Will the mattress arrive before the baby turns a year old? / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta

Woman with a mattress (Yosmany Mayeta)

Woman with a mattress (Yosmany Mayeta)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Santiago de Cuba, 28 March 2015 — The Gonzalez family baby slept her first weeks in a plastic tub lined with sheets and blankets. She could not use the crib because her parents did not manage to buy the mattress that is assigned by the Santiago de Cuba ration market to expectant mothers.

Shortages of the product and delays in its arrival to those in need create discomfort and situations like that of this baby in homes all over the country but with greater severity in the eastern region.

Outside of some stores intended for that purpose there are long lines of pregnant women and their families to buy the so-called “module basket” that is given at a subsidized price to each mother. The prices in the free market are unaffordable for a good many families. They need at least 50 convertible pesos (CUC) in order to get a mattress in the hard currency market, while the average monthly salary does not exceed 20 CUC.

Many of these mothers will celebrate the first birthdays of their children without the children having been able to enjoy a crib with a mattress. Such is the case of one young woman who preferred to remain anonymous and who was waiting this Wednesday in the line of the El Atardecer industrial products store. Her daughter is about to turn a year old, but she still has to sleep in a crib with an old mat repaired many times and that was loaned to her by a relative.

Yamile Fonseca, resident of the Nuevo Van Van area, had a little more luck and says that “almost when the ration book was expiring I could buy the mattress, but that was a pure pain and a line that no one could stand.” Others simply give up and resort to the illicit market or inherit part of the “basket” items from a sister or a cousin.

Beatriz Mena, clerk at an Industrial store, says that “they have only brought the product twice” to the store where she works. In those cases “they have sold to those mothers whose basket ration book is expiring and whose babies are turning a year old,” the others have had to wait until they are resupplied, she said.

When the product arrives at one of the commercial units devoted to that purpose, then the drama becomes the line. Jose Bonne, father of a 10-month old girl, staked out the front of the Industrial this Tuesday from four in the morning in order to be able to be one of the first. “When I arrived there were already more than ten people who, since earlier hours, were marking their place in line in order not to be left without the mattress.”

The manager of the store in the Altamira suburb said that “it has come to the unit on several occasions but the ones who have not bought are still more than those who have left with the product.” The lady says that “the mattresses that they leave are very few, and we have a great number of pregnant and newly post-partum women and the demand outstrips the quantities supplied.

Another person, who preferred not to give his name, says that “when the mattresses arrive at the industrial products stores, now the clerks in cahoots with the management get most of them, which are sold to those whose turn has not come up, but who pay extra money and so acquire them ahead of time.”

For her part, Yelaine Suarez said that when the mattresses arrive in the commission stores there are people who dedicate themselves to the sale of places in line for the amount of ten convertible pesos. “It is unfair to see how they take advantage of the opportunity in order to do things like that.

Cuban women point to economic problems and difficulties in materially supporting a baby as among the main causes for the low birth rate that the country is now experiencing; the Total Fertility Rate fell in 2012 to the worrying figure of 1.69 children per woman.

David Fernandez, resident of Alturas de Versalles, says that in the Altamira store they got crib mattresses at 300 pesos national currency, sold off the ration book. The resident of the place asks how it is possible that there are stocks for that but not for those women who have the “basket” ration book.

The complaints come and go and many babies keep waiting to sleep in a crib with a mattress. Meanwhile, their parents improvise a little bed and take turns standing in line in front of the store.

Translated by MLK

Suspended or Censored? / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

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The members of the Taliban of the Cuban official web Reflejos, offended by the presence of an independent site like 14Ymedio should be celebrating: after a week of putting up with such dangerous neighbors, it withdrew the Yoani Sanchez’s daily from its platform. Authorities have demonstrated their inability to stand the test of freedom of the press.

cubanet square logo Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, MIAMI, Florida, 27 March 2015 — The members of the Taliban of Reflejos, the Cuban government-sponsored website, offended by the presence of an independent site like 14Ymedio should be celebrating. After a week of putting up with such dangerous neighbors, the authorities gave censure the all clear, in virtue of which 14ymedio has been “suspended or mothballed” because, in this era of technology and communications, euphemisms are also updated — it will no longer be able to be viewed on a platform which describes itself as “inclusive”.

