Several Cuban Activists Arrested Protesting Ministry of Culture Decree 349

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arrests of Cuban Activists "Notoriously Greater" in November

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Exodus is the Consequence of Despair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Regenerative Power of NO!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cuba Risks a Christmas Without Rice on the Table

The rice imported from Vietnam is not popular among Cuban consumers (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 30 November 2018 — The end of the year is approaching and families are setting aside provisions for the December festivities. Beans, pork and salad can not be absent, but the most essential of all products is rice, the distribution of which in recent weeks has shown signs of an alarming shortage in supplies and a fall in quality.

With an annual national consumption that exceeds 700,000 tons, this essential ingredient is sold in three types of markets: the bodegas of the rationed system, stores that sell products for Cuban pesos (CUP), and the hard currency stores that only sell products in Cuban convertible pesos (CUC), each of which is worth 25 Cuban pesos. Shortages currently are affecting the latter two options and the customers are complaining about the poor quality of the rice that is available.

“We have had cuts in supplies and now consumers don’t like the rice that is being sold,” admits Suanny, a grocer in a market on San Lazaro Street in Havana, where imported rice costs 5 Cuban pesos a pound (roughly 25¢ USD). “People come by and ask if it is Brazilian, but when they find out it is Vietnamese, they do not want to buy it.” continue reading

In the midst of an escalation of accusations between Havana’s Revolution Square and the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, over the Mais Medico (More Doctors) program staffed by Cuban doctors who are being recalled to Cuba, Cuban consumers fear that the diplomatic chill will affect the arrival of the highly-valued rice. Even television comedians allude to its counterpart, the food of Asian origin, as “the worst nightmare” of the coming Christmas Eve.

Vietnam is the main exporter of rice to the Island because the national harvest covers barely a third of what is consumed on the island. According to official data, more than eleven million Cubans residing in the country eat an average of 11 pounds a month, more than 130 pounds per person per year. The vast majority of diners will say they have not eaten if there is no rice on their plate, both at lunch and dinner.

Suanny explains to this newspaper that the reasons for the rejection of the Vietnamese product are varied. “Many of the grains are broken and the smell it has, even if it is washed several times, is not pleasant,” he says. “Besides, it’s a type of rice that does not cook up with individual grains, but rather is sticky, and we don’t like it that way here.” Similar opinions are heard in all the markets, with the exception of stores in convertible pesos where the origin of the rice is different.

“We mainly sell one kilogram packages from Spain and Brazil that are well accepted,” explains Yaima, administrator of a small store in Vedado. While in the rationed market and in places that sell in the local currency there is only one variety and for a price up to six times higher, “of a type that is very good for making yellow rice, paellas and even risotto, as well as others of long grain of the variety basmati and the jasmine.”

Yaima explains that the main buyers of this variety are the private restaurants (paladares), the foreigners residing in the national territory and “the so-called ‘pots’ (new rich) who want something of higher quality.” In the last month in several stores, including Yaima’s, they had to “ration the sale of rice packages to five per person because the supply is not stable.”

With the increase of the private sector in recent years, especially in the restaurants with extensive menus for foreign tourists, “the purchase of this type of rice [sold in CUC], which previously sold very slowly, has grown a lot,” says the worker. “Now it’s among the products we sell the most, after chicken, sausages and oil.”

Some of those interviewed consider that Cuban rice is barely sold in convertible peso stores due to “quality problems” and “presentation.” Also because of the obstacles that the State still puts on the private farmers before they can place their goods on the shelves of stores in the internal trade network.

Domestic rice does not enjoy customers’ favor either. In agricultural markets, its price remains at 4 CUP, cheaper than imported rice. “It’s second because it’s very dirty with small stones, seeds and also grains with husks,” explains Wilfredo del Toro, who manages a market stall in a plaza in Marianao.

It is common for consumers to spend between 20 minutes and half an hour selecting, washing and “picking” the national or Vietnamese rice before they can cook it, a time that is prolonged if the grain comes from the fields of the Island, due to the lack of sorting machines that clean the product before it reaches the markets.

“It’s not just about harvesting more quality rice in the fields, but about achieving a better finish,” explains Josué Amorín, an agricultural engineer who has been dedicated to rice harvesting in Artemisa’s Güira area for a decade. “The selection and packaging are unaddressed issues in the sale of national rice, in that almost nothing has been achieved in recent years.”

“In the end, what the buyer takes home is a product that can not compete with the one sold in stores in convertible pesos, neither in quality nor in cleanliness,” says the engineer.

The rice is moved in hoppers or bags throughout the transport chain from the fields to the markets. Once at the market stalls it is also sold in bulk, which contributes to the addition of particles and dirt to the product. In the rationed market it is common for employees to add small stones or other objects to increase the weight, which leaves them a surplus to sell in illegal networks.

Currently, with the problems of shortages that are affecting several areas of the country, the practice of adulterating the national rice has also exploded. This November the planting for the cold season has started and the problems with the quality of the seed already foretell that the goal of planting 139,000 hectares can not be met.

