And The Day Arrived…

There is no shortage of those who see the arrival of the Internet as a way of diverting attention from the serious problems that Cuba is going through. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 7 December 2018 – There is always room for pessimism, because it worms its way in from all sides. After six decades of unmet promises, many Cubans were skeptical about the coming of web navigation on mobile phones and, in part, they are right after so many years of delay at the hands of the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (Etecsa). It is normal that the enthusiasm has “cooled.”

One more “bucket of cold water” on the joy is the high prices the State telecommunications monopoly has imposed on its data packages which, as of Thursday, have been marketed to the cellular network’s customers. Paying between 25% and 100% of the average monthly salary for plans that cover between 600 megabytes and 4 gigabytes is too much.

On the other hand, there is no shortage of those who see the arrival of the Internet as a way of diverting attention from the serious problems that the country is currently facing, with a bankrupt economy, a private sector that is troubled by the regulatory measures that are going into effect on 7 December, and authorities unable to lay out a plan for the future, as if it’s not constrained by the rigid articles of a Constitution that have been cooked up by those “up there.” continue reading

However, even though all the pessimists and skeptics have good reason to be cautious about this new form of connectivity, it would be much more powerful and effective to assess the potential that is opening up before us as citizens. This is not a crumb that has been thrown at us, but the victory of a demand long yearned-for, one earned by our “sweat.”

More than a decade ago, when I opened my blog Generation Y, those of us who used the few cybercafes on the island, opened the first digital blogs and dared to create accounts on Twitter, were immediately labeled as “cybermercenaries.” Those were the days when the web was presented in the official press as a tool created by the CIA and Cuba’s outdated military called for “taming the wild colt of the Internet.”

On the other hand, from the opposition, we bloggers were seen as “kids” who had it easy because we wrote from our keyboards and were going to change the Island tweet by tweet, duped by the idea that with a phone in our hands we could stop the blows of the repressors or put the Plaza of the Revolution in check. Nor was there any lack of those who labeled us “agents of State Security” simply because they “let” us write on the web.

Time has passed and we have won. Now, without any self-criticism, most of the ministers have a Twitter account, president Miguel Diaz-Canel fills his timeline on the network of the little blue bird with slogans, and Etecsa, the technological arm of the repression, has had to open up mobile navigation services after several resounding failures and a flood of complaints from its customers.

All the dissidents I know have a cell phone, YouTube accounts have become an effective way to report human rights violations, and numerous independent media have emerged in the country with a journalistic quality and rigor that force the official press to report things ranging from an armed assault in a school to the ravages of dengue fever. The skeptics of yesteryear ended up joining the new technologies.

Now, although no doubt a good part of the money the inefficient Etecsa will raise with the navigation service will be used to buy uniforms for the police and to feed the officials who plan the surveillance of the opposition and activists, we will also win. There is no doubt. Because the step they have taken this December will have a much greater cost to them than all the dollars they might pocket.

In every corner of Cuba they are exposed, in every town there is someone with a phone connected to internet, fingers ready to report an injustice, denounce a corrupt official, through the reality that differs so much from that reported in the official media. People who will have access to another type of information, far beyond the boring pages of the official newspaper Granma.

I can imagine that, in a short time, some part of communications between Cubans will be traveling encrypted by the internet, chat forums will offer those rooms of debate that we lack in the physical world, and State Security will be forced to develop new techniques of surveillance, new methods to keep track of millions of Cubans in cyberspace.

The private economy will also benefit. Businesses, online purchases, home deliveries will be enhanced with this new service and even if they do not manage to rescue the country from the deep crisis it is in, it will probably ease the lives of thousands of families. Knowledge, distance-learning, and participation in forums will also come to our lives on a daily basis, little by little.

The process will be long, but we have started down a path and it depends on us if we want to see it as a trap, or if we start to explore it with the aim of taking advantage of it so that it brings us closer to freedom.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

"If You Join the Strike, We’ll Confiscate Your Car"

The “boatmen” (private shared-taxi drivers) drove empty through the central Calle 23 in Havana and didn’t stop for passengers, as a sign of protest. (Courtesy)

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14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, December 7, 2018 — The Government has pressured private shared-taxi* drivers in Havana not to join a transport strike this Friday in protest of measures that seek to regulate the self-employed sector. The police have threatened to confiscate the vehicles of those drivers who don’t go out to work.

The tension increased among the boteros (literally ‘boatmen’ as private shared-taxi drivers are called) in recent weeks as it was getting close to December 7, when the set of policies begins to take effect. The rules regulate aspects like the purchase of fuel, the routes, and the handling of money, with the requirement to have a bank account in the country.

The uneasiness of the drivers in face of these controls has led them to push various protest initiatives. One of them has been a call to a strike, popularly called El Trancón — “The Great Traffic Jam” — which has been spread among private taxi drivers in Havana and other provinces in the country, to begin this Friday. continue reading

Operation in El Curita park to prevent protests of drivers. (Courtesy)

The government has responded by visiting the leaders of the initiative, arresting some, and threatening the boteros with legal repercussions if they join the strike. Rafael Alba, driver of an almendrón** (pre-1959 era car), who works transporting passengers in Havana, spent almost 24 hours detained in a police station for that reason.

“They told me that if it occurred to me not to go out to work this Friday, they would confiscate my car,” he tells 14ymedio. Alba was interrogated during his arrest about the origin of the call to “The Great Traffic Jam,” with which the drivers are demanding freedom of movement, right to work in the entire country, access to a wholesale market, ability to import parts, and permission to have independent unions, among other demands.

“Now I have a police car in front of my house to check if I go out to work or not,” claims the driver, whose family depends financially on his work. A vehicle like his, made in the 1950s and with successive repairs and adaptations, is valued on the informal market at about 40,000 CUC (roughly $40,000 USD).

Since Thursday morning police operations were notable at the taxi ranks where these drivers regularly come together and along the routes that they travel most frequently. “The city is full of police and guards dressed in civilian clothing controlling all the almendrones that are driving around empty and don’t stop,” a resident of San Miguel del Padrón tells this newspaper. In the downtown park El Curita, in Central Havana, since yesterday afternoon, the presence of police cars and officials was notable, as were State Security agents.

