Cuba Will Issue Stamps with Fidel Castro Despite Legal Prohibition

Stamp to be issued in the Island to commemorate the relations between Cuba and North Korea. (123rf.com)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 4 October 2018 – Next week Cuba will issue the first stamp dedicated to Fidel Castro since the death of the former leader almost two years ago, according to reports from the state entities Correos de Cuba (Cuba’s Post Office) and the Federación Filatélica (Philatelic Federation) speaking to media in Havana.

A month after the death of the former leader, in November of 2016, the National Assembly of People’s Power unanimously approved a bill which prohibited marketing Fidel’s image and the use of his name in public spaces, but this has not prevented the post office from publishing a new stamp. continue reading

The stamp dedicated to Fidel will be part of a postal series dedicated to emblematic patriots of Cuba — among them José Martí, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Ignacio Agramonte and the Maceo family — whose inaugural printing will take place on Tuesday October 9 in the city of Bayamo, in Granma provinces, the entities told the ruling party newspaper Trabajadores (Workers).

The series will be issued to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the October 10, 1868 uprising, which marked the beginning of the struggles for Cuban independence from Spain.

Born in 1926, Fidel Castro governed Cuba from the 1959 Revolution until he fell ill in 2006, when he left power in the hands of his brother Raúl, and he died a decade later on November 25, 2016.

The first stamps with a young Fidel date from shortly after the Revolution as part of the state’s policy to support the cult of personality of the leader, but since his death no stamps had been issued with the face that exercised absolute power in Cuba during more than four and a half decades.

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.

More Than Half of the Activists Arrested in Cuba in September Were Women

Berta Soler (center, holding cardboard sign), leader of the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco), was arrested during a demonstration in Havana. (Ladies in White)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 October 2018 — More than half of those arrested for political reasons in Cuba this September were women, according to the report of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN). The organization counts 224 arbitrary arrests this month.

“Peaceful dissidents and activists of the independent civil society” were confined, “under generally inhumane and degrading conditions, in police stations or other authorized places,” detailed the document prepared by the independent organization based in Havana.

“The number of arbitrary detentions registered in September was practically the same as in the previous month of August (229)” and “some detentions extended for more than 24 hours,” detailed the CCDHRN. continue reading

The report pays special attention to the case of the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, who “this Sunday, September 30 was arrested with unusual violence and a dangerous injury to in her right eyeball.”

“Much more than half of the arrests were of women, most of them members of the Ladies in White movement,” says the report. The Commission also recorded during September “23 harassments and 4 physical aggressions against opponents who were not detained.”

“The situation of Tomás Nuñez Magdariaga, an activist of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, who has been on hunger strike for 49 days, in protest at the 1-year prison sentence imposed on him, is particularly disturbing,” denounces the report. The CCDHRN labeled the opponent’s trial “rigged and arbitrary.”

The Commission intends to start this week “the international procedure established to declare prisoners of conscience of five Ladies in White confined in prison, under subhuman conditions, due to their peaceful activities in defense of human rights.”

The Ladies in White who remain in prison are Marta Sánchez, Nieves Matamoros, Aimara Nieto, Yolanda Santana and Xiomara Cruz.

On Monday, a representative of this female opposition group denounced to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) the situation of her female colleagues and asked the commission for help.

Blanca Reyes went to the hearing Reports on the criminalization against social activists and journalists in Cuba where she talked about the “cruelty” of the Government of Cuba; the meeting was held at the University of Colorado, in Boulder.

“In Cuba there is a special demonstration of cruelty by the totalitarian Communist Government against the entire female population and, in particular, against the Ladies in White,” she said. Her words appear to be supported by the data from the CCDHRN.

“Women who belong to that organization are sent to prison, they directly suffer the threat of being taken to a cell, heavy fines are imposed on them for their public activities, and their relatives, including their children, are also victims of the political police’s unpunished behavior,” Reyes said.

Last June, the CCDHRN estimated the number of political prisoners on the island at 120. Among them, the case of Eduardo Cardet Concepción, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, stood out.

Meanwhile, the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH), based in Madrid, made public its data for this September. According to this organization, which has a network of observers on the island, there were 129 repressive actions against women and 69 against men. In addition, it denounced a “greater number of acts of harassment and intimidation against members of civil society and activists.”

The Observatory uses its monthly recount to reject the international strategy followed by President Miguel Díaz-Canel in recent days in New York, as well as the reception that some institutions and personalities have given him.

“In the days before his visit to the United Nations, in New York, where he received honors from some filmmakers, musicians and ecclesiastical authorities, his government ordered the closure of the La Madriguera cultural center in Havana. (…) As a result, at a concert the police arrested rapper Maykel Castillo Pérez, known as El Osokbo,” charges the OCDH. The center was closed because of a protest against Decree 349.

The organization accuses the European Union, Spain in particular, and several personalities in the United States of a failing to weigh in or take action, which only generates “a scenario of greater impunity for violators of human rights.”

“The personalities that treat [Diaz-Canel] as if he were a celebrity, without demanding the cessation of the violation of fundamental rights on the island, act in an indolent manner in the face of repression and without empathy with the victims,” they accuse.

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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.

Dengue Fever is in Havana

The authorities alert people about dengue fever with signs and advisories in public buildings> Sign: “We inform all residents that there are cases of dengue in our area. If you have any symptom or fever go immediately to the doctor.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 3 October 2018 — In public buildings and places, health authorities in Havana are warning the population of the presence of dengue fever in numerous neighborhoods of the Cuban capital while, in hospitals, patients with symptoms of having contracted the virus crowd clinics and admitting stations.

The warnings call for a reinforcement of prevention measures against the propagation of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, a transmitter of diseases like dengue fever, as well as chikunguña and the zika virus. The mosquitoes have rebounded in recent weeks due to the frequent rains that have characterized this summer on the island.

“They have warned us of outbreaks of infestation in several areas,” confirms Jorge Blanco, a worker in the anti-vector campaign in the Plaza de la Revolución municipality. “The city is being fumigated with small planes and trucks that go through neighborhoods, but if the population does not get involved it is very difficult to detect where the mosquito is hiding,” he says. continue reading

As soon as the sun rises, the buzz of a plane breaks the monotony of the city, the most populated in the country, and one with many health problems that aggravate the situation. “We have too many water leaks and in the yards of the houses many objects strewn about are filled with rain and in that clean water is precisely where the Aedes aegypti female lays her eggs,” Blanco says.

