling, and a dog with long floppy ears. In his luggage, professional diving equipment and an electric skateboard. The couple speak in carefully enunciated Spanish, with a hint of a Colombian accent. “It’s because I worked for an American company in Bogotá,” explains Noahn.

To everyone who wants to listen to him, he describes his experiences as a tourist in Cuba. He knows the Coco and Santa Maria Keys, located to the north of Ciego de Avila and Villa Clara and Maria La Gorda, in the western province of Pinar del Rio.

“But I was enchanted by Varadero. It’s the third time in two years I’ve been there since the reestablishment of relations between Cuba and the United States. Neither Miami Beach nor Malibu can compare with Varadero, with its fine white sandy beach. The water is warm and there are hardly any waves. Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro and The Bahamas may have just as good or better natural conditions,” he adds, while his wife gives the child some milk in a bottle.

Despite the prohibitions on tourism in Cuba, Americans such as Noahn travelled to the island by way of a third country. “Before December 17, 2014, I travelled to Cuba via Mexico. After that date it’s been easier. There are twelve quite flexible categories, which they call the twelve lies. You declare whichever pretext, and travel in a group or individually. “In theory you can’t go as a tourist, but I bet that’s what half of the American travellers are doing.”

Out of more than 200 passengers on the flight heading to Varadero, only six were Cubans going back to their country permanently or to visit relatives on the island.

Judith, a biologist living in Georgia, is going to Cuba for the second time this year. Why? “Half for professional experience, half tourism.” I’m interested in gathering information on the varieties of Cuban vegetation. Once I finish my research, I’m going to stay a week in a hotel full-board in Camaguey or in Holguin.”

Asked if she felt any harassment or if any federal institution has opened a file on her for violating the country’s regulations, she replies: “Not at all. Seems to me the wisest thing to do would be to openly permit tourism in Cuba, because that’s what in reality people are doing.”

After the re-establishment of relations between two countries that were living in a cold war climate, many more Americans are travelling to the Greater Antilles. In January 11, 2016, Josefina Vidal, an official working in the Cuban Foreign Ministry, and responsible for relations with the United States, reported on Twitter that, in 2016, the island received a total of 614,433 visitors from United States (Americans and Cuban Americans), 34% more than in 2015.

Although on paper the Americans arriving are recorded as being part of a religious or journalistic or a people-to-people exchange, it isn’t difficult to spot well-built blonds or redheads downing quantities of mojitos in a bar in Old Havana or enjoying the warm autumn sun on a Cuban beach.

When at 8:30 in the evening, the American Airlines plane landed at the Juan Gualberto Gómez international airport in Varadero, after a quick check, half a dozen air-conditioned buses were waiting for the “undercover” tourists to take them to four and five star hotels along the Hicacos Peninsula coast.

“Yes, the Americans are tourists.” Many of them go to Havana, others pass the time in Varadero. They prefer to stay in hotels. About 400 or 500 come every week. And many more are expected at New Year’s,” said an official of the Gaviota chain, balancing on the stairway of a bus.

Private taxi drivers and those who lease vehicles from the state hang around the terminal. “There are gringos who come as individual tourists. I charge them the equivalent of $40 for the trip to Varadero, about 20 kilometers from the airport. Almost all give good tips. Unlike the Spaniards and Mexicans, who are complete tightwads,” says Joan, a private taxi driver.

The majority of Cubans are convinced that Americans are rich. And have more money than they know what to do with. They try to milk them as if they were cows.

At the currency exchange outside the airport, they exchange dollars for 86 centavos, less than the official rate of 87. “The rate goes down at weekends,” he says.

An employee in the terminal, says “Here everyone is doing business. “The lavatory cleaner charges, the café sells stuff on the side, and the customs people get things off the passengers.”

Tourism in Cuba is like a harvest. Everyone wants to squeeze the sugar cane. And you can extract plenty of juice from the sneaky tourists

Translated by GH

Cuban Activist Juan Goberna Arrested / 14ymedio

Activist Juan Goberna in a file image. (Cubanet)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 February 2017 — Human rights activist Juan Goberna Hernández was arrested around 9 am this Saturday when he left home to attend a meeting of the Inclusive Culture Network, a project to defend the rights of people with disabilities.

On Friday night Goberna, who is blind, was visited by two State Security agents to warn him that they would not allow him to attend the meeting. Two other agents named Brayan and Nacho were posted in a car from early Saturday to stop him if he persisted in his decision to go to the meeting.

In Aguada de Pasajeros, Goberna was taken from a bus on which he panned to travel to Havana to attend the meeting.

Minutes before his arrest Goberna told 14ymedio by phone that it was his “duty” and his “right” to participate in the activity.

So far it has not been possible to determine where he was taken.

The Network of Inclusive Culture tries to promote a greater sensitivity towards the treatment of people with disabilities, working to make visible the difficulties that such individuals face on a daily basis.

In addition to conducting workshops and seminars, members of the Network provide support and advice in cases of violations of rights to anyone in situations of vulnerability.

Brothers To The Rescue: A Crime That Hurts “Like The First Day”/ 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 24 February 2017 – Members of the Cuban exile remembered the anniversary of the death of four Cuban Americans after the shooting down of two planes of the humanitarian NGO Brothers to the Rescue by the Cuban Air Force in 1996.

The commemorative activities began with an act of homage to Manuel de la Peña, Carlos Acosta, Armando Alejandre and Pablo Morales, at the monument in Opa-locka that reminds them of the 21st anniversary of the tragedy.

“Every year when we remember them, we feel immense pain,” says Ana Ciereszko, sister of Armando Alejandre, one of those murdered.

“When President Obama returned the spy responsible for the murder of our relatives it was very hard because they gave their lives to save the lives of others, Cuban rafters, many of whom have disappeared at sea,” she added.

Cuban-American Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen also recalled those killed and lashed out at the Obama administration for the release of spy Gerardo Hernandez, convicted of providing information to the Cuban government that allowed the perpetration of the crime.

“Our nation must defend these murdered Americans and ensure that justice prevails so that the families of these victims can have the final peace they so deeply deserve,” said the congresswoman.