Thus, while 14ymedio, the digital newspaper, launched from Cuba and in which several independent journalists on the Island collaborate or are involved, has demonstrated its ability to make use of any possible opening that facilitates access to its pages by Cubans from within Cuba, the authorities have shown their inability to stand the test of freedom of the press and differing opinions, particularly when participants have the moral authority of having experienced, on a daily and firsthand basis, the realities they narrate, report, or comment on. Continue reading

Web Platform Reflejos Closes the ‘14ymedio’ Blog / 14ymedio

"Esteemed user of the Platform "Blogs Reflejos": You have repeatedly published content that is not in keeping with the objectives of the platform Reflejos, not complying with the conditions you previously accepted. For that reason the blog is suspended...

“Esteemed user of the Platform “Blogs Reflejos”: You have repeatedly published content that is not in keeping with the objectives of the platform Reflejos, not complying with the conditions you previously accepted. For that reason the blog is suspended…”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 March 2015 – The new Cuban blog platform, Reflejos, has decided to close the 14ymedio blog for “repeatedly publishing content that does not conform to the objectives with which the platform was created,” according to an email sent this Friday by the administrators.

The daily is accused of “failing to meet [the site’s] the conditions of use” with no other details. Nevertheless, when it was launched March 18, Kirenia Fagundo Garcia, a consultant on Reflejos, explained that there were no “restrictions as far as topics addressed on the blogs and users interested in the service.”

The blog opened by this daily on the digital platform was designed to bring its contents to Cuban readers since our site has been blocked on the Island’s servers since its creation in May of 2014.

During the few days in which it was active, the blog published a varied group of texts that ranged from culture to recipes to opinion columns. Neither verbal violence nor personal attacks were used, and the majority of commenters were internet users very interested in the topics that the posts covered.

The 14ymedio blog has been the object of many criticisms by bloggers associated with the Cuban government. At the beginning of this week, the official site for CubaSí news lamented the presence of “mercenaries in service of the US” on Reflejos. The writer of the article, M. H. Lagarde, accused 14ymedio in wrathful terms of having “contaminated” the platform with “counter-revolutionary propaganda.”

The digital platform is part of the Cuba Va project of the Computer and Electronic Youth Club. Set up on the free content manager WordPress, it has several technological deficiencies such as slow operation, low storage capacity (barely 250 megabytes per blog) and problems with the image upload tool. Nevertheless, in spite of these technical difficulties, we had managed to create a functional “mirror” of 14ymedio, on a service that calls itself Reflejos (Reflections) and that was announced from the beginning as a space for the blogs of the Cuban family.

Translated by MLK

Polarization and civil society / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

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14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 26 March 2015 – The family of Yamila, age 41, is a sample of Cuban society. The father is a member of the Communist Party, the mother a Catholic who never embraced the Revolutionary Process, there is a brother in Miami and she herself is working for a joint venture where she earns convertible pesos. When they sit down to eat, they discuss the high price of food, the low salaries, how boring the telenovela is, or how late the remittances from the emigrants are this month.

For decades the ideological fire has stirred no passions in Yamila’s living room. The father is increasingly tempered in his political views; the mother prays, while buying in the illegal market; the relative who lives on the other shore and comes every now and then on vacation is an obliging forty-something who saves every cent to bring them a flat screen TV. These are the daily problems that concern them and hold them together. The struggle to survive makes them set aside any differences.

This microcosm of the Cuban family today has a lot to teach those who, from polarized positions, try to say what civil society is and isn’t, Continue reading

And where did that glass of milk go? / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

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14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Orlando Palmo, Havana, 25 March 2015 — The newspaper Granma published Wednesday a comprehensive report on milk production in the province of Camagüey. This scenario is grim and confirms the downward trend in terms of delivery of this precious food. Since 2012, Camagüey’s milk production and sales to the industry have declined, both in the cooperative and private sectors.

Although in the last five paragraphs it outlined with moderate optimism the possibilities of the sector recovery program, a reading of the article, signed by journalist Miguel Febles, reveals a problem that extends across many sectors of the economy, which can be summed up in the affirmation that the bureaucracy continues to be the heaviest weight dragging down food production in Cuba.

In short, the problem is that farmers must deliver the milk they produce to a pre-determined collection center. There samples are taken to assess the quality of each delivery, which is tied to the price of the product. However, instead of paying everyone according to the quality of food they bring to the center, the quality is averaged across all deliveries and the price paid to the farmer is derived from that average. The result is to demotivate improvements in quality.

