The Platform Of The Innocents

Sign: “Market Leased to Self-employed Workers.” The self-employed sector thought it would benefit from the supposed measures disseminated on the Internet, but the whole thing was actually a joke perpetrated for the Day of the Holy Innocents. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 15 January 2018 – On the final Thursday of last year, the young journalist Norge Rodríguez posted on his Facebook wall the new measures that the Cuban government would supposedly take as of this coming February to “get out of the economic crisis affecting the country for nearly three decades once and for all.”

Those who read the posting to the final line were told they could find more details through a link that led to the Wikipedia listing for the Day of the Holy Innocents, a date on which, in almost all Latin America, jokes of all kinds are made, including in the media through the broadcast of false news.

Those who did not read until the end ventured to reproduce what was, in fact, a “joke of the Innocents” in social networks, blogs and information sites. Nor was there any lack of “analysts” who devoted their time to speculating on the likelihood of some flexibilizations that were spread within the Island through emails, printed sheets and USB memories. continue reading

The owner of a restaurant received one of those papers, from the hands of a customer, clipped to the Letter of the Year with the predictions of the babalaos. A member of the Communist Party could not resist the temptation to ask his neighbor, an independent journalist, if he had heard about the new measures; while a plumber accompanied his teenage son to connect to the internet to get more details about the “reform package.”

In a few days, the joke went viral throughout the country as if it were authentic information, fueling illusions, exciting entrepreneurs and becoming the center of conversations in parks, sports clubs and at family tables.

In an unusual exchange of telephone calls, everyone who felt they would benefit consulted their “frequently well informed” sources about the veracity of the news. These, in turn, went to their usual informants located in the upper echelons of power, in search of signs regarding whether the changes were actually coming.

The supposed measures covered four areas of public interest: self-employment, migration policy, land ownership and Internet access. The document suggested that others were also expected, including ones regarding the press, citizen participation, transparency and democratic governance.

Entrepreneurs welcomed with enthusiasm the elimination of the concept of “permitted activities” and cheered in a low voice the granting of legal status to entities that would be able to “associate with foreign companies and capital.” Their eyes shone when they read that they could import products of a commercial nature and export their products or services.

The private sector, with more than half a million workers, trembled with optimism when they read that a fund was being created for the development of self-employment and fiscal incentives for cooperatives. The offices of the National Tax Administration Office (ONAT) began receiving numerous calls to learn details about the openings.

Cubans settled outside the country shared their joy when they “learned” that the passport extension process was going to be eliminated and that the document would be valid for 10 years, at a cost of 120 dollars abroad and 60 CUC on the island. The emigrants also welcomed the disappearance of the concept of “repatriation.”

The measures, which circulated from hand to hand, included a new Agrarian Reform so that the farmers would become the legitimate owners of the lands they worked and the concept of leasing in usufruct would be abolished. At the same time they were going to be allowed to import supplies, machinery, tools and also to export their products.

The appetite for electronic access was satiated in the novel flexibilizations because, as of March, the internet service would be extended to all households, without time restrictions and at reasonable prices. Along the same lines, it was also stated that foreign telecommunications operators could establish themselves in the country.

From the sociological point of view, the most striking of these “jokes of the Innocents” is the enthusiasm sparked, given that the fictitious package straddled the fence with a foot on each side: on one side the moderate opposition, and on the other the place where the boldest await reforms from the official spheres.

Some dissidents who read the document regretted that the decriminalization of thinking differently, the openness to free association and the freedom of expression were not included. While the most radical began to dismiss it as another attempt by the nomenklatura to perpetuate itself in power, a step to buy the consciousness of the emerging middle class.

Among the most orthodox followers of the ruling party, few believed in the truthfulness of the measures that everyone was talking about on the street. A simple review of the most recent party and government accords made it clear that everything would have to be false, unless an “unacceptable betrayal of the principles” was in the process of being developed.

When it got to the level of the press and the journalists of the ruling party it appeared as if it might necessary to publish a denial describing the event as “a new campaign against Cuba,” but in the end they opted for silence so as not to add fuel to the fire of the rumors.

The most skeptical detected the hoax from the beginning, noting the government’s maxim that any reform should lead to the “perfection” of socialism and realizing that the measures were like corrosive acid on a system that privileges the advantage of the State over private initiative. While implementing such measures would not bring the “overthrow” of the regime, it would deal devastating blows to it.

For two weeks, that list of flexibilizations tested the credulity of a society anxious to hear good news and also offered a warning: If a new electoral law is approved in Cuba, one that would allow candidates to run on proposed platforms – which is strictly forbidden in the current system which allows candidates to offer only their biographies (and forbids any campaigning at all) – anyone who dared to offer such platforms would be swept away at the ballot boxes.

But the platform of the innocents would win, no doubt, among those who read the deceiving joke and believed it was true.

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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.

Prejudices Put the Brakes on Bike Culture in Cuba

The lanes on the right, exclusive for bicycles and which were so common two decades ago, have been phased out. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 15 January 2018 — The first Sunday of each month they meet in a park in Centro Habana and ride through the capital on a route that varies to avoid boredom. They are the members of Bicicletear La Habana (Havana Cycling), a group of cyclists that promotes the use of bikes as a means of healthy transport and respectful of the environment, a task that in Cuba involves breaking down the stigma of unreliability attached to this means of transport.

The problems with the oil supply and the shortages during the Special Period, in the 90s, negatively affected the image of this transportation mode which, in Europe, is experiencing an era of splendor due to its positive impact on the economy and the sustainability of the cities.

A study published this Monday by the European Union’s PASTA Project (Physical Activity through Sustainable Transport Approaches) estimates that if at least in 24.7% of trips were made by bike, more than 10,000 premature deaths could be avoided per year.  In addition, the results show that by increasing spending on the cycle path network by only 10%, the estimated economic benefits of avoiding premature mortality are enormous. continue reading

“Getting people out of cars produces great health benefits. A combination of measures that make the car unattractive and policies focused on converting public transport and cycling into more attractive modes would be the best way to improve health and welfare in European cities,” the study concludes.

The restoration of the bike lanes in Cuba is not discussed, even though it is the measure most in demand by those who cycle.

In Cuba, the public commitment to promote the use of the bicycle is conspicuous by its absence. Last December, transport minister Adel Yzquierdo Rodríguez told the National Assembly that repairs to “some capital arterials” are planned for this year, but Wilfredo Vázquez, a 55-year-old electrician, believes that “we should also invest in parallel roads and smaller streets that could be a less dangerous alternative for cyclists.”

However, the restoration of the bike lanes in Cuba is not discussed, even though it is the measure most in demand by those who cycle.

In 2013 the economist Marino Murillo, known as the “Tsar of Economic Reforms,” made an announcement that excited some and robbed others of their sleep. The new plan to revitalize the use of the bicycle was aimed at alleviating transport problems and offering a healthier option to the population, Murillo explained at the time.

“In Cuba, one could say there are no bike shops, although there is a store in Miramar and another in another municipality”

The announcement set off alarm bells for many Cubans who saw in it a possible return to the hardest years of the 90s economic crisis.

“The application of below-cost pricing for the sale of parts for [bicycle] maintenance will be evaluated,” Murillo added then, but almost five years later there has been mo increase in sales of bikes or bike parts, nor has there been an increase in the availability of bike parking or bike repair shops.

“In Cuba, one could say there are no bike shops, although there is a store in Miramar and another in another municipality,” reflects Yasser González, from Bicicletear La Habana.

And this is not the only problem. The exclusive bike lanes on the right-hand sides of streets, which were so common two decades ago, have been phased out. On some streets, cycling has been prohibited altogether and the government no longer engages in a massive importing of bicycles, as it did during the Special Period to address the lack of other means of transport.

The architect Miguel Coyula believes that “in Cuba, bicycles are seen as a necessity imposed by extreme economic circumstances.” The specialist wrote an article in which he said that “Havana lost a golden opportunity to become a truly friendly city” for cyclists.

Although the data are not as alarming as those of other Latin American capitals, Havana already suffers from pollution levels that should be reversed.

Havanans give very little thought to the sustainability of their city or their health. In 2014, an investigation determined that nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and dust particles are causing a worrying environmental deterioration in the capital’s air quality. Although the data are not as alarming as those of other Latin American capitals, Havana already suffers from pollution levels that should be reversed.

But the majority of Habaneros consulted by this newspaper reject cycling because it is very hot, the streets are in very bad condition, it is dangerous and they don’t believe their nutrition is adequate for the effort required. Some people also fear their bikes will be stolen or there is no parking near their homes or work.

The cyclists who have joined Bicicletear La Habana pass in a multicolored row in front of Havana’s doorways, leaving curiosity in their wake. Passers-by and drivers sometimes call them “the crazy bike people” for moving on two wheels when in the collective memory “pedaling” is still something closer to sacrifice than pleasure.