A third plane was able to escape and asked for help from the US authorities, who never delivered it

Brothers to the Rescue emerged as an initiative of civilian aviators of various nationalities and Cubans interested in assisting the rafters who escaped from the island in fragile vessels during the migratory crisis in the early 1990s. The collapse of the Soviet Union caused the greatest economic crisis in the country’s history and thousands of migrants threw themselves into the sea in the hope of reaching the United States.

The two Cessna 337 Skymaster aircraft, from Miami, were shot down with air-to-air missiles by a MiG-29UB 900 fighter and a MiG-23 fighter. A third plane escaped and called for help from the US authorities, who never gave it to them.

The Cuban government accused the organization of having “terrorist purposes” and defended the demolition of light aircraft on the grounds that they were over Cuban waters. Brothers to the Rescue, however, says that the shooting down took place in international waters.

“There has been no justice because there was no clarification of the truth. The facts were carefully hidden under the presidencies of Clinton and Castro,” says Jose Basulto, 76, president of Brothers to the Rescue and one of the survivors of the tragedy.

“It was a joint action, complicit, because they wanted to resume relations between both countries,” he says. He adds that on the Island there practice runs for shooting down the planes and that it was suggested to American officials what was going to happen. “We were exposed to the enemy fire and nobody helped us,” he adds.

According to Basulto, the days before each commemoration of the demolition are filled with memories and are “very sad.”

The gathering has become a tradition to remember the four Cuban-American youth

“Brothers to the Rescue was an example of human solidarity with the people of Cuba and to teach the world the harshness of the suffering of the people, capable of committing suicide at sea in order to escape from that dictatorship,” he recalls.

At Florida International University (FIU) a commemorative event was held with relatives of the victims and a broad representation of the exile. The meeting has become a tradition to remember the four Cuban-American youth and, as every year, silence was held between 3:21 pm and 3:28 pm, the time at which the planes were shot down.

“My brother was my first baby. He was just a boy when he was killed,” says Mirtha Costa, sister of Carlos Alberto Costa.

“He loved being together with everyone in the family. He was also a very cheerful person and always looked for how to make jokes to others,” he recalls.

Both Costa and the other relatives are responsible for the CAMP Foundation, named after the initials of each of the victims of the shooting down.

The foundation supports diverse organizations that promote youth education, such as Miami Dade College and the University of Miami.

The families of the victims will honor their memory with a Eucharist at St. Agatha Church at 7:00 pm this Friday.

 

‘Little Old Communists’ / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

An old man poses next to a series of portraits of Cuban leaders. Left to right: Celia Sanchez, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos, Fidel Castro. Far right, Raul Castro. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 25 February 2017 — Many of those who experienced the first moments of the Revolution when they were between the ages of 14 and 20, became literacy teachers, young rebels, militiamen, cederistas (supporters of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution) and federadas ( ‘federated’, i.e. supporters and activists of the Revolution). They overachieved every challenge and climbing five peaks or walking 62 kilometers ended up being credentials of high social value.

It was common to see them with a pistol at their belts bragging about their exploits at the Bay of Pigs or cleaning up the Revolution’s opponents in the Escambray Mountains. It was the time of the Schools of Revolutionary Instruction, of a Marxism manual tucked under one arm and simplified atheism. In those prodigious years of the 1960s they embodied the true fervor of youth and, consequently, an ideological prejudice against the elderly took root. continue reading

A poet, then (and still) unknown, would write fiery verses under the provocative title of If the old woman in front took power where he described in the purest colloquial style the retrograde measures that would be dictated by this hypothetical lady, probably bourgeois and resentful, in a word: a gusana, a worm. In fact the term “old worm” already seemed a redundancy in the mouth of those tropical Red Guards… But time passed and many vultures flew over monument in the Plaza of the Revolution.

A new generation, with very different goals, today launches its prejudicial darts against anyone over 70

A new generation, with very different goals, today launches its prejudicial darts against anyone over 70. But they no longer use the expletive “old worm,” instead they choose its diametrical opposite: “little old communist.”

A diminutive, as any good linguist knows, can be loaded with tenderness or contempt. It is not the same to say “granny” as it is to say “little teacher.” And this epithet of “little old man,” or woman, wrapped in a false commiseration falls with its full weight of impairment on the line of retirees who get in line early in the morning to buy the newspaper Granma, or on any gray-haired person always ready to utter some admonition to the teenagers who saunter out of the high schools with their shirts untucked.

Old people in an old age center in the city of Cienfuegos. (EFE)

Destiny has these intrinsic twists. For a boy who spends most of his day thinking about how to leave the country, anyone who passed up a historic opportunity to leave this shipwrecked island must be an accomplice, if not the one personally responsibly for all his angst.

If there is a space for a smile after the macabre grimace of death, those “old worms” must be amusing themselves in the face of the painful spectacle offered by their former dentists, who no longer dread the future, but rather ruminate on a defeat they do not want to recognize.

The Countdown Begins For Raul Castro’s Departure From Power / 14ymedio

Raúl Castro announced that he would leave power in 2018, ten years after assuming it. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 February 2017 — On February 24 of next year Raul Castro must leave the presidency of Cuba if he is to fulfill the promise he has made several times. His announced departure from power is looked on with suspicion by some and seen as an inescapable fact by others, but hardly anyone argues that his departure will put an end to six decades of the so-called historical generation.

For the first time, the political process begun in January 1959 will have a leader who did not participate in the struggle against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Nevertheless, Raul Castro can maintain the control of the Communist Party until 2021, a position with powers higher than the executive’s and enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic. continue reading

In the 365 days that remain in his position as president of the Councils of State and of Ministers, the 85-year-old ruler is expected to push several measures forward. Among them is the Electoral Law, which he announced two years ago and that will determine the political landscape he leaves behind after his retirement.

In the 365 days that remain in his position as president of the Councils of State and of Ministers, the 85-year-old ruler is expected to push several measures forward. Among them is the Electoral Law

In the coming months the relations between Havana and Washington will be defined in the context of the new presidency of Donald Trump and, in internal terms, by the economy. Low wages, the dual currency system, housing shortages and shortages of products are some of the most pressing problems for which Cubans expects solutions.