“The grain we have is a variety that demands a lot of water and is quite fragile,” a rice grower explains by telephone to 14ymedio from the  Aguada de Pasajeros area in Cienfuegos, who prefers anonymity. “In the technological package (a module that the State sells to the producers) we have distributed a rice for sowing that is very deteriorated.”

The farmer points to the problems with irrigation systems, “in very poor condition given the years and lack of maintenance,” together with the difficulties of drying and transporting the grain once it is harvested, as the main brakes suffered by the sector. “Getting bags [to package it in] is a headache,” he says.

The Rice Development Program, managed by the State but with a majority of producers located in cooperatives and private farms, aims to reach a production of 400,000 tons by 2020. But the forecast, according to several specialists consulted by this newspaper, seems too optimistic and even counterproductive for the country’s economy.

In the opinion of Israel Lugo Hernández, technical-productive director of the Rice Technology Division, reaching these figures depends not only on seeds and machinery, but also on how the rains behave in the coming years, especially over the territories of Granma, Camagüey and Sancti Spíritus, the regions where the grain is most sown.

For engineer Josué Amorín such a forecast is a “pure dream.” Rice production “demands water availability that is impossible to guarantee throughout the process in a country that has had serious drought problems in recent years and that, according to forecasts, may worsen in the future.” The specialist believes that “we must concentrate not on increasing the production numbers too much, but on the quality of the rice that is arriving at the tables.”

In his opinion “an appropriate combination of national production and imports would be more advisable than trying to grow everything here.”

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

Taking Care of Children and Then Grandchildren

The role played by older people increases when one of their children emigrates. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernández, Havana, November 29, 2018 — Preparing snacks, picking up the girls after classes, and staying on top of keeping the school uniforms clean. A good part of the daily routine of Clara Rojos, 74, is focused on her two granddaughters, aged 10 and 11, who she has taken care of since their mother emigrated to Miami. From there she is trying to bring them over via a family reunification process that has taken more than five years.

Clara Rojas is “mother and father” to the two girls, as she explains to 14ymedio. In parks, outside schools, and in the vicinity of childcare centers, it is common to see these gray-haired heads accompanying minors. Sometimes they do it to help out the rest of the family, but in other cases they are the only support these children have.

According to an investigation conducted by the Law Faculty of Marta Abreu University, in Villa Clara, currently Cuba includes “more grandparents in the raising of grandchildren, now that, in general, both parents have a lot of work and social activity, and they spend little time with their children.” The role played by older people increases when one of their children emigrates. continue reading

For Clara Rojas, being in charge of her two granddaughters brings her many advantages and a “mountain of problems.” “I get up every day and I have the energy to go on because I can’t leave them alone,” she says. A study carried out in Germany indicates that elderly people who on an occasional or permanent basis take care of their grandchilren “tend to live longer than the elderly who don’t take care of other people.”

However, the diligent grandmother recognizes that she is a little old to share with the girls certain passions, like using new technologies, “listening to reggaeton, or helping them with their math homework.” She calculates that in the next three years, when the girls reunite with their family in Florida, she will have time to dedicate to herself and “do a bunch of unresolved things” that right now she can’t do because she doesn’t have the time.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for 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.

First Ladies: An Untapped Potential in Latin America

After more than five decades in which the power had hair on its chest and only used skirts as a secondary support, a woman accompanies the president on his international engagements. It is a serious problem that she does not say anything.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 27 November 2018 — In times when there is so much talk of women’s demands, of campaigns with #MeToo-style labels, and of questioning the treatment of women in the media, it is worth reflecting on the figure of the First Lady in so many governments in Latin America.

In contrast to some European nations, and of specific moments in the administrations in the United States, in this part of the world that ranges from the Rio Grande to Patagonia, the person accompanying the president has barely used her influence and media exposure to bring messages of renewal to a female audience. She has been, rather, a “beautiful adornment” that follows the president to his public speeches, to the signing of agreements or on international tours, but she has been far from carrying herself as someone with a voice of her own who addresses the nation.

What if she used her position to influence something beyond clothes or hairstyles? The Latin American first ladies should break the mold of a beautiful face that assents to everything her husband does and throw themselves into promoting new roles, demanding spaces and launching those life stories that help the women of this region shake off disrespect and violence. continue reading

There are very gray cases, such as that of the recently premiered first lady of Cuban Lis Cuesta, the first female name that is officially linked to a president in more than half a century. After more than five decades in which power had hair on his chest and only used skirts as a secondary support, we see a woman who takes the president’s hand and accompanies him on his international engagements. It is a serious problem that she does not say anything, but we do not know if it is because of her own desire for “invisibility” or because she is prevented from doing so.

It matters little whether she shares spaces with the highest Chinese authorities or walks through the streets of London, the big problem is that we Cubans do not know the tone of her voice or what she thinks about the most critical issues of the nation.

In other Latin American countries the problem would be one of media over-exposure or the banal use of the figure of the first lady by the gossip media or fashion press to discuss the inches of her hemline or the quality of her makeup. However, in countries like this island where I live, the voice of the ruler’s wife seems to be suppressed as her very existence is shown as a “weak” diversion of the ideology in power, a “mannered” gesture of authority.