“Sometimes I have seen the group pass in front of my house and the truth is that I do not understand why they spend so much energy in that, if along this same route there are almendrones (collective taxis) running,” says María Elena, a retired teacher who lives on Infanta Road, near the departure point of the members of Bicicletear La Habana.

The woman traveled on two wheels when she was working, but no longer cycles because her knees are “in very bad condition.” The aging of the population is leading to a future where “in 2030 older adults will constitute 30% of Havana’s population,” which is another reason Miguel Coyula gives for the decline in cycling.

Among drivers, the opinion of cyclists is quite negative. The drivers refer to them with derogatory phrases, they shout insults and there are few displays of courtesy towards those on two wheels. Along with the tricycles known as pedicabs, bicycles are the lowest link in the Havana traffic food chain.

The Cuban Statistical Yearbook only mentions this type of accident when it is due to “violations by cyclists,” but not when they are the victims.

“I make the trip every day from my house in La Víbora to my work in Vedado and I have to be very attentive because the drivers cut me off or park unexpectedly in front of me without warning,” laments Wilfredo Vázquez.

The cyclist says he has been “in the saddle for almost 30 years” and has never had a serious accident, although several falls that he blames on “imprudent drivers.” However, the Cuban Statistical Yearbook only mentions this type of accident when it is due to “violations by cyclists,” but not when they are the victims.

According to data from the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI), in 2016 cyclists were responsible for 57 accidents with 5 deaths and 53 injured, an incidence lower than that recorded in 2015, when there were 69 accidents, with 10 deceased and 62 injured.

“They always blame us for interfering with traffic and saw we are a headache for taxi drivers and guagueros (bus drivers) but most of the time it is the other way around,” Vázquez complains. “They do not take us into account and without exclusive bike paths, they see us as if we were intruders on the road.”

The experienced cyclist believes that “the state of the streets doesn’t support cycling very much either.” In Havana “there are very few roads that are not full of potholes, with the asphalt broken down by the heat and with bad signals,” he says.

To make matters worse, the bicycle market does not support cycling as a means of transport. Unlike the 90s, when the streets were full of Chinese bicycles – the Flying Pigeon models and the popular Forever Bicycle – today the few rolling along the streets show a greater diversity of styles because they come from the personal imports or the tourists who, after using them, give them away to some Cuban.

Bicicletear La Habana promotes the idea of small private businesses who rent bikes by the hour. The informal market also often makes up for the lack, although the bicycles offered on classified ad sites are poor quality, this paper has confirmed.

“The most popular bicycles are the electric ones, because people do not want to pedal,” says Wilfredo Vázquez, who considers himself “a passionate cyclist.” He says, “I do not understand that, because having a bicycle is choosing to a healthier lifestyle and for that you have to do the exercise,” he argues.

Vázquez believes that “sooner or later” cycling will be common in Cuba’s major city. “Because it is untenable to move more than two million people on public transport and the city is very congested with cars.” However, “first you have to overcome people’s prejudice.”

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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.

Raúl Castro Concludes A Week Of Funeral Rites

Raúl Castro participated in a ceremony at the mausoleum of the ‘Frank País’ Second Eastern Front, the location of the niche where he himself will be interred. (Granma)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 14 January 2018 – On Saturday, Raúl Castro ended a week in which he participated in several funeral ceremonies in eastern Cuba. With his presence at the mausoleum of the ‘Frank País’ Second Eastern Front, the site of the niche where he himself will be interred, the ruler added a new act to his intense “obituary” route of last year.

Four months before leaving the presidency,on January 13 Castro, 86, attended the burial ceremony of 104 soldiers of the Rebel Army column that fought under his direction.

The official ceremony held in the former headquarters that was led by Castro, was attended by the highest echelons of the government, including first vice president Miguel Díaz-Canel, who is expected to succeed the current president this coming April. continue reading

Two days earlier, the president presided over a similar act in the Mausoleum of the ‘Mario Muñoz’ Third Eastern Front

As he passed through that part of the island, several opposition activists denounced house arrests and an increase in surveillance, according to reports that arrived in 14ymedio’s Editorial Office from Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey.

State TV broadcast images of the mausoleum, located in the mountains of the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba, totally covered by a strong haze early in the morning.

The event began with the arrival of uncovered vehicles that brought the 104 urns to the mausoleum, where family members, officers of the Cuban Armed Forces and former combatants of the Rebel Army that had been led by the late Fidel Castro (1926-2016), were already waiting.

the program listed the names of the soldiers and the military grades they held in the rebel army along with those they held at the time of their deaths.

During the main speech, the ruling Communist Party of Cuba’s number two man, José Ramón Machado Ventura, mentioned that the ceremony was taking place more than a year after the death of Fidel Castro, the “commander-in-chief” of the insurrection.

Machado Ventura, who was also a member of the Second Eastern Front, added that it was the leader of the Cuban Revolution who had the idea of ​​creating the Fronts of the Rebel Army, to extend the struggle of the eastern mountains to the whole country.

“The decision to turn the dream (of freedom) of several generations of revolutionaries into reality brought to these mountains more than a hundred compañeros, whose ashes, by their own will, will rest here, in the place where the transcendental moments of their lives took place,” he added.

Of the 104 combatants interred, only six fell in combat and the rest spent their remaining lives supporting the “revolutionary process,” said Machado Ventura.

Before leaving, Raul Castro visited the great monolith – similar to that of the tomb of his brother Fidel – marked with the names of Vilma and Raúl, where the remains of his wife Vilma Espín (1930-2007) are already resting and within which the current president has decided to be interred when he dies.

On 11 January of this year, the Cuban president presided over a similar ceremony at the mausoleum of the ‘Mario Muñoz’ Third Eastern Front, also in the territory of Santiago de Cuba, where the remains of 33 former combatants were deposited.

There he paid tribute to the deceased leader of that column, one of the ‘historic generation’ of the Revolution, Juan Almeida (1927-2009).

Raul Castro, who must leave power this coming April after completing two five-year terms, also attended, last October, a solemn ceremony to commemorate the relocation of the remains of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and Mariana Grajales, famous figures of Cuba’s nineteenth century wars of independence.

The remains of both patriots were relocated to new monuments in the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in the city of Santiago de Cuba, where they had already been interred, to locations closer to the tombs of the national hero José Martí and ex-president Fidel Castro. The re-interment ceremony did not include observance of the rituals that would normally be carried out in keeping with the Catholic faith of the long-deceased, and thus generated intense controversy among Catholics, as it did among the descendants of Céspedes and Grajales, who were not consulted or even informed in advance about the relocation of their ancestors’ remains.

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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.

‘Che’ Guevara, The Faded Myth

It does not matter if his face continues to be reproduced on countless T-shirts, flags or ashtrays all over the planet, because the more it becomes known what kind of person he really was, the more his myth fades. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 14 January 2018 — Almost four decades ago, when I was learning the alphabet, I had to say my first political slogan, the same one repeated every morning by thousands of Cuban schoolchildren: “Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che.” The only thing that has changed is that, today, the figure of the guerrilla is sharply contested in many parts of the world, but not in Cuba.

The man who posed for so many photographers, who was immortalized in a portrait with his beret and lost gaze, is not escaping the judgment of History. Now, when violence and armed struggle are increasingly publicly condemned, the details of his excesses are coming to light and the victims of those years are finally beginning to be heard.

Times are not good for Ernesto Guevara, the Argentinian who has captivated filmmakers, writers and journalists. It does not matter if his face continues to be reproduced on countless T-shirts, flags or ashtrays all over the planet, because the more it becomes known what kind of person he really was, the more his myth fades. The truth floats while he sinks. continue reading

The material voracity of his heirs, the unscrupulous use made of his name by his own compañeros in battle, and the frivolity of the consumers of ideological relics add corrosive acid to his legend

The unrestrained commercialization that has taken over that image with its thin beard and prominent brow also contributes to his descent. The material voracity of his heirs, the unscrupulous use made of his name by his own compañeros in battle, and the frivolity of the consumers of ideological relics add corrosive acid to his legend.

Che has become a business, a good business for nostalgics who write books about those utopias so lacking today. They are tomes to deify a man who would have persecuted many of his current admirers for wearing a nose ring, having long hair or for the residue of marijuana in their pockets.

Like one of life’s ironies, the Guevarian cult spreads among people who could never have fit into the strict mold that the Argentinian designed for the “New Man.” That individual had to be motivated by “hatred as a factor of struggle” and had to know, when the time came, how to become a “selective and cold killing machine,” he warned in his last public message in 1967.

In what way can Che appeal to the pacifists, environmentalists or anti-establishment types who today venerate him? How do those who claim to want greater spaces of freedom for citizens be in tune with a man who helped subdue an entire society to the designs of a few? At what point does their idealism connect with a man who wanted to change Latin America through the sights of a gun?

Guevara’s early death and his failure to age in power are not enough to sustain his legend. The complacent biographers who retouched every passage of his life have contributed to his deification, as have his former fellow travelers in need of a “martyr” for the pantheon of revolutionaries, a John Lennon without a guitar or a Jesus without a crown of thorns.

