There Isn’t Enough Beer For So Many ‘Yumas’ / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata

3.5 million tourists visited Cuba in 2015. (EFE)

3.5 million tourists visited Cuba in 2015. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Viñales and Havana, 6 February 2016 – First they ran out of water bottles, then packaged juices became scarce, and now it is difficult to find fresh fruit. This is how a hostess of tourist rooms in Viñales describes the situation there with the significant increase of tourism in Cuba and the problems of supplies.

During 2015, 3,524,779 foreign visitors arrived on the island, according to the latest official figures, an increase of some 17.4% over the prior year. However, the number of hotel rooms and private homes offering accommodation has not grown just as quickly. Other services, such as airports, food services and transportation, have also appeared to be overwhelmed by the flood.

The beautiful valley of Viñales, with its attractive mogotes and range of nature tourism, has experienced months of great demand. “Now we have more tourists here than locals,” exaggerates Paco, an 81-year-old who owns a house near the well-known Indian Cave. From his doorway he can see the incessant caravan of buses that brings visitors to the beautiful underground attraction.

“Before I sat down here,” he notes from his wooden armchair, “I saw at least ten To one side of his house, a family that owns a private restaurant reinforces Paco’s view. “We are struggling to maintain our menu, because between the shortages and the number of tourists that are coming it’s getting very difficult,” says Zoila, the restaurant’s cook. Continue reading

Tomas Regalado, “Washington Refuses To Recognize That There Is A Migration Crisis” / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Pedro Tomas Regalado, mayor of Miami, in a file image. (EFE)

Pedro Tomas Regalado, mayor of Miami, in a file image. (EFE)

14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 3 February 2016 — Miami Mayor Tomas Pedro Regalado (born Havana, 1947), says that his is not prepared to cope with the surge of Cuban rafters who come daily to the coast of Florida. He came to the United States as a teenager and was a journalist before winning election in 2009. Today he opposes the repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act and also opposed the opening of a Cuban consulate in Miami because of the costs for security that would be borne by the city.

Penton. In Miami, you breathe Cuba everywhere you go. Can you talk about a Cuban city?

Regalado. It may seem politically correct that the mayor of Miami says that this city has been made by ​​Cubans, Colombians, Nicaraguans, but the reality is that it has been made by Cubans, who opened the door so that many other nationalities could work, triumph and achieve the American dream. I was born in Cuba, but I grew up here. When I arrived as a teenager, there were still signs in many rental buildings reading: “No Cubans, no Jews, no dogs.” We had to overcome these challenges so Cubans created Miami. Those who created this Miami were the same as those who contributed to the success of Cuba in the fifties.

Why hasn’t their “Cubanness” been extinguished? Simply because among the first generations many of the wounds have not healed and the exiles pass on this historic legacy to their children and grandchildren. The Cuban family is different from family in the United States. We grew up with grandparents and the family permanently together. My dad, who was a political prisoner, when he got here he picked up my daughter at school while I worked and he told her the stories of being a political prisoner. Today, my daughter, who has never set foot in Cuba, knows Cuban history as well as anyone who came in the ‘60s. In addition, the United States does not require you to break with your roots. Continue reading

Mexico Authorizes “Direct Transfer” Of All Cubans Stranded In Central America / 14ymedio

The price for a direct transfer to Mexico will be about $790. (Office of the President of Costa Rica)

The price for a direct transfer to Mexico will be about $790. (Office of the President of Costa Rica)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 5 February 2016 — The Mexican government has decided to accelerate the transfer of Cubans stranded in Costa Rica and will extend the “humanitarian measure” to those who are in a similar situation in other Central American countries. In a statement released Friday by its regional headquarters in Ciudad Hidalgo (Chiapas), the National Migration Institute (INM) said that “in the coming days we will allow the direct and orderly transfer” of Cuban migrants who have ben in Central America since last November.

In a statement, the Government of Costa Rica said that in the coming days the first flight to Mexico will take place, carrying pregnant women and family groups with children.