The few cars that passed by were empty and didn’t stop for people who signaled to them. (14ymedio)

Another driver, Ramón, 56, who works on the route between La Víbora and El Vedado, also fears losing his old Ford with seats to transport nine people on each trip. “This Thursday various inspectors came to the vicinity of the Mónaco cinema to warn us that they were going to take measures against those of us who join the strike.”

“They have put all kinds of pressures on us, and they have also promised us that in the next few weeks they will relax the rules a little, but the people don’t believe them because once the measures go into effect, what guarantee do we have that they are going to be thrown out?” questions the driver.

The popular unease led the incumbent of the Ministry of Transport to appear on Thursday evening on the official TV Roundtable program,along with other functionaries from the sector. Adel Yzquierdo Rodríguez avoided referring to the strike of private boteros and dedicated the greater part of his appearance to speaking about the presumptive measures that are approaching for national transport.

Yzquierdo Rodríguez assured that before the year ends, 400 12-seater microbuses will arrive on the island and 90 buses that will add to passenger transport. The official also assured that 80 buses that were in a poor state have been repaired in the capital.

National transport is going through a profound crisis that began after the collapse of the Soviet Union, at the end of the last century, but has had moments of improvement like the years in which the government of Hugo Chávez sent around 110,000 barrels of petroleum to the Island each day, a part of which were destined for resale on the international market.

With the hardships that the Cuban economy is currently going through, one of the first signs of deterioration has been the elimination of public transport routes, the reduction in the number of available buses, and the continuous breakdowns due to lack of spare parts.

Private drivers have taken advantage of the void left by the state system and currently are an essential sector for moving Cubans from one place to another on any part of the Island. From horse-drawn carriages, to the old pre-Revolution almendrones of the last century, to the more modern and climate-controlled vehicles, self-employed taxis are vital for the Island not to become paralyzed.

Cars went in the left lane instead of the right, where they usually wait for passengers. (14ymedio)

However, the minister of Transport detailed that in the first obligatory inspection that these vehicles were submitted to all over the country to obtain the technical circulation certification, only 32% of the cars inspected passed, although currently that figure has risen to 62%.

The vice minister of Transport, Marta Oramas, added that until the end of November 2,167 licenses had been taken away from private taxi drivers because of the bad conditions of their cars, out of a total of 6,119 private title-holders.

During the Roundtable broadcast none of the invited officials advanced the possibility of softening the regulations of the set of policies or of a possible moratorium. Nor did they permit a representative from the private sector to speak.

Translator’s notes:

*The vehicles operate in fixed-route shared service, picking up and dropping off passengers who stand along the route and flag them down. 

**The word “almendrón” refers to the ’almond’ shape of the classic American cars commonly used in this service.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for accompanying us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Government Yields to Pressures from Self-Employed and Keeps the Right to Hold Multiple Licenses

Private sellers are controlled by the police to prevent their offerings from competing with state stores. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 December 2018 — The Cuban government has yielded to the pressures and unrest that have been incubating in Cuban streets for weeks, since new measures were announced to impose new controls over the private sector. In an unusual gesture, the authorities have softened some aspects of the rules that regulate self-employment after a barrage of popular criticism.

On Wednesday afternoon, on official TV’s Roundtable program, the Minister of Labor and Social Security (MTSS), Margarita González Fernández, said that ‘natural persons’ may be authorized to exercise more than one activity, provided that they “comply with the regulations for the exercise” of this form of management.

The decision contrasts with the regulations that were set to go into effect this Friday limiting self-employment to a single license per person.  This decision had generated widespread criticism, especially in the areas of food services, room rentals and other occupations where entrepreneurs carry out multiple activities related to the services they offer. continue reading

Two legal norms, published this Wednesday in the Official Gazette Extraordinary No. 77, had introduced this and other modifications in the decrees.

Despite this evident step back, González Fernández insisted that “there is no setback” and called on the self-employed to act in an “environment of legality, discipline and order.” The decision of this flexibilization “starts from the principle that there should be no differences between the state and non-state sectors, and in the first, multiple employment activities are allowed,” explained the minister.

The complaints have been rising since the measures to “reorder self-employment” were announced. (14ymedio)

Another flexibilization has been to remove the limit of 50 seats in food service establishments such as snack bars, restaurants, bars and recreation facilities. The “maximum” number of tables and chairs will be decided by the characteristics of the premises. The measure is being taken after the pressures of a sector with large numbers of employees and high levels of investment, especially in restaurants more focused on foreign tourism.

Self-employed workers will no longer have to deposit three monthly tax payments in the account they are required to have in a state bank. That number is reduced to two installments for license holders in the six activities in which they are obliged to do so. In the activity defined as baker-bakery, the sale of non-alcoholic beverages is now also included.

The minister acknowledged that the crackdown announced last July and known as El Paquetazo, caused “unrest and unfavorable opinion,” although she blamed the rejection on a misinterpretation of the regulations.

She did not, however, detail whether changes will be made in the next few days in the measures that will be applied to the transport sector, where there is great discontent because drivers are unhappy that they can not choose routes and customers, negotiate rates and charge higher fares.

With these amendments, Miguel Díaz-Canel’s government loses its first pushback against the citizenship and finds itself facing an unparalleled precedent around a restrictive measure dictated by the executive. The current flexibilities have been taken after the authorities held meetings with self-employed workers to explain the regulations. Those meetings were dominated by complaints and negative comments.

The step back happens a little less than 48 hours since the beginning of several protest initiatives organized from the private sector, especially among those providing private transportation services. A call for a strike, popularly called El Trancón (The Traffic Jam), had been broadcast among private taxi drivers from Havana and other provinces in the country, to begin this Friday.

With the slogan “Drivers’ Strike,” a document 14ymedio has access to lists the demands of a strategic sector for passenger mobility in a country where public transport is going through a deep crisis. “Freedom of movement, having the right to work throughout the country, a wholesale market, the possibility of importing parts and permission to have independent unions,” are some of the demands of the self-employed.