In October 2016, the image of Che Guevara which, for more than 30 years, had stared out over the main square of the National University of Bogotá in Colombia, disappeared from the wall of the León de Greiff auditorium. The erasure of that face provoked a bitter controversy among the students and soon after a group of the Argentinian’s supporters ended up repainting the mural.

The clash revealed something more than ideological differences among the students: it showed the clash of two eras. On one side, a moment when Guevara was seen as a Latin American liberator who, riding his motorcycle or holding his gun, represented a quixotic figure ready to face the imperialists’ machines. On the other, a time when the failure of the model that the guerrilla wished to impose has been proven.

There is nothing that gives a greater lie to the man who reached the rank of commander in the Sierra Maestra, than the rancid totalitarianism into which the Cuban Revolution sank

There is nothing that gives a greater lie to the man who reached the rank of commander in the Sierra Maestra, than the rancid totalitarianism into which the Cuban Revolution sank. No blow to his image has been as harsh as the pro-Soviet drift that Fidel Castro took after Che’s death and subsequent “concessions” to the market he was forced to make when the subsidies from the Kremlin abruptly ended.

Last year, just half a century after the death of Guevara in Bolivia, the liberal Bases Foundation began a campaign to collect signatures on Change.org to eliminate all monuments and other tributes to Che in the city of Rosario, where he was born. The Argentinian NGO called him the heir of the “murderous legacy of communism.” More than 20,000 people have signed the demand.

At the end of December, last year, the controversy reached France when the Parisian City Council, led by the socialist mayor of Spanish heritage Ana Hidalgo, hosted the exhibition Le Che à Paris. Several intellectuals and academics signed a protest letter written by the journalist and Cuban exile Jacobo Machover in which they demanded the immediate closure of the exhibition.

Machover, author of The Hidden Face of Che, recounts in his book several of the aspects most hidden in the official history. Guevara “attended the executions” carried out after summary trials in the first year of the Revolution and “the Cubans, who feared him, called him the butcher of La Cabaña,” he relates. In 1964, from the podium of the United Nations, he boasted of his actions: “We executed, we are executing and we will continue to execute as long as necessary.”

Hidalgo responded with a message on the social network Twitter that fired up the mood even more, where she said, “the capital city pays homage to a figure of the revolution turned into a militant and romantic icon.” The Parisian mayor closed her tweet with an emoticon in the form of a closed fist, in the old revolutionary way.

With her gesture, Hidalgo joined one of the most elaborate publicity campaigns that has emerged from the Castroist laboratory, one in which the past is distorted and Guevara is praised, while the extensive cruelty that characterized him is hidden.

For several generations of Cubans who have repeated from an early age the commitment to “be like Che,” all these polemics come as a shock. Like slaps, they bring us out of the hypnotic state engendered by the combination of ignorance and indoctrination.

However, the most devastating blow I have witnessed to the figure of the so-called “heroic guerrilla” came from a compatriot. In the midst of a party in Havana, a young university student realized that a German guest was dressed in one of those shirts with the famous snapshot taken by the photographer Alberto Korda.

“You could just as well put on a shirt with the face of Charles Manson,” the student said to the tourist, and the phrase remained floating in the air while the music seemed to stop. Nervous laughter and silence. No one defended Che Guevara.

Editor’s Note: This text was initially published in the Spanish newspaper El País.

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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.

Martín Domínguez Architect of Havana’s Focsa Building, Erased by Francoism and Castroism

Two dictatorships, that of Francisco Franco and that of Fidel Castro, condemned a liberal and upright man to oblivion: the Basque architect Martín Domínguez Esteban. (File Martín Domínguez Esteban)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Maite Rico, Madrid, 13 January 2018 — Madrid’s Zarzuela racecourse, with its spectacular grandstands and challenging cantilevered decks, is notable in the annals of architecture. As is Havana’s Focsa building, that “open book” of 39 floors, inspired by Le Corbusier, that dialogues with the bay and Malecon in Cuba’s capital city.

Behind these two emblematic works, so studied, so dissected, lies, curiously, a ghost. A name that does not appear in books or specialized publications. It is not a mistake. It is the oblivion to which two dictatorships, that of Francisco Franco and that of Fidel Castro, condemned a liberal and upright man: the Basque architect Martín Domínguez Esteban (1897-1970).

For decades, the racecourse, conceived in 1934 and opened in 1941, was officially attributed to the engineer Eduardo Torroja. The other co-designers, Martín Domínguez and Carlos Arniches, were erased from memory. The Focsa building is attributed to the architect Ernesto Gómez Sampera. Martín Domínguez is ignored in the guides of Cuban architecture, even in the one jointly published in 1998 by the Junta de Andalucía and the authorities of Havana. continue reading

Domínguez swelled the list of architects condemned to exile or ostracism after the Spanish Civil War, many of them purged, such as Josep Lluís Sert, Manuel Sanchez Arcas, Felix Candela, Carlos Arniches and Arturo Sáenz de la Calzada, in what entailed the dismantling of the vigorous Spanish architecture of the first half of the 20th century.

In the case of Martín Domínguez, the exile was double: first to Cuba, when he was 40, and then to the United States, when he was already 62. But his personal defeats in the face of totalitarianism never separated him from his commitment: to put architecture at the service of society. He died in New York in 1970. Today, the tenacity of his son, Martín Domínguez Ruz, also an architect, working with Pablo Rabasco, a full professor of Art History at the University of Córdoba, has allowed the reclaiming of a memorable legacy and biography.

Madrid: Frustrated Dreams

“Look at the arcs, they mark the rhythm of the whole building, the rhythm of a horse’s gallop.” A rhythm paced by the undulating roofs of the spectator stands. A few yards away, the pureblood’s hooves thunder along the track. Martín Domínguez Ruz is 72. At 23 he set foot on the Zarzuela Racetrack in Madrid’s Monte de El Pardo for the first time. It was 1968 and he and took some pictures that, once back in New York, he showed to his father, Martín Domínguez Esteban. The Basque architect, one of the three authors of that project, who had never been able to see the finished work, which had been in progress for two years when the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936. “My father went into exile and Carlos Arniches, who stayed behind, was censured and could not finish it.” Engineer Eduardo Torroja was able to continue and remained faithful to the plans.”

Martín Domínguez Ruz, in front of the stands of the racetrack, known is Spanish as the Hipódromo de la Zarzuela, the work of his father, Arniches and Torroja. (James Rajotte)

Like a good architect, Martín the son likes to talk about the philosophy that underlies the structure. The racecourse is a technical feat, yes, but also a way to understand a historical moment.

“My father and Arniches wanted to recreate the sense of a town celebrating fiestas, where the elite mix with the ordinary people, the traditional with the modern, a network of spaces that invites one to walk and come upon the jockeys and the horses, with the paddock in the center, surrounded by arcades, like in the bullfights in the central square of Sepulveda in the patron saint festivities.”

All this combined with a great technical challenge: the large reinforced concrete canopies that seem to wave on the grandstands and that are anchored with their own weight to the entrance hall.

The whitewashed walls and Arab tile roofs unleashed the orthodox criticism of the avant-garde. But Arniches and Domínguez did not want to break with the past. It was about heading into the future based on their own traditions, very much in the humanistic spirit of the Free Institution of Education and the Student Residence, where Domínguez stayed between 1918 and 1925.

His son draws a parallel with the La Barraca theatrical project of La Barraca by Federico García Lorca, a friend of his father. “They wanted to transform an agrarian and cacique society into a more just, more modern and more enlightened one through the architectural language.”

And now it is time to put things in their place. “The racetrack is a unitary work, the result of a dialogue between two architects and an engineer, who unite two contrasting constructive traditions.

There have been historians who have had the temerity to say that the stands were the work of Eduardo Torroja, and that was convenient because Arniches and Dominguez did not have the sympathies of the regime. The reality is that it was a joint work of three professionals who were respected, and memory speaks very clearly. Without Torroja it would not have been like that, but nor would it have been like that without the architects.”

Until 1936, the career of Martín Domínguez Esteban seemed unstoppable. Coming from a family of San Sebastian’s high bourgeoisie, he shared his studio, located in the Palace Hotel, with Carlos Arniches, whom he met in 1924.

Both participated fully in the modernizing movement that was making its way into Spain. They were involved in the construction of the Road Hostels of the National Tourism Board (the seeds of the Paradores Nationales – a series of luxury hotels created in historic structures), an initiative of 1928 to promote car tourism and to update the appalling hospitality infrastructure in the interior of the country.

They worked with agricultural villages and collaborated with their mentor, Secundino Zuazo, in the construction of the Nuevos Ministerios (government headquarters). And they turned their attentions to the project of educational renovation with the School Institute and the Kindergarten (today, the Ramiro de Maeztu Institute) and the Student Residence Auditorium on Serrano Street (destroyed at the end of the war and reconstructed, using part of the original, by Miguel Fisac as the Chapel of the Holy Spirit).