Milk production in Cuba only covers 50% of domestic demand, so the country needs to import half of the milk consumed 

One of those interviewed, Alexis Gil Perez, director general of the Provincial Dairy Company, explains that the contracts are not with individual farmers but with “the productive base.” Gil Perez argues that this does not violate any procedure. “If there are opinions or dissatisfactions, we would have to revise the documents that govern the activity, and this decision can only be taken at the national level,” he adds. “Meanwhile, we must comply with the established provisions. It is not within my powers to vary the range of what we pay for milk.”

In a ceremony held in Camagüey on 26 July 2007 {commemorating the rebel attack on the Moncada Baracks), General Raul Castro said that every Cuban would be able to drink a glass of milk. Nearly eight years after that desire failed, the immediate proposal is not even to improve the distribution of what is collected, but to stop the decline in milk production observed in that province since 2012.

Milk production in Cuba only covers 50% of domestic demand, so the country needs to import half of the milk consumed. Its distribution is controlled by the government and private companies are forbidden from trading in milk products, even in the farmer’s markets.

 

Kuwait invests $ 21 million in hydraulic networks Havana / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 March 2015 — The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development awarded $21 million for the rehabilitation of water supply and sewer networks in Havana, as reported Thursday in the official media. With the signing of three agreements Wednesday, the second phase of the project gets underway; the project began in 2012 when the Fund awarded a credit to work on water resources in the capital.

The total amount of Kuwaiti aid for rehabilitation of networks amounts to $52 million in the last three years. It is expected that the works will be completed in all of the capital’s municipalities within 14 years.

The Cuban side at the time of the signing of the agreements was headed by Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca, while the general director of fund development, Abdulwahab Al-Bader, represented Kuwait.

“This is the fourth time we concluded agreements with the island and we are committed to continuing to provide credit to support works of such magnitude,” said Al-Bader. He added that his institution is ready to support the third stage of the capital rehabilitation and also evaluate the potential to contribute financially to other projects related to renewable energies.

The situation of hydraulic networks in Havana is a source of constant complaints from the population and heavy loss of water due to leaks and breaks. It is estimated that over 50% of the water pumped in the country is lost due to poor distribution infrastructure.

EU Diplomat Federica Mogherini: ‘There is no distancing from civil society’ / 14ymedio

Federica Mogherini, just outside the press conference where a reporter from 14ymedio was not allowed to enter

Federica Mogherini, just outside the press conference where a reporter from 14ymedio was not allowed to enter

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 March 2015 – On Tuesday afternoon the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, held a press conference for Cuban official media and foreign correspondents in Havana. According to the representative, Cuba and the European Union aspire to reach an agreement on political dialog and cooperation before the end of the year.

At the press conference, held in the Taganana Room at the Hotel Nacional, independent Cuban media were not allowed to enter. However, despite the restrictions, a 14ymedio reporter managed to get some statements from the official as she left the location.

Thanks to the collaboration of Herman Portocarero, European Union Ambassador to Cuba, this newspaper was able to have brief contact with Mogherini at the end of the press conference. Continue reading

‘CubaSí’ accuses ’14ymedio’ of “contaminating” the new platform of Cuban blogs / 14ymedio

"Mercenaries in service to the US blog on Cuban platform"

“Mercenaries in service to the US blog on Cuban platform”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 March 2015 — The government information portal “CubaSí” regrets, this Monday, the presence of “mercenaries in the service of the United States” on the new blogging platform “Reflections”launched last week by the Cuban government. The author of the article, M.H. Lagarde, angrily cites the blog opened on this platform by 14ymedio, which has found a way to reach Cuban readers on the Island’s servers with the contents of the independent digital newspaper since its creation in May of 2014.

In his article, Lagarde accuses 14ymedio of having “contaminated” the platform with “counterrevolutionary propaganda,” although, at the time of its release, the government portal explained that it had no “restrictions with regards to themes addressed in the blogs and users interested in the service.”

“The fact undoubtedly ranks as the first provocation realized by Cuban mercenaries in the face of the Summit of the Americas to be held in April in Panama, Continue reading

Who is behind the mirror? / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

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14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 19 March 2015 – On Wednesday, with great fanfare, the digital site “Reflections” was launched as part of the Cuban Youth Computer and Electronics Club’s Cuba Va (Cuba Goes) project. On its homepage you can read that this is the first Cuban blogging platform, although DesdeCuba.com, a blog portal, was launched eight years ago and, despite being blocked on the Cuban server, offers content generated in Cuba, where the majority of its authors live.