Despite the posters pasted in various parts of Havana and the alarm that has spread in the health centers, the official press has been cautious when talking about the problem. So far, there are hardly any published reports on the number of cases of dengue detected or the areas most affected by the virus. Only a  local media, Escambray, reported on Friday the hygienic-epidemiological alert declared in Sancti Spíritus about the high risk and the presence of isolated but serious cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever.

As a general rule, the media, all controlled by the Communist Party, avoid offering data on health problems that affect the population. A practice with which they seek to not cause alarm among Cubans and also to prevent foreign tourists from canceling their trips to the island at a time when the arrival of visitors is stagnating.

Silvia, a fictitious name for this report, is one of the patients who has been hospitalized for suspected dengue. “Small spots appeared everywhere and I began to feel very bad,” she explains to this newspaper. “They kept me one week in the Calixto García Hospital but so far they have not given me the results of the analysis.”

The tests to detect dengue may take weeks and then the patient is notified through his polyclinic or family doctor’s office about the result. “Many times the answer never arrives and the patient does not know if what he had was dengue or not,” laments Silvia.

In the same room in which she was hospitalized, Silvia had to take additional measures to protect herself. “There were many mosquitoes and I had to spend all day under the mosquito net to avoid infecting other people*,” she says. “When I was discharged, I was very happy because the place is in terrible condition and the food is very bad.”

The Government has decreed an Action Week against these insects, in line with the campaign developed by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in the Americas. The offensive has coincided with a time when all the conditions for the proliferation of the mosquito are present: heat, humidity and stagnant water, the National Director of Hygiene and Epidemiology of the Ministry of Public Health (Minsap), Francisco Durán, explained to the official press.

In the airports, controls are being reinforced on travelers arriving from areas where Aedes aegypti is also a problem. “We are reviewing especially those who come from Central America and the Caribbean islands,” confirmed a doctor on Monday who gave a form to all passengers arriving at terminal 3 of the José Martí International Airport. “The problem is that no one reports if they feel bad, all the forms they give us say they do not have any symptoms,” explains the doctor.

The form should only be filled out by domestic passengers because “foreigners are followed up in the hotels where they stay,” says the doctor. “Each national who fills out this form will be required by his polyclinic or by the family doctor of his neighborhood to report if he has continued to feel good or if he shows any alarming symptoms.”

According to figures from the Ministry of Public Health in 2017, cases of dengue on the island were reduced by 68% compared to the previous year. The reports confirm that autochthonous* transmission of Zika was detected in 14 municipalities of the country, while Chikungunya patients were not registered.

In the same year, dengue was present in two municipalities and 11 healthcare areas in the provinces of Holguín and Ciego de Ávila, while Zika was located in 38 healthcare areas of Havana, Mayabeque, Villa Clara, Sancti Spíritus, Ciego of Ávila, Camagüey, Las Tunas and Holguín.

*Translator’s note: Dengue is not passed directly from person to person, but a person who is in infected can be bitten by a mosquito, which then contracts the virus and can pass it on to the next person it bites, likely to be someone in close physical proximity to the already infected person.

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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.

Complaints About the Adulteration of Weight In Sales of Frozen Chicken

Halfway through 2016 authorities decreed a reduction in the prices of various foods, among them pieces of frozen chicken that are sold in boxes of between 10 and 23 kilograms. Sign: “Special Offer Sale of Boxes of Chicken With Price Reduction of 6%” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernández, Havana, October 2, 2018 — He arrived home hopeful, after five hours in a long line, with a box of frozen chicken thighs that he bought at the Plaza Carlos III center in Havana. When he opened it, the customer realized that it was missing at least six pieces and in their places pieces of ice had been added to fill up the holes and maintain the weight of the package.

The adulteration of the quantity of a product is a common practice in the network of stores using convertible currency in Cuba, and it has been aggravated by the commercialization of wholesale merchandise. The substitution of part of the food with ice, cardboard, or plastic is hardly surprising anymore to the indignant buyers who see how their money vanishes as they pay for a weight that isn’t the same as the real one.

This Monday, at least four customers protested being robbed of pieces of chicken in the apparently sealed boxes sold at the butcher shop on the bottom floor of Plaza de Carlos, as 14ymedio confirmed. The administration has recommended that shoppers check the weight of the package before “leaving the unit.” However, weighing it doesn’t prevent fraud. continue reading

“It’s no use to check the weight because they take out pieces and put in ice so that the box shows up on the scale at the same weight that it says on the package,” laments Omara, a 47-year-old Havana resident who claims to have suffered the loss of at least eight pieces of chicken thighs from a box that she got at the place. “It’s not just here, it happens everywhere,” she assures.

“They adulterate cleaning detergent by adding water and now we are going to have to develop x-ray vision to be able to detect if a package that seems sealed is missing chicken,” laments Omara. “Even the ones that my daughter buys via the Internet, that emigrants sell, come diluted.”

The loss of a good part of Venezuela’s economic support has aggravated the shortages and some food products have disappeared from store shelves altogether or are frequently missing.

“The boxes have the weight stamped and here there is no time to change anything inside because as soon as we load them off the truck they are sold, we don’t even warehouse the product from one day for the next because right now there is a lot of demand,” responds an employee of the shopping center who asked to remain anonymous. “If when the customer opens them, they’re missing something, it wasn’t here that it was taken out.”

The worker blames the distribution warehouses and possible robberies at the port. “Everyone blames us but this is a problem that also affects us because we have to listen to the complaints and accusations,” he explains.

In the central office of the Cimex corporation in Havana, an official tells this newspaper that it’s a matter of “imported chicken that is sold sealed,” so that the customer finds himself before “the original quality of the merchandise, which has passed through a procedure of wet freezing” which has result in “those pieces of ice that they see when they open the package.”

Nevertheless, he recognizes that “irregularities” have been found in the “surprise inspections that are carried out in the warehouses and receiving centers.” If the protocols are followed “there shouldn’t be any adulteration,” specifies the official, who didn’t want to give his name over the phone.

“Often they say that there is adulteration, but there isn’t.” The administration imposes sanctions if they detect this kind of irregularity, among them the loss of jobs, to avoid eventual removals.

Luis Jorge, 36, a regular buyer of frozen chicken pacakges for a restaurant where he works as a messenger, disagrees with the Cimex official. “If you pay close attention, you can detect where the package was opened to put in the pieces of ice,” he insists. “They’re true masters of fraud, those who do this, but even so they still leave traces.”