When war broke out, Domínguez offered himself to the Captaincy General to work with other architects on the plans for the defenses of Madrid,

which were to be built by unemployed workers. The labor unions rejected the plan. “My father saw that the war was lost, and he told Juan Negrín that,” recalls his son.

In December of 1936, Domínguez crossed the French border on foot. Lluís Companys had interceded with the leader of the CNT (National Confederation of Labor) to give him a safe conduct (“he has a friendly face, we let him out,” the union leader told him). He ended up in Antwerp and embarked on a ship bound for Veracruz. From there he planned to travel to the United States. The ship made a two-week stopover in Havana. And the architect changed his plans and decided to stay on the island. Carlos Arniches, on the other hand, is cloistered in an internal exile until his death, in Madrid in 1958. In those years he built the settlement colonies of Algallarín (Córdoba) and Gévora (Badajoz) and the Center for Tobacco Studies, in Seville.

Havana: The Golden Years

April 2017, Martín Domínguez Ruz speaks at the School of Architecture of Cuba about the process of creating the Hipódromo de la Zarzuela with the same slides that his father had used. He has not been in his native country, which he left as a teenager, for 58 years. The meeting provokes mixed sensations.

“I’ve never seen so many police and military officers in one place, but then you say … God, what a beautiful city, and the contact with unofficial people is so kind and so warm, I found very few people attached to the regime.”

He decided to return with Pablo Rabasco to look for the traces of his father, especially in the public housing he developed in several neighborhoods in Havana. But none of the experts will help them. “Their careers were in danger, it turns out that the one who developed those plans was not Che Guevara’s New Man, but a liberal and democratic man, who left Cuba and was later called a gusano, a worm. So now the designers have become the revolutionary architects of the National Housing Institute. Changing the story is going to be difficult.”

The Cuba that Martín Domínguez Ruz’s father knew was very different. An effervescent country, with a buoyant economy and a hectic cultural life. But there was a problem: the College of Architects refused to recognize his professional title.

“It was because of ‘corporatism’. On my birth certificate, dated 1945, I am the son of Josefina Ruz, secretary and domestic worker, and of Martín Domínguez Esteban, interior decorator. In spite of everything, Domínguez Esteban soon begins to stand out. He associates with other architects, signing plans as the treasurer or engineer.

With Miguel Gastón he builds the Radiocentro building in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood for the CMQ Communications Group, the most important in Cuba. Completed in 1947, it was the first multifunctional complex in the country, with shops, offices, radio and television studios and the Warner cinema (today, renamed the Yara Cinema). Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus School, praised him on a visit to Havana.

The Focsa is structured in two wings that take off from a central hinge and the number of stories was a technical feat. (Wikimedia)

Specifically to provide accommodation for the station’s employees, Martín Domínguez’s most audacious project in Cuba arose: the FOCSA building (Fomento de Obras y Construcciones, SA), undertaken with Ernesto Gómez Sampera. The building, which at 39 floors was at the time the second highest concrete structure in the world, was raised as a small self-sufficient city, following the parameters of Le Corbusier, one of Martín Domínguez’s great inspirations, whom he had met while working on the Student Residence in Spain.

The building was structured in two wings that take off from a central hinge and the number of stories was a technical feat. The FOCSA should have received the 1957 Gold Medal from the College of Architects, but the 26th of July Movement’s assault on the presidential palace that year caused the cancellation of the awards.

By then Martín Domínguez had been involved in the construction of social housing for unions, on land bought by the FOCSA company. After the triumph of the Revolution, the architect recommended that the owners to sell the land to the state, before it was confiscated.

“My father saw everything coming from the beginning, because of his experience on the Republican side [in Spain], he soon identified Fidel Castro’s speeches with those of La Pasionaria (Dolores Ibárruri), ‘I’ve heard it before,’ he said. He knew very well where this was going. My mother did not, but he did.”

The FOCSA group sent him to talk with Che Guevara who headed the Ministry of Housing and La Cabaña Fortress. “Every morning they were shooting people there, the blasts could be heard all over Havana. He negotiated with him to sell the land, below the purchase price, of course. Then Che invited him to dinner.”

And there Martín Domínguez sealed his fate. Commander Guevara wants to know more about him. “Well, Domínguez, you are a Spanish Republican, and what are your ideas?”

“My ideas?”

“Yes, your ideas.”

“From the personal point of view I am conservative, and from the political point of view I am a liberal.”

After that conversation, agitators began to arrive at jis projects, to incite the workers to revolt. Meanwhile Dominguez, together with Gómez Sampera and Ysrael Seinuk, had presented the project for the Libertad Building, a spectacular 50-story skyscraper, to an official contest to commemorate the Revolution. “The jury of architects was going to give them the first prize. My father did not appear, of course, but when they told Fidel about the project he said he did not accept it, saying ‘this gallego is not going to build in Cuba’.”

Ithaca: End of the Journey

Martín Domínguez Esteban knew that the time has come to return to exile. He accepted a job offer from the prestigious Cooper Union University, in New York, and waited for months for a criminal background check certificate from Spain that never came.

At the end of April 1960, the architect leaves Havana on a boat bound for Miami, with his wife and son, aged 15, with a car, some clothes, photos, $150 per person and one book each chosen from the family library. The father chooses Manuel Azaña’s essays. The mother, a Spanish rice cookbook. The teenager, the complete works of García Lorca.

“We spent a night in Miami, I wanted to stay longer, we had family, but my father told me: ‘We are not staying a moment longer than necessary, your mother and I will never go back to Cuba. I do not want to live with yearnings and false expectations. We are not going to look back. Always ahead’.”

When they arrived in New York, someone else had been given the job at Cooper Union because of the time that had passed, but he got another teaching position in upstate New York at Cornell University, in the city of Ithaca, which he defined as “a Siberia with modernist airs.”

At this time, Martín Domínguez Esteban was 62. He reinvents himself again, he is happy to teach, he works as a consultant on housing programs in Latin America and designs the beautiful Lennox House, his final work. “My father faced the second exile with his sense of humor and integrity intact. He had an unusual strength of character. In Ithaca, despite the low temperatures, he continued to take his cold shower every morning.” But behind his humor and elegance, he always lived in that “constant hunger of exile” mentioned in the Greek tragedies, a hunger that, in the end, could never be satisfied.

An annual award with his name celebrates Martin Dominguez Esteban at Cornell University, which dedicated a great exhibition to him at the time. The award in Madrid is the second. “Our goal now is to have one in Havana,” says professor Pablo Rabasco enthusiastically. “It will be the best way to close the circle.” And erase oblivion.

Editor’s Note: This text was initially published in the Spanish newspaper  El País.

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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.

Ecuador’s Cuban Community is Involved in February 4th Referendum

At least 43,000 Cubans, many of them professionals, live in Ecuador. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 12 January 2018 — The division between correístas (supporters of former president Rafael Correa) and morenistas (supporters of current president Lenin Moreno) that runs through Ecuador, less than a month before the upcoming 7-issue referendum called by President Lenin Moreno is also reflected among Cubans residing in the country.

The polls maintain that the YES side, promoted by the current president who is asking voters to approve all seven measures, will win by a large majority, but among the Cubans consulted by 14ymedio opinions are not very clear.

“Among Cubans who reside here, there is a part of us who consider Moreno a traitor and would like to see the return of President Rafael Correa, but there is also a large group that wants change,” says Rolando Gallardo, one of the organizers of the National Alliance of Cubans in Ecuador, speaking from Quito. continue reading

The referendum called by the current president for Sunday, 4 February, includes five amendments to the constitution and seven proposals overall. Among these is the overturning the measure approved by the National Assembly at Correa’s request in 2015, which eliminated term limits for some offices, including that of president.

Among the other referendum measures are one to restructure the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control, one of the central powers of the State, and one that would bar from public office and confiscate the assets of those who commit corruption offenses.

Good news at the beginning of they ear: @MashiRafael [Correa] comes to Ecuador this week and stays all month to “burn shoe leather”, to “go back to the grassroots working door to door” to overcome the betrayal and say NO to the cheating and unconstitutional consultation. We shall overcome! – Ricardo Patiño (@RicardoPatinoEC) January 2, 2018 [Tweet from Correa’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, now Minister of National Defense]

Gallardo, a graduate in History from the University of Havana, does not hesitate to affirm that Correa “did a lot” for Ecuador, and took advantage of the oil boom to develop the country’s infrastructure. However, he rejects Correa’s authoritarianism and believes that his return to public office would do “a lot of damage to Ecuadorian democracy.”

“Having no term limits is for countries with a high level of political education, and in a nation like Ecuador, where the political views of the masses are emotional and ephemeral, it is a danger,” he says.

Some 13 million voters over the age of 16 are eligible to participate in the referendum, including foreigners with five years of legal residence in the country. At least 43,000 Cubans, many of them professionals, live in Ecuador but it is not known how many have the right to vote. They arrived starting in 2008 when Correa’s Government established the policy of universal citizenship and eliminated the visa requirement for people coming from most countries, including Cuba.