At the end of October, 588,000 people in Cuba were self-employed, 13% of the country’s workforce.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Alleged Murderer of Two Women in Cienfuegos Commits Suicide

A strong police presence accompanied the buriel of the alleged murdered of two women in Cienfuegos (Justo Mora)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora / Mario J. Pentón, Cienfuegos/Miami, 5 December 2018 — Rafael Garcia, alleged perpetrator of the double femicide that shook Cienfuegos last May, committed suicide on the eve of his trial, scheduled for Wednesday, several sources close to the family confirmed to 14ymedio.

The tension was thick in the air in the morning hours in the vicinity of the funeral home in the city where Garcia’s body was being prepared for burial. Policemen, relatives, friends and dozens of onlookers filled the crowded Prado Street.

“He hanged himself because he was sorry for what he did and did not want to see the faces of the relatives of the victims, he called his family from prison to tell them that he could not live there,” a neighbor of Garcia told this newspaper. continue reading

Last May, Tomasa Causse Fabat, a 64-year-old nurse, and her daughter Daylín Najarro Causse, 36, died of knife wounds inflicted by García, the younger woman’s former husband and the elder woman’s former son-in-law.

According to residents of the neighborhood of San Lazaro, where the events took place, around noon on the day of the murders Causse Fabat began shouting outside her home. Seeing her bleeding, a neighbor came to help. At that moment the daughter crossed the street and took refuge in another house to escape her ex-husband who was chasing her with a knife. He had already stabbed her multiple times in the womb. The assailant pursued her there and continued stabbing her. Then he cut her throat before the terrified eyes of the witnesses.

Causse Fabat died a few hours later in the same room where she had served as a nurse.

Najarro Causse had been married to the man that all the witnesses identified as her murderer and with whom she had a five-year-old girl. At the time of her death, she was three months pregnant by another partner.

Adrián Najarro, son and brother of the victims, told 14ymedio that Garcia’s death “does not give the family peace.”

“All this has been very hard for me, first because justice could not be done and it has stirred up the memory of everything that I experienced with my mother and my sister, and then because my niece is now also orphaned of a father,” he added.

García had been detained for alleged lascivious touching of his daughter and had just completed a year in prison when he committed the crime, explained Najarro.

“The girl herself said that her father abused her, but since they did not find evidence, they only sentenced him to one year and six months in prison for a misdemeanor, something like exhibitionism,” lamented the relatives of the victims in a previous conversation with 14ymedio.

The girl has been living in the east of the country, to get away from the tragedy, said Najarro.

The trial against Rafael García was cancelled due to his death, but the official press has not yet reported the news.

Last year Cienfuegos was the scene of several crimes that shook the 150,000 inhabitants of the city. In February, Luis Santacruz Labrada, 23, died at the hands of a minor.

In October 2017 the young Leidy Maura Pacheco Mur, aged 18, was raped by three men who later killed her. The trial was held amid extraordinary security measures and two of the murderers were sentenced to life imprisonment and a third to 30 years in prison.

The Cuban government does not publish official figures on violent acts on the island and crimes are rarely addressed by the official press. Mariela Castro, daughter of former Cuban President Raúl Castro and president of the National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex), said in January this year that there were no femicides in Cuba and that this was an “achievement of the Revolution” led by her father and her uncle in 1959.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Mariela Castro’s ‘Security’ Expels Cuban Reporters From a Conference in Spain

Photo from an earlier occasion showing Mariela Castro offending a journalist from HispanoPost who approached her in Madrid. (Screenshot, HispanoPost)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 December 2018 — Three correspondents from the independent press CiberCuba were expelled from a public building in Valencia, Spain, by the security chief of Mariela Castro, daughter of former Cuban ruler Raul Castro.

The journalists arrived at the October Cultural Center, a building subsidized by the Spanish State, with the intention of covering a conference session on Cuba, Socialism and Diversity, which was to be given by the director of the National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex).

According to Luis Manuel Mazorra, director of CiberCuba, his site’s journalists were expelled from the event by Mariela Castro’s chief of security, who ordered them to leave. continue reading

“When we were expelled from the meeting room, we went to the cafeteria of the building, from where we would not have access to the session but at least we could take some photos of Mariela Castro upon her arrival,” Mazorra said.

But Cuban agents followed them and aggressively photographed them, while defending the Cuban political system and criticizing that of Spain. Subsequently, Mazorra called the Spanish authorities, who supported the journalists.

“They had to restrain Castro’s security chief, and the police explained that under Spanish law they had no right to expel us from the conference or take photos with the intention to intimidate,” the journalist explained.

He also added that “the most ironic thing about this is that Castro went to Valencia to talk about diversity,” and the Cuban authorities showed their “bullshit attitudes.” Those attending the conference were mostly members of organizations that support the Cuban revolution.

“We think it is inadmissible for something like this to happen in Spain, and this city can not open its arms to this type of event,” he said.

Before the conference, Mariela Castro had met with Joan Ribó, mayor of Valencia and a sympathizer of the Latin American left.

Last week Mariela Castro made headlines after the viral dissemination of several photos of her at a dinner where there was lobster , a luxury almost impossible for ordinary Cubans to even imagine. Among the activists of the LGBTI community with her at the dinner was the Spanish singer Pastora Soler, who was then forced to cancel a concert in Miami because of the outrage caused by the photos.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

"December Is a Complicated Month and If You Go Out to Report You Will End Up In a Police Station"

State Security encircles the Ladies in White from Thursday through Sunday each week, but this time they extended it more than usual. (Martinoticias.com/Archivo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 December 2018 — December has started badly for a good part of the island’s civil society. Police operations, arbitrary arrests, a siege of activist homes and multiple threats against members of civil society have been constant in the first four days of this month that had already started with a warning. One of the reporters of this newspaper was warned that if he approached to cover “the provocations of the opposition” he would be arrested. “You know December is a complicated month and if you go out to report you’ll end up in a police station,” the agent said during the interrogation to which one of the members of the 14ymedio team was subjected.

The warning was made on the first Monday of the month with the arrest of several artists who are carrying out a campaign against Decree 349 and who had convened, by using on-line networks, a “peaceful sit-in” in front of the Ministry of Culture to demand a dialogue with the institution and the repeal of the new legislation. Other actors of the independent civil society have organized events around the process of constitutional reform and are also preparing activities directed at showing the repression on the occasion of the celebration of Human Rights Day on December 10th. continue reading

Among those who have denounced the harassment, ratcheted up these days, is Ángel Moya, former political prisoner of the group of 75, from the so-called “Black Spring” in 2013, who told this newspaper that as of Monday afternoon the operation deployed by State Security since last Thursday still remained in place.