It is already time for this person who accompanies the highest office in the country to stop being pure decoration. She should not be presented like a flowery curtain that does not speak, like a beautiful vase and – much less – like an artificial flower that should always look fresh and perfumed, even in the worst moments.

A first lady must be the mirror for many Latin American women to see their potential reflected, a powerful call to realize projects and a reflection of what will come in the future. Will the ladies of the Palace be willing to subvert their wardrobes for real influence, to exchange heels for social endeavors? We all hope so.

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Note: This column was originally published in the Latin American edition of the Deutsche Welle chain.

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.

Through its Doctors, Cuba Influences Global Health Programs

Cuban doctors equipped for emergency missions. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 21 November 2018 — Perhaps never before has a Latin American leader been able to raise such a stir before his inauguration as the newly elected Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, has done. His proposal is to grant work, with full salary and permanent residence for them and their families to the doctors who work in the Mais Médicos (More Doctors) program, after they revalidate their credentials in Brazil, has provoked a drastic response from Havana, which has announced the departure of Cuba from the program and has ordered its health professionals to return to Cuba.

The fate of Cuban doctors in Brazil has become one of the most prominent issues in numerous media and social networks. It has, once again, focused on the many dark stains of the humiliating exploitation system that has been systematically applied by the Cuban Government to these professionals, and it has also stirred passions between the critics of the Castro regime and some of the faithful who – in spite of all the evidence – still justify and defend it.

Thus, while a growing chorus calls for the doctors’ insurgency, urging them to defect and to continue offering their services in the communities where they have been working so far – this time receiving all the advantages offered by the new Brazilian president – certain voices of the radical left regret what they consider a low blow to a program that has brought primary health care to the most impenetrable and poor places in Brazil where it did not exist before. continue reading

The questionable decision of the Cuban regime to withdraw the doctors has exposed the true interests behind the Castro pantomime of solidarity, altruism, cooperation and Latin American brotherhood. The fate of millions of poor Brazilians who receive basic care thanks to Cuban professionals is completely irrelevant to the Palace of the Revolution.  Their concern is the irreparable loss of the more than 300 million dollars it has been receiving annually, lifted from the doctors’ salaries.

The questionable decision of the Cuban regime to withdraw its doctors has exposed the true interests behind the Castro pantomime of solidarity

The loss of such lucrative income constitutes a devastating and possibly irreparable blow for the Castro regime. And for greater injury, the Island masters would also lose a good part of the supply of skilled workers in conditions of semi-slavery that have brought them so much wealth over the years.

In the middle of the political tug-of-war from this or the other side, the future of doctors and patients gets decided. On November 19th, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the new specialized agency of the inter-American system, the intermediary between the Mais Médicos program promoted in 2013 by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and the Cuban Government, launched a statement that reflects an identical instrumental perception of Cuba’s medical personnel and reinforces the customary congratulatory position towards the Cuban authorities. At the same time, it distances itself from the conflict and avoids committing itself to the free hiring of Cuban doctors, by clarifying that “the Organization has agreements with the governments of both countries (Cuba and Brazil, in this case) for Mais Médicos, but it does not enter into contracts with doctors…”

“Cuba has the highest number of physicians per one thousand inhabitants in the world, 7.5,” said the note, pointing out where their sympathies are by mentioning that the lack of doctors in Brazil motivated the signing of the agreement, since Cuba has “extensive experience in providing doctors.”

Nothing else is needed. It is clear that PAHO needs the Cuban dictatorship as medical personnel guarantor to cover the programs of the organization. The fact that Havana uses its doctors as semi-slave labor, both in this and in other international programs in which it participates, in open violation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the International Bill of Human Rights created to watch over the guarantee, among others, also of the labor rights of these doctors and other Cuban health professionals, is only a minor detail for PAHO, despite its being a body affiliated with the World Health Organization (WHO)

It becomes clear that PAHO needs the Cuban dictatorship as guarantor of medical personnel to cover the programs of the organization

Thus, and without detracting from the importance of the existence of agencies that promote cooperation between countries and governments in favor of primary health care for all, and the undeniable ability of these to promote general policies aimed at preventing epidemics and chronic diseases, develop vaccination programs and reduce child mortality among the most vulnerable population groups, among other commendable functions, both PAHO and WHO have left their serious limitations exposed.  By applying the maxim “the end justifies the means” they manage to fulfill their functions with relative success, and justify their own existence, but they violate important legal instruments established by the UN and become accomplices of a long dictatorship.

Thus, the essential remains in the background. The Mais Médicos program was created, at least on paper, to provide medical services to millions of people from the poorest social sectors of Brazil, not to fatten the coffers of the Cuban dictatorship. Therefore, both international organizations, PAHO and WHO, in their roles as coordinators, should not be limited to being just intermediaries between the party that pays for the services (Brazil) and the one that provides the labor and benefits from the highest gains (Cuba), let alone take sides with one of these parties and, consequently, political interests that have nothing to do with the health of vulnerable populations.