I am going to my homeland on January 4, to be with my colleagues in this fight against treason and partyocracy,’ Ever onward to victory! – Rafael Correa (@MashiRafael) January 2, 2018 [Tweet from Rafael Correa, who has been living in Belgium]

In 2015, Ecuador resumed the practice of requiring visas for Cuban citizens in response to the migration crisis that arose that year in Central America, when thousands of people left the island and headed to the United States by way of Quito, out of fear that the special migratory privileges enjoyed by Cubans under the US wet foot/dry foot policy would soon be terminated.

“Correa was the president who let us into this country and the one who cared most about Cubans. Ecuador was just a banana republic and ungovernable before he became president,” Jesus Curbelo says excitedly. Curbelo is a Cuban who has lived in Ecuador’s most populated city, Guayaquil, for five years.

“In Ecuador there is a lot of xenophobia, especially towards Cubans, because Ecuadorians believe that we have come to take away their jobs,” argues Curbelo, who graduated as a professor of mathematics on the island and who will vote against Lenin Moreno’s proposals.

“The social gains, the education and health programs that were achieved under Correa’s government will not be sustained if his legacy does not continue,” says Curbelo, who is close to the Association of Cuban Residents in Ecuador (ACURE), an organization sponsored by the Cuban Embassy in Quito.

Dr. Adrián Hernández Cruz, a Cuban living in Cuenca, believes that Moreno’s referendum provokes “sympathy among Cubans,” although he, personally, is not happy with the current president’s reforms.

Cubans entering Ecuador by year

“Lenin has maintained the same restrictions on Cubans as did the Correa government, such as the impossibility of achieving permanent legal status for many of those who came to Ecuador looking for work,” he explains. The doctor also distrusts the work of the Cuban ambassador, whom he accuses of interference in the internal affairs of the Andean country.

“Despite the fact that in the last few months there has been some opening to facilitate the process of legalization of immigrants, in the Cuban case the obstacles are maintained and, particularly in the case of professionals, they increase,” explains the doctor. “All this is just a political manipulation in order to gain popularity,” he says.

Michel Larrondo, another Cuban doctor who emigrated to Ecuador, believes that Correa supporters seek to “perpetuate themselves in power.”

“Even the former president came back from Belgium to campaign for the NO side,” he says. Although he is a supporter of the YES side, he regrets that the Cuban community “is apathetic in its great majority: many do not care about politics, it’s all the same to them whether it’s Correa or Moreno.”

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

Two Spanish Women Diagnosed With Zika After Trip To Cuba

The ‘Aedes aegypti’ mosquito, responsible for the transmission of the Dengue and Zika viruses, is not present in Europe, and so far all infections detected there are the result of travel abroad. (James Gathany)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio (with information from agencies), Zaragoza, 12 January 2018 – Two women from Spain who traveled to Cuba together and suffered numerous insect bites were diagnosed with Zika, according to an announcement on Thursday from the Aragón Government.

Three days after their return from the island, the women, age 36 and 65, went to a clinic with joint pains and widespread itchy rashes, according to the Aragón weekly epidemiological bulletin. Serum and urine tests were positive for Zika but negative for Dengue and Chikungunya.

The women were told to use condoms and to avoid pregnancy for the next 6 months, as well as not to donate blood until 28 days after the symptoms had passed. A Zika epidemic in 2015 focused attention on this virus,which is associated with microcephaly in babies of infected mothers and in some cases with Guillain-Barré syndrome. continue reading

Since the beginning of the outbreak, the Spanish Ministry of Health confirmed 325 cases of Zika infection as of the middle of the previous year. In 2017, 12 cases were detected.

The Zika virus is not endemic to Spain, so the general recommendation for women who want to get pregnant is to avoid trips to areas where it is present. Other groups most vulnerable to the virus are young children and those chronically ill with other diseases, such as HIV.

In Europe there is no evidence of the presence of Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can be a carrier of the virus, but Aedes albopictus, known as the tiger mosquito and capable of transmitting Dengue, is endemic in the Mediterranean area. This mosquito is potentially also a vector of Zika. However, no cases acquired locally have been detected on the continent to date.

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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.

Smiling is Required in Cuba’s Private Businesses

Private businesses require facial expressions that exude happiness or that, at least, avoid grimaces of disgust. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 12 January 2018 — Seeing an angry-faced waitress or an employee who snorts with annoyance while serving customers has been a regular occurrence for decades in state cafes and restaurants. Comics have made these smile-free faces a frequent subject of jokes and customers commonly couldn’t get over their astonishment when they were served with a kind gesture.

With the arrival of the self-employment, the panorama of gestures has changed radically. For the past two decades private businesses have offered their customers facial expressions that exude happiness, or at least that avoid grimaces of disgust. Smiling to the public, being cheerful and solicitous, has become an indispensable requirement to work in these businesses.

The owner of a pizza and hamburger stand in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood has told his employees: “Anyone who does not appear happy will leave.”

Extremes, as always, are dangerous. Now we see cardboard smiles, faces of false joviality and calculated enthusiasm, a delight that often does not fit the context.

However, we must be grateful that the annoyed faces have gone out of style and that the waiters are again those kind servers who smile while they carry trays loaded with dishes. They always smile.

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

Cuba to Receive 2.1 Million Barrels of Oil From Algeria to Make Up for Cut in Venezuelan Oil

Sonatrach headquarters in Oran, Algeria. (Wikicommons)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, (with information from agencies), Havana, 11 January 2018 — Cuba will receive 2.1 million barrels of oil from the state-owned Algerian company Sonatrach in 2018, the same amount it received last year. Since October 2016, when oil shipments from Venezuela dropped by 40%, this Algerian company has supplied crude oil to the island to make up for the loss.

“In 2017 we delivered a total of 2.1 million barrels of crude oil to Cuba,” Omar Maaliou, Sonatrach’s commercial and marketing VP, told Reuters. “We will do the same this coming year,” he said. continue reading

The good relations between both countries go back years. Raúl Castro visited the Arab country in May 2015, when he met with Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and President Buteflika, and the head of government was in Havana in 2016.

Cuba only produces 40% of the oil it consumes and imports between 200 and 300 million dollars each year in oil products from Algeria. In addition, it maintains an agreement with Venezuela to receive oil supplies, but production in that country has been dropping for more than a decade, both because of its economic situation as well as the drop in fuel prices on the world market.

Although there are no official figures, it is estimated that Cuba receives 55,000 barrels a day from Caracas, far below the 100,000 it received during the presidency of Hugo Chávez.

Havana had depended almost exclusively on Venezuela for its supply of crude oil in the framework of an assistance program that Caracas has had problems maintaining because power cuts, lack of investment and delays in payments have all decreased its oil production.

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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.

Heavy Rains Cause Floods and Building Collapses in Baracoa

The heavy rains of recent days have flooded several regions in Baracoa. (Twitter: labaracoesa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 January 2018 — Heavy rains and coastal flooding in recent days in Baracoa have caused the collapse of two homes and the isolation of several towns in the province of Guantánamo, as confirmed to 14ymedio by residents of the area.

“As of Thursday it has been raining torrentially and there are strong winds,” Emilio Almaguer, a resident of Baracoa, explained by telephone. The sea has entered the city in the area of the Malecón, “as far as Flor Crombet Street, about two hundred yards from the coast,” he said.

The intense rainfall of recent days also caused the the Macaguanigua, Duaba and Toa rivers to flood, which has isolated the villages of Cayo Güin, Nibujón and Quiviján. The last of these was cut off due to a landslide that buried two houses, although so far there have been no deaths reported. continue reading

Almaguer notes that when it rains this hard in Baracoa “everything is flooded” due to the proximity of numerous rivers. “The city is cut off because the bridge over the Toa River was lost when Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016 and has not yet been restored,” he adds.

Strong winds and waves of up to 3 meters are reported in Gibara. (Photo source: “Anita” – Twitter account: @Guajiritasoy, 8 January 2017. Click photo to access.)

The authorities had restored the river crossing where the bridge was lost by filling the riverbed with earth and stones, to allow cars and pedestrians to cross. But when the rain is heavy it causes the river to flood over the improvised crossing, according to Amaguer.

He fears that the weather situation will continue to worsen because “today it has rained hard all morning,” and even though it eased up a bit midday, “the cloudiness of the sky suggests it will continue to rain later on,” he added.

Magaguanigua river, Miel river and neighborhood of Cabacú, close to Miel. (Twitter: labaracoesa)

The presence of a trough (a low pressure area) and the stationary nature of the current winter season’s fifth cold front over the Paso de los Vientos (Windward Passage) between Cuba and the island of Hispaniola, further complicates the weather patterns in the area.

