Film Considered Disrespectful of Jose Marti Rejected By Cuban Film Institute

Cuban filmmaker Yimit Ramírez partially financed his film “I Want to Make a Movie” through crowdfunding. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 14 March 2018 — The movie “I Want to Make a Film,”  by filmmaker Yimit Ramírez, was excluded from the Special Presentation section of the Young Filmmaker’s Exhibition by officials of the Cuban Institute of Art and Film Industry (ICAIC), who said that the dialog during a scene of his trial was not very respectful of José Martí, who “is sacred.”

The scene that has generated discomfort among the censors has been published by Marta María Ramírez. In it, one of the characters declares himself to not be a follower of Martí and describes the Cuban hero as a “mojón” and “maricón” (turd and faggot).

The film was to be screened at the 23rd and 12th Cinema in Havana on 3 April, in the Special Presentation Section, followed by a discussion between the artists and the public.

However, the initial program, designed by the exhibition team, was not approved by the ICAIC authorities, which excluded the film from the section and moved its projection to the small Terence Piard Room, recently inaugurated in ICAIC’s headquarters in 23rd Street, in Vedado.

The idea of projecting the film came from the Exhibition itself, but two weeks after the invitation, its developers knew that the ICAIC officials had to “give the go-ahead” to the film before projecting it in one of the rooms.

“It fell to me to talk to Octavio Fraga Guerra, an official I have known for a long time and who, armed with flash memory, demanded that I copy the film so that he could watch it with the president of ICAIC,” Ramírez explains in a post he shared on his Facebook account.

The post also states that his lack of trust in giving ICAIC a copy of the film on a flash memory came mostly from fear that the film would be “leaked as has happened with other works of Cuban filmmakers” that have been entrusted to that institution. Despite his resistance, the official warned him: “If you don’t give me a copy, if won’t be shown.”

After repeatedly telling him that he would take responsibility if the copy was leaked Ramirez agreed. Three hours later his response was that the film would not be screened in the planned section because the official “had not liked a phrase from the film,” while Fraga Guerra clarified that the ICAIC director had not yet seen it.

“I Want to Make a Film” is the first feature film by Ramírez, who finished it with an 8,000 euros budget obtained through a crowdfunding campaign. The journalist Marta María Ramírez, who designed the communication strategy for the campaign on the Internet, explained to this newspaper that the new screening room “has only 24 seats” and is “small” for the planned showing.

Ramírez explains that the filmmakers “have made tremendous noise with that film and created many expectations” and that it makes no sense to hold a screening where there is only enough space for the team that made the film to attend. “The interesting thing would have been to open a debate with the public,” he says.

“We were asking that it not be a premier because it is a first cut and not the finished film, we wanted to connect with people and talk about other forms of financing, such as crowdfunding, which we don’t know a lot about because we don’t have the internet connection we need,” he says.

The organizers of the show insisted the institution include the film in the planned section with a showing in the 23rd and 12th Cinema, but Roberto Smith de Castro, director of ICAIC, responded categorically that “Martí is sacred” and that the alternative if they wanted to show the film was the Terence Piard Room.

The team putting on the exhibition disagreed in a note posted on their Facebook account, where they said that the decision was made under criteria that they do not share and described as “totally inappropriate” the option to exhibit it in another room.

The outstanding filmmaker Fernando Perez resigned his position as director of the Exhibition in 2010 after a similar maneuver by the ICAIC, when they excluded the documentary made by the filmmaker Ricardo Figueredo about rapper Raudel Collazo, from Escuadrón Patriota. “Not being able to demonstrate in practice the inclusive coherence that I have planned for the Exhibition, I have made the personal decision not to continue at the front of it,” said the director.

Yimit Ramírez, director of the film, is not surprised about what happened and says he expected it. “We did not count on them to make the movie, and we did it, completely independently. It would be nice to see it in the cinemas, but the truth… The truth is that they control only the movie theaters here, there are many other formats in which people can see it.”

In addition, the director has praised the figure of a José Martí that he considers more real than the one promoted by the institutions. “The Martí I love is more human, some like it and others do not, it’s that simple, like the verses,” he said, referring to José Martí’s poetry collection titled “Simple Verses.”

The film team told 14ymedio that the production company will present the film to all competitions in Cuba wherever they are, including the Havana Film Festival, the Nuevitas Hieroscopia Festival and the Almacén de la Imagen  in Camagüey. “Otherwise we will give it away and project it where we can. It’s the price of independence.”

Film critic Dean Luis Reyes expressed his solidarity with the film’s team: “Martí will be a God for some people, but art has to do with doubt, religion is about something else.”


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.

What Will Happen in Cuba on April 19, 2018?

The current Cuban president, Raúl Castro, accompanied by his political dauphin, Miguel Díaz-Canel, during an event in the national Parliament. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Dagoberto Valdes, Pinar del Rio, 20 March 2018 — Just one month until April 19, 2018, the date chosen to end the mandate ofRaúl Castro, President of the Council of State and Ministers, many Cubans and friends of Cuba are asking ourselves what will happen in just 31 days. Nobody, not even the ones who are at the highest levels of power at this unprecedented moment, can know exactly what will happen, but predictions and expectations abound.

On the one hand, there are those who say that nothing is going to change and that everything will remain the same in an endless succession. In my opinion, the terms “nothing” and “everything” in politics, as in many other things, do not reflect the reality that is always changing. And this historical evolution in the waters of the river, always the same and always different, can not be stopped completely, even if the will and intentions are immobilized. Otherwise history would have stopped with each of the totalitarianisms, authoritarianisms or dictatorships and it has not happened that way.

On the other hand, there are those who say that everything is going to change in a single moment and they try to avoid a succession occurring within the same group of power. In my opinion, the same logic can be applied to this scenario. One of the most false myths of the political reality is that “everything” can change, the day that “everyone” goes out to make it happen and it would happen in “one” moment. Not even the most radical revolutions have happened like this. They come on by a telluric and deaf current. And they continue with many reminiscences and legacies of the old regime surviving after the change.

One month from this date, I will try to give my personal opinion, based not on assumptions or wishes, but on these facts:

  1. It is the first time in 60 years that we Cubans are asking ourselves what will be the name of the person who will become the representative of the State and the Government.
  2. It is the first time in 60 years that the positions of Head of State and Government and First Secretary of the Single Party will be divided between two individuals.
  3. It is the first time in 60 years that a civilian who has never been a military man will take over the leadership of the State and the Government, while a military man will continue, for three years, as the head of the Party.
  4. It is the first time in 60 years that the Head of State and Government will have a different surname and almost all foreign regulations with regards to relationships to Cuba, specifically reference “while” that surname remains in power.
  5. It is the first time in 60 years that the so-called “historical” generation, that is, the one that made the revolution, accepts a generational change by force majeure.