Perhaps this is a good time for both organizations to reconsider their commitments and assume a more coherent vision in the future between the fulfillment of their programs and the basic principles that justify the very existence of the United Nations. Perhaps it is time for the competent organizations to remind Cuba that the UN Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are still waiting to be ratified by the Cuban government.

There is no doubt that Bolsonaro’s proposal has been more effective and forceful than the US embargo itself

In the case of the crisis of the Cuban doctors in Brazil, the ideal would have been if, from the current crisis, they had established a new contract in which Cuban doctors were acknowledged with the sacred labor right to collect their salaries in full and, in return, fully carry out their duties in places needing their services. But the PAHO statement has closed that door. The bureaucrats coordinating world health know that wherever financial resources appear to apply the health programs that justify their own existence, qualified manpower is usually scarce to carry them out. Hence, they tip the scales in favor of Havana.

Only Cuba, possessing an army of poor and poorly paid physicians, subordinate to the will of political power in exchange for ridiculous salaries, can guarantee the necessary human capital for such missions. International organizations try not to irritate the owner of the only resource they lack with uncomfortable demands or suggestions.

And so it is that we will have to continue the saga until the curtain falls on this new soap opera that is capturing the attention of the regional public. Meanwhile, and in spite of the accolades, the Cuban regime continues fanning the flames. There is no doubt that Bolsonaro’s proposal has been more effective and forceful than the US embargo itself, and that 2018 is probably proving to be the worst year endured by the Castro regime since the fall of the Soviet Union and the disappearance of the Eastern Europe socialist bloc.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

Black Friday Arrives in Cuba in the Hands of Private Businesses

Websites selling products that can be shipped to Cuba try to motivate users to join Black Friday. “Free delivery for orders over $100!” (Screen Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 23 November 2018 — Without long lines outside stores or massive orders via Amazon or store windows decorated for the occasion, we have Black Friday in Cuba, a practice that has come  with the private sector and that this year has featured extensive offerings in the informal market.

“If you send text message with the #BlackFriday hashtag, we discount 20%,” says an ad spread across several websites offering purchases and shipments to Cuba. Benefitting from the sales are both Cuban emigrants who send products to family and friends in Cuba, as well as self-employed entrepreneurs who order the merchandise to sell on the Island. The offers are included range from dishes, through mobile phones to food supplements. continue reading

“It’s about motivating people to join this practice of Black Friday that is increasingly spreading to more countries,” says Yusimí, 40, an informal saleswoman of toiletries, cosmetics and vitamins. “This year we have had many orders and we have also offered special combos for the date.”

Originating in the United States, “Black Friday” marks the start of the Christmas shopping season and is characterized by its significant reductions in prices. Custom now dictates that  Cyber Monday is celebrated on the following Monday. Its original intention was to boost digital sales that had once taken place on “Black Friday” in physical stores, but today these borders do not exist and “Cyber Monday” focuses on selling technological products at tempting prices both on-line and in street-front stores.

As a practical matter, Cubans living on the island cannot make online purchases because very few have a credit card. For this they depend on emigrants, and thanks to them and to the sites that ship to Cuba they can take advantage of these offers. “Sales and gifts, free delivery,” read an email sent to thousands of people and intended for Cuban emigrants. The discounts were only valid until 23:59 on Friday.

Nobody is surprised by these options because, little by little, certain festivities and traditions that come directly from Cuban emigrants in the United States have entered the island reality. “We are taking advantage of the two-day opportunity because Thursday is Thanksgiving and Friday is Black Friday,” explains Duaney, a merchant who specializes in footwear and appliances.

Although the state stores, the only ones that legally exist in the country, did not show a single sign that this Friday was commercially special, the private sellers filled that absence. “Two for the price of one,” “spend your black Friday here, so you do not miss the sales,” “it’s not Monday and it’s not Tuesday … it’s Black Friday,” were some of the improvised slogans of a sector of sales that officialdom limits.

Since the authorities banned self-employed workers from selling imported merchandise at the end of 2013, the inspectors persecute those who market these goods. But instead of disappearing, merchants have retreated to the black market and now widely use classified sites to place their products. A mobile phone number placed in an advertisement is the primary link to contact the sellers.

Instead of an automatic recording, José Luis, 38, repeats in his own voice the Black Friday sales every time an interested party calls. “If you want an appliance, the rebates are up to 15% this Friday and if you are looking for clothes, shoes or perfume we have discounts up to 35%,” he says on the phone to everyone who calls.

“We have to take advantage of this day when people have more desire to buy,” explains this young man who was born and raised in a Cuba where the government harshly stigmatized words such as “business,” “profits” and “merchant.” Part of a wide network of people who do not study or work in state-run workplaces, José Luis defines himself as “a great servant, who serves the clients what they need.”

However, he also takes advantage of the pull of consumption to peddle products that sell better accompanied by others or that
move slowly,” as he calls them. “We have good cologne, shaving foam and perfumes for men,” he explains and “for children there are backpacks with Wonder Woman and Spiderman.”