On Sunday it rained 3.2 inches in Baracoa, according to Raisa Rodríguez Ramírez, one of the specialists of the Forecast Department of the Provincial Meteorological Center, who warned that on Monday the weather conditions would be very similar. In a report from Baracoa it was reported that “the Duaba gravity-fed aqueduct is inoperable” as is the Miel river aquedcut. The note stated that the cause of the suspension in the services was not due to breakages, but “because the waters are cloudy.”

The official press reported that because numerous electric poles have fallen to the ground some customers are without electric service and that at several locations the city “is working on the unblocking of the sewers.”

The people of Baracoa fear that the rains and floods of these days will further damage an area that has not been able to fully recover from the effects on homes in the area as a result of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, which also damaged facilities related to tourism and productive infrastructure.

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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 Everglades: An Endangered Garden on the Doorstep of Miami

Scientists warn that, by the year 2100, the sea level will rise more than six feet, progressively flooding the wetlands of South Florida. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, January 3, 2018 — An immense grasslands with tones of yellow and green extends up to the horizon, and Miami’s skyscrapers can be glimpsed in the distance, like blue boulders. Far from the metropolis, where more than six million people live, one of the largest and most famous wetlands of the planet crosses to the west and south: the Everglades, an immense subtropical garden that is endangered by climate change and contamination.

On board a hovercraft, thousands of toursists every day cross only a small part of the subtropical national park, which is the largest in the U.S. With its nearly 1,500 square miles, the National Park of the Everglades is approximately the same size as the province of Guantánamo, or double the size of the state of New Jersey, on the northeast coast of the U.S.

It’s calculated that more than a million people visit these wetlands every year, and they are counted by the tens of thousands as they pass through the entrances. continue reading

“The main dangers we face are the increase in sea level and environmental contamination,” explains a tourist guide, who drives the airboat, which is a peculiar flat-bottom craft that uses an airplane propeller to avoid harming animals and the ecosystem.

Scientists warn that, by the year 2100, the sea level will rise more than six feet, progressively flooding the wetlands of South Florida. A report on Univision that quotes several experts from Florida International University indicates that the Everglades is being reduced to half its former size and receiving only one-third of the fresh water it used to receive.

Declared an International Biosphere in 1976, a World Heritage Site in 1979 and a Wetland of International Importance in 1987, the Everglades is the only place in the world where crocodiles, which can reach some five meters in length and weigh 1,100 pounds, live alongside alligators and caimans. In addition, hundreds of endemic animals like manatees, deer and pumas can be found, including invasive species such as pythons, which can reach almost 20 feet in length.

The heart of the South Florida wetlands is Lake Okeechobee. Rains from the wet season make it overflow, and the waters flow south, progressively flooding large areas of terrain.

“In the first half of the twentieth century, over 1,400 miles of canals were constructed with the aim of containing the flooding from Lake Okeechobee, and, thanks to this, cities like Miami were able to grow,” explains the guide. Beginning then, there was the desiccation of large quantities of land for urbanization and cattle ranches, as well as the construction of highways, affected the wetlands.

“The construction in 1928 of the Tamiami Trail highway caused a cut-off in the flow of water coming from the lake. There are plans to spend more than 10.5 billion dollars to raise part of the highway in order to restore that flow and to intervene for preserving the wetlands, but they are advancing slowly,” he explains.

Along the Tamiami Trail, a long road that links Miami with the west coast of the peninsula, work is underway on the constrction of bridges to permit the passage of water toward the south. It’s a project that, among other things, seeks to ensure the water sources for the city.

“If you drink a cup of tea in Miami, you’re consuming the same water that we have in the Everglades,” jokes the guide. Although his statement is an exaggeration, the flow of water in the South Florida wetlands is vital for sustaining the Bicayne aquifer, which supplies the water used in the largest city of Florida.

Owing to the porous nature of the rocks under the marsh, penetration of the sea or the contamination of particular areas has repercussions for the whole ecosystem.

The tourists protect their ears from the deafening noise of the airboat propeller by using earplugs. When the motor is turned off, there is a sepulchral silence. In the middle of the wetlands, you hear only the sound of the crickets or the buzzing of the innumerable insects that inhabit the area.

“Also living here are the American Indian Miccosukees, a tribe originally from Georgia that, with the passage of time, was displaced toward the wetlands and resisted any attempt to assimilate them for more than 100 years,” explains the guide.

The Micosukees or Mikazuki, as they also are known, were recognized throughout Cuba as a sovereign country inside the U.S., from the time a delegation of the tribe visited the island in 1959. Fidel Castro personally received the delegation and acknowledged their indigenous passport, which was later validated by other nations.

In 1962, the U.S. Government approved the tribe’s constitution, and recognized them officially as an automonous indigenous tribe to which important fiscal benefits were conceded. Today, the Miccosukees are considered one of the most prosperous indigenous groups in the U.S., with their empire of casinos, restaurants and hotels.

“The wetlands of the Everglades are a treasure for everyone, which we must protect,” said the guide upon ending the excursion near the Tamiami Trail, and he said that he dreams of making visitors aware of the importance of protecting this environment, on which his family and a good part of South Florida depend.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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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 Departure Of Raúl Castro, The End Of An Era

The vice president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, listens to Raúl Castro (Havana, May 1, 2016). GETTY

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, (Politicaexterior.com), Yoani Sanchez, 9 January 2017 — “Six decades are a lifetime,” says Facundo, a Cuban retiree who sells the official press in Old Havana to supplement his low pension. Born shortly before Fidel Castro came to power, the man is suspicious of the appointment of a new president next April. “That’s going to be like learning to walk,” he says, while hawking the pro-government daily Granma.

Like Facundo, a good part of the Cubans residing on the island today were born under Castroism or barely remember the country before January 1959. Raúl Castro’s departure from the government [first announced for February 2018 and then postponed until April] for them has the connotations of the end of an era, regardless of the rupture or continuity shown by the successors installed in the national command room. continue reading

A few weeks before the presidential transfer becomes effective, indifference gains ground among the inhabitants of a nation that has the longest serving family dynasty in power in all of Latin America. A moment that should be a source of expectation and speculation is diluted by apathy and the island’s complicated economic situation.

Unlike other countries on the continent that have experienced regional or general elections in recent years, the Cuban electoral process does include polling to measure the electorate’s inclinations or to motivate media debates. The sensation is one of “follow the leader” with everyone working together to preserve control in the hands of one group.

The boredom also comes from the fact that the current electoral law prohibits political campaigns, nor are candidates allowed to present their programs, which might excite some or scandalizes others. Without this essential component, the process is one more of confirmation than selection; more of a tacit appointment than of a competition.

Only in April, when the new Council of State becomes public, will it be known who has been chosen for the highest office in the country. So far, the outcome is only a matter of speculation, that moves according to official attention focused on one person or another, as functionaries move in and out of the spotlight. Thus, political divination is a very inaccurate art in these parts.

On top of that, the candidates to sit in the presidential chair will enjoy their status as aspirants for an extremely short time, perhaps hours or minutes between the time the National Candidacy Commission reveals their names to the new Parliament that body’s vote to approve a candidate. The trajectory to the presidency could be no longer than a sigh.

This has been the case since the first National Assembly of People’s Power was constituted in 1976, when Fidel Castro proclaimed that the “provisional period of the Revolutionary Government” ceased and the socialist State adopted “definitive institutional forms.” In 1992, the new electoral law modified some details, but maintained the single-party essence of the system along with its armor against any kinds of surprises.

The end of a family dynasty

However, the novelty of the current elections does not lie in what may happen outside the script, but in the fact that for the first time the person occupying the presidential chair is very likely not to have the surname Castro. The possibilities that the office holder will belong to “the historical generation of the Revolution,” formed by a small group of octogenarians, are also minimal.

Along with the new president, figures that will replace the hard core of gerontocracy will come to sit on the Council of State. A cabal where the excess of years has been justified by the argument of accumulated experience, when in reality the permanence of these veterans is based on their proven loyalty to Fidel Castro, and now to his brother Raúl.

Biology, in its pragmatic task, seems to have imposed new rules and the time has come for the relief team, but there are no signs that the renewal of faces implies a political transition. In fact, anyone who has been projected as a reformer will not appear in the fleeting list of candidates that, in a predictably unanimous manner, will be approved by Parliament in April.

As was noted before focusing the cameras of the last century “anyone who moves does not appear in the photo”; anyone who has shown traits of thinking with his own head or wanting to mark his mandate with a new imprint will be out of the picture. This is what happened in 2009 with then Vice President Carlos Lage and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Felipe Pérez Roque, who had been seen as possible heirs but instead were unceremoniously ousted.

If this is the case, it is worth repeating Galileo Galilei’s  mythical “and yet it moves.”  After six decades of the country being governed by a regime that is not only totalitarian but also family based, those who assume leadership roles will have to do it in a collegiate way, in the absence of a figure that combines historical ancestry, command capacity and the consensus of the leadership to rule without supervision.