With all the respect that all the opinions deserve, I consider that these five realities alone are already, in themselves, a substantial change, although the discourse that we will listen to on the 19th, and the following days, will be one of total fidelity and continuity. These attitudes and totalitarian options have not given the expected results in the vast majority of cases, because they are disconnected from the reality in which people live.

Other comments that we hear in the public debate “on the streets” include:

  • Well, we’ve been waiting for 60 years and nothing has changed substantially.
  • All this change of position is true, but the person who comes will be a “puppet” and with the real power “behind” them.
  • The one “behind” will follow the “civic-military” power formed by the triad: Party-Army-Ministry of the Interior.
  • “Something” will have to change because the current “crisis” is simply unsustainable.
  • I think that:
  • To pass from “everything” has to change, to “something” has to change, is another reasonable change.
  • I wonder: If those who today can follow the “front,” what is the point of going “behind”?
  • How long can the people of the nation and the interlocutors of the international community wait to confirm that the person who has occupied the post of Head of State is a “symbolic” president?
  • How long can there be a president who is “symbolic,” assuming and signing, without responsibility or legitimacy, the difficult and traumatic reformist laws as, for example, the elimination of the so-called “double currency” or the closure or tender of unprofitable state companies?
  • In today’s real world, the “correlation of forces” in international relations has changed in a decisive way.
  • Governments and blocs are waiting for this generational change with very high expectations and proposals that should not be disregarded.
  • The subsidies of countries that were available to sustain the disaster of the Cuban economic model do not exist anymore.

That the people of the nation have expectations after April 19 in the midst of so much existential anxiety is very good and I will not be the one to kill those hopes, because although it is true that “high expectations equal great frustrations,” it is also true that Change has been possible if there had not been growing aspirations and “last” hopes.

That the international community has expectations and has postponed, until after April 19, its best positions for the Cuban people, waiting for structural changes, is very good and I am in favor of that, always. The advance of the conscience of the peoples reflected in free and democratic elections, gives me back the certainty that changes are possible, even if they are a reaction to the disastrous economic, social and above all anthropological results of the so-called “socialism of the 21st century.”

I think that after April 19, 2018 that underground river that has already been resurgent that prepare and condition a new stage in Cuba will continue.

I believe that after April 19, 2018, gradually and slowly, orderly and gradual transformations will occur that – if a violent rupture does not occur in the heights because in the lowlands it is impossible, God does not want either of the two scenarios – they will lead to a peaceful and growing transition as long as the “historical” generation can conclude its life cycle in a natural way. This has happened in many sister countries, why should Cuba have to be worse?

I believe that a healthy dialectical tension between order-continuity and changes-renewal, without excesses or shrillness, could be the effective engine to lead Cuba towards truly new times. At the end of the day, all the successful transitions for its people have been balancing in difficult equilibrium, “as on the razor’s edge” and therefore all the sane protagonists, have had to demand and give, in a give and take, with audacity and courage, serenity and patience, tolerance and firmness, all avoiding greater evils of violence and exclusions, avoiding tightening repressions and disorders that increase fear. And fear is always, by repression or turbulence, a bad companion along the way. The climate that we breathe and the life that we lead today, under a growing suffocating repression, does not lead anywhere, or perhaps it does: to a situation of excesses that, by getting out of hand, leads to violence and death. That must stop, for the good of Cuba.

I ask God, and the Virgin of Charity, our mother Cachita, the mambisa virgin, the protector of all Cubans, that Cuba can undertake and continue, from 19 April, its long and winding road to freedom, pluralism, inclusion and democracy.

I ask that the protagonists, all of them, above and below, who know that today is unsustainable, open their doors to citizen sovereignty, protect national sovereignty, maintain order and the gradualness of changes, avoiding all violence, repression and any exclusion between Cubans and Cubans which, I remind us, we all are.

And I am sure that Cuba will give the world an example of an orderly peaceful transition, without a single victim of any of the parties and with the contribution of all parties. Thus, we will be faithful to our best historical, cultural and ethical roots. That is what Varela and Martí wanted.

Dagoberto Valdés is director of the Centro de Estudios Convivencia (Coexistence Study Center), a Cuban think tank based in Pinar del Río. This article has previously been published in the magazine Coexistence and we reproduce it with the authorization of the author. 


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 Opens First Wholesale Market, For Private Cooperatives Only

Last August, the issuing of licenses to private restaurants and tourist rental businesses was temporarily halted. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Havana, 18 March 2018 — Mercabal, the first wholesale market in Cuba, opened its doors in Havana, initially intended only for non-agricultural private cooperatives but with the promise of extending it to the other self-employed workers of the Island, the official newspaper Granma reports on the front page.

The facility already has 35 customers, who have access to a discount of 20% off the retail price on products such as beans, cigars, soft drinks, beers, sugar, salt, jams, hamburgers and sausages, which are in high demand in private sector restaurants, coffee shops and bars.

Chicken, one of the most consumed foods, will be reduced by up to 30% compared to its price in the retail network, says Granma, which acknowledges that the Cuban government is responding to “one of the most repeated demands of those who exercise the new non-state forms of management in the country.”

“To the extent that conditions permit, this experience will be extended to the self-employed in units leased” to the State, explained the Minister of Domestic Trade, Mary Blanca Ortega.

For now available only in the capital city, the next wholesale markets will open “gradually” in the rest of the island, “once this initial proposal is in optimal operation and depending on the places where more self-employment exist,” said the article.

In Cuba today there are more than half a million private or “self-employed” workers, who are engaged in categories of work permitted by the Cuban Government.

More than 12,000 are members of non-agricultural cooperatives, which already number about 420 throughout the country, the vast majority of them dedicated to food services, commerce, other services, construction and industry.

Located in the Havana municipality of Plaza of the Revolucion, Mercabal will open from Monday to Saturday with products from ten direct suppliers, which will replenish the market according to the customers’ monthly orders.

In order to use the services of the new market, the self-employed person must have updated their client file and have an account with a magnetic card, issued by the state-owned Banco Metropolitano.

The 2010 expansion of private work — which includes non-agricultural cooperatives — has been one of the key reforms of the government of the outgoing Cuban leader Raul Castro to update the socialist model and reduce the overlarge workforce of the state sector.

As of last August, the Island began a process of reordering “cuentapropismo” (self-employment), as a part of which the issuing of licenses to private restaurants and tourist rentals, among other activities, has been temporarily halted to curb illegalities, “deviations” and “correct deficiencies.”

The licenses no longer being issued are precisely those in most demand among the would-be self-employed.

Although it promised that the new measure would not be in effect “for a very long period of time,” the Cuban government has not yet resumed the delivery of licenses to Cuba’s self-employed, who already represent 12% of the country’s labor force.


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.

"With Obama There Was Hope in Cuba, But That’s Over"

Marta Elisa Deus, raised in Spain, made the decision to return to the island in 2013 to set up an accounting business (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Pentón, 20 March 2018 —  Marta Elisa Deus is only 30 years old and has started three businesses in Cuba. This young Havanan, who lived in Spain for more than a decade, returned to the island “all fired up” to innovate and revolutionize the business world, taking advantage of the timid reforms undertaken by Raúl Castro in 2011 to open the economy to private capital.