Halfway through 2016 the authorities decreed a light reduction in the prices of various foods. Among the products that benefited were pieces of frozen chicken sold in boxes of between 10 and 23 kilograms, a measure that incentivized buying, especially among small private businesses that offer chicken on their menus.

As months passed many families began to get the packages of chicken parts to guarantee supply amidst the shortage. Lines to buy it can last hours and most times one only finds packages of thigh and leg meat. Packages of breasts or whole chickens are the ones that are in shortest supply.

In June of this year the sale of frozen chicken was rationed in stores in convertible pesos in the Villa Clara province and they stopped selling complete packages of the product. Local authorities decreed the measure as a result of the damages caused by the subtropical storm Alberto and presented it as a short-term solution to the shortage of food. Villa Clara residents waited several weeks to be able to buy once again greater quantities of the product.

Cuba imports between 60% and 70% of the food consumed on the island, an operation that costs around $2 billion each year and which has become more complicated with the problems of liquidity that the Island is experiencing. From the United States the foods that arrive most frequently are, precisely, frozen chicken and certain grains.

During his recent visit to New York, the Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel met with American businessmen linked with the agricultural sector. “Buying food, which is known to be of good quality, produced by you for us would represent convenience and opportunities,” specified the leader during the meeting.

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.

Six Years in Prison for Violating the Embargo

The Ubiquiti NanoStation M2 amplifies the signal of a wifi network and is used in Cuba to bring internet to homes. (bionic)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, October 2, 2018 — Bryan Evan Singer, 46, was sentenced last Thursday in the United States to 78 months of prison for violating the Cuban embargo by trying to take hundreds of electronic devices to the Island from the south of Florida. Additionally, the convicted man was accused of making false declarations to federal authorities and lying about the quantity of merchandise.

Singer attempted to travel to the Island on May 2, 2017 aboard La Mala, according to the statement from the Southern Florida District court. Law enforcement officials, in an inspection before the vessel set sail from Stock Island, found a hidden compartment underneath a screwed-down bed in the boat’s cabin.

In the compartment they found hundreds of electronic devices, among them more than 300 Ubiquiti NanoStation M2, valued at more than $30,000. continue reading

The Ubiquiti Nanostation Networks are devices that amplify wifi signals up to several kilometers, which are often used to give internet coverage in big concerts and rural areas. Each one of the devices can receive or send wifi signals at a distance of six miles into the surrounding area.

“These devices require a license to be exported to Cuban because their capacities threaten national security. Singer never applied for nor obtained a license to export these devices to Cuba,” pointed out the office of the Southern District.

Since the Cuban Government installed the first wifi zones in the Island’s parks in 2013, dozens of clandestine networks have appeared. Cubans use the NanoStation to bring wireless signals from the wifi zones to other areas without coverage, in order to surf the internet from home, because of which the Cuban Government prohibits their import as well as that of other devices with a similar function. Until now the country has around 700 points of wireless connection and the state-owned monopoly, Etecsa, charges the equivalent of a dollar for an hour of connection, close to a day’s wages for the average Cuban worker.

Singer told the Miami Herald that it wasn’t the first time that he had taken merchandise to Cuba and that he had a person on the island “to leave it with,” although he maintains that he never did business with shipments and that he was doing it to “support the Cuban people.”

“On September 27, 2018, the lead judge of the District Court of the United States, K. Michael Moore, sentenced Singer to 78 months of prison, to be followed by supervised release,” stated the Court.

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.

The Constitutional Debate at My Local Assembly

I read my opinion on article 3, which describes the country as a socialist and reintroduces the concept of irreversibility of the socialist system. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana | 18 September 2018 —  I was preparing for this discussion with the energy and discipline of a high performance athlete who intends to break some sporting record. I arrived at the basement of my building five minutes before eight o’clock in the evening, the agreed upon time to hold the meeting to debate the constitutional reform project.

At this hour only the Party militants were there. I had the strange feeling of being the invisible man. Then came the others, with whom I exchanged the usual jokes. Then the baritone shouted: Attention! And we started singing the national anthem.

The person designated to lead the meeting was a man of only 25 who, with impeccable diction and a firm voice, read the almost 1,500 words of the introduction of the project. Then in groups we parsed the 675 paragraphs of the text. continue reading

At the table where the proposals were written down, there was a high value team: a senior official of the Central Committee of the Party, coincidentally a neighbor from the 12th floor, and his daughter Lisi, whom I lost track of afterwards, when she was no longer the president of the Federation of Students of the Secondary Education (FEEM) in the high school where my son studied.

She was the first to intervene to request the restoration of a paragraph from the preamble to the Constitution of ’76, which mentions “the ultimate goal of building a communist society.”

The leader of the meeting asked if there were any comment on Chapter 1, called Fundamental Principles of the Nation, precisely the subject on which I had a couple of “papers.” So I raised my hand to ask for the floor.

From there I read my opinion on Article 3, which describes the country as socialist and reintroduces the concept of irreversibility of the socialist system. I also proposed the elimination of Article 5, which proclaims the role of the Party as “the leading force of society and of the State.”

I had overcome my fear because in a previous inspection I carried out of the surroundings I could see that there were no indications that something similar to a repudiation rally would take place or that the restless boys of State Security would charge me or prevent me from attending to the debate.

I just had to appeal to the essential “nerve” that is required to raise your voice when you know you are in a clear minority.

The young man who ran the meeting, with better skills as an announcer than a polemicist, made a faint reply that said something like socialism was essential for the future of the country. The official from the 12th floor offered a long dissertation to convince the audience that thanks to socialism our children have schools and anyone can have surgery in a hospital without being asked how much they earn or what position they occupy in the Government.

He was followed by a senior officer of the Armed Forces who, in an emotional speech, recalled that socialism had been created with the blood of the heroes in the Sierra Maestra, in Girón and other battles and that, out of respect for the dead, the system would have to be irrevocable. Others piled on citing Fidel Castro, Raúl and even Miguel Díaz-Canel.

Out of elementary respect before so many angry people I left in my pocket the papers where I had written my diatribe against the Communist Party and its pretensions of being the leading force over the laws and the Constitution itself.

A young mother, who did not take the trouble to read the reform project, took the opportunity to complain that she had not been able to get a wheelchair when her 10-year-old son suffered a fracture and could not take him to school.