Others reject the arrival of these commercially focused dates of foreign influence. “We have reached a point where Halloween is celebrated more than Mother’s Day and where Cubans in Miami dictate to the family here that they should eat turkey instead of pork,” a retiree complained on Thursday, as he stood in line at a Western Union office on 3rd street in Havana’s Miramar district.

Most of those waiting to collect their remittances sent by relatives from the United States had a plan to celebrate Thanksgiving, more to please their families across the Straits of Florida than becuase of their own desires. Some also thought to set aside some of the money to spend on Black Friday.

The compulsion to buy that characterizes this Friday in other regions of the planet is still limited in the island, where in recent months the shortages of products have worsened in the network of official stores. So it is not uncommon to find “two-door refrigerators” for sale on the black market while state markets post a sign saying “out of salt.”

Black Friday has also coincided with the days dedicated to second anniversary remembrances of the late leader Fidel Castro, a bitter enemy of consumption. “With him in the Government, none of this would have been possible,” speculates José Luis, the seller. While in state markets posters with the face of the Commander in Chief are seen, the young merchant’s small illegal shop offers brands such as Adidas, Nike, Huawei and Dolce & Gabbana.

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

The Chicken Will Also be "Cubañol"

Currently, most imported chicken in Cuba is from the US or Brazil (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernández, Havana, 26 November 2018 — Chicken is the food that stars on Cuban tables, beyond the traditional pork, the longed-for beef or the scarce fish. With the product shortages  having intensified in recent years, the legs and thighs of these birds have become the main source of animal protein for many families, a market that will now be entered by a Spanish production company.

The Cuban government is in negotiations with the Spanish company Kodysa to create a joint venture that will supply three out of every ten chickens consumed on the island, according to an announcement during the recently concluded official visit of Pedro Sánchez, president of the Spanish Government.

Kodysa is a construction and engineering company that also has an agri-food sector among its business areas. The multinational has poultry complexes in Andalusia and a company dedicated to the preparation of poultry products. continue reading

The first step was the signing of a memorandum of understanding to launch a 50 million euro project through which a mixed capital company will produce 400,000 fresh chickens a week for the Cuban market, a product with a broad demand which, today, is mostly imported from Brazil and the United States.

Kodysa chicken production

The Cuban poultry industry is going through a bad time, hit last September by Hurricane Irma and last May by the subtropical storm Michael, which damaged numerous chicken farms along the northern coast and in the western part of the country, although most of them were dedicated to egg production.

“We have very little production of chicken for meat consumption because of the issue of feed for growth and fattening, which is not easily achieved,” explains Luis Abreu by phone to 4ymedio. Abreu, 53, works on a poultry farm near the community of Las Terrazas in Artemisa. “Here we are dedicated to laying hens but right now we are below half of our capacity.”

Problems with the roofs of farm buildings, the supply of water to keep the hen-houses clean and the delicate issue of feed, makes it difficult for the animals to enjoy “the minimum conditions to lay all the eggs they could, much less to raise a chicken to a certain weight in a short period of time,” Abreu laments.

At the farm, a group of sorters reviews the newly hatched chicks and separates out the females, which will go to areas with special lighting to supply them with heat and later to the laying sheds to use for egg production. Those classified as males “go to feed the pigs,” says the employee.

The depressed local industry forces Cuba to import more than 80% of the food consumed on the island, including more than 120,000 tons of chicken meat. In 2017, Alberto Ramírez, president of the Cuban Society of Poultry Producers (SOCPA), confirmed to the official press that “the [national] production of meat is practically nil.”

Under the agreement with Kodysa, chickens could cover up to 30% of local demand, which includes not only domestic consumption, but also a portion of the needs of hotels and private businesses, a sector hit hard by the shortages.

The Spaniards are committed to guaranteeing the supply of animal feed, the weakest point of Cuban industry, and one that must be watched with greater zeal. “One of the main problems of meat production in Cuba is the diversion [i.e. theft] of resources from state companies to the informal market,” said Maritza Rojas, a Villa Clara native who worked for two decades as an accountant on a poultry farm, speaking to this newspaper.

“Private producers are sold barely any feed, so this product sells very well on the black market,” she explains. “Any place where chickens are raised, we have to watch the feed more than the birds, because it disappears little by little.” The accountant thinks that “it is still too expensive to produce chickens in Cuba” because of “the lack of infrastructure and so much theft.”

In the last two decades, the United States has been the greatest supplier of chicken to the Island, especially the so-called “dark meat” (thigh and leg-thigh). In November of 2017, after several months of  Donald Trump’s tenure in the White House, more than $21 million in agricultural products and food was sold to Cuba, almost $17 million of which was frozen chicken.

However, Havana must pay cash for the these products, as established by the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act, which the US Congress approved in 2000.

Brazil also supplies much of the whole chicken that ends up on Cuban tables, particularly the companies Frangosul and Perdix, JBS and BRF, although political relations between Cuba and Brazil have deteriorated. Havana has a debt with the Brazilian National Development Bank of more than 600 million dollars that it has committed to settle, although this year alone it needs to renegotiate arrears in the amount of 110 million dollars for 2018.