Deus’s main concerns now are the pause in the granting of self-employment licenses and the worsening of the business environment for the self-employed on the Island, but she is not giving up in her attempt to help create a community of small entrepreneurs that stimulates the national economy. continue reading

“I always wanted to go back to Cuba and do some work there,” she tells 14ymedio on a recent trip to Miami. In 2013 she made the decision to return to the Island to set up an accounting business. “I talked to a good friend, Irina García, who is a lawyer, and we started the business under the license for bookkeepers, or, and it’s the same thing, accountants,” she says.

The opening to the private sector and the announcement of the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, which faced off for more than five decades, made her think that the thaw in relations between the countries was irreversible. Cuba became fashionable and an avalanche of tourists flooded the streets, which opened up endless business possibilities.

“At the beginning it was very difficult because in Cuba there was no culture of keeping account books, people opened paladares (private restaurants) and lodging houses, but not accountant offices,” she says. During her company’s start-up they did many jobs for free to make customers see the importance of their function. Deus Accountants, the company she created, became over time a key business for those who keep business accounts in Cuba and today has a team of five employees and more than 20 collaborators.

Self-Employed in Cuba. 22,000 AirBNB accommodations. 560,000 lodging establishments. $40 million dollars. 400 cooperatives. Growth in Self-employment.

Deus remembers that initial time with fondness, especially the dream awakened among entrepreneurs by the thaw. “During  the Obama era in Cuba there was hope, but that’s over,” she says.

Barack Obama visited the island in March 2016, marking a milestone in the history of relations between both countries. The American president met with entrepreneurs and promised support to empower the Cuban people, something that annoyed the Plaza of the Revolution. For Deus, Obama’s visit marked a before and after in the way in which the government viewed self-employment.

“After Obama’s visit, everything changed, and the way the official press referred to the self-employed was no longer positive. Among entrepreneurs there began to be an atmosphere of uncertainty, because nobody was clear about where the reforms were going and what they were doing and they feared for their business,” explains Deus.

In August 2017 the Government announced the freezing of the granting of licenses for more than 20 self-employment activities, of the 200 that existed. Although officials said it was a pause to “perfect and consolidate” small businesses, many fear that it is a turnaround.

Marino Murillo, the former minister of economy who is in charge of the reform process (which the government calls ‘guidelines’), said that more errors had been generated than virtues when tackling the changes. Murillo announced that they would eliminate the ability to have more than one license to perform self-employment, that the permits would only allow work within the province in which they are requested, and that the approved activities would be reduced, from 201 to 122 .

 “I worry that you can only have a license for one activity,” says Deus, who discovered in the mismanagement of Correos de Cuba (Cuban Postal Service) a niche market and created, under the license for messenger services, Mandao Express, a small company whose business is sending documents and parcels instantly. “When you have your own business, you make an effort to move it forward, and on December 31 I myself delivered food until nine o’clock at night,” she explains.

“Mandao Express was a necessity, and many times we wanted to send the documents we processed to our clients and we did not have anyone to do it for us, so as of 2016 we do it with our own company,” she explains.

“I think the State does not see self-employment as we see it, as something positive, which is good for the country,” she says. From her point of view, the law should be more proactive and instead of limiting the exercise of entrepreneurship to the currently defined 122 licenses, establish a structure for each entrepreneur to create a business where she discovers a need.

For Deus, the Cuban state would have had to invest millions in creating the more than 550,000 jobs that self-employed workers have created with practically no support. The businesswoman also points out that the contribution of this sector to the national economy is vital. In municipalities such as Trinidad, the contribution of the private sector to the treasury exceeds that of state companies.

“I would love to see self-employment as a real option so that our young people do not have to emigrate in search of opportunities, for there to be wholesale markets so we can avoid the black market, with laws for small and medium enterprises that recognize us as entities and not as ’natural persons’,” she says.

An assiduous reader of the weekly magazines The Economist and Forbes, Deus realized that in Cuba there was not enough literature dedicated to business. That’s why she decided to create Negolution, a Cuban digital magazine focused on that sector.

Negolution came up at the end of 2016. We combine the words evolution, revolution, solution, with negocios (businesses), and that’s how the name was born. In each issue, we publish inspiring stories of small businesses on the island and give advice so that entrepreneurs can move forward with their business,” says Deus.

Negolution is distributed through the weekly packet. Deus says that on the website the latest edition has had more than 15,000 downloads.

“We received a lot of feedback from our readers, and our mail is always full of messages of support and collaboration,” says Deus, who is proud that her magazine’s digital portal was designed as a free gift from one of the readers.

Deus and Oniel Díaz, another entrepreneur from the island, sent a letter to the authorities expressing their concern about the situation of self-employment on the island. Officials from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security responded to the letter with a meeting in which they discussed issues such as the commercial import permit, the need to maintain spaces for dialogue, and wholesale markets. The authorities assured Deus that the freezing of licenses was a “temporary” thing.

Despite the dialogue with the authorities, Deus believes that self-employment on the island is looked on badly by the authorities.

“There was a group of people who were doing a lot of work in tourism and that has fallen off,” she says. The setback in the reestablishment of relations with the United States has meant the loss of thousands of tourists who were arriving from that country, a strong blow for those renting rooms and houses to tourists and to the paladares, the most lucrative activities within the private sector.


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.

In Eight Years Only 125 Cuban Men Have Taken Paternity Leave

A father in Cuba can claim a postnatal leave benefit to care for his child for 90 days after its birth. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 19 March 2018 — Between 2006 and 2014, only 125 men in Cuba accepted paid parental leave and the majority did so because of the mother’s illness or death, according to official data. Although the legislation provides for paternity leave, its use is still very unusual among men on the island.

At the recent inauguration of the Swedish Dads…Cuban Dads photographic exhibition in the Castillo de la Real Fuerza Museum in the Historical Center of Old Havana, María Machicado Terán, representative in Cuba of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that in 2017 only seven fathers accepted the benefit, in contrast to the 65 grandparents who have used it since the initiative was extended to these relatives, in 2017, as long as ther were working. continue reading

On the opening day of the exhibition, which displays photographs of how paternity is experienced in both countries, the specialist said that the low demand for paternity leave is due to the fact that on the island “stereotypes and a patriarchal and macho culture persist, which limits the participation of men in domestic chores.”

Since 2003, Cuban men can opt for paternity leave to stay at home and take care of their children during the first year of life, while their wives work. The father can benefit from postnatal leave for childcare for 90 days after the birth.

Maternity and paternity leave cannot overlap and only one of the two parents can take advantage of the benefit until the child reaches one year. Even so, both can have between two and five days off work right after the birth. More days are allowed if it is necessary to move.

Men who apply for this benefit may remain off work until the child reaches the first year, and during the period in which they do not work they receive 60% of their total salary.