A desperate worker asked when there was going to be talk about the little that the working people earn, and a retired spy expressed her disgust before the article 215 that, when defining the functions of the armed institutions of the State, only mentions “the armed formations of the Ministry of the Interior” instead of simply saying “the Ministry of the Interior.”

There is a complacent way to disagree with the current draft of the constitutional reform. The two examples starred the baritone, who said he was against the idea that people who hold high positions can only govern for only two terms and that he did not like the 65-year age limit to be president of the Republic. Later he proposed that to the controversial Article 68, which opens the possibility of equal marriage, we should add the explicit prohibition that these people could adopt a minor.

That was the occasion when Antonio, a Cuban recently repatriated after living for a long time abroad, demanded an explanation of the motives of his proposal. “I am a homosexual,” he said, “and I have all the moral conditions to educate a child.”

The debate was about to be shipwrecked in the meanderings of a confrontation between the baritone and the returnee, until the young leader of the assembly closed the matter with a Solomonic sentence: “Here each one person can give their opinion if it seems appropriate to say it.”

After an hour and a half, there was no interest in deciphering the intricacies of Title VIII, dedicated to the local organs of the People’s Power. Only the young Lisi had something to say when she mentioned her displeasure at the title of “governor” for the person in charge of the government of a province, because that reminded her of “what the Yankees call those who run a state.”

It all ended with a loud applause and, as always happens in these cases, the groups of those who remained silent throughout the debate drew their own conclusions as they dispersed on the ground floor of our fourteen floors.

*******

Below I leave the arguments I read aloud to rebut article 3.

I propose to reformulate Article 3 of the constitutional draft to read as follows:

ARTICLE 3. The defense of the homeland is the greatest honor and supreme duty of every Cuban.

Treason is the most serious of the crimes, and whomever commits it is subject to the most severe sanctions.

Citizens have the right to fight by all means, including armed struggle, when no other recourse is possible, against any external aggression that threatens the sovereignty of the nation.

FOUNDATION

The proposal is aimed at eliminating allusions to the political system based on an ideology.

The homeland does not need political surnames because it belongs to everyone, those who believe in socialism and those who do not believe in it; those who defend it as an option and those who want to change it for another model. This was our homeland long before socialism was proclaimed in Cuba.

When you add the qualification of socialist to the country it is inferred that not being in agreement with that system and exercising the right to substitute another system can be considered an act of treason to “the socialist homeland” and, consequently, a Cuban patriot may be subject to “the most severe sanctions” just for trying to modify the system.

This proposal also involves withdrawing what is referred to as “the irreversibility of socialism” and for that I appeal to the following four arguments:

The first argument:

Establishing the irreversibility of the system is in contradiction with Article 16 of the chapter on International Relations, which states that the right to self-determination of peoples is expressed “in the freedom to choose their political, economic, social and cultural system,” which implies the possibility of changing at any time, by popular will, the system that is in force.

We can not recognize for the rest of the peoples of the world a right that we are denying ourselves.

The second argument:

The current generation of Cubans has no right to prevent future generations from living under another type of system, which will surely be infinitely better than what we can imagine today.

The third argument:

Even in the glossary that accompanies the printed brochure of the project, it is not clear what this socialism is that is irreversible.

Since this amendment was introduced in the constitutional reform of 2002 to impose the system’s irrevocability to date, there have been notable conceptual changes, among them, the disappearance of the term communism and no mention of the socialist conquest of eliminating the exploitation of man by man. These changes have been introduced not only in this constitutional project, but also in the conceptualization of the model approved in the Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC).

In the system under which we Cubans are living in the second decade of the 21st century, the rule of giving back to the worker with the formula “to each according to his work” is not fulfilled because what everyone receives today as a salary is barely enough to sustain the energies used in the productive process.

The fundamental law of socialism which is “to satisfy the ever-increasing needs of the population” is still far from being fulfilled. Instead, we see the insistence with greater force that state companies must “make a profit” which is the supreme law of capitalism.

Of socialism as a system, which now is intended to be declared irrevocable, all that remains is the social property of the fundamental goods of production and the planning of the economy and even then these bases are undermined by accepting the role of the market and private property.

The fourth argument, which can be better defended by communist militants, is based on the following:

Not satisfied with having eliminated the term communism in this reform of the Constitution, the drafters of the project go so far as to prohibit it constitutionally, by declaring socialism as irrevocable.

In any basic course of Marxism-Leninism one learns that socialism is a transition to communism and that in fact, when the State is eliminated, in that superior stage that is communism, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the undisputed essence of socialism, is revoked. To declare the irrevocability of socialism forever constitutes an explicit renunciation of the final goal, although in public declarations outside the constitutional text, the opposite is said.

By the way, from Article 224 dedicated to the reform of the Constitution the reference to the fact that “in no case are the pronouncements on the irrevocability of socialism and the political and social system established in Article 3,” should be eliminated.

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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.

Tania Bruguera Brings Viewers to Tears With Her Work on Immigration in the Tate Modern

The exhibition takes place in the Turbinas room of the Museum of Contemporary Art in London. (Tate Modern)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, London, 1 October 2018 — Tania Bruguera brings her viewers to tears with her work about the victims of the crisis of immigration that opened this Monday at the Tate Modern in London. it will be on until 24 February 2019. The work of the artist, who lives between Havana and New York, has many surprising elements and tries to make people think about the migratory crisis through several “furtive interventions” that the visitor finds when walking through the Turbinas room of the contemporary art museum.

The title of the work is the number of immigrants who traveled from one country to another in the last year, plus those who have died to date, a changing figure that will not be displayed on the event posters, but will be stamped daily on the wrists of the visitors to the gallery. Today’s number was 10,142,926.

Other “actions” aimed at provoking reflection include a room in which visitors are brought to tears when they come into contact with an organic compound that irritates the eyes, with which the artist wants to force “an emotional response.” continue reading

Bruguera has also arranged the portrait of a Syrian immigrant on the floor of the Turbinas room, which is only activated through the heat generated if several people touch it at the same time.

The artist has involved the activist community of the London neighborhood where the Tate is located for this work, and their names will appear for several months in one of the rooms in the center of London.

The work presented today also has some sound effects, made in collaboration with the artist Steve Goodman or Kode9, which give the visitor a feeling of uneasiness or the sense that something is about to happen.

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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.