Local production of chickens would alleviate the spending on imports and bring a fresher product to Cuban tables, but the agreement with Kodysa still has no firm date to go into effect.

*Translator’s note: Cubañol: a combination of Cuban and Spanish (español)

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

Cuban Government Offers Customs Advantages to the Doctors in Brazil

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 November 2018 —  The Cuban doctors in Brazil will have customs advantages to import their belongings, according to a note from the authorities of the Ministry of Public Health, to which 14ymedio had access. The flexibilization has been accompanied by pressure on their family members to convince the doctors to return to the island.

The announcement comes a few days after the Cuban government announced the withdrawal of the more than 8,300 doctors who are working in the Mais Medicos (More Doctors) program in Brazil, after the president-elect of that country, Jair Bolsonaro, offered these health professionals political asylum if they decide to avail themselves of it.

“To support them and reduce expenses, we decided that for everyone who sends unaccompanied cargo to Cuba by different means, that cargo will be considered as Household Items, which implies not paying the duties in any currency,” explains the Medical Mission’s communication. continue reading

Even doctors who had already traveled on vacation to the island will be allowed to import additional products paying in the national currency, an exception to the strict Cuban customs rules that require payment in hard currency after the first annual importation.

However, for many of the professionals these measures are not enough. “It costs money to send our equipment to Cuba. What are we going to come with if they announce the end of the mission from one day to the next?” says one doctor under the condition of anonymity.

The other option that the authorities have given is for the doctors to sell everything they have and bring the cash. “I’m trying to sell everything I have. But what I can’t sell I will take to Cuba. I do not know if I can take a container on the plane, but what is certain is that I’m not going to leave it here,” said a doctor in a voice message sent to the directors of the mission through WhatsApp.

Another doctor regretted that they were only allowed to carry 40 kilograms (88 pounds) on the plane home. “I’m taking my air conditioner with me,” he said. “Look for two planes because I’m taking everything, doctor. Look for two planes because all I can get for an AC is 100 reales and I will not sell it because it cost me 2,200 reales. I do not know if they are going to find me a separate plane,” he added in a voice message to the directors of the Medical Mission.

Doctors are dismayed by the authorities’ recent visits to their relatives on the island to pressure them to return. “They went to visit my daughters. They are minors, they are girls. However, they went there and asked them if their mother had told them that she was going to stay in Brazil and that they should tell me not to stay, to return to the country,” lamented one doctor in communication with this newspaper.

Another doctor denounced the visits they made to his mother on his Facebook profile. “As my house was empty they went to my mother’s house. For the first time, she had the pleasure of seeing the family doctor who had never visited her despite her having suffered a heart attack and having blood pressure problems. They went to threaten her with measures in case I stayed in Brazil,” said the doctor.

In the official media, the campaign against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has also been strong. “Puppet of imperialism, fascist, far right” are the descriptors used by Cuban Television.

In a recent interview, the provincial director of the Ministry of Public Health in Guantánamo, Roilder Romero Frómeta, insisted that “there will be no reason for the desertion of health personnel” in Brazil.

Romero, former coordinator of Mais Medicos, said that those returning from Brazil will not be “regulated” — the official term used to describe the act of banning individuals from traveling outside the country — and may emigrate if they wish, but threatened those who break the contract and take refuge in the asylum offered by Bolsonaro with the application of the law that prevents them from returning to Cuba for any reason for eight years. “Health professionals in an official mission who have left have may not enter the country for eight years. There is no reason for them to defect,” he said.

On Friday, the president-elect of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, said that the situation of Cuban doctors is “practically slavery” and reiterated his promise of asylum for those wishing to leave the Cuban medical mission. Bolsonaro also considered it “unfair” and “inhumane” to assign the medical attention of Cuban professionals who have “no guarantee of quality,” to the poorest Brazilians.

The statement refers to Cuba’s refusal to have its doctors take the necessary examination for any foreign doctor working in Brazil. According to the president-elect, the government of Brazil has never had proof that the professionals sent by Cuba are competent.

Bolsonaro’s demands for Cuba’s continued participation in the Mais Medicos program, include requiring Cubans doctors to take the Brazilian examination for the revalidation of their credentials; requiring the full salary paid for each doctor be paid directly to the doctor (currently the Cuban government keeps 75% of the payment); and the right for the doctors’ family members to live with them in Brazil for the full period of their mission.

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

Doctors Continue Returning From Brazil While Revelations About the ‘More Doctors’ Program Are On-Going

Doctors continue arriving from Brazil after the Cuba’s break with that country’s Mais Medicos (More Doctors) program. (Granma/Juvenal Balán)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana | November 26, 2018 — Vice-President Salvador Valdés Mesa and the Minister of Public Health, José Ángel Portal, welcomed the second group of Cuban doctors to return to the Island following the Government’s decision not to continue with the Mais Médicos (More Doctors) program. The contingent, made up of 203 doctors from Brazil, arrived Sunday morning at the José Martí International Airport in Havana.