State Security organizes a police siege every week, from Thursday through Sunday, around the headquarters of the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) women’s movement to prevent the human rights activists from “arriving at Sunday Mass and participating in the campaign ’Todos Marchamos’ (We All March) for the freedom of political prisoners.” This week, the operation was  extended beyond the norm, according to Moya’s testimony, who added that there were police patrols and State Security officers on Porvenir Avenue.

Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna, a member of the Committee for Racial Integration (CIR), was also arrested on Monday while leaving his home by one of the officers who had surrounded his home since Sunday afternoon. Madrazo Luna was taken in a patrol to the Zapata and C police station and, shortly thereafter, driven to another station in the Playa municipality, where an officer who identified himself as Alejandro, second in command of the 21st, told him they were not going to allow the activities that his organization had planned throughout the week.

“In the morning I went down to open the door for a friend and to go out to buy bread, and the officer tells me that nobody can leave or come in. I told him that the only thing he could do was detain me, because I was not going to be imprisoned in my own house,” he recounted.

The activist pointed out that, in addition, he was warned that they would maintain “the same rigor against provocative activities that threaten public safety” financed with “money from the enemy.”

Moreover, the daughter of the historian and political scientist Enix Berrio Sardá, Ingrid, denounced this Monday to 14ymedio her father’s disappearance and asserted having no information of his whereabouts for several hours.

This Tuesday, the intellectual recounted that he was detained and held in solitary confinement in Picota and Villa Marista jails. “They detained me on the street at two in the afternoon, they kept me isolated and made me wait from midnight until five o’clock in the morning in a very cold room. Then the interrogation began, first linking me to the campaign against decree 349, under terrible conditions, it was torture; and then to the private transportation strike. At six in the morning the interrogation ended and at nine o’clock they released me. They are tense because of the level of conviction of the people involved in these matters,” he affirmed.

Berrio Sardá was one of the guests invited to the presentation of Por Cuba at Madrazo Luna’s house, where a presentation on the current process of the constitutional reform was to be held.

In Camagüey province, Henry Constantin also endured arrest for more than three hours on Monday. The journalist and editor of the magazine La Hora de Cuba (Cuba’s Hour) was arrested in the street and taken to a police station for no specific reason. “They gave me a warning notice, they said due to spreading false news, and they warned me that I would not be able to do anything else because they would not allow it,” Constantin told the newspaper as he left the police unit.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

San Cristobal’s Horsecart Drivers Strike in Protest Against New Restrictions

The work stoppage aggravates existing tensions between municipal managers and workers in this private sector. (14ymedio)

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14ymedio, Bertha K. Guillén, San Cristóbal | December 01, 2018 – The drivers of horse drawn carts from San Cristóbal, Artemisa, have declared a strike as a signal of protest against new restrictions imposed by the Municipal Administration Council (CAM). The coachmen have decided to battles the authorities to repeal the measures that prevent them from entering the town and force them to only travel on outer roads.

On Friday, passengers arriving at the stand from where the horse-drawn carriages depart found the drivers seated, with arms crossed and insisting that they would not work until a “favorable agreement” was reached with the local government. The strike has paralyzed a municipality where most transportation is done via this rustic means of transit.

Last week the authorities decreed that the drivers could not circulate through the inner roads of San Cristóbal due to alleged complaints from neighbors about the bad smell of urine and the animals’ excrement of the animals. A version that drivers question, blaming the new restrictions on old tensions between municipal managers and workers in this private sector. continue reading

Less than three months ago the confrontation between both parties reached a point of no return, when in September the local government forced the drivers to move to secondary streets far from the center of the town. At that time, the drivers complained widely but ended up obeying the rules. On this occasion they have decided to go a step further.

“We can’t publicly say we are on strike, because in Cuba is not allowed, but we will stop working until we reach an agreement,” 14ymedio was told by Arsenio Ramirez, one of the drivers who this Friday reined in as a gesture of protest. “It was not enough for us to move five blocks away from the main roads, now they aren’t allowing us to enter the town at all,” he complains.

The drivers are sitting at their pick-up point and have organized to make the rounds with some of their vehicles but without picking up passengers on the road. The unusual scene of the horse-drawn carriages circulating empty has generated much curiosity among passers-by who have taken countless videos and photos of the work stoppage.

“The objective is for people to see the coaches circulating and find out what is happening,” explains Maikel, a young coachman who has joined the strike. “We have to collect evidence of the number of people who benefit from our service, with a bit of luck there will be more complaints from the population in favor of us and the authorities will have to reverse the measure.”

The local government has responded so far by placing a new bus that will cover the route from the main park of San Cristóbal to the hospital, twice a day. A way to easing the tension that has been created among the passengers who aren’t able to travel in the horsecarts that traditionally cover that stretch.

The self-employed are protesting because they are forced to travel around the town of San Cristóbal without being able to access its internal streets. (14ymedio)

“We transport around 7,000 people a day,” says Rolando Martinez, “most of them go to the hospital, whether workers or patients, who often come from other municipalities.” The driver believes that without the cars providing service the pressure on the authorities becomes unsustainable.

San Cristóbal has a population of more than 71,000 and is the second most populated territory in Artemisa province. In the town there is also a hospital that covers services of different specialties at the provincial level and the difficult situation of public transport forces the use of the horsecarts to get there.

“This morning the scene was bleak, doctors, nurses, children dressed in uniforms, everyone lined up on the road while the carts passed by empty, there was no transport so we had to walk to the hospital,” Carmen María, a nurse who had to walk the route on foot, complained Friday.

The changes in the horsecarts travel routes were announced last Thursday in a meeting in which representatives participated on behalf of the self-employed drivers, along with officials from the Municipal Administration Council.

“They treated us rudely, as soon as we expressed our discontent, the deputy director began to shout,” says one of the coachmen who participated in the meeting.