From the second half of this month, the direct route to Mexico “will be an alternative option,” while the trip from Costa Rica to El Salvador and the journey overland to the Mexican border at Tapachula (in Chiapas) will also continue operating. Continue reading

Evangelical Pastor Arrested During Demolition Of A Temple In Santiago De Cuba / 14ymedio

The evangelical pastor Alain Toledano. (Social networks)

The evangelical pastor Alain Toledano. (Social networks)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 5 February 2016 – The evangelical pastor Marilin Alayo was arrested today, Friday, during the demolition of a temple in the Abel Santamaria district in Santiago de Cuba, as reported to this newspaper by Pastor Bernardo de Quesada, founder of the Apostolic Move, a Christian movement that separated from the Cuban Council of Churches in 2003.

The demolition comes at a time when the church pastor and Alayo’s husband, Alain Toledano, is traveling in Miami. Continue reading

Yunior García’s Uncomfortable Questions / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 3 February 2016 – In a recent interview, the young playwright and actor Yunior García Aguilera affirmed that he was “dissatisfied with everything.” A finalist for the Virgilio Piñera Prize for his work Sangre (Blood), and highly praised by critics for his piece Semen (Semen), this graduate of the National School of Art and the Superior Institute of Art (ISA) is now becoming a creative force in contemporary Cuban theater.

Aguilera lived several years in Havana during his studies and also lived some years in London where he worked with the Royal Court Theatre. Now he is back in Holguin, his birthplace, where he writes and directs for the Trébol Teatro (Clover Theater). He has had the good fortune of having some ten of his scripts staged by Cuban and foreign groups, including pieces such as Dancing Without Masks, All Men Are Equal, Shut Your Mouth and Blood.

However, right now the news of the young playwright comes not so much for his vocation in the theater but for his reputation for dissent. In an audio recording, which has already spread through the unexpected path of flash memories, he is heard to formulate some fifteen questions on which he reflects, in the style of The Silly Age, on the reality “of Cuba, of the country where we live.” Continue reading

Cuban Human Rights Group Denounces 1,414 Political Arrests in January / EFE (14ymedio)

Act of repudiation in front of the headquarters of the Ladies in White in Havana this January. (Angel Moya)

Act of repudiation in front of the headquarters of the Ladies in White in Havana this January. (Angel Moya)

EFE (14ymedio), Havana, 4 February 2016 — The dissident Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) reported Thursday that political repression continues its ascent on the island, where in January there were at least 1,414 political arrests, one of the highest monthly figures in the last decade.

This group, the only one keep an account of these incidents in the country, said in its monthly report on political repression that the number of arrests this January was surpassed only in November 2015, when 1,447 cases were reported.

The Commission, led by the dissident Elizardo Sanchez, said that in addition to the arrests, 56 peaceful dissidents were victims of physical assaults in January, three suffered acts of repudiation, and 68 cases of harassment and two of vandalism were recorded.

According to the CCDHRN, such acts are orchestrated by State Security police and other “repressive and paramilitary elements” present in Cuba, where the government “has exercised authoritarian power for 58 years.”

The government, according to the organization, is resorting more frequently to prolonged detention and provisional internment without trial, which often extends for long months, “a policy intended to wear down the opponents.”

“The number of prisoners is increasing unstoppably and in the huge prison system inhumane and degrading conditions of detention continue to prevail, while the government still refuses to accept the cooperation of the International Red Cross and other international NGOs,” laments the Commission.

Havana’s Metropolitan Bank Suspends Some Services Due To Technical Problems / 14ymedio

A man tries to get money from an ATM outside Metropolitan Bank this Thursday in Havana (14ymedio)

A man tries to get money from an ATM outside Metropolitan Bank this Thursday in Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 February 2016 — Since Wednesday morning, customers of Metropolitan Bank Telebank have not had access to any transactions due to an interruption of services. The problems have extended to ATM and Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals that take magnetic cards in Havana stores, as reported Thursday in a statement by the bank.

Telebank service facilitates transactions such as paying land-line telephone or electricity bills, for users who have a magnetic card.

An employee of Telebank told 14ymedio that they are currently having problems with their electronic network. “It has to do with the magnetic cards, we can’t complete any kind of transactions with the cards.”