Fifty Years Ago, the Cuban Government Was Silent Before the Tlatelolco Massacre

This October 2 marks the 50th anniversary of the Tlatelolco massacre. (EFE / File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 2 October 2018 — 1968 was a tumultuous year in Cuba. The Revolutionary Offensive that had swept away the last vestiges of private enterprise was followed by Fidel Castro’s support for the Soviet tanks in Prague and the complicit silence of the Plaza of the Revolution in the face of the Tlatelolco massacre in Mexico, half a century ago this 2 October.

For many Mexicans who were activists on the left, this silence led them to distance themselves from the Cuban model. The disappointment was stronger among those whose admiration towards the young Revolution had prevented them from seeing the close ties that connected the Cuban Government with Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

After the massacre, the Cuban official press avoided any headlines that discomfited members of the PRI and no diplomatic condemnation came from the leaders’ lips. Nor was single report published in the Cuban press about the people who were machine-gunned, detained or disappeared through the violence of the police and the Mexican army. Long years had to pass before the universities of the Island were able talk about what happened. continue reading

The omission was full of irony if one takes into account that many of those university students took as a reference point during their youth mobilizations not only what was happening in France, Czechoslovakia, Italy or the US, but also what was happening in Cuba. Their ideology even highlighted figures such as Fidel Castro and Ernesto Che Guevara, who had died in Bolivia a year earlier.

With information censorship and diplomatic muteness, the island compensated the Mexican government for its support and for its repeated denunciation of the expulsion of Cuba from the Organization of American States (OAS). The Aztec nation had also used international forums to demand an end to the US embargo and continued to maintain commercial ties with Havana.

At the end of the 60s, Castroism had already entered a stage of ideological radicalization, in which many of the leftist movements that gained ground in Europe and Latin America were seen as revisionists and removed from the manuals of the strictest Marxism. The consolidation of that stage was marked by repression, with greater control and vigilance over society.

And it was precisely in 1968 when the screws of Cuban authoritarianism were tightened. The state gained hegemony and the figure of Fidel Castro accumulated much more power, sweeping away opponents within the party’s own ranks and imprisoning anyone who seemed to be a dissident. The nuances ended and one could be only a “revolutionary” or “counterrevolutionary.”

The Soviet model, marked by Stalinism, gained ground on the island. In the midst of that scenario, any show of solidarity by the Castro regime for the thousands of young students who took to the streets in Mexico demanding greater liberties, would have been like shooting themselves in the foot. By then, any university autonomy had been dismantled on the island and street protests had been banned.

That movement in Mexico, which culminated in a bloody attack and in which professors, intellectuals, workers and housewives also participated, was a terrible example for the docile society Castro sought to have on the island.

Still today, in Ecured, the official version of Wikipedia, that should explain the slaughter of Tlatelolco appears empty and the event that is only mentioned in passing in the entries dedicated to personalities related to it and in the general description about Mexico. Twelve words* seal what happened and try to repair, with their bare presence, a half century’s silence.

*Translator’s note: 13 words in English translation: “In 1968, it was the scene of the massacre of the Tlatelolco demonstrators.” 

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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.

Artemisa, The Clandestine Dairy of Cuba

The transportation of fresh milk becomes difficult for many. (S. Cipido)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 1 October 2018 — The train arrives in Havana from San Antonio de los Baños and dozens of passengers disembark with boxes, briefcases and plastic bags. Among them are sellers of cheese, yogurt and fresh milk for the capital city, foods that are tightly controlled by the government and that will have been sold door to door before the sun goes down.

Artemisa province is the principal supplier of dairy products to the black market in Havana. From the glass of milk that many families have for breakfast to a good portion of the cheese used by private pizzerias, it all comes from that vast plain of red earth that has been called the garden of Cuba because of the fertility of its soils.

Osmani Cepero, 32, who lives in Artemisa, is considered a “master cheesemaker” after two decades of experience in the production of that much desired food. “I started together with my father and I have already trained my own children in these tasks,” says the producer, who every month manages to extract from his kitchen a dozen cheeses “some fresh and others more cured,” he says. He sells most of of them to restaurants, coffee shops and private homes. continue reading

“The problem is that cheese is a product with high demand but it is only sold in stores in hard currency or in some state stores in Cuban pesos,” says Cepero. “The farmers are strictly forbidden from selling it because it is a monopoly of the State.”

In the network of Cuban stores, one kilogram of Gouda-style cheese, imported from Poland, Germany or Canada, can cost up to 9 CUC (cuban convertible pesos, worth roughly $1 US each), while the product that Cepero manufactures is sold at 2 CUC per kilo. “Of course, the difference is brutal and that is why many self-employed people prefer to buy from us.”

However, the State has established strict controls over milk production in the area and the farmers are obliged to sell most of their milking to the government. “We’re just supposed to keep the amount we need for our own consumption,” Cepero says.

At the end of last year there were just over 4 million head of cattle in the island and, in 2016, 425 million liters of milk were produced, 12% more than in 2015 but still far from the figures needed to relaunch a sector that suffered hard with the fall of the socialist camp and the economic crisis of the 90s.

Last August, while transporting five cheeses hidden in several boxesin a cart, a police officer stopped Cepero and asked for an explanation. The encounter resulted in a fine and the confiscation of the cheeses. “I lost weeks of work but I came out of it OK since they did not search the house to take the rest away.”

In San Antonio de los Baños the yogurt production business has turned into a real industry of preparation, gathering of packaging, transportation and sale.

The entire family of Ernestina, 58 years old, works in the alternate production of yogurt. “We begin by collecting the liter and a half bottles, those that people call cucumbers, and in which we package the product,” she explains to this newspaper. “Before, we also sold fresh milk but the yogurt stands up better to transport.”

Ernestina’s clients are, for the most part, residents of San Antonio de los Baños and Havana with small children or elderly people in the family. “This helps them complete breakfast or have a snack,” she explains. “We have many buyers who are parents of children over 7 years of age who are no longer given milk by the rationed market.”

The milk that is distributed to the smallest ones comes, for the most part, from the private producers of the area and also from the state dairy farms. The island has about 120,000 ranchers, but their work is hampered by inclement weather, such as hurricanes and drought, instability in the supply of feed or technical problems such as poor refrigeration, which causes much milk to be lost between the producer and its arrival at the dairies.

Artemiseños complain that the rationed milk “each time it comes, it is more watered down because the owners of the cows adulterate it to meet delivery quotas but keep a bit for private business,” assures Ernestina. For a liter of milk, the State pays a producer a price that ranges between 0.15 and 0.18 CUC, while in the black market  the same amount can sell for approximately 0.50 CUC.