Pedicabs were also regulated with this measure, however they continue working in secret, although the local government has sent dozens of inspectors into the street who are imposing fines of up to 1,500 CUP on those who contravene the measure, which can even end up with the seizure of the vehicle in the event the driver is a repeat offender.

San Cristóbal has 81 animal-drawn vehicles in service for the transportation of passengers, 56 of them are duly regulated and at least six have contracts with institutions linked to education, commerce and culture sectors. The rest of the cars circulate illegally.

“As we are a large group, we organize ourselves and pay for a truck of water every two days to clean the area where we park the animals to avoid neighbors getting upset with the smell of horse urine, which is very unpleasant,” Arsenio Ramírez details to14ymedio.

Other drivers, such as Roilán, are optimistic about the results of the strike. “We have the certainty that the situation will be fixed, as soon as the week starts and people protest about having to walk.” The Self-employed driver says that if “each municipal administration sets its rules,” with this work stoppage the drivers are asserting theirs.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

López Obrador or the Art of Launching Too Many Promises

Andrés Manuel López Obrador during an event in Juchitán de Zaragoza, Mexico, last September. (Yoani Sánchez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 4 December 2018 – Nobody had to tell me about it, I was there. The sun pricked my skin in Juchitán de Zaragoza, Mexico, a town still half destroyed by the earthquake that just a year earlier ravaged the region. Andrés Manuel López Obrador arrived to give a speech, but not everyone in the audience applauded or seemed to believe his promises. Some shouted clear and harsh slogans: “Out of the Isthmus!” (of Tehuantepec), they yelled.

That day, when by accident Amlo – as the president is known in Mexico – and I crossed paths, I thought I would find a passionate flood of his supporters but it was not like that. In fact, in Oaxaca there was talk of “the betrayal of Obrador,” the about-turn he had made between his campaign to reach the presidency and the gestures he made after being elected. One could already sense disenchantment and frustration over the contradictions that were beginning to show. continue reading

Schooled in the oratory of populists, that day I sensed in his discourse the haughty turns of language used to seek applause and call from the audience a response more devoted than reflective. I remember hearing him say that he would build “concrete roads” and that he would make the area an “industrial park.” He talked about employing everyone, raising wages and ending poverty in the area.

Noon arrived and the orator finished his speech. He quickly left through the back of the platform while the shouts against him rose from one side of the stage. I felt that I had been watching a theater performance, calculated but awkward, a professional staging that to my ears as a citizen born and raised in authoritarianism sounded familiar and dangerous.

On December first, the man I heard speaking in Juchitán de Zaragoza was sworn in as president of Mexico. On his shoulders he carries the hopes of millions who elected him, tired of traditional politicians, corruption and the scourge of insecurity. For them, Amlo is a wager to achieve healthy institutions, develop social programs that improve the lives of many Mexicans, and present an adequate response to violence.

Although his term is just beginning, it is easy to venture that he will not be able to fulfill so many promises, in part because some of them are completely chimerical. Others he will achieve at a cost harmful to the nation, appealing to the practices of patronage and accumulating too much decision power in his hands, under the justification that it makes everything more expeditious or better. The greater risk is that he ends up devouring the institutions with his person and that he swallows up the imperfect Mexican democracy under the pretext that the country needs a profound renovation.

Certain visions of a personality cult are beginning to emerge in Amlo’s Administration. Public mobilization rallies, during which the president uses words to hypnotically develop his theme, had already become part of his way of governing even before he donned the presidential sash. His followers do not admit criticism, he evades answers when questioned and his relationship with the press is beginning to get testy, especially when he treats reporters as children or kisses a journalist to avoid an uncomfortable issue. He presents himself as the redeemer of a nation, and expects in return the unlimited veneration of Mexicans who will give him their absolute confidence to resolve the national wrongs.

His obstinacy, which undoubtedly attests to the several attempts he made to reach Los Pinos, can be a virtue when the time comes to apply solutions, but also a double-edged sword that leads to the most ferocious voluntarism. It will be a challenge for his ministers and closest officials to maneuver with this human whirlpool, a man who believes he has the answers to all the problems and knows how to resolve each quagmire.

For now, the first “Amlo effect” that Mexicans will have to deal with is polarization. That confrontation that settles in society and threatens to sit at the table of every household. The half measures are over, now one can only applaud or reject his management, a dichotomy that undermines the healthy debate and moderation that public discourse in any democracy needs.

Confusing the nation with a Party, the homeland with an ideology and the people with a man, as has happened in the sad case of Cuba, has devastating consequences for citizen sovereignty, the independence of institutions and freedom of expression. That one individual stands as the savior of millions of people should scare us as much as coups d’état. They start by distributing perks and end up locking us in the authoritarian cage. Nobody had to tell me, I’ve lived it.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Will Today Be The Day?

To connect by mobile phone you have to go to a wifi point. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 4 December 2018 — Will today be the great day when the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (Etecsa) finally tells us – with precision, transparency and honesty – the date on which we Cubans will be able to enjoy internet service on our phones?

The state monopoly, one of the most inefficient companies on the planet, promised a few months ago that we would be able to surf from our cell phones before the end of this year. After three tests that were a resounding failure, Etecsa has not mentioned the matter again and now only 27 days remain until the end of the month. We do not accept excuses, we want to be respected as customers.

If Etecsa CAN’T (as it seems), the authorities should let other foreign companies with more experience and infrastructure come in to offer stable, modern and cheap connectivity. Professionals across the country are crying out for this, because every day they spend not as internet users their knowledge is outdated and their ability to innovate and create ceases to be competitive. continue reading

Entrepreneurs would also be able to scale to a new level if they could offer their products and services through the web (can you imagine Über arriving in Cuba?), and teenagers, students, housewives, and even retired people who stand in line for the newspaper, would have greater opportunities, new channels of information, more chances of interacting with their emigrated relatives and with the world.

In other words, the country would benefit. But the thing is, there are some who see nothing good coming from our being connected. They are those who have spent years been trying to “tame the wild colt of the internet,” the mediocre people who have gained prominence with their subsidized (and privileged) access to the web where they go to repeat their slogans. The lifelong censors who tremble just thinking about people having their hands on a device directly connected to the great world wide web, able to report an abuse in a matter of seconds, to record political violence, the chronic shortages, the popular discontent, to denounce a corrupt official… to question the system.