She added that at ATMs it is not possible to check your balance, and a customer “can only complete one transaction a day, withdrawing 200 Cuban pesos or 50 Convertible pesos.”

The employee said she did not know “exactly” how long the inconvenience will last, adding that “everyone is working on this because it is a difficult situation.” The interruption in service has also affected POS terminals that take magnetic cards to pay for services and for some operations at bank windows.

A note from Metropolitan Bank’s Department of Communication and Marketing says that “a contingency plan to minimize the effects on users” is currently being applied.

Bacardi Says Granting Cuba Rights To ‘Havana Club’ Name Is Illegal / 14ymedio

The legal battle over the rights to market Havana Club rum ended last month, in Cuba's favor, after two decades of dispute. (Havana Club)

The legal battle over the rights to market Havana Club rum ended last month, in Cuba’s favor, after two decades of dispute. (Havana Club)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio (with information from agencies), Havana, 1 February 2016 — The Bacardi company has asked for explanations from the United States government regarding the authorization to sell Havana Club rum in the country once the embargo is lifted, claiming that this January’s granting of the trademark rights to the Cuban government is “illegal.”

The company, based in Bermuda, directed a request with regards to the renewal of the trademark to the Treasury Department, and in a statement on Monday, accused it of violating “the language and spirit of US law.”

Eduardo Sanchez, Bacardi’s legal advisor, said “Americans deserve to know the truth of this sudden and unprecedented decision taken by Washington that reversed an international policy that protects against the acceptance of confiscations by foreign governments.”

The legal battle over the rights to market Havana Club rum came to an end last month after two decades of disputes, when the Patent and Trademark Office ruled that the Cuban state company Cubaexport is the lawful distributor of the iconic rum.

In 2006, Cubaexport tried to obtain a license from the Treasury Department’s Office of Control of Foreign Assets (OFAC) to pay $500 to renew the Havana Club trademark, but it failed to do so and its registration was declared invalid. The Cuban company had not given up and re-initiated its request earlier this year and was successful.

Cuba’s Prison in Guantanamo / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Protest action to demand the closure of the U.S. prison on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. (Amnesty International)

Protest action to demand the closure of the U.S. prison on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. (Amnesty International)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 4 February 2016 – To the shame of the United States justice system, the prison at the Guantanamo Naval Base is 14 years old today. Since 2003, 680 detainees have arrived there, though today there are fewer than one hundred. Several of them are on hunger strike and are force fed through tubes. Prestigious media such as The New York Times have published letters from the inmates denouncing abuses; international human rights organizations have exposed the use of torture at this prison compound where the laws of no country in the world apply. President Barack Obama has promised to end this atrocity. He has not succeeded.

Not far away, on the road that runs from the provincial capital to the town of Jamaica, is Cuba’s Guantanamo Provincial Prison. It has the reputation of being the prison with the worst food in all of Cuba. Continue reading

People In Need Award Goes To Former Cuban Prisoners Of The Black Spring / 14ymedio

Martha Beatriz Roque believes that work to defend human rights "is becoming more difficult for the internal opposition," in Cuba. (14ymedio)

Martha Beatriz Roque believes that work to defend human rights “is becoming more difficult for the internal opposition,” in Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Havana, 3 February 2016 — The Czech organization People in Need has given its Homo Homini Award for this year to the 11 former prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring who continue to live in Cuba, as confirmed to this newspaper by several of the laureates. The entity, focused on the defense of human rights, has recognized the work of those who have continued to exercise their peaceful activist for decades, despite the rigors of prison and political repression.

Last year the award celebrated two decades since its founding. The award is intended to honor individuals for their “dedication to the promotion of human rights, democracy and non-violent solutions to political conflicts.” Continue reading

Realism In The Future Of US-Cuba Relations / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The flags of Cuba and the United States waving as a lady on her balcony gives the “thumbs up.” (EFE)

The flags of Cuba and the United States waving as a lady on her balcony gives the “thumbs up.” (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 3 February 2016 – Last week President Barack Obama’s administration approved new measures to loosen the strings of the blockade-embargo on the way to normalization of relations between his country and Cuba. Presumably this will be the norm during what remains of his administration. Should the Democratic candidate win in the upcoming presidential elections, we can assume that this policy will continue.