Next to the road that leads to San Antonio de los Baños, a young man holds in his hand a large cheese of about five pounds. “This is quite cured and has a lot of demand among people who make pizzas,” explains the artemiseño. Resident of a nearby farm, the family is totally dedicated to this production.

“In this area you live off the cheese, the yogurt and the guava bars that are offered at the edge of the road,” he explains. “Those who have more luck have already made contacts to sell their goods directly to the owners of restaurants.” Others “get on the train once or twice a week to sell in Havana.”

The train can be a real rat trap in the days of police operations. “There are many controls and when the guards see someone with very large briefcases, they quickly search them,” says the young man. “Of every ten cheeses that we make, we are losing two or three because of confiscations.”

Neverhteless, despite the risks, countless pounds of cheese, bottles of yogurt and liters of fresh milk arrive daily in the Cuban capital. “Artemisa is the dairy of Cuba,” says the young man, “a clandestine dairy, but a dairy.”

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.

Prestigious Ecuadorian Surgeon Opposes Cuban Medical Mission in His Country

A Cuban doctor attends an Ecuadorian patient as part of the collaboration agreements between both countries. (Cuban Mission in Ecuador)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Pentón, Miami, 29 September 2018 —  Bernardo Sandoval Córdova, a surgeon who is dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the International University of Ecuador, has raised the controversy over the permanence of the Cuban medical mission in that South American country.

In an opinion column published in the official government newspaper El Telégrafo, Sandoval Córdova denied that Cuban doctors are needed in Ecuador and described as “inconceivable” that a government that called itself a defender of labor rights “has exploited Cuban doctors, who are given a tiny fraction of their salary*.”

Sandoval Córdova’s statements provoked a reaction from the Cuban ambassador in Quito, Rafael Dausá, and from hundreds of Cubans and Ecuadorians on social networks. Dausá published a statement describing the article in El Telégrafo as “false and malicious.” continue reading

“Cuban doctors who work in Ecuador as part of bilateral agreements do so voluntarily. These are highly qualified specialists with long careers, who receive not only remuneration in Ecuador, but also their salary in Cuba, for the time they work in Ecuador,” the Cuban ambassador wrote.

Dausá also noted that the Government covers the cost of accommodation, vacations, transportation, health insurance and housing. “Cuban doctors do not displace Ecuadorian personnel. All the places and specialties covered by Cuban doctors are those in which there are not enough Ecuadorian professionals to meet the needs of the country,” said the diplomat.

In a telephone conversation with 14ymedio, Sandoval Córdova refuted the reply of the Cuban ambassador. According to the surgeon, as of 1970 there has been a law in Ecuador that forces new graduates to perform a social service in the field.

“In Ecuador there are 4,000 new doctors per year and there are no more than 3,500 rural health posts. Obviously there is total coverage with national doctors even in precarious conditions,” explained Sandoval Córdova. The doctor also accused the Ecuadorian government of not knowing how to manage public health and neglecting the field.

“Correa’s government wanted to support the Latin American school of medicine in Cuba from which many Ecuadorian doctors graduate. Correa wanted to get as close as possible to Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Obviously the arrival of Cuban doctors responded more to a political imperative and is without any technical or scientific purpose. I hope that today’s Government will take action on the matter,” he said.

Although the current Ecuadorian government, headed by Lenin Moreno, has not ruled on ending the Cuban medical missions promoted by his predecessor, many Cubans do not dismiss the likelihood that the president will displace Cuban professionals to offer these jobs to the local doctors.

Cuba maintains more than 700 health professionals in Ecuador. The beginning of the Cuban medical presence dates back to 2006 when Rafael Correa’s presidency inaugurated the first three ophthalmological centers of Operation Miracle, a program against blindness which was financed from Venezuela.

Under the scheme of internationalist missions, which is the main source of income for Cuba (according to official figures it brings in more than 11.5 billion dollars annually), the Cuban government keeps about 70% of the salaries paid for its specialists based in Ecuador.

Of the 2,641 dollars monthly salary agreed upon for each specialist, Havana only gives the doctors between 700 and 800 dollars for their living expenses.

Responding to Dausá, Duniel Medina Camejo, a doctor and a resident of Ecuador, said, “As always, the manipulations of the defenders of the indefensible are outrageous. Mr. Ambassador, we, the doctors that make up the community of Cuban emigrants in Ecuador and the free Cubans with whom we share our fate in half of the world, do not agree with the permanence in Ecuador of modern forms of slavery.”

Medina Camejo also noted that Cuban doctors who dare to leave their missions are punished by being denied the right to enter their own country for eight years: “They are neither volunteers nor free to choose, do not deceive our Ecuadorian brothers with that cheap speech.”

*Translator’s note: The doctors’ salaries are paid directly to the Cuban government from which they receive only a small share of the total.

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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.

Ex-Attorney General Juan Escalona Dies in Havana

The ex-attorney general of the Republic, Juan Escalona

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, September 30, 2018 — The ex-attorney general of the Republic, Juan Escalona, known for the high-profile trial of General Arnaldo Ochoa, died Friday in Havana of bronchopneumonia. Escalona was 87 and found himself retired eight years ago when he was “liberated from his position” after more than 20 years as Attorney General.

State television reported his death and emphasized his “example of modesty, honesty,” and “complete dedication to his profession,” as well as his “infinite loyalty” to ex-ruler Fidel Castro. However, dissident political movements and human rights activists remember him for his determined persecution and the criminalization of the opposition.

Escalona was the prosecutor in the trial against Arnaldo Ochoa in 1989, [see subtitled video below] where the general and three other service members were sentenced to execution by firing squad for drug trafficking. The prosector concentrated all of his efforts in safeguarding the figures of the Castro brothers, supreme leaders of the State and the Army. continue reading

“Years ago I learned that the fundamental thing is the Revolution. I’m a little piece in this process and at the end one feels sorry for in any case being capable of carrying out a mission as delicate and disagreeable as this one,” said Escalona in an interview with the official newspaper Granma on the trial against Ochoa.

Escalona was considered one of the “historic ones” in power. Born in 1931, he joined the Frank País Second Eastern Front, commanded by Raúl Castro in the mountains of the east of the country. Escalona, a notary in those years, was charged with marrying Raúl Castro to Vilma Espín in the mountain range. In 1959 he was Raúl Castro’s adjutant at the head of the Army and was named chief of the Military Staff of the Western Army.