They are those who even fear people enjoying “the frivolity” of the web… because every song we listen to on iTunes, every dating site we visit, every product we “covet” on Amazon, will be time spent beyond the influence of official propaganda, far from the carefully packaged primetime newscast. It will be time in which we may seem apathetic, but at least we won’t be “fanatics.”

Anyway, Etecsa, how long until mobile internet arrives?

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Lopez Obrador and Cuba Negotiate a Mexican “Mais Medicos” Program

Doctors continue to arrive back in Cuba from Brazil after Cuba’s break with Brazil’s ’Mais Médicos’ (More Doctors) program. (Granma / Juvenal Balán)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 December 2018 — At least 3,000 professionals from Brazil’s Mais Médicos (More Doctors) might end up in Mexico if the negotiations between the government of new Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the authorities in Havana are successful. According to the newspapers Estadão and Cubanet, the negotiations began last September, after López Obrador’s election victory, to create a program similar to Brazil’s in Mexico, The negotiations have been led by Lázaro Cárdenas Batel, the new coordinator of advisors to the Mexican president.

“There is no one better than Lázaro Cárdenas Batel manage [the project] among the three countries,” said a source quoted in an exclusive. The official belongs to a family closely linked to the Mexican left and has friendships with members of the Brazilian Workers’ Party. continue reading

After the suspension of several flights, Cuban doctors in Brazil were informed that “there are no available airlines” and their trips were paralyzed, although they were scheduled to start again on Monday.

López Obrador has stated on numerous occasions that changes in the health system are a priority for him. “We want the right to healthcare to be guaranteed and, in Mexico, when the six-year [presidential] term ends, we will have a health system like Canada’s, England’s, and that in the Nordic countries; we will have a free quality health service for all the people of Mexico,” said the president-elect.

However, the now newly-inaugurated president of Mexico has promised a national austerity program difficult to combine with the universalization of free healthcare. An agreement similar to the Mais Médicos program — potentially bringing in thousands of Cuban doctors — can be the key to lowering the high costs of his commitment.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Several Cuban Activists Arrested Protesting Ministry of Culture Decree 349

“Michel Matos, Tania Bruguera, Amaury Pacheco and Luis Manuel Otero had agreed to go on a hunger and thirst strike in the event that they were arrested,” according to Iris Ruiz. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 Decembe 2018 — At least three activists were arrested on Monday outside Cuba’s Ministry of Culture when they tried to protest against the enactment of Decree 349, which places strict limits on artists and the diffusion of art. Tania Bruguera, Michel Matos and Amaury Pacheco have been arrested, so far, although the figure could increase in the next few hours, according to actress and activist Iris Ruiz who spoke with 14ymedio.

The well-known artist Tania Bruguera was arrested at her home in Old Havana, while Michel Matos and Amaury Pacheco were arrested outside the headquarters of the Ministry of Culture in Havana, when they tried to participate in a call for a sit-in against the new regulations that will go into effect on December 7. continue reading

Bruguera had time to make a call when she was arrested, while the artists Yasser Castellanos and Verónica Vega, also involved in the protest, were prevented from leaving their home by several uniformed officiers, Ruiz said.

The whereabouts of Yanelys Núñez and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara are unknown; they had agreed to call Ruiz at a specified time, but their phones are not shut off.

“Michel Matos, Tania Bruguera, Amaury Pacheco and Luis Manuel Otero had agreed to go on a hunger and thirst strike in the event that they were arrested,” Iris Ruiz explained to this newspaper. She also detailed that “the agreement was made in [the neighborhood of] San Isidro,” in Havana, where the Museum of Politically Uncomfortable Art is located, and that “the idea is to maintain [the strike] until they can meet with a representative of the Government who confirms the repeal of Decree 349.”

As a condition for abandoing the fast, the protesters also demand that the authorities publish “a public commitment to retract the measure in the media and social networks.”

The campaign against Decree 349 was set out last September in the San Isidro Manifesto, with which the movement sought to augment its actions to denounce the regulation of artistic performances. The campaign involves musicians, artists and writers. Amnesty International said last August that Decree 349 “augurs a dystopian artistic world in Cuba.” Similarly, the United States Government reacted to this situation by stating that “Under decree 349, artists suffer the indignation of having to obtain authorization to express themselves,” according to a tweet from the State Department.

Those who criticize the promulgation of Decree 349 regret that in all cases the artists must have prior authorization from the cultural institution with which they will be compulsorily affiliated in order to carry out presentations, which directly affects those who work outside of these state entities. The content of the presentations and artistic works will also be regulated.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba

Arrests of Cuban Activists "Notoriously Greater" in November

The CCDHRN highlights that among the activists arrested last month was Yasmani Ovalle León, a member of Unpacu. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger
14ymedio, Havana, 3 December 2018 — The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) reported that there were “at least 247 arbitrary arrests of peaceful opponents for purely political reasons” in November, according to its latest report released Monday. The independent organization suggests that the figure may be higher due to “the opacity with which the repressive forces act.”

In the report, the CCDHRN points out that the number of arrests of activists is “notoriously greater” to those that took place during the month of October, in which 202 of these violations of citizens’ rights were documented. continue reading

Among the civil society organizations that suffered the most arbitrary arrests are the Ladies in White, the United Antitotalitarian Front (Fantu), the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu) and the OZT (Orlando Zapata Tamayo) Civic Action Front.

The Commission warns of two new political prisoners: Unpacu members Carlos Elvis Pérez Torres sentenced to three years for the charge of “Pre-criminal Social Dangerousness” and Yasmani Ovalle León, pending trial.

For its part, the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights, based in Madrid, denounced that the political police arrested numerous activists who are calling for citizens to vote “No” in the upcoming referendum on the revised constitution.

The entity, which counts 210 arbitrary arrests, warns about “the consequences of the new package of regulations that the Government of Miguel Díaz-Canel intends to put into effect in December.”

Among the new laws that are now in force, Decree 349 is included, which “imposes severe governmental controls on artistic creation and dissemination in private spaces,” as well as “other rules that limit even more the work of the self-employed in sectors as critical as transportation.”