Raul Castro formally assumed the presidency in February of 2008, although in mid-2006 he took over Fidel Castro’s responsibilities on a provisional basis due to a health crisis affecting his older brother that forced him from public life. And now, given the proximity of the date he set for himself to leave the presidency, the leader is obliged to accelerate the progress of his decisions and define the succession.

In 2013 Castro was confirmed as president for a second term. At that time he limited the political positions to a maximum of ten years and emphasized the need to give space to younger figures. One of those faces was Miguel Díaz-Canel, a 56-year-old politician who climbed through the party structure and now holds the vice presidency.

In the second tier of power in the Party is Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, an octogenarian with a reputation as an orthodox who in recent months has featured prominently in the national media. A division of power between Díaz-Canel and Machado Ventura (one as president of the Councils of State and of Ministers and the other as secretary general of the Party) would be an unprecedented situation for millions of Cubans who only know the authority being concentrated in a single man.

However, many suspect that behind the faces that hold public office, the family clan will continue to manipulate through pulling the strings of Alejandro Castro Espín. But the president’s son, promoted to national security adviser, is not yet a member of the Party Central Committee, the Council of State or even a Member of Parliament.

Many suspect that behind the faces that hold public office, the family clan will continue to manipulate the strings of Alejandro Castro Espín

For Dagoberto Valdés, director of the Center for Coexistence Studies, Raúl Castro leaves without doing his work. “There were many promises, many pauses and little haste,” he summarizes. He said that many hoped that the “much-announced reforms would move from the superficial to the depth of the model, the only way to update the Cuban economy, politics and society.”

Raul Castro should “at least, push until the National Assembly passes an Electoral Law” that allows “plural participation of citizens,” says Valdés. He also believes that he should give “legal status to private companies” and “also give legal status to other organizations of civil society.”

The American academic Ted Henken does not believe that the current president will leave his position at the head of the Party. For Henken,a professor of sociology and Latin American studies at Baruch College in New York, Castro’s management has been successful in “maintaining the power of historic [generation] of the Revolution under the authoritarian and vertical model installed more than half a century ago” and “having established a potentially more beneficial new relationship with the US and embarking on some significant economic reforms. ”

However, Henken sees as “a great irony that the government has been more willing to sit down and talk with the supposed enemy than with its own people” and points out “the lack of fundamental political rights and basic civil liberties” as “a black stain on the legacy of the Castro brothers.”

Blogger Regina Coyula, who worked from 1972 to 1989 for the Counterintelligence Directorate of the Interior Ministry, predicts that Raul Castro will be remembered as someone “who could and did not dare.” At first she saw him as “a man more sensible than the brother and much more pragmatic” but over time “by not doing what he had to do, nothing turned out as it should have turned out.”

Perhaps “he came with certain ideas and when it came to reality he realized that introducing certain changes would inevitably bring a transformation of the country’s political system,” says Coyula

Perhaps “he came with certain ideas and when it came to reality he realized that introducing certain changes would inevitably bring a transformation of the country’s political system,” says Coyula. That is something he “is not willing to assume. He does not want to be the one who goes down in history with that note in his biography.”

Independent journalist Miriam Celaya recalls that “the glass of milk he promised is still pending” and also “all the impetus he wanted to give to the self-employment sector.” She says that in the last year there has been “a step back, a retreat, an excess of control” for the private sector.

With the death of Fidel Castro, his brother “has his hands untied to be to total reformist that some believed he was going to be,” Celaya reflects. “In this last year he should release a little what the Marxists call the productive forces,” although she is “convinced… he won’t do it.”

As for a successor, Celaya believes that the Cuban system is “very cryptic and everything arrives in a sign language, we must be focusing on every important public act to see who is who and who is not.”

“The worst thing in the whole panorama is the uncertainty, the worst legacy that Raul Castro leaves us is the magnification of the uncertainty,” she points out. “There is no direction, there is no horizon, there is nothing.” He will be remembered as “the man who lost the opportunity to amend the course of the Revolution.”

“He will not be seen as the man who knew, in the midst of turbulence, how to redirect the nation,” laments Manuel Cuesta Morua. Cuesta Morua, a regime opponent, who belongs to the Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD) and to the citizen platform #Otro18 (Another 2018), reproaches Raúl Castro for not having made the “political reforms that the country needs to advance economically: he neither opens or closes [the country] to capital and is unable to articulate another response to the autonomy of society other than flight or repression.”

Iliana Hernández, director of the independent Cuban Lens, acknowledges that in recent years Raúl Castro has returned to Cubans “some rights” such as “buying and selling houses, cars, increasing private business and the right to travel.” The activist believes that this year the president should “call a free election, legalize [multiple] parties and stop repressing the population.”

As for the opposition, Hernandez believes that he is “doing things that were not done before and were unthinkable to do.”

Dissident Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello is very critical of Raul Castro’s management and says she did not even fulfill his promise of ending the dual currency system. “He spoke of a new Constitution, a new economic system, which aren’t even mentioned in the Party Guidelines,” he says.

“To try to make up for the bad they’ve done, in the first place he should release all those who are imprisoned simply for thinking differently under different types of sanctions”

“To try to make up for the bad they’ve done, in the first place he should release all those who are imprisoned simply for thinking differently under different types of sanctions,” reflects Roque Cabello. She also suggests that he sit down and talk to the opposition so that it can tell him “how to run the country’s economy, which is distorted.”

Although she sees differences between Fidel’s and Raul Castro’s styles of government, “he is as dictator like his brother,” she said. The dissident, convicted during the Black Spring of 2003, does not consider Diaz-Canel as the successor. “He is a person who has been used, I do not think he’s the relief,” and points to Alejandro Castro Espín or Raul Castro’s former son-in-law, Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, as possible substitutes.