Before assuming the post of Attorney General, Escalona was Minister of Justice from 1983 to 1990. He also acted as president of the National Assembly of Popular Power from 1990 to 1993. During Fidel Castro’s African campaigns, Escalona played an important role at the head of the leadership of the General Military Staff from Havana.

The Brigadier-General traveled on numerous occasions to Moscow and to socialist countries seeking support for the African campaigns. He was also charged with negotiating the opening of an airport in Guyana for the Cuban army, once they were displaced from the island of Granada.

Part of the legacy of Escalona, which many knew as “pool of blood,” is the law of Obligatory Military Service, imposed in 1963 and valid still today. Escalona also left his mark on the laws of the popular tribunals, the notary profession, associations, civil registries, the new Civil Code, and Decree 87, which permitted the review of the tribunals’ sentences.

Of orthodox thought, he was identified as part of the “hard line” of the Communist Party. During his term as Attorney General he lamented in an interview with the official press that “some comrades” placed in positions with access to hard currency, changed “even the way they dressed.”

“I’m of the opinion that there are some people who don’t believe this process can continue forward much longer and who are creating the personal conditions to get out of this world. We’ve had to confront, and we are still processing, some cases in the famous fight against the rich,” he added.

As state television reported, he received varied honors “for his contributions to the defense of the homeland, his career and loyalty to the revolutionary cause.” At the time of his death he was a member of the Communist Party, whose Central Committee he was a part of from 1980 to 2011.

Note: Escalona is prominent in the subtitled video below. Skip to minute 34 to watch an exchange between him and Arnaldo Ochoa. 

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.

Official Journalist Boris Fuentes Stars In Another Episode Of "Revolutionary Foolishness" In The US

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, September 30, 2018 — The official journalist Boris Fuentes starred in another episode of what is by now known as “revolutionary foolishness.” While Mario Vallejo, a journalist for Univisión, was covering a demonstration against the embargo in New York, Fuentes tried to snatch his phone and threatened to smash his face in for filming him.

The altercation began when Vallejo approached a group of demonstrators who were protesting against the embargo and started filming with his cellphone. Journalists from the official Cuban media outlets began to set upon Vallejo with the cameras. “Can’t you see me well enough? So why are you filming me?” Vallejo asked Fuentes.

The official journalist answered that it was the cameraman who was filming and asked him why he was there. Vallejo answered that he was doing his job as a journalist. continue reading

“You’re also telling the story badly, so that’s why we are here,” Fuentes told him.

Vallejo told him that Cuban television is introducing Miguel Díaz-Canel as a president-elect. “When was he elected?” he asked.

When Fuentes realized that he was being filmed, he tried to snatch away the phone.

“I’ll smash your face in,” Fuentes spat, and he accused Vallejo of having come to “provoke.”

After receiving various insults, Vallejo withdrew and published the video on Facebook, which has generated more than a hundred comments and has been shared hundreds of times.

“What a lack of respect in the land of liberty. And this poor man doesn’t know the meaning of that word,” said one of the commenters.

Another said that the official journalist thought that he was in Cuba, “where they can’t even record.”

“It’s a shame that they give visas to these imbeciles, while those who really deserve one have to go to another country to apply for one and often aren’t accepted,” added the commenter.

Last Wednesday several journalists from American media outlets were denied entry to Riverside church, in New York, where the Cuban president Díaz-Canel and the Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro were scheduled to give a speech. Reporters from Univisión, Telemundo, and the New Herald were removed by security personnel and in a video spread by the journalists one can hear how the officials asking them to leave accused the media outlets from south Florida of trying to “instigate people.”

Mario Vallejo was the same journalist who, in 2015, interviewed Sucelys Morfa González in Panama during the Summit of the Americas. Morfa, later promoted to first secretary of the Union of Young Communists, was part of the Cuban delegation that with shouts and blows prevented several events from being held.

During the interview with Vallejo, visibly exacerbated, Morfa insisted that she was a graduate in psychology, that the Cubans were “rich,” and that the delegation had paid for their tickets to protest at the summit. The video of the interview went viral and ever since the leader has been known as the “millionaire psychologist.”

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.

Regulations Against Horsecarts Aggravate Transport Problems in Artemisa

In several municipalities of Artemisa the horsecarts and pedicabs are not allowed to use the main thoroughfare. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Bertha K. Guillén, Candelaria, 15 September 2018 — While horse-drawn carriages are a tourist attraction in the streets of Old Havana, in the municipalities of Candelaria and San Cristóbal, in the province of Artemisa, the authorities impose strict regulations on this popular transport, controls that are worsening the already tense situation of passenger transport.

For more than a year drivers have been forced to travel away from the main avenues, and instead make their way through unmarked alleys in poor condition. Now they must carry out their work almost “secretly,” several of them have reported to 14ymedio.

The thousands of customers who use this form of transport every day also feel that they have gone underground. In a province where very few buses travel the streets, most Artemiseños interviewed say they use these animal-drawn vehicles at least three times a week. continue reading

In 2016, the director of the Provincial Transport Company, Juan Carlos Hernández, said that 150 public transport vehicles covering 143 routes circulated in the province, but two years later many of these vehicles have deteriorated or gone out of circulation, according to sources from the company speaking to this newspaper.

Along with this deterioration, the authorities of the area have launched a crusade against horsecarts under the pretext of avoiding bad smells and traffic accidents. The Provincial People’s Power bodies, together with the National Revolutionary Police, also want to avoid having crowds of people waiting to board these vehicles.

Among the measures adopted, carts and pedicabs have been prohibited on the Central Highway, a decision that pushes the carriers and their passengers to explore alternative routes. “What should have been something to improve the quality of life of the residents, actually has become a headache,” laments Yaima, who on Monday uses the carts to get to the polyclinic where she works.

The young woman pays three Cuban pesos (CUP — about 12 cents US) for each trip, which means a monthly cost of about 120 CUP alone in transportation to reach her job; a significant share of her monthly salary which is around 900 CUP. “If I do not travel that way, I do not arrive on time because public transport can not be trusted, it comes along when it feels like it,” says the nurse.

“The measure to kick us off the Central Highway was taken about a year ago” Eugenio, a coachman in the area, tells this newspaper. “Since then people complain because they have to walk more to get to the carts and because the prices went up because now many segments are longer and the streets where we are traveling are in worse condition.”