During the almost 50 years that Fidel Castro held power on the island, he did it based on his own will and caprice. At that time councils of ministers hardly existed and the country was governed from the door of a Soviet jeep from which the maximum leader appeared to impart his “clear guidelines.” His omnipotent power led him to decide everything from the fabric and cut of school uniforms to the way housewives cooked beans.

When he participated in the sessions of the Parliament, the only one who spoke was him and he did it relentlessly for hours, wasting in the practice the participation of the more than 600 deputies. He hoarded all the portfolios, imposed his desire in each sector and emptied the institutions of any possibility of decision making. Fidel Castro led the country with the tip of his index finger, without anyone else influencing the national course.

There are many testimonies that narrate the occasions in which he met with his immediate subordinates, where the curses and the threats would rain down if his designs were not fulfilled. His pounding the table buried every possible disagreement and assent or applause were the only possible answers. “Yes, Fidel.” “Of course, Chief.” “At your orders, Commander.”

When Fidel Castro fell ill and was forced to withdraw from public life, in July 2006, Raúl introduced the habit of consultation. During the 10 years that he has governed he held more meetings of the councils of ministers and summoned a greater number of plenary sessions of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) than all of those held for the previous nearly half a century.

That proclivity to teamwork does not make the younger Castro a democrat, but at least he gave the impression that, although he did not renounce imposing his will, he was in the position to or in need of sharing decisions. His calls to make “incremental” and “gradual” changes to improve the country’s economy earned him a reputation contrary to that of his brother. The former was like an unreflecting hurricane, the latter a lackluster drizzle that was neither wet nor cool.

However, it fell to the younger Castro to lead the diplomatic thaw with the United States. The milestone of his mandate and the one for which he will go down in history was not — ironically — the long-awaited democratic transition on the island, but rather to have settled the problem with the great neighbor of the North. A conquest that dissolved in the last months with the arrival of Donald Trump to the White House and the outbreak of the scandal of the acoustic attacks supposedly suffered by US diplomats in Havana.

To make matters worse, the great Venezuelan ally has also clouded the final days of the Cuban president. The plummeting of oil imports to the island, along with the growing loss of prestige of the so-called “Bolivarian revolution” and the departure of several political allies in the region have made the scenario of the “farewell” very different from the one that was planned.

In the midst of this adverse context, the entire weight of Cuba’s future lies in the decision that will be taken when the moment comes to transfer power. Although the ruling party tries to show that it has everything “well under control,” a system so based on the will of a family clan has serious problems with new faces. A dynastic regime is not inherited by or delegated to others, it only survives if it remains anchored to a family tree.

Hence, speculation about the possible rise of Alejandro Castro Espín, son of the current president and a dark figure responsible for the police control of the country and the management of the feared State Security. Despite this possibility, his father is trapped in wanting to present an image of institutionality before genetics. He knows that a relief based on blood would protect him, but that also it would end up burying any narrative of the revolution in favor of emphasizing the character of a family dynasty.

Beyond the individual who will assume the highest office in the country, the person will be obliged to agree with others and to govern under the inquisitive gaze of third parties. He will have no choice but to argue to reach consensus, in a scenario where no one will have the right to pound the table with his fists or to throw a threatening look when asking if anyone disagrees with his opinion.

A future for Miguel Díaz-Canel?

The great unknown remains the name of the man – or woman – who will be graced with the position, although all bets point to Miguel Diaz-Canel, currently Cuba’s first vice-president. Born in 1960, the possible heir is a faithful product of the laboratory of political cadres, someone suckled on the udder of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and attached to the official script, with not a single mis-delivered line.

The Cuban dauphin can be considered a gray man, without charisma or a will of his own, someone who projects the image of continuity. He has come to where he is thanks to that projection and is unlikely to expose himself as a Mikhail Gorbachev or as a Lenin Moreno, once he reaches the presidential chair. Instead, his rise is surrounded by questions and suspicions that rain down on him from the opposition.

A sector of the outlawed dissidence maintains that “until what has to change has changed, nothing has changed” and that the transfer of power will be a theatrical representation to show the world, although nothing will move even a millimeter with regards political repression and the lack of freedoms.

This point of view is based on the fact that Raúl Castro will continue to be the first secretary of the PCC, which, according to the Constitution, “is the leading force of society and of the State.” Although biology suggests that it is unlikely that he will remain in that position until the eighth congress is held, in 2021, when he would be about to turn 90.

So, in order to continue the tradition of the socialist countries of concentrating in one person the highest governmental and partisan positions, it is more than foreseeable that before the end of his term at the head of the political organization he would convoke an extraordinary congress to unify the controls.

It may also happen that, for the first time in decades, the person appointed to head the PCC could be different from the person who holds the presidency. A bifurcation that weakens the system and will generate more than one collision of authority.

Between the slight optimism of a few, the distrust of the opposition and the indifference of most of the population, we just have to wait and see what is decided in April. Whether the date becomes a watershed or a new chapter of “more of the same.”

What is not discussed is how difficult it will be for the relief team to complete the pending tasks left by the current government. Perhaps the greatest difficulty is that of undertaking the essential reforms in the economy, while fulfilling the promises of continuity that, as a mandatory reverence, they will have to make when assuming their positions.

More complex will be to introduce political changes. Maybe they should wait for probable new elections in which, if everything works out, they will have to compete with the platforms of other candidates, of those possible presidents who remain hidden in the Cuban reality, waiting for a future legal framework that will allow them to emerge, waving their own government programs.

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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.

Cubans in Search of Visas Overflow Columbian Consulates in Miami and Havana

View of the waiting room of the Colombian consulate in Miami. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 8 January 2018 — The Colombian consulates in Havana and Miami have been overwhelmed in recent weeks by the number of Cubans who hope for a visa to travel to Colombia due to the transfer of immigration procedures from the US consulate in Havana to its counterpart in Bogota

“Every day we are serving a number of people much higher than normal. They usually arrive without an appointment and ask to be seen in a very short period of time. We are facing a difficult situation,” an official of the Colombian consulate told 14ymedio.

To travel to Colombia, Cubans residing in South Florida (who do not have US citizenship) need to appear at the Colombian Consulate in Miami-Dade County and request an appointment to present documents such as a photocopy of the main page of their passport and another of current extensions, a photocopy of their permanent residence permit for the United States (green card) and their airline ticket to enter and leave Colombia. The consular authorities also request their hotel reservation in Colombia and their last six months’ bank statements, including the requirement to have a minimum balance of 700 dollars. continue reading

The charge for the “visa study” is $52, and if it is approved there is another $82 charge.

José Miguel Ramos shows a page with the requirements to obtain the Colombian visa. (14ymedio)

“We do not understand why so many Cubans want to travel to Colombia if their relatives on the island are the ones who must do it to complete their procedures at the US embassy,” said a diplomatic source who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity.

José Miguel Ramos, one Cuban among the dozens who pass through the consular office on a daily basis, explained to this newspaper that although he lives in Miami, he is trying to travel to Bogotá to help his wife and their five-year-old son in the procedures that the interview requires.

“My family has never left Cuba. I need to travel to reconnect with them and accompany them throughout this process. In Colombia they will have to undergo medical examinations and several procedures for which they will surely need help,” he says.

For Ramos, originally from Pinar del Río, the attention and organization in the Colombian consulate has been “excellent,” an opinion that others of his compatriots do not share.

“Last week several people spent the whole day waiting to be served and they were not,” says Maria, a 54-year-old woman who waited for more than three hours at the consulate.

“It is abusive that we have to pay for visas to Colombia when we reside in the United States. We are not to blame for the Americans moving the officials [from the US embassy in Havana to the US embassy in Bogota] or for the Government of Cuba getting into that problem with the acoustic attacks,” complained the woman. She also said was on the verge of losing her job after being absent for several days.

“My child has the interview at the US embassy in Colombia on January 23 and at the Miami consulate they wanted to give me an appointment for the end of the month. There is a lot of lack of coordination,” she adds.

Consulate officials assured this newspaper that Colombia has “nothing to do” with the transfer of the activities of the US embassy in Havana. “We are not to blame for this happening. We are trying to help the greatest number of people but always on the basis of respect and communication,” they explained.

View of the Colombian consulate in Coral Gables, Miami-Dade County Forida. (14ymedio)

“The Colombian consulate in Miami has no obligation to grant a visa to Cubans who want to reunite with their family in Bogota. To obtain the visa there is a process with requirements that must be respected,” said the consular authorities.

At the end of September 2016, the United States withdrew more than half the staff of its embassy in Cuba and canceled the issuance of visas there indefinitely, in response to the alleged “acoustic attacks” against its diplomats. Subsequently, the State Department announced that it would process immigrant visas for Cubans at its embassy in Bogota, while those of nonimmigrants could be requested at any US consulate. The Family Reunification Program for Cubans has been suspended for months.

The avalanche of Cubans requesting visas to Colombia is also happening at Colombia’s consulate in Havana. Last week hundreds of people who had consular interviews scheduled between September and December were being summoned for interviews in Bogota.