This newspaper tried to contact people close to the ruling party to obtain their opinion about Raúl Castro’s legacy, his succession and the challenges he faces for the future, but all refused to respond. Rafael Hernández, director of the magazine Temas, told the Diario de las Américas in an interview: “There must be a renewal that includes all those who have spent time like that [10 years].” However, not all members of the Council of State have been there 10 years, not even all the ministers have been there 10 years.”

This is the most that the supporters of the Government dare to say.

Qatar Complains About Cuban Care Providers With HIV / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 22 February 2017 — Qatar authorities presented an official complaint before Eumelio Caballero Rodríguez, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Cuba, because during the obligatory health exam of the Cuban health workers they detected some cases of Cuban doctors infected with HIV.

This was expressed in an email from the Embassy of Cuba in the State of Qatar, which landed like a tsunami in the office of the Minister of Public Health of Cuba. Here are a few fragments:

“Beginning now, all [Cuban] care providers who leave for Qatar must bring a certificate from the Provincial Center of Hygiene and Epidemiology that shows the results of an HIV test.” continue reading

“Urgent,” says the message. “These 15 cases listed here arrived in Qatar the past month of January without said document, and three of them tested positive in the required check for entry to the country, and now we are requesting an explanation for this.”

“Gentlemen,” continues the missive, “This must not happen again. It is required that you take disciplinary measures against the provinces of the implicated care providers.”

It should be pointed out that Qatar is a State mediator and negotiator in Middle Eastern conflicts, and its principal interest in Cuba is concentrated in medical services, considered the backbone of relations between both countries. This is why, in January of 2012, the Hospital of Dukhan was created, which today has more than 400 Cuban professionals, including doctors, nurses and technicians in the fields of rehabilitation, odontology, medical laboratories, bio-medicine and radiology.

Furthermore, the incident puts at risk the confidence of the Arab Emirates, which, with the third largest world reserve of natural gas and the largest income per capita on the planet, has shown interest, in addition to health, in exploring other spheres of business, for example: financing the extraction and commercialization of Cuban marble, the construction of five-star hotels on the island and the implementation of an airlines operation between Qatar Airways and Cubana de Aviación.

Of course, I’m convinced that we won’t read anything about this disagreeable incident, absolutely nothing, in the official Cuban press.

Translated by Regina Anavy

The Cuban Regime Has Redoubled Its Assault On The Private Sector / Iván García

Police raids against private vendors are common in Havana.

Ivan Garcia, 24 February 2017 — Marino Murillo, the presumptive tsar of economic reforms in Cuba, a prime minister with broad powers, passed up a seat in the first row next to the senior staff of a long-lived revolution governed by an exclusive club of elders who, as a group, have lived almost 500 years, to take a seat in the third row, far from the spotlight and the cameras.

In closed societies, where rumors are more truthful than the information offered by the State press, you have to learn to read between the lines. Lacking a government office that offers public information to its citizens, academics, journalists and political scientists, you must look with a magnifying glass at the most insignificant signs. continue reading

That morning in December 2015, when the autocrat Raúl Castro feigned indignation before the more than 600 deputies of the monotone national parliament about the abusive prices of agricultural products, was the beginning of the end for Marino Murillo.

Castro II requested that measures be applied. And not very consistently, alleging the law of supply and demand that governs the produce markets, Murillo mumbled that he would try to implement different regulations to try to curb the increase in prices.

Apparently this wasn’t sufficient. The previous super-minister fell into disgrace, and now not even his photo appears in the official media, although theoretically he continues at the front of the agenda, charged with implementing the economic guidelines, a kind of commandment that moves at a snail’s pace and with serious delays: In six years, only a little more than 20 percent of the guidelines have been implemented.

With the fading-out of fatso Murillo, the dynamic of timid economic reforms — together with openings in the obsessive defense of Fidel Castro, who transformed Cubans into third-class citizens — the game began to be directed by the most rancid and conservative of the military leadership.

It was essential to open to the world and repeal the feudal exit permit needed to travel outside the island, to permit Cubans to rent hotel rooms and to buy or sell houses, among other normal regulations in any country in the 21st century.

There is no doubt that this was a leap forward, with barriers, absurd prices and spite for people who make money. Yes, in Cuba they sell cars, but a Peugeot 508 is worth more than a Ferrari, and you must pay cash.

The Internet and cell phones are not exactly tools of science fiction, but the price for service is insane for a country where the average salary is 25 dollars a month.

The supposed reforms were always incomplete. They were left halfway. Cubans cannot invest in large businesses; professionals don’t have authorization to work for themselves, and the State claims the right to establish a ridiculous list of jobs that are or are not permitted.

Of the 201 authorized jobs, there are at least 10 or 15 enterprises where, with creativity and effort, you can make large sums of money, always taking into account the Cuban context, where anyone who earns 10,000 Cuban pesos a month (about $400) is considered “rich.” This is a country where for almost 60 years, the average citizen is sponsored by the State.

Of course the regulations, excessive taxes, harassment by State inspectors and a deadly clause in the Government’s economic bible, which prohibits persons or groups from accumulating large sums of capital, hinder prosperity and the boom in private work.

In a nation where the Government has been in charge of clothing, shoeing, rewarding or punishing its citizens, a margin of liberalism, as small as it is, was an oasis for a half million entrepreneurs who now live on the margins of the State.

The starting shot that would put the handbrake on the reforms began on December 17, 2014, when President Barack Obama and General Raúl Castro, of mutual accord, put an end to the incredible Cold War between Cuba and the United States.

Once out of the trenches, Obama began to launch packets of measures with the marked intention of favoring private workers. The Regime didn’t like that.

They wanted to do business with the gringos but with their own State enterprises, not to empower the private ones. Then, progressively, the Castro autocracy started to slow down the dynamic sector, probably the only one that was growing on the Island, that paid salaries from three to five times more than the State, and which gave employment to some 20 percent of the work force.

In autumn of 2015, a negative dynamic began. Presently only 30 percent of the supply-and-demand produce markets are functioning. The State harasses and penalizes the cart vendors who sell meat, fruit and vegetables, and they have declined by 50 percent. The State closed the largest produce market in Trigal, south of Havana, and the Taliban juggernaut expects to increase with regulations and taxes on all the buoyant businesses in gastronomy, transport and hotel services.