The measure was approved amid a worrying demographic situation. About 20% of the population of the Island is over 60 years old and the fertility rate is only 1.72 children per woman, far from the figure of 2.1 needed to ensure population replacement.

Yusimí Campos Suárez, vice minister of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, cataloged the new measure as a means to “stimulate the birth rate, the incorporation and reincorporation of women in the workplace, as well as the participation of other family members in the care of children.”

“The mother and father can decide which of them will take care of the son or daughter, the way in which this responsibility will be shared up to the first year of life and who will receive the social benefit (…) and they will communicate the decision in writing to the administration of each of their workplaces,” the law says.

The Family Code of 1975 already established a “shared responsibility between the mother and the father to attend, care for, protect, educate, assist, give deep affection to and prepare for life their sons and daughters, as a right and duty of both.” But in practice the situation is very different.

The persistence of sexist roles in the distribution of domestic tasks, along with a tense economic situation that makes many families prioritize male employment, are some of the causes behind the low rates of men applying for postnatal leave.

A recent survey carried out in 2014 at the national level by the Ministry of Public Health, showed that only 18% of fathers of children between 36 and 59 months participate in the care and education of their children.

During the opening of the photographic exhibition, the Swedish ambassador to Cuba, Jonas Lovén, explained that although his country took the lead in 1974 replacing postnatal maternal leave with parental leave, still today only a quarter of the men in that country take advantage of the measure.

For the diplomat it is “a slow, but necessary, journey that Cuba has already started.”


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.

Black Spring, The Fertile Repression

Fragment of a protest poster against the Black Spring.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 March 2018 — It was early morning when the police arrived at the door of the first of the opponents who were arrested on March 18, 2003. During that operation, 75 activists and independent journalists were sentenced to long prison terms under the so-called Gag Law, which is still in force today.

Having a typewriter, reporting a violation of human rights through a telephone line, publishing an independent magazine, collecting signatures or simply offering an interview to foreign media were some of the “proofs” that the authorities used to incriminate those arrested. continue reading

There were no lack of stories of uncovered moles, informers who saved their own skins by testifying against their colleagues, nor of police excesses against the families of the detainees. The long night of repression loomed over the whole island.

The Black Spring determined to a large extent what has happened in the last fifteen years in Cuban civil society. The fear of ending up in a dungeon led many citizens to desist from expressing opinions, and exile was ultimately the destiny of a good part of those who had suffered in those dungeons. It was a hard blow for the dissent.

However, this critical point also gave rise to the emergence and development of new groups, tendencies and phenomena outside official control. Fifteen years after that attempt to uproot the opposition, there is a process of diversification and expansion of the critical sector along with greater international solidarity with opponents.

Today’s activists, direct debtors of those 75 prisoners, have broadened the issues in which they work, from groups that demand rights for the LGBTI community to associations seeking greater social spaces for people with disabilities. The Island is a hotbed of independent proposals.

Currently, the journalists arrested that March 2003 are also essential reference points for the new batch of reporters who feed the independent media. Despite the attempt to kill all journalism outside the control of the Communist Party, there has been an information explosion, thanks in part to new technologies.

The date chosen to bury what was left of Cuban civic activism must be remembered today as a chronological point that marks a new beginning. That March when Fidel Castro’s government thought that it was exterminating the dissidence was in fact the beginning of the rebellion, of the social nonconformity and of the inspiration for which we decided to create new media outside the official press.


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.

Reasons and Lack of Reasons Surrounding Political Dialogue

Cuban President Raúl Castro tries to raise the arm of US President Barack Obama after a press conference in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 16 March 2018 — When, in December 2014, the US President at the time, Barack Obama, and Cuba’s General-President Raúl Castro unexpectedly announced the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the reactions on both sides of the Straits of Florida were immediate.

As is often the case with Cuban political affairs, there was a strong polarization among those who expressed themselves in favor of dialogue as a way to find a solution to the conflict, which in the end could imply benefits for Cubans on both sides and in particular for those living in Cuba, and the ever-intransigents, who considered the events as an undeserved concession to the Castro dictatorship and as a betrayal to the yearnings for democracy of thousands of our countrymen, who for decades had suffered harassment, prison, persecution and exile for their fight against totalitarianism. continue reading

The schism was even greater among the opposition groups. There were no nuances. Overnight, a war seemed to have been declared: the radical groups not only considered the process of dialogue between the two hitherto opposed governments unacceptable, but also disparagingly pinned the labels of “traitors” and “dialoguers” to those broad sectors of dissidents that considered the new policy of the White House as a more propitious strategy to gradually push the long-awaited changes inside Cuba.

It is worth mentioning that the radicals conveniently ignored one small detail. Many members of that large group of political prisoners and persecuted citizens were in favor of the dialogue proces.

The matter became a defining moment, where the most rabid enemies of diplomacy – faithful to their violent and intolerant nature – used verbal aggression and even attempted physical violence against supporters of dialogue in some cases, although the latter were just being consistent with the pro-relations and anti-embargo discourse that they had been defending for decades.

The very brief period that elapsed between the beginning of President Obama’s policy of flexibilization and his departure from power did not make, and obviously could not have mad a significant shift in Cuban politics, but it did have the benefit of undermining the unbending Castro anti-Yankee discourse and completely exposing the lack of political will of the dictatorship to take advantage of the US measures that, if permitted to be carried out as Obama conceived them, would have meant prosperity for Cubans, in particular for the incipient businesses that emerged under the timid attempt of the so-called “Raúl reforms.”

In any case, the “failure” of a rapprochement policy that did not have enough time to show results – and it is known that time is a category of capital importance – was not due to the supposed ingenuity of the American president but to the inveterate stubbornness and totalitarian vocation of the Castro regime. If the dictatorship responded to the flexibilizations of its northern neighbor with repression against dissent and the suffocation of the private sector, it is an account that we cannot attribute to Obama or the restoration of relations, as certified by decades of arrests, imprisonments, executions and despotism that took place in Cuba under the pretext of the existence of the powerful “external enemy” long before the Obama era.

If the dictatorship responded to the flexibilizations of its northern neighbor with repression against dissent and the suffocation of the private sector, it is an account that we cannot attribute to Obama

And since time is a consideration, it is worth remembering that, in fact, in about a year and a half after the restoration of relations between Washington and Havana, the US measures of flexibilization allowed thousands of tourists from the U.S. to enter Cuba, which brought discrete economic benefits, not only for the tourism industry of the Castro regime, their native entourages and their foreign associates, but also – to the alarm of the olive-tree hierarchs who felt threatened by the sudden rise of self-employed Cubans – for a considerable number of private businesses, especially those dedicated to lodging and food services, which in turn generated many jobs associated with their respective facilities.

The election of Republican Donald Trump in November 2016 and his inauguration on January 20th, 2017 not only put an end to the brief era of diplomacy, but it has constituted a clear setback in the rapprochement initiated by his predecessor, to the delight of the recalcitrant opponents to dialogue.