According to the Observatory, “These measures reflect the reactionary spirit that dominates the government of Diaz-Canel, who does not know how or does not want to make life easier for citizens.”

The Observatory’s executive director, Alejandro González Raga, harshly criticized the attitude of the Spanish president Pedro Sánchez during his visit to the island, for having “an agenda completely alienated from human rights.”

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Exodus is the Consequence of Despair

The poor, the persecuted and those crushed by political repression know that there is a better world and that it is elsewhere, within reach of a raft, an difficult road or a border river. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 3 December 2018 — The image of the 21st century is that of fleeing multitudes. Who can forget the photo of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old boy drowned in the Mediterranean when his Syrian-Kurdish family tried to flee from the hell organized by the Russians to support the despot Assad? He looked like he was sleeping (or rather snoozing, the baby was so small and cute).

Or the images of the caravans of Central Americans, especially Hondurans, who were trying to cross the border to the United States. Or the sub-Saharan Africans who travel crammed in small boats towards an uncertain European destination of drugs, prostitution or, in the best of cases, sale of counterfeit goods in makeshift stalls.

We have to do something. The phenomenon is universal. The poor, the persecuted and those crushed by political repression know that there is a better world and that it is elsewhere, within reach of a raft, a difficult road or a border river. Movies, television, social networks give constant news of those happy nations in which it is possible to dream of a different future. When we know that we are condemned to live poorly under the boots of our oppressors, the psychological need to escape arises. continue reading

This is what happened in 1980 when Fidel Castro announced that he was removing the police guard from the Embassy of Peru in Havana and anyone who wanted to could take asylum there. The Commander thought it a few dozen people would go there. Eleven thousand people entered in a few hours. Everyone crammed together. It was an unusual drama. It was a daring outpost to the millions of Cubans who had ascertained that their lives would inevitably be miserable and they could do nothing to improve them because the government interfered with prohibitions and absurd controls.

Leaving one’s country forever is like deciding to commit suicide. Suicides take their own lives when they see no way out of their misfortunes. It was this same urgency that fed the Central American caravans. They were failed societies with no hope of improvement. It is not poverty. There are poor people in Panama and Costa Rica and there are no natives of those countries in the midst of the flood of Central American immigrants. Panama and Costa Rica, in fits and starts, are liberal democracies in which it is possible to dream of a better future. There were poor people in pre-Chavez Venezuela and the country continued to receive immigrants with dreams. The exodus is the consequence of despair.

What can be done? The first thing is to relieve the victims. Cure them. Feed them. Give them back their lost dignity. I know because I was one of those victims. In September 1961, I arrived in Miami from Havana on a flight that brought asylum seekers from the Venezuelan embassy in Cuba. I was 18 years old. They did not tell me what I had to do, but they gave me the tools so that I could decide how to seek my own happiness and that of my family.

Unfortunately, this is something that can not be left to the democratic method. Societies tend to be severe with strangers. Maybe it’s part of our genetic load. The only mass gathering of Cubans in 1939 was called to block the way for the poor Jews fleeing the Nazi horror. The newspapers of the time say that 40,000 Havanans congregated to oppose this immigration. The image of the inhabitants of Tijuana throwing stones at the Central American caravans are an eloquent expression of these atavistic rejections.

The false idea that “they take away our jobs” or the mean calculation that “they come to use our limited public resources” usually prevail in the face of a weak instinct for solidarity. That’s why we can not leave it to the best judgment of the majority. The majority is very cruel when it comes to people who worship other gods, are a different color or speak another language. But we have to do something.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Regenerative Power of NO!

“This project has not been prepared by a Constituent Assembly composed of delegates elected through an electoral process with all the guarantees.” Source: Granma, Cuba’s major newspaper, owned Communist Party.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 1 December 2018 — A patriarchal group that has governed Cuba for 60 years is presenting a project for a revised constitution to become the law of the country. But this cosntitutional project has not been prepared by a Constituent Assembly, one composed of delegates chosen through an electoral process with all the guarantees of free and fair elections, as is supposed to be done in a truly democratic country. Rather it was prepared by a team of hand-picked editors.

The word ‘party’ comes from ‘part’, so it is clear that this project represents only a part of the population and not all the currents of thought among the citizenship, so it cannot really be considered the fruit of the popular will. This revised Constitution would reaffirm the violation of elementary rights of human beings, rights such as free association, free expression and the free activity of citizens to seek their own prosperity. The response of citizens before this consultation should be: No! continue reading

Our great problem as a nation is that we have spent our existence saying ‘Yes’ or, at least, shutting up when we should have said ‘No’. When a group of soldiers perpetrated a coup to overthrow a democratically elected president and abolish the Constitution, we did not throw ourselves into the streets to shout with one voice: “No!” And that was the beginning of our current misfortunes.

Then a group of supposed redeemers arrived and, in gratitude for our presumed liberation, we blindly obeyed everything they imposed on us. Why have free elections? Why reinstate the violated Constitution if those chosen by providence were there to guide us on a path of freedom and prosperity? If you idolize a caudillo and elevate him to an altar, that false god will rule your destiny with an iron fist.

This group that at other times has also persecuted and repressed citizens for their sexual orientation, for their religious practices and even for their artistic preferences, and who later had to tolerate even the veneration of a saint, the gay pride celebrations, and even erect a statue to John Lennon, has not ceased to be the same, but has had to yield to the swell of the people practicing civil disobedience in silence.

Now is the time to impose the right to think differently and to respect the different options and preferences of the population in spheres such as the economy, the social and the political, and for all us us to united in a single force to say ‘No’ to this constitution that they want to impose on us.

There are those who still believe that the correct attitude is to abstain, to refuse to go to the polls in response to the electoral consultations staged by the powers-that-be, that everything is a farce, that they will manipulate the counting of the votes and that the ‘consultation’ on the revised constitution will be legitimized by the attendance at the polls of those without power.

But this option to abstain has been chosen many times and has been repeated before the deaf ears of citizens for whom it is not easy to abstain in a country where one’s absence at the polling stations marks you as disaffected and where the pro-government organizations pressure you to participate, while it is less noticed to go and vote ‘No’ in the privacy of the polling place.