What’s this new “revolutionary offensive” about? I don’t think it has the reach of the confiscations of french fry stands and shoeshine stalls of 1968, or the counter-reforms for certain openings in the 1980s and ’90s.

But it’s undeniable that the Regime doesn’t want the train to derail. Presently there’s a small segment of Cubans, between 60,000 and 100,000 persons, who have amassed small fortunes thanks to their taste and talent for business.

We’re talking about 100,000 dollars going forward, an insignificant figure in any First World country, but extraordinary in a country impoverished by the poor management of the Castro brothers.

In addition to pleasure and social status, money engenders power. While Castroism functions in Cuba, private businesses will not be able to prosper. This is the reason for the brakes put on the private owners.

A word of advice to the olive green Regime: Be careful with excesses. In December 2010, an abusive fine on the owner of a food stand, Mohammed Buazisi, who out of contempt immolated himself, put a final end to the Tunisian dictatorship of Ben Ali and unchained the Arab Spring.

In its present offensive against the private taxi drivers, the Cuban authorities shouldn’t forget what happened in Tunisia a little more than six years ago. In societies of order and control, the devil is always in the details.

 

Translated by Regina Anavy

The Subtle Dissent of Revolutionaries / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Image of Fidel Castro at the Union of Cuban Journalists UPEC (cmkc.icrt.cu)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 23 February 2017 — An editorial piece published February 14th on the Havana Times website under the title “Official Journalism in Cuba: Empty Nutshells,” revisits a recurring issue that has been going around in the Castro media and is threatening to become fashionable: to be or not to be a dissident.

In fact, several young journalists of these media have shown themselves to be discreet critics, not only of the current Cuban reality, but also of the dullness of the press, the censorship that is often applied to their work, the lack of access to certain spheres of public administration that should be held responsible for the mismanagement of services and of the economy and of the sanctions imposed on colleagues who openly question public media editorial policies or other issues that officials consider “sensitive” to the security of the socio-political system. continue reading

That is to say, in recent times there has been a kind of juvenile anti-gag reaction on the part of the new generations of professionals of the press, to whom the narrow limits of “what is allowed” are too narrow.

Perhaps because they clash against the challenge of narrating a triumphalist and intangible reality in the media that in no way resembles the harsh conditions they experience on a daily basis. Or because of the contrast between their meager income as journalists of the official press and the much more advantageous income that can be derived from collaborating with alternative digital means. Or because they belong to a generation that has distanced itself from the old revolutionary epic of “the historical ones” whose original project failed.

Or because of the sum of all these and other factors, the truth is that young journalism graduates integrated into the official media are showing their dissatisfaction with the ways of antiquated journalism a la Castro of (not) doing and (not) saying.

The response of the champions of the ideological purity of Cuban journalism has not dawdled; thus, the more fervent ones have chosen to accuse the bold young people of being “dissidents.” And it is understood what that demonized word means, the worst offense to a Cuban revolutionary, as well as certain punishment: marginalization and ostracism.

For its part, the counter-answer of the reformist sectors – let’s call them that, the ones who defend a new type of official press, let’s say kindly, more truthful and transparent – is the defense of their right to “dissent”… or, better yet, to diverge, because when it comes to nominalism, they prefer to move away from the dangerous definitions that have been applied to “others.”

And there’s no need to transgress because of excesses in expectations. They are barely subtle dissenters. For if there is any positive initiative that tends to refresh the arid informative world of the Cuban official media or to push the limits of what’s allowed by the ironclad censorship – understanding that, given the long-lived government press monopoly, any break in the immobility could eventually have a favorable result in an aperture process, currently unthinkable – this does not mean that the official journalists who are claiming more rights for their self-expression are defending the true right to freedom of expression endorsed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, not only because they conceive the free expression exercise just from positions of “socialists” or “revolutionaries from the left,” but because – as a remedy to the very monopoly of the press that silences them – they insist on disqualifying (for being “stateless, mercenary and anti-Cuban”) any proposal or opinion that differs from the socio-political system by which eleven million souls are supposed to be ruled ad infinitum, and which was chosen, without consultation, by a privileged caste almost six decades ago.

The article referred to at the beginning of this text – which is authored by Vicente Morín Aguado – quotes two very eloquent phrases from a young journalist from the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth). According to her, “the issue is not in being a dissident, but what an individual is dissident against.” And later: “We have allowed those who understand little about principles and patriotism to snatch our words.”

This way, she misses twice. One is a dissident or not, beyond the program, proposal or belief we disagree with. Being a dissident is an attitude in the face of life, it’s questioning everything, including what we have ever believed in, which presupposes the most revolutionary of all human conditions. Therefore, one cannot dissent “from immobility, demagoguery, from those who are complacent and from the hypercritical, from inertia, from limited commitment, from hollow discourses” and from the whole long list that the young woman quotes, and at the same time, remain faithful to the system and to the government that generated those evils. One cannot be a half-way dissident.

On the other hand, it is not explicitly stated who those who “understand very little of principles and patriotism” are, but we know that such is the stigma usually pinned on all the dissidents that make up the Cuban civil society, including Independent journalists, such as this writer. I cannot share, as a matter of principle, such a narrow concept of Motherland conceived as the exclusive fiefdom of an ideology. It is a sectarian, exclusive, false and Manichean concept.

Unfortunately, Morín Aguado falls into similar temptation when he says that “every day the real dissidents increase within the universe of Cuban information.” Not only does he suggest the existence of a “non-authentic” dissidence, which he never quite mentions- perhaps for reasons of space, or for mere lack of information – but that also leaves us with the bitter aftertaste of feeling that what is at issue in this libertarian juvenile saga is substituting an absolute truth for another… just as absolute.

Official journalistic dissidence, then, is chemically pure. It is not mixed with any other. It is subtly dissident, which determines that, until now, it results in just an attempt at a struggle for partial freedom of expression. They seek to replace the “freedom of expression” of the official press monopoly for their own freedom, to improve the so-called Cuban socialism “within the revolution.” That is to say, a subjection of the whole press to an ideology as the only source of legitimation of “the truth” is maintained, which – it must be said – limits the whole matter to a simple generational little war.