“It is very difficult to get them to coordinate the appointments between the US Embassy and the Colombian Embassy. I do not have a visa for Colombia yet and I have to travel at the end of the month,” explains Félix González, a Cuban living in Havana.

The conditions for requesting the travel document in the Cuban capital are “extremely difficult,” González explains by telephone to this newspaper.

“They ask us to upload all the documents to the website of Colombia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and doing that from here takes a lot of work,” he laments.

Cuban residents on the island must also prove that they have had at least $2,000 in a bank account for the last six months as proof of solvency, in order for the visa to be issued.

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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.

Living in Cuba Without a Ration Book

A butcher shop for the ration market in Havana’s Plaza municipality, Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 9 January 2018 — “Did you buy the bread?” The shout comes from a balcony and is directed at a woman walking along a street in Havana.

“The bread,” “the rice” or “the coffee,” with the article in front, always refers to the products that are sold through the ration book, an institution that will turn 56 in 2018.

A few decades ago, the rationed market served all Cubans, but with the growing social differences that have emerged on the island, this scenario is changing. At least two social groups buy little or nothing through the little booklet with its listing of subsidized prices, groups that are on the opposite ends of the economic spectrum: the new rich and the ‘illegals’. continue reading

Last December, officialdom finally put number to the Cubans who live in “illegal” situations on the Island: 107,200, of which 52,800 have been doing so for more than two decades, according to comments from Samuel Rodiles Planas, the president of Physical Planning, speaking to the Cuban Parliament.

These illegals are people who reside in a dwelling different from the registered address that appears on their identity card; as a result, many have difficulties in qualifying for their quotas in the rationed market, especially when they are far from their province of origin, because each nuclear family is assigned to one and only one bodega.

Roberto Macías has been “illegal” in Havana for seven years. He arrived from the distant city of Guantánamo, the province that loses the greatest numberof inhabitants every year due to internal migration: 9.1 per 1,000 people. Since then he has lived “without a ration booklet,” although his mother, back in Guantánamo, collects sugar and rice from the rationed quota to send him every three months.

The majority of Cuban migrants within the island choose the capital as their destination – where an average of 15,000 new residents arrive each year – followed by Matanzas, Artemisa and Mayabeque, according to data from the 2015 Cuban Population Yearbook and published by the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI).

Not only must these internal migrants say goodbye to their homes and family members in search of opportunities, but many of them have to give up the products from the rationed market. “I have not managed to have an address in Havana that is not provisional, and without that I can’t transfer my ration book here,” laments Macias.

The Guantanameran was born in 1963, just one year after the creation of the Ration Book as a system of subsidies and food rationing intended to guarantee a basket of affordable basic products for all Cubans. It was almost an emergency measure, like the one that was taken in some European countries after the Second World War, but in the Cuban case it may soon become a system that has lasted for six decades.

At that time, the imposition of a rationed market was justified based on the “imperialist” threat of the United States and its trade embargo. However, economist and professor Carmelo Mesa-Lago, in his studies, also attributes it to the collectivization of the means of production and the freezing of the prices of consumer goods carried out by Fidel Castro’s government.

Macías has visited the Consumers Registry Office (OFICODA) in Havana’s Cerro neighborhood where he currently resides, but the answer is always the same: “If you do not have the address on your identity card we can not sign you up for the ration book,” they respond.

Although over the years the variety and quantity of products offered through rationing has been significantly decreasing, the State still spends more than one billion pesos a year in subsidies for these foods which are barely enough for a third of the month; in a country that imports about 80% of the food consumed, the cost figure is not negligible.

Each nuclear family is assigned to a specific bodega, which is why one’s registered residence is fundamental. (14ymedio)

With meager portions of rice, chicken, sugar, milk, oil, eggs, beans and the daily quota of bread provided on the ration book, it is difficult to survive, but many families use it as a basic support to which they add the products they must buy at high prices in hard currency stores, agricultural markets or through informal trading networks.

Macias, however, does not have even that base. “It’s very hard because every day I have to invent what my family is going to eat and when I can’t find a peso I’m totally at sea,” he says.

This week, he has to go and look for “the box” with the quarterly shipment that arrives for him by rail from Guantanamo with the quota of grains and rice that were allocated to him for October, November and December. His mother has warned him that on this occasion “she had to take a little for herself during the end of the year,” he says.

A few yards away from the place where the Guantanameran resides in Havana lives another family that does not buy the products on the ration book, but for a very different reason. The husband is a musician with a salsa orchestra, the wife is a nationalized Spanish citizen, and the couple has an economic affluence that allows them to dispense with subsidized food.

“Years ago I handed over to an aunt of mine the right to buy my shares on the ration book because she needs it much more,” says Katia Lucia, 48. Among the reasons she gives is that she doesn’t want to “keep standing in line to buy at the bodega” and “the quality has fallen a lot,” so she “spends a little more on food but eats better.”

La cubañola travels frequently to Cancun to stock up on products. “The ticket is cheap and I bring everything from concentrated tomato puree to small soup cubes, as well as cheese, butter and toilet paper.” With three trips a year, plus what her husband earns as a musician, she says they can “resolve” their needs “without appealing to the ration book.”

But the family of Katia Lucia and her husband continue to qualify for the same products every month as do the most destitute. A contradiction that Raul Castro himself lamented in 2010 when he said that “several of the problems we face today have their origin in this measure of distribution that (…) constitutes a manifest expression of egalitarianism that benefits equally those who work and those who do not.”

“What they give you, take it,” laughs Katia Lucia recalling a very popular phrase that reflects like no other the cronyism that rationed distribution has generated. “I’m not going to leave those foods in the bodega. What for? To be picked up by someone else?” she explains to 14ymedio. “I prefer to give it to my aunt or give it to the dogs, but if it ‘belongs’ to me I will not leave it behind.”

During the public debates on the Guidelines for Economic and Social Policy, in 2010 and 2011, the possible elimination of the ration book was the topic that provoked the most comments and fears.

Maintaining it is like dragging a weight that the stagnant economy can barely sustain due to the heavy subsidies involved in selling food at very low prices. Some experts suggest limiting access to the ration book to the people most in need so that everyone can have a greater amount of food.

The economist Pedro Monreal believes this is the way to go and he proposes in his blog “a shrewder budgetary redistribution.” For example, if the number of beneficiary households is reduced to 3 million instead of the current 3,853,000, the subsidy for each family increases by 28.5%. With 2.5 million households, the subsidy for each one grows by 54%, and with 2 million, the increase is 92.6%.

There remains a question in the air, which Monreal has not yet addressed in his blog: what will be the criteria to reduce the number of beneficiaries “without setting off an extended social unrest”?

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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.

More Than 100,000 People Are ‘Illegal’ in Cuba

A woman looks out the window of an apartment in Havana. (El Nuevo Herald)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miami, 21 December 2017 — The authorities have put a number on Cubans living in an “illegal” situation in their own country: there are 107,200, of whom 52,800 have been in this situation for more than 20 years. This was reported Thursday by the president of Physical Planning, Samuel Rodiles Planas, during the plenary session of the Parliament meeting this week in Havana.

The Cuban government considers people who reside somewhere other than at the address where they are registered in the Identity Card Office to be “illegal.” In cities such as Havana, completing an address transfer is a complex process that requires approval from the Municipal Administration Council, so many migrants from the elsewhere in the country reside in the capital city clandestinely. continue reading

Rodiles Planas also said that 127,000 urban illegalities were reported in 2017, of which the Cuban capital accounts for more than 40,000. Other cities with a high ‘crime’ rate in this regard are Santiago de Cuba, Granma, Artemisa and Matanzas, with more than 10,000 each.

Rodiles Planas, who is a Division General in the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), also attributed the problem to the “lack of demand, control and monitoring by the municipal governments’ confrontation group.” In addition, he highlighted the deficit of means of transport in the municipal physical planning headquarters.

Most of the urban illegalities are concentrated in the field of construction, according to the official press, which mentions new works and violations of licenses and projects as some of the main violations committed.

Cuba needs at least one million new homes, as recognized by the authorities. Construction plans have fallen dramatically since the 1980s and the deterioration of the existing building stock is plain to see.

During 2017, the State planned the construction of only 9,700 homes. Added to this is the damage caused by natural disasters such as Hurricane Irma, which destroyed 158,554 dwelling units, according to preliminary data.

In some provinces like Havana, the housing deficit has caused many people to settle in marginal neighborhoods popularly known as ‘llega y pon’ – literally ‘arrive and put (down)’ – that is, squatter settlements. The authorities raise all kinds of obstacles to internal migration, especially from the eastern part of the country, but fail to prevent it.

It is estimated that in Havana, with some 2.1 million inhabitants, there is a deficit of 206,000 homes, while in Santiago de Cuba, where half a million people live, 103,000 homes need to be built.

This week Raul Castro acknowledged the problem of housing and asked the plenary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party to give a “greater boost” to the housing situation in the country.

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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.