And today, in this world, abstention is nothing new in any country, but rather the most frequent response of a humanity tired of corruption and the lies of politicians. It is not seen as rejection but as laziness, a laziness that in a certain way also means acceptance, because those who call the elections win. That is why we must urge citizens to go to the polls and to vote ‘No’.

That Power will to manipulate the results is known, but with an overwhelming vote in favor of ‘No’ the truth would filter out through all corners and crevices, and run through different and unsuspected trajectories, like the flood of a river. And if the majority is reached, a vigorous minority will suffice to be impressive in a world where fear has always reigned, and where unanimity is demanded. And it will send a clear message to those who still collaborate with the regime, whether through fear, opportunism, or ignorance, among which there are officials, soldiers, and Party militants.

Let them know that the winds are already blowing in the opposite direction, announcing the proximity of a renewing storm. And if the fearful begin to lose their fear, and the opportunists to rethink their unconditional support, and the ignorant to question what until then they accepted blindly, that will be the beginning of the end of that world built on the basis of the lie.

Because no one governs without the consent of the governed, that is, of the people or a part of that people, and if this part finally decides to live in the truth, that world crumbles like night shadows before the luminous rays of dawn.

The campaign for ‘No’, could also bear an invaluable fruit: the confluence of the renewing forces that fight for change. The real fronts and coalitions are not made around a table, but in joint work and struggle. And there is no time more than now that requires the bringing together of all the opposition ranks in a single force capable of peacefully defeating ‘Yes’.

Because this campaign could not win any isolated group against a regime that has a monopoly over all the mass media. But in the face of a united front for ‘No’, it would be able to achieve victory. Our differences, our different projects and perspectives, a reflection of the polychromatic richness that we represent, far from distancing us, unites us like a rainbow in the defense of freedom of thought in the face of those who want to impose, by force, a sterile unanimity.

A consensual, measured call is needed, one that convincingly exposes the reasons for voting ‘No’, the fruit of the representative ranks of all currents of thought that, consequently, can be presented, alien to all partisanship and ideology, in the name of — and as the voice of — a whole civil society that until today has remained silent, gagged by censorship.

It could, with the cooperation of all, be published on all the networks, blogs and circulated hand-to-hand in neighborhoods, workplaces, universities, in theaters and seminars and other cultural activities, and thus expose Power’s manipulation of the results.

Such a joint document would not require its editors to gather at any meeting place, it would not take more travel than browsing through cyberspace, or more room to host delegates than a virtual site.

There is no need to fear campaigning for ‘No’, because it is a legitimate right to inform citizens about the other side of the coin of what the leadership wants to impose through coercion and fear. Because in a real popular consultation in which it is legal to vote for one of the two options, and Power has all the means to advocate for one of them, it must also be lawful to defend the opposite option.

Let us all be united in a single force capable of peacefully defeating the governmental proposal. Everyone vote ‘No’!

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Editor’s note: Ariel Hidaldo is a writer and historian.

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

A Type of Dengue That Disappeared Four Decades Ago Returns to Cienfuegos

Soldiers work in the fumigation campaign against the Aedes aegypti mosquito. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 30 November 2018 — The circulation in Cienfuegos of a “serotype of dengue” from which no outbreaks had been reported since 1977 has forced extreme emergency epidemiological measures in the province, according to the local newspaper 5th of September. Authorities have warned that this variety, specifically Type I, “may cause the death” of the patient.

“A new wave of the dengue epidemic has emerged with signs of alarm and clinical repercussion and, fortunately, no deaths have been lamented to date,” explained provincial health director Salvador Tamayo Muñiz at a meeting of the highest authorities of the territory called to analyze the situation.

In addition, he added that given this scenario the transmission needs to be stopped in no more than fifteen days. “To achieve this goal, it is necessary to isolate the cases in the authorized centers and eliminate the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the transmitting agent of dengue,” he said. continue reading

The local newspaper asks the Cienfuegans to understand the seriousness of the matter and go to the health services if they experience any symptoms such as fever, vomiting, headaches and abdominal pain, bleeding, or any other warning signal, in order to receive a diagnosis and timely treatment.

Lydia Esther Brunet Nodarse, a member of the Central Committee and first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) in the province, emphasized the importance of monitoring from home. “You must act with great urgency,” she said.

For her part, Mayrelis Pernía Cordero, president of the Provincial Assembly of People’s Power, warned of the need for families to be informed of when their homes or outdoor areas will be fumigated.

Dengue is an infectious disease caused by a virus of which four serotypes (1, 2, 3, 4) are recognized, and which is transmitted by mosquitoes of the genus Aedes Aegypti. According to researcher Jorge Arias, in Cuba “the four serotypes responsible for the disease,” have been found.

The last cases of serotype 1, before the current outbreak, were detected in 1977 in Santiago de Cuba and the number of infested on the Island totalled 553,138. These patients were part of an epidemic that affected several countries of the Caribbean Central America and the part of South America belonging to the Caribbean Sea Basin.

The other major epidemic in Cuba occurred in 1981, with 344,203 cases of dengue, of which 10,312 were dengue hemorrhagic fever (the most dangerous variant), which caused 158 deaths.

In recent weeks and after a rainy season with very abundant rainfall, the authorities have redoubled inspections to detect foci and carried out fumigations in several areas of the country, especially the most populated cities.

In Havana, the inspection forces affiliated with the Ministry of Public Health and the fumigation brigades have increased their presence. In municipalities such as Centro Habana, Cerro and San Miguel del Padrón, inspections of homes are accompanied by doctors and nurses to confirm that they are carried out.

Over the summer, several provinces in the center of the country reported the presence of hemorrhagic dengue. In 2017, according to figures from the Ministry of Public Health, cases of this disease on the island were reduced by 68% compared to the previous year.

This last year, dengue was present in two municipalities and 11 health areas in the provinces of Holguín and Ciego de Ávila, while other diseases transmitted by Aedes aegypti, such as Zika, were identified in 38 health areas of Havana, Mayabeque, Villa Clara, Sancti Spíritus, Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey, Las Tunas and Holguín.

According to the World Health Organization, all dengue serotypes have affected the Americas. In several Latin American countries the different types circulate simultaneously, creating a serious risk of epidemics.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.