However, this is good news. Of wolf, a hair, my grandmother used to say when things brought at least a minimal gain. We can never tell what any slight movement can generate in a mechanism that has been immobile for so long.

Personally, I will continue to exercise dissidently my most irreverent right to express what I think, not obeying ideology or any political fashion. My homeland is much more than 110,000 square kilometers of earth, more than a flag, an anthem and a coat of arms, and far more than the defense of the interests of a cohort of authoritarian elders who not only kidnapped the nation, but also – painfully – the willpower of several generations of Cubans. Let it be known that I will also defend the right of expression, under any circumstance, of those who think very different than me, communists and socialists included.

Potatoes Return to the Rationed Market / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata

The sale of potatoes in Santiago de Cuba. (Yosmani Mayeta / 14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 23 February 2017 – The unrationed distribution of potatoes, a symbol of Raul Castro’s government, has suffered a big setback. During the quarter of February, March and April, the distribution of potatoes was returned to the ration market throughout the country, with a limit of 14 pounds per person and requiring the presentation of a ration book, according to announcements made by the authorities in local media.

The measure has been taken to “ensure the population greater access to the purchase of potatoes,” says the official statement.

The purchase will be “recorded in the ration book and maintains the value of one peso”

The user will receive “14 pounds per capita (two in the first month and six in each of the two remaining months) at ​​state agricultural markets (MAE) and bodegas.” The purchase will be “recorded in the ration book and maintains the value of one peso.” continue reading

The areas that do not receive potatoes this month will be able to acquire the pounds corresponding to February along with the six pounds for March.

The potato was distributed exclusively in the controlled way until 2009 at a price of 0.45 Cuban pesos per pound, less than 2 cents US. After that, sales were uncontrolled at a price of 1 Cuban peso ($0.04 US), an amount the state described as subsidized.

Between the years 2014 and 2015, the potato harvest experienced important growth, going from a little more than 53,000 tonnes, to 123,000 tonnes. But domestic consumption also grew with the greater number of tourists coming to the country and the expansion of the private sector, especially those dedicated to food services.

The distribution of the nationally grown potato, with a lower yield than the imported, started this year in the municipalities of Artemisa, San Antonio, Guira de Melena and Alquizar, where the potatoes are grown. In the coming days potatoes will also arrive in the capital, where consumers are anxiously awaiting them.

“Something had to be done because when the potatoes came, the only ones who could buy them were the resellers and the hoarders,” complains Samuel, a retired resident of nearby Estancia Street, outside the Youth Labor Army on Tulipan Street.

For the man, “the measure favors the poorest people,” although he still thinks that “the price is very high” for those who are living on a pension. “I only get 180 Cuba pesos a month (roughly $7.20 US) and it’s not enough,” he says.

“That was a decision from above, and it surprised a lot of people here,” an official told 14ymedio

However, María Victoria, a worker at a foreign exchange store, believes that “this is a step back, because at this point the ration book doesn’t have them.” The state employee is surprised by the return of the potato to the ration market. “Instead of going forward, I think we’re going backwards,” she said.

In the Ministry of Agriculture, all the workers who enter the imposing building and the drivers who wait outside for some official are talking about potatoes. “That was a decision from above, and it surprised a lot of people here,” one of them tells 14ymedio, preferring to remain anonymous.

Last April, the Communist Party Congress ratified the Guidelines for Economic and Social Policy, among which it was agreed “to continue the orderly and gradual elimination of products on the ration book.” However, the decision has not been implemented so far.

Are Bikes Coming Back to Cuba With the Economic Crisis? / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez

As problems with public transport and private taxis increase, bicycles are gradually returning to Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 23 February 2017 — When you look at the photos of the most difficult years of Cuba’s “Special Period,” there are several details that can be observed: how skinny Cubans were, the deterioration of their clothing, and the number of bicycles that filled the streets. Just like the dial phone evokes the first half of the twentieth century, these pedal-powered vehicles remind many Cubans of the most difficult times of their lives.

Despite the benefits to health and the environment, most of those born in the last half century on this island see bicycles as a means of transportation for times of crisis. It is no coincidence that the decline in the use of these vehicles began with the opening to tourism in the 1990s, and with the distribution of licenses for the operation of a private sector.

Thousands of bike-focused parking lots, tire-patchers and bike-repairers saw their clientele gradually diminish until they had to close. In Havana very few of these places are left, though they once sprinkled the landscape of the city. Also disappearing, along with them, is the massive imports of parts from China to be assembled into bikes in Cuba.

However, with the economic difficulties of recent months, led by the drop in oil shipments from Venezuela, some are making haste to reassume the custom of pedaling. Late, missing and overcrowded buses, along with the fallout from state-imposed price controls on private taxis – which has even resulted in drivers going on strike – has led a resurgence of problems in getting from place to place.

Resigned, some are dusting off their bikes and launching themselves into the streets under their own power, on two wheels.

Oswaldo Payá Award Ceremony Is Absent The Winners / 14ymedio, EFE

The empty chair with the Oswaldo Payá “Freedom and Life” Prize that the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro could not collect. (Networks)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 22 February 2017 — The presentation of the Oswaldo Payá “Freedom and Life” Prize has led to a diplomatic conflict, after the Cuban government vetoed the entry into the country of three of the guests: OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, and Mariana Aylwin.

Almagro, Calderón and Chilean delegate Mariana Aylwin were unable to travel to the Caribbean country on Tuesday to participate in the event called by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, chaired by Rosa Maria Payá, daughter of the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, which the Cuban government Cuban has labeled a “provocation.” continue reading

Around Payá’s house, in the Havana municipality of Cerro, a police operation deployed in the early hours of the day prevented activists from reaching the home. From Manila Park, near the house, State Security agents dressed in civilian clothes demanded documentation from any dissident or independent journalists who approached.