A delight that, nevertheless, is not justified in certainty, since until now Trump does not seem to have intentions to make the two great demands of the most radical sectors a reality, that is: the rupture of diplomatic relations with the Cuban Government and the reestablishment of the ‘wet foot/dry foot’ policy, repealed by Obama a few days before leaving power.

Interestingly, fundamentalists on both banks remain silent on this point. And in general, whether he’ll act or not, Trump remains the unquestionable hero of the fanatics in Cuba.

The silence of the anti-dialoguers is more outrageous these days, when the arrogant Donald Trump has declared his intention to establish a dialogue with none other than the current North Korean satrap

But the silence of the anti-dialoguers is more outrageous these days, when the arrogant Donald Trump has declared his intention to establish a dialogue with none other than the current North Korean satrap, the mass murderer heir to the long power of the Kim dynasty. And this is not necessarily a political error for Trump. In any situation it is more desirable to resolve differences with words and agreements rather than with missiles, especially nuclear missiles.

Only that, following the logic applied to the Obama-Castro dialogue, wouldn’t this President of the world’s greatest power also be “legitimizing” a miserable dictatorship that represses and murders its people? Where are the angry defenders of human rights who are so offended by the US-Cuba dialogue? Could it be that some dialogues are “good” and others “bad”? And in this last case, who is the referee that defines the appropriate adjective in each case?

For the time being, and until they prove otherwise, everything indicates that the exalted atheists of the Cuban opposition have either run out of arguments or they were never very clear. Perhaps in reality what they understand as “politics” is just the reductionist and sectarian vision of a bench of most passionate sports team fans. And there are still some who think of themselves as presidential leaders for the future Cuban democracy. God help us!

Translated by Norma Whiting


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.

Police Accuse Journalist Boris Gonzalez of "Harassing Tourists"

Boris González during a time when he was on a scholarship in Germany. (Akademie Schloss)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 March 2018 — After 24 hours in detention, independent journalist Boris González is still in a dungeon at the police station in the city of Pinar del Río, where he was taken under an alleged “tourist harassment” violation, according to his wife Juliette Fernández.

The activist was arrested on Thursday morning when he went to the Municipal Court of Viñales, in Pinar del Rio, to cover a trial against several defendants for invading the property of biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, according to blogger Regina Coyula, speaking to this newspaper. continue reading

The activist was arrested on the morning of this Thursday when he went to the Municipal Court of Viñales, in Pinar del Rio, to cover a trial against several defendants for invading the property of biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, according to 14ymedio the blogger Regina Coyula.

González, who has also served as spokesperson for the #Otro18 (Another 2018) campaign, which seeks a democratic change on the island through electoral mechanisms, collaborates with several independent media and is the author of the digital blog Probidad Cuba.

In 2015, the journalist was expelled from his job at the International School of Film, Television and Video (EICTV) in San Antonio de los Baños because of his links with groups of activists from independent civil society.

The oral hearing González was going to cover this Thursday was about the accusations made by Ariel Ruiz Urquiola and his family against several residents who allegedly invaded his property and caused damage in the land located in the Sierra del Infierno, belonging to the Park National Viñales.

Oscar Casanella, Urquiola’s colleague, confirmed to this newspaper at the end of the trial that the defendants Yendry Álvarez and Yoel Álvarez (brothers) were acquitted of the crimes of which they were accused, including threats and coercion.

Urquiola settled in Viñales to carry out an investigation into the origins of life in the area, managed by the university of Havana and Humboldt University in Berlin. However, due to his activism and his closeness to government opponents, the Cuban side cut off its link with the project.

The house located on the plot is owned by Urquiola and the land is managed under a form of leasing known as usufruct and an agroecological farm has been developed. In 2008 the Government of Raúl Castro began the delivery of idle state lands in usufruct to try to revive the agricultural sector.

Urquiola has repeatedly denounced the raising of wild pigs in the area where his farm is located, a situation that has produced a negative environmental impact in a park with high natural and tourist value.

Their denunciations have been directed to the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of the Interior and the authorities of the People’s Power of the zone.


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 Problem Comes When You Remain Silent"

Frank Mitchel Chirino at a concert at La Marca. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 3 March 2018 — Recording a record at age 18 is something that doesn’t happen every day among troubadours. Frank Mitchel Chirino has joined that short list, overcoming censorship and family resistance — his father defined trova as a “chernas (homosexuals) thing” — and has now released the album Bodies of Water.

“Since I started playing in places linked to government institutions I heard the same thing: ‘this or that is censored’,” he recalls now with a mischievous smile on his lips while he talks with 14ymedio.

“Sometimes they made it clear to me that I could not invite certain artists to my performances, like Jorgito Kamankola, and other times they warned me about some song I could not play, then I said to myself, I do not want to live behind this fence.” continue reading

The artist opted for the independent way that opens a path, in spite of the limitations in the Cuban reality. Last year he won a scholarship, A Muleta Música, awarded by Galería-Estudio La Marca to promote young and independent art and, according to the promoters, an opportunity for the “production, management and positioning” of his work.

Chirino believes that the scholarship arrived for “a little bit of luck,” because the designer Roberto Ramos, organizer of La Marca musical space, heard him at troubadour Noslen Porrua’s club in Bejucal and that led to them considering him for the scholarship. At that time his artistic life took a favorable turn and he was able to afford to record several of his songs.

“In the beginning we were going to make the album with just the guitar, nothing else, but then the musicians appeared and together we made the arrangements,” recalls Chirino.

In its beginnings, the musician played in some clubs but later joined others to form the band Náufrago (Shipwrecked), which came to perform regularly at the Old Havana House of Poetry. “It did not last long due to censorship, fear and lack of organization,” he laments, in reference to the guidelines issued by the institutional media about what can and can not be sung.

Censorship also dogged the heels of Chirino on the radio and at festivals. On several stations where he sang he was always warned that some of his songs could not be played. “Everything that is new and seems outside the norm disappears,” complains the young musician, with regards to the prohibitions placed on those musical themes with elements of social criticism.

The clashes with the institutions reached their climax at a trova festival in the city of Bayamo. Before going on stage, Chirino and another troubadour were summoned to the office of a cultural official who demanded that they sing before him, and before going onstage, the songs they had prepared.

For the artist, this constituted a lack of respect but it served to cement his opinion about the official media and the circuit of places where artists can perform. He also believes that the spaces to promote trova in the official media only work for authors who sing “in favor” of the system.

According to his vision, television programs such as Cuerda Viva already “have nothing to do with the idea of those who are starting out” and now “the same faces are always seen.” He considers that the producers have fallen into “mediocrity” and points again to the fear of event space managers about “the consequences” they may face if they move away from what is allowed by the authorities. “It’s a real fear but you have to fight against that,” he emphasizes.

Part of those experiences with officials, terrified cultural promoters and informers, are reflected in the theme “Échate pa ’allá”  included in his recently finished album.