The deputy minister of the department, Luis Fernando Navarro, directed a few words to the doctors, whom he distinguished for their solidarity and commitment to travel to the most remote places in Brazil where the population has less access to health care.

Meanwhile, in Brazil, details of the creation of the Mais Médicos program with Cuban participation have become known. The leaks of telegrams that reconstruct the negotiations carried out between the governments of Havana and Brasila have revealed details until now unknown such as the length of the talks, which began at least a year before the program was announced, or Cuba’s request for payment of $8,000 monthly per doctor. continue reading

In March 2012 a Cuban mission visited Brazil and made proposals ranging from “sending doctors and nurses” to consulting “for the construction of hospitals” and for the development of health systems”, at advantageous prices, according to Alexandre Ghisleni, in charge of business on the Island

On April 4, representatives from the Federal Council of Medicine, the Brazilian Medical Association and the National Federation of Physicians went to Planalto Palace (the official seat of the president of Brazil) to protest against these agreements, then still in the shadows, but then Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff did not confirm them, although she did not deny them, either.

In June 2012, the Ministry of Health organized a visit to Havana to address the creation of the medical program for providing health professionals in remote areas of the country. For the embassy, the project was “initiated in a reserved way, in view of the concern about repercussions from the Brazilian medical community due to the entrance of the doctors.”

The delegation was led by Secretary Mozart Sales of the Ministry of Health, and included Alberto Kleiman, then international adviser of the portfolio and now the current director of international relations and associations for the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO).

“The Brazilian side proposed payment $4,000 ($3,000 for the Cuban government and $1,000 for the doctor),” states one of the telegrams. “The Cuban side, for its part, said that it had assumed $8,000 per doctor and made a counter offer of $6,000 ($5,000 for the government and $1,000 for the doctor).

The Cuban authorities demanded that the evaluation of the doctors take place in Cuba and that Brazil limit itself to “familiarizing the doctors, above all, in the language and the procedural and administrative practices of the legislation”.

The papers document the Brazilian suggestion that the payment to the Cuban government be made through what they called a “compensation system” to settle the debts of Havana with the National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES), which financed the large works of construction in the port of Mariel, among other projects.

Given Cuba’s refusal and Brazil’s fear of having to request the approval of Congress, it was decided at the last minute to triangulate the business by making payment to the PAHO, which would contract with Cuba, which would in turn hire the doctors.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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

Latin American Despair

The leaders of the left, Hugo Chávez, Dilma Rousseff, José Mujica and Cristina Fernández. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 24 November 2018 — Guy Sorman is a notable French thinker. He recently published an article in ABC de Madrid entitled “The future recedes in Latin America.” It is a brilliant and desperate text. Well meaning, but desperate.

He goes on to say that in Latin America we have tried everything, and everything, uselessly, we have pulverized. Liberalism in Argentina, originating with Alberdi and Sarmiento. The enlightened despotism of Mexico with Porfirio Diaz and his “scientists.” The statism with the Mexican Revolution of 1911. The military dictatorships of Pinochet and Stroessner, and the civilian dictatorships with Somoza and Fujimori. Communism with the Castros, with Chavez and Maduro, with the first Daniel Ortega (the second Daniel Ortega is Somoza revived, but with more homicidal furor).

The strange thing about our culture is that, instead of correcting what is wrong, we renounce our successes and insist, periodically, on our mistakes. It still reverberates, from time to time, the old Maoism at the hand of a wounded but not buried Shining Path, although Mao does not exist in China, beyond a rhetorical reverence. continue reading

It is amazing to hear Pablo Iglesias, the leader of “Podemos” in Spain, be envious of what is happening in Venezuela, as if he were willing to repeat in his own country the terrible devastation that occurred in the once prosperous oil paradise.

I remember a young woman from Guayaquil screaming at me, incensed, that “in Ecuador we need a couple of Tirofijos.” She was referring to the Colombian bandit who caused so many losses to his native country. The incident took place at the Catholic University of Guayaquil. The appearance of the truculent girl – blonde, beautiful, green-eyed, well-dressed – was bourgeois.

Why did the Argentines interrupt the impetuous road to development and prosperity they had followed until Hipólito Yrigoyen was deposed by a fascist military coup in 1930? In Argentina there were problems, but none prevented the country from being part of the First World in almost all aspects, and especially in education. That coup was the prologue to Peronism and the total collapse of the Argentine miracle that had begun with the liberal Constitution of 1853.

Why was Fidel Castro not able to understand, in 1959 – when he, his brother Raúl, Che and another small group of communists clung to the Soviet model and chose the path of totalitarianism – that there were enough indications (for example, the German and Austrian miracle) that demonstrated the superiority of “liberal democracy” instituted by the economist Ludwig Erhard?

Such was Fidel’s ideological blindness that he was not even able to understand the example of his own father, Angel Castro, a humble Galician peasant, astute as a fox and laborious as an ant, who, when he died in 1957, bequeathed to his family capital of eight million dollars, an agricultural company that gave jobs to dozens of people, a school, and even a cinema run by Juanita Castro, a contemporary of Raúl, who has been exiled in Miami since the 1960s.