Payá told this newspaper that her phone had been “out of service” in the afternoon although “in the morning it worked.” The ceremony was attended by seven activists who had spent the night in the house “plus another 20 people who where able to reach it,” said the dissident. Among them was the head of the political-economic section of the US Embassy in Cuba, Dana Brown, as well as diplomatic representatives from Sweden and the Czech Republic.

Payá told this newspaper that her phone had been “out of service” in the afternoon although “in the morning it worked”

Payá said that the award ceremony had been surrounded by a lot of repression on the part of the regime, Cuban State Security and the Foreign Ministry.” She condemned the reprisals “suffered by civil society members who wanted to participate in the ceremony, resulting in many of them being arrested and others prevented from leaving their homes.”

All of the leaders of the opposition groups on the island “were invited,” Payá told this newspaper. “There are some with whom we have lost communication over the last few days because of everything that is happening, and others who are not in the country and others who couldn’t get here.”

“We hope that this aggression, this rudeness, will find a response and a reaction in all the governments belonging to the Organization of American States (OAS), in all the governments of our region and also in the European Union,” said Rosa María Payá.

Luis Almargo tweeted: Our interest: To facilitate #Cuba’s approach to Interamerican values/principles and to expand the country’s achievements in science, health and education.

The Chilean and Mexican Chancelleries regretted the decision of Cuba, and Chile announced that it will call its ambassador on the island for consultations.

Meanwhile, the only official response from Cuba has come from the Cuban embassy in Chile, which issued a communication referring to the matter as “a grave international provocation against the Cuban government,” with the aim of “generating internal instability” and affecting Cuba’s diplomatic relations with other countries.

According to this note, the act was created “by an illegal anti-Cuban group that acts against constitutional order and that arouses the repudiation of the people, with the collusion and financing of politicians and foreign institutions.”

The only official response from Cuba has come from its embassy in Chile, which issued a communication referring to the matter as “a grave international provocation against the Cuban government”

The ceremony finally took place without the presence of the international guests. “The chairs will remain empty” until the awardees “can land in Havana” to pick them up in person, assured Rosa María Payá. Other Cuban guests were prevented from leaving their homes or arrested on the road.

Independent journalists Henry Constantin Ferreiro and Sol García Basulto were detained in the airport of Camagüey at the moment that they tried to board a flight towards the capital.

Constantín Ferreiro is vice-president of the Inter-American Press Association for Cuba and remains in custody without his parents being able to see him or provide him with personal hygiene supplies, according to his father.

Havana’s decision not to authorize the arrival of the head of the OAS was known after a night of uncertainty in which it was not clear whether Almagro had traveled to the Cuban capital, where he initially planned to fly from Paris, where he had participated in institutional activities yesterday. Rosa María Paya today called on the OAS to support the right of the Cuban people to decide on their destiny.

“To the point that Cuba is democratizing, all democracies in Latin America will also gain stability,” said the opposition leader, who hoped that “today is the beginning of an OAS commitment to the cause of rights and freedom in Cuba.”

She pointed out that they do not expect the OAS to “speak out against anyone,” but instead to put itself “on the side of all Cuban citizens in their right to begin a transition process.”

Felipe Calderón: “I Ask The Cuban Government To Rectify This Absurdity” / 14ymedio

Felipe Calderón was described as an “inadmissible traveler” in Cuba this Tuesday. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 February 2017 — Just five years ago, Mexican President Felipe Calderón was greeted warmly in Havana during an official visit. However, this week the now former president was denied entry to the island to participate in the Oswaldo Payá “Freedom and Life” awards to be held this Wednesday.

“I deeply regret not being able to be with them at this tribute” to the deceased opponent, the politician conservative National Action Party (PAN). “The Cuban immigration authorities asked Aeromexico” not to seat me on the flight, telling them I was an “inadmissible passenger” on Tuesday.

Before the trip, the former president alerted the Mexican Foreign Ministry of his intention, because he did not want to “arrive as if he were a tourist”

Prior to the trip, the former president alerted the Mexican Foreign Ministry of his intention, because he did not want to “arrive as if he were a tourist.” He reported on his departure to Cuba’s ambassador to Mexico, Pedro Núñez, and his country’s representative in Havana, Enrique Martínez. continue reading

This is the first time that the Plaza of the Revolution has prevented a former Mexican president from entering the country, an event that has raised a diplomatic dust storm, including a tweet from the Mexican Foreign Ministry in which he “regrets the decision of the Government of Cuba not to authorize the visit to Havana of former President Felipe Calderón.”

Calderón recalls that he supported “Oswaldo Payá many years ago without having met him, by spreading the Varela Project and collecting signatures in Mexico for him.” In those years he saw “with great sadness how the Cubans involved in the project were persecuted.”

The politician evokes with special aggravation the Black Spring of 2003 and his indignation to learn that 75 dissidents had been arrested and sentenced to long prison terms under the so-called Gag Law.

In one of his previous visits to the island, Calderón asked President Raúl Castro to let him speak with Oswaldo Payá, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL). However, “the Cuban government always resisted,” he recalls. He believes that the “diplomatic complications obstructed” this longed-for encounter.

“I ask the Cuban government to rectify this absurdity,” said the former president, who maintains his idea of ​​meeting “with Oswaldo’s family” whom he admired for being “an example of congruence, civility and love of neighbor.”

The former Chilean foreign minister Mariana Aylwin experienced a similar situation on Wednesday when she was prevented from boarding a flight from her country to participate in the ceremony where a posthumous recognition will be made to her father, Patricio Aylwin, the first president under democracy in Chile after the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

The Chilean Foreign Ministry said that the government “will make the Cuban authorities aware of their displeasure at this action” because the purpose of Mariana Aylwin’s trip “was to receive from a civic organization the testimony of recognition of her father… The exercise of this right should not be impeded, especially when in Chile there have been various acknowledgments of Cuban historical and political figures.”

According to Rosa María Payá, the Uruguayan Luis Almagro, has confirmed his presence in the event today to receive the award

According to Rosa María Payá, Uruguayan Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), has confirmed his presence at the event today to receive the Freedom and Life Award for his “outstanding performance in defense of democracy,” although he has not made a statement on the matter.