“Censorship persecutes us by stabbing bodies, they are assasins of a sleeping freedom” he warns in one of the verses of this theme that hs considers “an amulet” against this phenomenon. “I was hooked on the truth and the truth is that I do not let go,” says the author of compositions such as Palenque and After the Smoke.

“Rest assured that I do not want to have anything to do with the government and less with the bureaucracy,” he explains in the interview, evoking the feelings that led him to compose the song with Kamankola. “It’s to scare off all of that and to get the powers that be off my back.”

His song circulates in the alternative networks of musical distribution as a kind of hymn against the snitch, the figure of the informant who is so present in Cuban life. “There are many people who do not live their lives, who are just waiting for others to live,” says Chirino.

Trova enjoyed privileged media coverage in the ’80s, but in the last two decades other genres such as salsa and reggaeton, which are more commercial, have been prioritized. Programs such as Cáscara de Mandarina that promoted genres such as trova and rock from the island disappeared from television, while others such as Piso 6, which mainly promote international music, salsa and Cuban pop are shown endlessly on national TV.

As a competent digital native, Chirino considers new technologies essential because they allow him to independently disseminate his work. “If I had to subordinate myself to the conditions of a label, I would never have been able to make Bodies of Water.

“The problem comes when you stay silent, what happens is that people do not want to say what they feel because they are afraid” but “the duty is to relate, in a more direct way, what is happening.”

However, he believes that he began his career in a “hard” way to make it clear that he is not planning to moderate his art or censor his lyrics to win “an institutional space.”


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.

Security Employee Investigated for Theft of National Heritage Items

The stolen mirror and brush of the Birthplace of Ignacio Agramonte and found by the General Customs of the Republic. (AGR)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ignacio de la Paz,Camagüey, 13 March 2018 — A security employee remains in prison for a robbery committed at the Ignacio Agramonte y Loynaz Birthplace in Camagüey. A Mexican tourist was intercepted at the provincial airport trying to get some of these pieces out of the country, but others remain missing.

An employee of the Ignacio Agramonte Birthplace, who preferred anonymity, told 14ymedio that “the thefts took place during several nights in the art warehouse” to avoid their being noticed. A security employee of the institution has been arrested and is being prosecuted for his alleged involvement in the crime, according to the worker. continue reading

On February 2, coinciding with the anniversary of the founding of the town of Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe, as this city in the center of the island was initially called, local media announced the theft of valuable national heritage objects from the museum dedicated to the most distinguished independence hero of the region.

The media classified the articles as “unique, priceless and irreplaceable” and the museum specialists also considered them “jewels” valuable for their antiquity and for being a part of the national heritage.

Four days later, the General Customs Office of the Republic (AGR) found two of the objects stolen in the robbery in the luggage of a Mexican traveler: a mirror and a hairbrush. The tourist was about to leave from the Camagüey International Airport to the United States when the pieces belonging to the museum’s collection were found.

Both objects were returned to the museum after an intense investigation in which all museum workers were questioned and a thorough review of the inventories conducted revealed the absence of other objects that have not yet been found.

Another stolen monument was dedicated to mothers donated by the Great Order of Perseverance to the city of Camagüey. (14ymedio)

“The police figured out that the night guard tampered with the security seal to enter the warehouse,” explained the employee of the institution. A common practice in state institutions that store goods of some value is to place a string on a piece of plasticine at the door to later determine if there was unauthorized access.

“The warehouse did not have bars or a padlock although now they have installed one,” explains the worker. “Nor do the employees know the list of stolen objects because it is kept secret,” he explains, although they have also detected the absence of “a set of silver spoons and alpaca objects.”

The guard arrested is in preventive detention without bail and awaiting trial. Police investigators are in the midst of the process of collecting evidence to determine if an accusation is appropriate, this newspaper was able to confirm.

“Now they are trying to determine if he acted alone or had a network of accomplices to be able to get the objects into the hands of interested foreign buyers,” a police officer involved in the case told 14ymedio. “The priority is to find what is missing,” he says.

“The place was not violated and there was no sign that the thief or thieves had arrived from outside the institution, so everything indicates that the robbery was carried out in collaboration with someone inside,” adds the official of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR).

The director of the museum has asked the workers not to comment on the investigation and has clarified that none of the stolen property belonged to Agramonte or his family, but were objects from his time, to provide context.

The theft joins a long list of valuable national heritage items stolen in Camagüey in recent years. Among them are several early printed books, volumes from Julio Antonio Mella provincial library, the bronze eyeglasses from the monument to the Spanish aviators Mariano Barberán and Joaquín Collar, as well as numerous funerary sculptures from Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje General Cemetery.

Also stolen were pieces of the monument dedicated to the mothers donated by the Great Order of Perseverance to the city of Camagüey, which was located in the Casino Campestre sand park, and the silver bells of the catafalque of Santo Sepulcher from La Merced Church.

The customs authorities have warned that with the increase of foreign tourism that has been occurring on the island in recent years there has also been an increase in the illicit trade in objects that are considered heritage assets.

In 2014, UNESCO strongly condemned several acts of this type that occurred on the island and added that they jeopardized the integrity of the patrimonial pieces and left them at the mercy of the illicit traffic of cultural goods.

According to an official statement issued in February of that year by the National Council of Cultural Heritage of Cuba (CNPC), a significant number of pieces of art were stolen from one of the warehouses of the National Museum of Fine Arts, in Havana, without access to the premises being violated.


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.

Cuban Government Establishes New Restrictions on Imports of State-Owned Companies

The measure aims to prevent “external indebtedness from continuing to grow”. (Pixabay)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 March 2108– Cuban state companies intending to import goods valued at more than $100,000 must obtain a letter of credit from the Central Bank, “at a time when the country is struggling with a liquidity crisis and growing debt,” Reuters reported on Tuesday.

According to Central Bank Resolution 19/2018, which came into effect this month, the measure seeks to ensure that companies have the resources to meet their obligations and to prevent “external indebtedness from continuing to grow.” continue reading

“Other Latin American countries have adopted similar measures in the past, such as Argentina, but those were market economies not controlled by the state,” a Western banker told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

This source believed that the initiative “would lead to a short-term fall in imports and a slower procurement of supplies, as well as the closure of non-essential and insolvent companies.”

According to government data, imports went from 13.9 billion dollars in 2014 to 10.3 billion in 2016, while in the same period Cuban exports also fell from 17.8 billion to 13.6 billion.

“Cuba reported its debt for the last time in 2014, when it stood at 18.9 billion dollars,” the article notes, which points out that, although the island has since restructured much of its official debt, state companies owe more than one billion dollars to suppliers, according to diplomats and foreign businessmen.

According to Reuters, the island “has suffered from the implosion of the economy and the oil industry of its ally” Venezuela, but also a fall in productivity throughout the country due to electricity cuts.


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.