But the same cannot be expected if any of the current Republican candidates wins, according to statements made by themselves and the opinions of prestigious international analysts. Continue reading

The End of the ‘CD Era’ / 14ymedio

Disc store with music, movies and TV shows, in the city of Camagüey. (14ymedio)

Disc store with music, movies and TV shows, in the city of Camagüey. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 February 2016 – the lifespans of technology are getting shorter. Less than five years ago the entire country was flooded with sales outlets for CDs with music, TV shows and movies, but now that moment has passed. Many sells of audiovisual materials have broadened their offerings to sell not only CDs and DVDs, but also copy material onto hard discs or flash memories.

The advantages are many: it lowers the costs for the self-employed sellers and for the users. The selection can be produced on demand, instead of opting for the so-called “combos” which are not offered on discs. For the price of two Convertible pesos (~$2 U.S.) you can get up to one terabyte of audiovisuals tailored to your own tastes.

It will not be unexpected, therefore, to see that with the same speed that the shelves were filled with discs with their flashy covers, smaller outlets will flourish where there will be just a computer and a catalog.

The School for Others / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Havana International School on 18th Street in Miramar

Havana International School on 18th Street in Miramar

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 2 February 2016 — She is not wearing a uniform, she is not carrying a bag with snacks, nor does she have a kerchief tied around her neck. However, at nine years of age, Malena is on her way to school, a learning center for the children of diplomats where she has been able to register with her parents’ economic means and a Spanish passport – a legacy from her grandmother.

Cuban education is no longer the same for everyone. There are classrooms where students enjoy unlimited internet connection, air conditioning and new furniture. In the dining halls, the menu is varied, vegetables are plenty and it is common to hear a child talk about how he or she spent the weekend at the exclusive Cayo Coco resort or that his or her dad got a new truck.

Founded more than forty years ago, the Havana International School was originally designed for the children of ambassadors and consular personnel. In the 1990s, the children of foreigners working for joint venture firms arrived, but as of a few years back Cubans who can afford the high tuition fees and show a foreign passport have appeared. Continue reading

Marking the Time Cards / 14ymedio

Workers’ time cards in a Havana polyclinic. (14ymedio)

Workers’ time cards in a Havana polyclinic. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 February 2016 — In many workplaces, throughout Cuba, the old time clocks that were used to record when employees arrived and left, have been breaking with age and lack of maintenance. The “clack” that used to be heard in the first hours of the mornings as workers punched in with their time cards is, in most of these places today, an echo of the past.

Punctuality has evolved into a somewhat elastic concept in Cuba and workers blame their frequent tardiness on buses that are slow or don’t arrive at all, the rain, electrical outages in their neighborhoods or a drop in the temperature to below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Any justification seems to serve, especially if one considers that the average salary doesn’t exceed the equivalent of $25 a month.

Lacking accurate mechanisms to register if someone arrived on time for their workday, there are improvised systems where the employee must put their cards when they arrive and when they finish their work. This photo shows a polyclinic in Havana, where it is common for nurses and doctors to help out by ‘marking’ the cards of the stragglers.

Produce Vendors in Pinar del Rio Worried After Police Raids in Havana and Artemis / 14ymedio

Yosvel, a self-employed produce vendor on Rafael Ferro Avenue in Pinar del Río. (14ymedio)

Yosvel, a self-employed produce vendor on Rafael Ferro Avenue in Pinar del Río. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez, Pinar del Rio, 1 February 2016 – The fragile commercial network in the city of Pinar del Rio is living in fearful times. The news of the police raids on vendors who sell fruits and vegetables from mobile carts in Havana and Artemisa has been enough to keep many of Pinar del Rio’s vendors from going out, for fear of being the next on the list for confiscations and fines.

Earlier this year an experiment was launched in the province of Artemisa to impose price controls. The measure has also been implemented in dozens of markets in the Cuban capital and threatens to be implemented nationwide, and although some are relieved, others are suspicious. Continue reading