The award ceremony, which is due to be held on Wednesday, is being led by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, an organization headed by Rosa María Payá, daughter of the late dissident.

Nationally, the government also prevented independent journalists Sol García Basulto and Henry Constantin from Camagüey from traveling to Havana, where they planned to fly to attend the award ceremony. The Inter American Press Association (IAPA), of which Constantin is regional vice president for Cuba, issued a protest statement demanding the release of the reporter, who until yesterday remained detained.

Alexei Gámez: “Before Wifi This Was a Dead Town” / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Alexei Gámez, a resident of Jagüey Grande, got his first computer at the age of ten. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 21 February 2017– Surrounded by cables and circuits Alexei Gámez has spent his life. From an early age he became passionate about technology despite growing up amidst the rigors of the Special Period. At age ten, he had a computer, “the kind that connected to TVs,” he recalls with a mixture of pride and irony. At that time he did not imagine that the screens and the keyboards would help to awaken in him a civic conscience.

At the beginning of this month, the name of this young man of 35 years, resident in Jagüey Grande, appeared in the digital media. Police broke into his house and after a meticulous search took the devices for wireless connection that Gámez counted among his most valuable treasures. The trigger was a Youtube channel where he teaches Cubans how to set up a wifi network with routers and NanoStations. continue reading

At that moment he crossed the line. In a country where thousands of users are plugged into wireless networks every day, the authorities turn a blind eye most of the time because of the inability to control the phenomenon. But it is one thing to connect to SNet, the largest of these communities, and another to say publicly that you do so and, in addition, to teach others how to create their own virtual web.

When the eyes of the cyber-cops focused on him, it carried no weight that at the age of 19 he had been one of a contingent of computer scientists, nor that he became the administrator of the Banco Popular de Ahorro network in Matanzas. After the raid on his home, an officer warned him that the Cuban Telecommunications Company (ETECSA) accused him of “illegal economic activity,” although he was never paid a penny to distribute his knowledge.

He entered the world of politics at full speed and now says, with determination, he will be involved in it “until my last day

Since then, Gámez can not leave town without asking permission, but immobilizing a computer expert is like trying to hold back the sea.

Technology has also connected him with a new life. A few years ago he obtained one of those USB memories loaded with audiovisual content that circulate from hand to hand. Thus he met Eliécer Ávila, leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement. “That was the beginning of a friendship that lasts until today,” says Gamez.

He entered the world of politics at full speed and now says, with determination, he will be involved in it “until my last day,” unable to imagine any other course.

However, technology remains his main passion. “By not having access to mass media such as radio and television, because they are state media and only represent the Communist Party, we try to spread our message through a USB drive, a DVD or in the Weekly Packet,” he told this newspaper.

Computers, smartphones and tablets “have given us the opportunity to get closer to people and convey our message of how we think and how we want things to be in the future,” he explains.

For Gámez the opening of Wi-Fi zones in squares and parks of the country is still far from an efficient service. “The bandwidth is very restricted” and “clearly they have it very controlled.” With his knowledge, he intuits that navigation through Nauta service could be a more successful experience for customers, if the state telecommunications company ETECSA, that operates it, proposed it.

“I rely on the experience of whose of us who have a wireless network at the municipal level, with approximately 200 people connected and working at high speed.” Gámez says he can “watch a film” from his house even though its streaming on a computer elsewhere. “We do that with equipment of lower power” than those of the state monopoly.

“Before the wifi this was a dead town, there was nowhere to go,” he recalls.

Jagüey Grande Park is the center of the life of the municipality and the little recreation available to the residents. “When a few people get together, that’s as far as the Nauta connection goes,” complains the computer expert.

However, he believes that the installation of a Wi-Fi zone has significantly changed the life of the area. “Before wifi this was a dead town, there was nowhere to go,” he recalls. “On weekends there were several nightclubs, one for children, one for young people and one discotemba*.

Gámez played in that park as a child and evokes the times he spent amid its trees and benches. But with the passing of years, “the park was dying and was always dark,” he laments. “After the coming of the internet it’s full all the time and for the young people it’s a fixed meeting point,” he says with relief.

Like many of these netizens, Alexei Gámez manages to slip through the bars of control every day thanks to wireless networks. He does it like a mischievous child who clings to the tail of a kite called “technology.”

*Translator’s note: Discotemba = a place that plays older music for an older crowd.

The IAPA Demands The Government Of Cuba Release Its Regional Vice President On The Island / 14ymedio

Independent journalists Sol García Basulto and Henry Constantín Ferreiro. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miami, 21 February 2017 — The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) condemned the arrest in Cuba of Henry Constantin Ferreiro, director of the magazine Hour of Cuba and regional vice president of its Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and called for his release, stressing the urgency of including guarantees for freedom of expression and of the press within the framework of the policy of rapprochement of the United States with the Cuban government.

The president of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press, Roberto Rock, demanded the immediate release of Constantin. “We also demand respect for journalistic work and the exercise of freedom of expression in Cuba,” added Rock, director of La Silla Rota de México. “The dictatorial measures of the Cuban Government have not changed a bit, continue to harass and disrespect freedom of expression,” he said. continue reading

Constantín, who was named vice president of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, was arrested last night at the airport in the province of Camagüey with Sol García Basulto, correspondent of the 14ymedio portal. The journalists were preparing to take a flight to Havana to cover the first installment of the “Oswaldo Payá Award: Freedom and Life” in honor of the late political opponent, granted to the Executive Secretary of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro.

According to media reports, Garcia Basulto reported via telephone that she was taken to the third Montecarlo Police Station, where she remained until she was released shortly before dawn, while Constantin is still in detention. His family said that “the police had set up an operation around the house, but he had already left for the airport.”

Rock concluded that “Cuba’s opening to the world will be possible when the human rights of all Cubans are guaranteed freedom of expression and of the press, and as long as this does not happen, we will continue to denounce it aloud.”

The IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is composed of more than 1,300 publications from the Western Hemisphere, and is based in Miami, United States.