Paya Prize Awarded Without Honorees, In An Event Cuban Government Calls a "Provocation"

About twelve people were able to attend the Payá Award, among whom were diplomats from the US Embassy in Havana and also from the Czech Republic. (Facebook)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 8 March 2017 — The Oswaldo Payá prize was presented this Thursday, in a symbolic way, to the IDEA initiative, after Cuba refused entrance on Wednesday to the presidents of Colombia, Andres Pastrana, and of Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga, who came to receive the award in an act seen by the Government of the Island as a “provocation.”

Pastrana and Quiroga were to receive, on behalf of the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA) — an organization made up of 37 former heads of State and Government — the prize that bears the name of the late dissident Oswaldo Payá (1952-2012), which was first  awarded last year by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, directed by Rosa María Payá, daughter of the late opponent. continue reading

In the absence of a reaction from the government, the official press, which frequently serves as a state platform to publicize its position, emphasized on Thursday that the presidents knew in advance that they were not welcome in Cuba, and they were intending to participate in what the press called a “failed anti-Cuban provocation forged from Washington.”

“Only a dictatorship feels provoked by the fact that two democratically elected ex-presidents would come to receive an award for their work in favor of democracy, invited by free citizens of that country,” said Rosa María Payá in the symbolic award ceremony at his family home, where none of the international invited guests were able to be present.

According to Payá, at least six guests — among them IDEA legislators and former presidents, as well as the secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro — tried to travel to Cuba, but were not able to enter the country, or to board their planes or even to obtain a visa.

Within the Island there were also people who were not able to attend the event. The artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, told 14ymedio that he woke up this Thursday with police surrounding his house to prevent him from attending the award ceremony. A text message from his mobile phone had previously been sent inviting several people to the ceremony.

About twelve people were able to attend the event, among whom were diplomats from the US Embassy in Havana and also from the Czech Republic. The activist Iliana Hernández, the opposition Librado Linares, former prisoner of the so-called Black Spring, the blogger Lía Villares and Sayli Navarro, an activist of the CubaDecides initiative, also attended despite the measures taken by State Security.

Agents were also stationed outside the home of Iliana Hernandez but the activist was able to deceive them to get to the event by car.

Rosa María Payá (right), promoter of the dissident group Cuba Decides, explained that the award to IDEA award is for their “direct action” for the rights of the Venezuelan people. (Facebook)

Payá, promoter of the dissident group CubaDecides — which is part of the Latin American Network — explained that the award to IDEA is for its to its “direct action” for the rights of the Venezuelan people and to spread democracy in Latin America, which has seen a “setback” in recent years due to the “interference of the Cuban regime, especially in Venezuela.”

“Ending the threat that the Cuban intelligence system and Castroism represents for democracy throughout the continent is an urgent task that begins with supporting democracy in Cuba,” said Payá, speaking about CubaDecides, which demands a binding plebiscite on the Island to change the political system and achieve “free, fair and plural elections.”

Despite not being able to attend the award ceremony in Havana, Pastrana sent a message of thanks in which he expressed the commitment of the former presidents who are members of IDEA to join with the Latin American youth of the Network to “continue fighting to defend and promote the democracy.”

In this second edition of the “Oswaldo Payá: Freedom and Life Award,” the Venezuelan opposition leader Antonio Ledezma — exiled in Madrid for months — received a special mention and also sent a message of gratitude that was read this Thursday at the event.

The former mayor of Caracas explained the reasons for his absence in Havana: “In my case, the guardians of the Venezuelan regime would have turned me over to their cronies to submit me again to the torture of a rigged judicial process.”

Luis Almagro, who was recognized with the Payá Prize last year in his first edition, was also unable to attend that year’s event, when the Cuban authorities denied him permission to enter the Island.

This year he again asked for a visa, but as of Wednesday he had not received a response, so he chose not to travel to Cuba, although he also sent a message to the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, in which he praised its work for freedom and human rights.

“The worst form of interventionism that exists in the international community is to give impunity to a dictatorship, to silence the voice of the people, to prevent them from deciding their future, and  revolutionaries or leftists do not do this,” said Almagro.

In his opinion, “the left that is a reference is the one that faced dictatorships demanding the rights of the people,” while accusing the Government of having “stripped its citizens” of the fundamental principles of freedom and independence that their independence heroes defended.


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.

Long Lines at Cuban Banks For Fear of Monetary Unification

As April 19 approaches, when a new president is expected to assume office, uncertainty about ending Cuba’s dual currency system grows in the streets. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, 15 March 2018 — The last weeks have been like a heart attack for Luis, the employee who guards the door at the Metropolitan Bank (Banmet) on Galiano Street, in Havana. The flood of customers doesn’t give him a minute’s rest because “people are going nuts changing and saving money” out of fear that monetary unification is coming, he says.

Long lines in front of the bank branches are part of the Havana landscape, a city with more than two million inhabitants which receives thousands of tourists every day, who are forced to change their currency into Cuban pesos (CUP) or convertible pesos (CUC). But the demand seems to have increased in the last month. continue reading

“A lot of people come who have money saved in CUC,” says Luis, who organizes the line into several parts from early on. “The businesses are over here,” he says pointing to those who have gathered outside the branch. “Those who have come to get cash I put on this side here, and those who have personal paperwork to do with the bank on the other side,” he explains.

Most of the line is in the area for those who are going to do some operation in their bank account. “I have come to deposit about 500 CUC because I have been told that the money that is in the bank will be respected,” explains a lady who is third in line.

Last year the authorities warned in an official statement that the process of monetary unification will respect “the principle of the trust of the people who have kept their savings in Cuban banks in CUC, other international currencies and CUP remains intact.”

Julio César Reyes, general director of Banmet’s Electronic Banking, acknowledged in statements to the official press that since the beginning of this year there has been “a gradual increase in transactions” in its branches and ATMs, but the number of the latter is still insufficient to meet the demand.

Last December, during a session of the Parliament, Raúl Castro insisted on pointing out that addressing the problem of monetary duality can not be “delayed any longer.” After those words, speculations about an immediate unification of the two currencies on the Island were unleashed, after a quarter century of the dual monetary system.

As April 19 approaches, the date a new president is expected to assume office, uncertainty grows on the streets. Among the signs are private sellers that do not accept CUC for fear of devaluation, and published classified ads that display prices in dollars.

Elías Amor, a Cuban economist based in Spain, does not think it is likely that Raúl Castro will be able to carry out the unification process before he leaves power. In his opinion, the authorities know that the process is not as simple as establishing one of the two as the only official currency. It will be necessary to attend to “the mechanisms of price formation, the salary levels of the population, the purchasing power of wages,” among other factors

At the beginning of the revolutionary process, the banking entities suffered successive nationalizations, and forced and traumatic currency exchanges, which generated a particular distrust towards banks among Cubans. However, now many believe that the money circulating will be worth less after the devaluation that is expected to accompany the unification.

Another factor is that all the banks in the country are managed by the State and in the past numerous clients with significant savings were also branded as “pots” (new rich or hoarders) and legally prosecuted. An antecedent that those with more memory recall when they consider the dilemma of keeping their money in the banks or leaving it at home.