Sorman, who knows in depth the bloody history of Europe, rightly alleges that “in Europe the ancient nations, very different from each other for centuries, are gradually coming to an agreement on the best possible regime, liberal democracy.” While in Latin America “everyone cultivates their uniqueness, learns nothing from their neighbor and the exchanges are practically nonexistent.”

We are not able to perceive the leap towards modernity and development Chile has been given, today a country on the threshold of the First World through a fortunate combination of markets, private property, control of public spending, and national savings – thanks to the reviled pension plan created by the economist José Piñera – and freedoms.

Why do not we correct the shortcomings and adjust what is worth saving instead of undoing everything and moving to the other direction of the pendulum, as president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador promises to do in Mexico, to the terror of investors?

The United States, which unwittingly created “liberal democracy” after 1787, when it promulgated the country’s first and only Constitution, grew little by little, modifying the course with each election, wise to the extraordinary importance of placing everyone under the rule of law.

Will the example of Chile catch on? I don’t know. I hope so, but when one sees the destructive vocation of the left and the extreme right, what happens to Guy Sorman happens to you: you are overcome by total and absolute despair.

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

Cuban Chess Masters Criticize the Precarious Situation of the Sport on the Island

The sports authorities attribute the poor results of Cuban chess to the departures from this sport on the island like that of Lázaro Bruzón’s . (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Miami, 20 November 2018 — The wave of disagreements between the best Cuban chess players and sports authorities never ceases. After the declarations of Lázaro Bruzón last September against the authorities of the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (Inder) for their exclusion from the national preselection process for refusing to return to Cuba, now the protests against this institution come from the pen of Yuniesky Quesada and Alejandro Yanes. Both chess players have published in social networks the complaints and wishes of their guild on the island.

This past November 13, Quesada, an International Grand Master (GM), published a comment  on his Facebook wall criticizing the chess authorities on the island, which received great support among the chess players. The sportsman recounted that in the years he represented Cuba, he did not feel valued by Inder or by the National Chess Commission. “In addition to injustices perpetrated against me throughout my career, even while being ranked as the third best player in the country since 2008, I have felt unmotivated in the last few years,” confessed Quesada. continue reading

At the beginning of this month another chess player, Alejandro Yanes, a Master of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), wrote on his Facebook wall a list of nine points that summarized, in his opinion, the complaints of Cuban chess players and their possible solutions. According to Yanes, he developed the document after “long hours of talking with players both in Cuba as well as those residing abroad” while also relying on his personal experience.

The sportsman, 34, invited his colleagues to contribute to the text with the aim of achieving “awareness of the grave condition” of chess on the island. After the publication of the note, the recent scandals and the declarations of Bruzón, for Yanes now “the ball” is in the court of the sports authorities and “they can no longer state that they are unaware of the current situation”.

Yanes calls for the authorities that represent the players “to demand access to the Internet from the central agencies of the State” because he believes that in the current context “there can’t be a chess player that can reach elite status” without this tool.

In addition, he requests “making public and transparent” the regulations and classification clauses for tournaments that affect chess players so that they aren’t changed annually “depending on the person who they wish to benefit or harm”. In a similar vein, he demanded transparency in the “budget dedicated to chess by the central body of the State”, claiming that they have the right to know “how it is invested.”

Among the nine written points, Yanes asks the Cuban Chess Federation that every athlete who is a member of this entity has the right “to play for their country in Cuban and foreign events” and that the organization has the obligation to reclaim their titles before the FIDE, even if they are overseas. He also demands the authorities not give priority in any tournament held on the island “to a chess player or foreign official to the detriment of the national athletes”.

“It would be good to supervise the Capablanca Tournaments where many foreigners receive lodgings from the state budget, while many Cuban International Masters get neither accommodation nor lodging,” he denounced, in accordance with his own experiences. He also pointed out irregularities when delivering the prizes of the event. “While foreign chess players are paid in cash at the end of the contest, Cubans are paid years later,” he commented.

Meanwhile, the Cuban Federation and the National Chess Commission look the other way. According to a document published by Alejandro Yanes on Monday, the authorities blame the bad results in the last Chess Olympiad on the “loss” of those “key athletes” who guarantee the highest level of play in this type of competition. The solution proposed by these authorities is to give “priority to ideological political work” and to the “formation of values”.

The latest results of Cuban chess in international events have been described by experts as the worst in decades. In the Olympiad, which took place last month in Batumi (Georgia), the men’s team finished in 61st place, their worst showing ever, while the women’s team finished in 27th place.

The precarious situation of chess on the island is causing the flight of Cuban chess players. Both Bruzón and Quesada today form part of the roster of the Webster University chess team, in the United States, and were already selected to play during the 2018-2019 season.

“Now I feel that I can continue improving my chess. Here at the university we have a very strong team and there is a lot of professionalism in the training which helps to increase the level of chess. I also have aspirations to make it a career”, Quesada said on the social network.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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