According to Kirenia Fagundo Garcia, who serves as senior specialist on Reflections, “there are no restrictions on the topics discussed on the blogs and users interested in the service,” on this platform. Each blog has only 250 megabytes allocated to post texts, photos, videos and sound, although Fagundo has made clear that it is planned to increase the initial capacity.

Despite the commitment to freedom announced by the portal, “the only condition is that the bloggers divulge the truth about Cuba, without offenses, disrespect or denigration.” Continue reading

A Mutilated Civil Society / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 23 March 2015 — Just try it. On the street, randomly ask: What is civil society? You’ll be lucky if you find any satisfactory answer and will have better luck if, unlike for me, more than one person even deigns to answer you. To speak of civil society in Cuba is like teaching new material in school.

First the concepts, then, explain which is considered more successful according to the teacher’s vision. A meticulous educator looks for good examples. It is essential to mention the thesis of Alexis de Tocqueville of civil society as an intermediary between the individual and the State. Also interesting is Habermas’s approximation about individual rights that guarantee and foster free association. Continue reading

Holguin repairs a street after a hundred residents threaten not to vote in the elections / 14ymedio, Fernando Donate

Open sewers dddddd

Open sewers in the street (Fernando Donante)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Fernando Donante Ochoa, Holguin, 23 March 2105 – the Holguin municipal government decided to hurriedly solve the problem of sewage running down 8th Street between 29th and 35th, in the La Quinta neighborhood, after having received a letter signed by more than 100 people who threatened not to vote in the elections for delegates to the Municipal Assembles of People’s Power on 19 April, if their demand for a solution was not met.

A commission composed of government functionaries went to visit the residents, according to Lino Rubisel Almira García, one of the signatories. “They visited us two days after they received the letter, at the end of last October. The committee wanted to make us desist from the decision, but when they failed to achieve their objective they agreed to approve an investment as soon as possible.

The speed with which the work was begun surprised even those who didn’t trust in the efficacy of a letter with political content adverse to the government to resolve a historic demand, raised since the early eighties in every “Renditions of Accounts Assembly” of the delegates with their constituents. Continue reading

Cubalex states that its work is in ‘danger’ / 14ymedio

The lawyers of Cubalex Laritza Diversent and Barbara Estrabao day the report on the Commission.(14ymedio)

The Cubalex lawyers Barbara Estrabao (L.) and Laritza Diversent (R.) on the day the report to the Human Rights Commission.(14ymedio)

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14ymedio, 22 March 2015 – Last Friday the Cubalex Center for Legal Information circulated a statement in which they report that their work is in “danger.” The independent entity said that after their presentation of “a report about Cuban prisons, the campaigns of defamation and harassment increased” toward their members.

In the text there is reference to a robbery that occurred in Cubalex’s offices on March 12, when “unidentified people broke in and (…) stole a laptop, a tablet, an iPod, a modem, an external hard disk, several flash memories and computer parts.”

The statement goes on to say that “the fact that no other objects of value were stolen, only those that could contain information about the work of the organization, leads one to assume (…) that the aggressors came on the part of the state authorities.”

In recent months Cubalex has reported being a “target of a smear campaign that includes libelous notes accusing the organization of corruption.” The texts are published on the Internet, most of the time anonymously or without specifying the source of the complaint.

Laritza Diversent, attorney and member of Cubalex, reports that since 2013 there has been “increased surveillance, harassment and threats against members of the team.” The lawyer explained that the pressure on the group increased after the presentation of the report on the detainees in Cuba, before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The harassment includes “threats to prosecute the family members of the Cubalex team and to confiscate the building where the office is located.”

Given this context, in its statement Cubalex demands that the Cuban government “guarantee and protect the work of organizations and leaders engaged civil society of in defense of human rights.” In addition, it asks “the international community to rule in favor of the guarantees of our work.”

The Cubalex Center for Legal Information is headquartered in Havana and is considered a non-profit organization not recognized by the Cuban state. It has offered free legal advice since 2010, concerning the legalization of housing, immigration procedures, inheritance, labor, criminal review processes, constitutional procedures and the defense of civil and political rights of Cuban or foreign citizens who ask them.