The urgency has touched the pockets of many. “I have no choice but to believe that having the money in the bank will be the best because I can’t go around buying dollars to keep under the mattress,” Yuraimy González, one of the Banmet customers on Galiano street waiting to deposit money this Wednesday, tells this newspaper.

“What I do not want to happen is that they carry out the unification, and I’m left with cash in chavitos (CUCs) and that money loses value,” explains this 38-year-old from Havana. She is a self-employed worker in a hairdressing salon, with husband who has emigrated and sends her remittances, and she is committed to “putting everything in the bank and waiting to see what happens.”

The economist Pedro Monreal believes that the unification of exchange rates in Cuba, and especially the accompanying devaluation, “should be conceived as part of a broader set of measures.” The specialist believes that if unification and devaluation were “disconnected” events with respect to other measures, “it is likely that they will not work well.”

Depositing CUCs in a bank account can only be done through a teller’s window at a bank, because in the entire capital there are only seven ATMs where cash can be deposited in Cuban pesos (CUP) and none that do that function in convertible pesos.

“Banks are overburdened because there has also been a significant reduction in the number of currency exchanges (Cadecas) in this area of Centro Habana,” laments Luis, the guard at Galiano Street. The Cadecas, where a CUC is exchanged for 24 CUP, have decreased in number and opening hours in recent years.

In mid-2017, 26 branches of the 93 Metropolitan Banks in the capital extended their service hours to cope with an increase in operations. The traditional schedule of Monday to Friday, and alternate Saturdays, from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm, was extended to 7:30 pm in at least one branch per municipality.

However, in a tour of several branches, this newspaper confirmed that the closing time is seldom respected. Electricity cuts, closures for fumigation or for priority attention to customers from state companies significantly reduce the time allocated to private users.

“The end of the month has not yet arrived, which is when branches become busier because pensions start to be paid to retirees,” warns the administrator of another local Metropolitan Bank located on Belascoaín Street, who preferred anonymity. “We’ve had weeks when at closing time there are still many people outside who have not been able to do their transactions,” he says.

“The largest number of operations we are doing are deposits, the exchange of foreign currency and the sale of stamps for legal procedures, but many people simply ask if we know the date of the unification, but we do not have an answer,” adds the worker.

“If this is the case now, at the end of the month we will have to ask for reinforcements to organize the lines and to serve the public, because we can not cope.”


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.

Exodus of Drivers Leaves 700,000 Havanans Without Transport

Public transport is a sensitive issue in Cuba, especially in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE, 14ymedio, Havana, 14 March 2018 — The exodus of drivers who work in public transport “seriously affects mobility” in Havana, where each day 700,000 fewer passengers are transported, which translates into a deficit of 600,000 Cuban pesos (about $24,000), according to a report from directors of the state-owned Provincial Transport Company (EPTH) issued on Wednesday.

Currently the capital is short 86 bus drivers, resulting in 500 missed trips a day, on average, according to Juan Julián Caballero, General Director of Transportation in the city, speaking to the local press. continue reading

The “unprecedented departure” of these qualified professionals is due to the fact that they receive “more tempting offers of salary and schedules in other work centers,” together with the increase in demands and inspections, Caballero acknowledged.

Despite the responsibility and specialization required of drivers of public transport, mostly composed of large articulated buses, the basic salary of these drivers often does not exceed about $29 per month which is the average in the country .

In addition, they are required to meet quota of revenue per trip to obtain a bonus at the end of the month.

The terminals most affected by this “migration” are those located in the outlying neighborhoods of Alamar, San Agustín, Guanabacoa and Diezmero, according to a report published in the state newspaper Juventud Rebelde on Wednesday.

To alleviate this problem, the general director of the Provincial Transport Company of Havana announced that in the coming weeks a contingent of drivers from other regions of the country will arrive in the Cuban capital.

He also insisted that they keep open the call for all those who have the qualification and wish to enter this line of work.

Caballero stressed that despite the “economic limitations of the country, investments are maintained for the repair and restoration of buses and terminals.”

According to official data, more than one million passengers travel on public transport in Havana, where a one-way trip costs 40 cents CUP (Cuban peso; less than five cents US).

Public transport is a sensitive issue in Cuba, especially in Havana, where more than 2.5 of the more than 11 million inhabitants of the Caribbean country live.

On the island it is not usual for each family to own a car, so hundreds of thousands of people depend exclusively on state buses and private services, the latter of which are much more expensive due in part to high fuel prices and the high sums that the self-employed who rent cars must pay the Government.


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.

Cuban Banking System Lacks Infrastructure to Service Remittance Market

In the last eight years, the use of remittances has diversified to cover more of Cubans’ needs. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, 7 March 2018 — The Cuban banking system lacks the necessary infrastructure and technology to provide services to the overseas remittance market, which in 2017 totaled 3.575 billion dollars from the United States alone, according to a report issued on Tuesday by a consultant specializing in the Cuban economy.

The Miami-based Havana Consulting Group (THCG) released a report highlighting the “accelerated transformation” experienced by the Cuban remittance market since 2008, which is focused primarily on providing family support as well as footwear and clothing needs. continue reading

In fact, in the last eight years, the use of remittances has broadened to cover some of Cubans’ other needs, such as the costs of mobile phones, internet accounts, vacations and business investments.

Today even the purchase of cars, spare parts, mortgage payments, medical insurance and private tutors for college entrance exams are necessities that are paid for with remittances from the US, where more than 90% of them originate.

THCG predicts that remittances from the United States will rise to 5.285 billion dollars in 2025.

However, this economic landscape of family remittances — characterized as one of “transformation, diversification and growth” — is impacted by a banking system that lacks the infrastructure to offer adequate payment services and delivery channels.

“More than half a million private sector Cuban business people generate thousands of financial transactions daily that do not go through Cuban banks because the conditions do not exist to handle them,” writes Emilio Morales, president of THCG, in the company’s extensive report, which sheds light the Cuban consumer market.

Morales adds that a large part of these transactions are handled through “payment networks of remittance agencies and other informal channels.”

A financial activity that, according to the expert, costs Cuban banks tens of millions of dollars in potential profits every year “because they do not have the technological and digitized infrastructure capable of offering these services.”

There is currently no banking transfer system between US financial institutions and Cuban banks, and Cubans have “limited access to tools” that allow them to receive money directly from their bank accounts.

In this context, Cuban banks have a “great opportunity to insert themselves into the remittance payment networks” and to “create formal channels for Cuban entrepreneurs to conduct commercial transactions through banks.”

In addition to the fourteen existing categories, the firm has identified seven new ones for the use of remittances in the next eight years: water, electricity and mortgage payments, cruise vacations, medical insurance, car purchase or rental, and payment of cable or satellite television.

In Morales’ opinion a number of new “modalities” will have “a strong impact on the market and represent a great oportunity for Cuban banking.”


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.