In the province of Artemisa some 4,567 animal-drawn vehicles have been documented so far, most of them dedicated to passenger transport, according to official sources. However, this figure only reflects those who have a license to exercise this service, while an increasing number of vehicles circulate illegally.

For their part, the self-employed workers who are licensed to work in the sector complain that their needs are not taken into account. “They almost always make us look like the bad guys in the film by charging three pesos for each segment, but nobody calculates the cost of keeping the animal fit,” adds Eugenio.

The coachman regrets that there is no state workshop to fix this type of vehicle, or a market to “buy tires and other spare parts” at a price that is within reach of their pockets. “They ask a lot of us, they control us everywhere but when we demand our rights they do not listen to us.”

So far this year, the Candelaria Municipal Administration Council together with the traffic police and other authorities have had at least two meetings with these workers to analyze their complaints and also those expressed by their passengers. In each meeting, the parties have not been able to reach an agreement.

“They claim that because they’ve eliminated the payment of 10% of revenues at the end of each month, we can charge less to passengers, but they still do not take into account the prices we pay to keep these vehicles rolling,” says Sergio Martinez, another Artemiseño coachman artemiseño.

These self-employed carriers must pay about 186 CUP to obtain the license, to which is added the transit and veterinary permits that are paid monthly. The purchase of a horse cart can come to about 10,000 Cuban pesos and each year the drivers must pay their personal income taxes.

“It does not matter if it has been a bad season, the authorities assume that someone in this job earns a lot and when the tax return is filed many of us get the fines for alleged tax evasion,” laments Mario Nordelo, with more than two decades in the guild.

Earlier this year the National Tax Administration Office (Onat) reported that it will perform 5,500 “in-depth” control actions, including tax audits, in order to detect tax evasion, and to determine with “greater rigor” the debts and penalties and request the application of administrative and criminal measures.

In 2017, Onat detected that more than 60,000 taxpayers — 35% of those who paid self-employment taxes — reported and amount lower than their actual earnings on their personal income tax declaration for a total amount of some 563,000,000 Cuban pesos (CUP).

“Taxes and fines do not let us live,” says Nordelo. “I know coachmen who have had to pay up to 15,000 CUP in fines in a single year and others who have suffered the confiscation of their vehicle and their animal.” The self-employed transport provider thinks that “although many times the responsibility falls on the coachman due to some imprudence, what the authorities are trying to do is to end this service.”

In San Cristóbal, Arsenio Ramírez repeats his routine several times each day. He arrrives at the stop where the customers wait and there he waits until ten people get into the vehicle. “Many people depend on me to arrive on time,” says the coachman in front of a row of teenagers in school uniforms and several doctors in white coats. Four primary schools, a high school and a nursing faculty are located on his route.

“When they made us travel about five blocks away from the Central Highway, we created a union to complain to the Communist Party, but they threatened us with the police and we had to give in,” Ramírez told 14ymedio. “We have organized to clean the area where we park and avoid the urine of the horses being an annoyance, but the police always have a reason to bother us,” he complains.

In recent years there have been numerous strikes and protests by coachmen throughout the island. In all cases the drivers have demanded an improvement in working conditions, tax reductions and permission to travel through the more central streets.

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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.

Canadian Producer Brings the Story of the “Idealism and Altruism” of Cuba’s “Five Spies” to the Big Screen

After denying for three years that the five spies were Cuban agents, in 2001 the Cuban Government acknowledged its control over the Wasp Network and led an international campaign for their liberation. (Juventud Rebelde)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Pentón, 12 September 2018 — The story of the five Cuban spies sentenced to prison in the United States will arrive on the big screen very soon, and twice.

A year after learning that the Frenchman Olivier Assayas had adapted Brazilian writer Fernando Morais’ book The Last Soldiers of the Cold War, the Canadian Pictou Twist Pictures and Picture Plant have partnered with the state-run Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) to bring Los Cinco (The Five) to movie theaters. The film will narrate an “inspiring story of idealism and altruism,” according to Terry Greenlaw, one of the producers, speaking to Variety magazine.

“The Five handed over the rights to their story to the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC), and Pictou Twist, Picture Plant and Conquering Lion Pictures acquired them,” a spokeswoman for those producers said in a statement to 14ymedio. continue reading

The same source told this newspaper that none of the five spies living in Cuba will receive payments for the rights. After their return to the Island (three of them after being pardoned by former President Barack Obama in 2014), the spies became government officials and members of the National Assembly.

In 2014, Obama exchanged the three agents, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiracy to commit murder, for a US intelligence officer imprisoned on the island. The gesture was accompanied by the restoration of relations between the two countries.

The Cuban-Canadian co-production, with a budget of more than seven million dollars, was inspired by the book What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of The Cuban Five, by Canadian journalist Stephen Kimber. The film will be shot mainly in Cuba, but also in Colombia and Miami, and production will be finished next year.

Kimber, a fierce defender of the innocence of the five spies, wrote the book after a trip to Havana where a Cuban friend told him that “nothing will change between the United States and Cuba until they solve the problem of ‘The Five’.”

The journalist traveled to Miami, Washington and Havana to gather information about the spies. He also began to meet with them in prison and participated in meetings and conferences in favor of the freedom of the five spies in the United States.

“Receiving Stephen’s letters in prison in 2010 was encouraging for us because we knew he would tell our truth, which we believe he has done through his book,” says René González, one of the five spies.

“We believe that Stephen’s is the best book about The Five, Canadians have become our great friends and we can not think of better partners to help share our history, through cinema, with the world,” he added.

In Miami, however, the reactions to the movie have not been as warm. Orlando Gutiérrez Boronat, president of the Democratic Directorate, a group of anti-Castro organizations, said it was “an infamy.”

“You can not rewrite history that way, the real heroes were the four boys they helped to kill,” Gutierrez said in reference to the four Brothers to the Rescue pilots killed by the Cuban military as they patrolled international waters to rescue Cuban rafters.

“You have to read the transcripts of these individuals with their bosses in Havana to realize that there is nothing heroic about them, they are terrorists, of course, and the objective of that group was to commit violent actions against nonviolent opponents of that regime,” adds Gutiérrez Boronat, who was a part of the Cubans in exile who were under surveillance by Cuban intelligence agents.

The second film dedicated to the five spies will be called Wasp Network and will be directed by the Frenchman Olivier Assayas. The film will feature the performances of the renowned artists Gael García Bernal and Penélope Cruz.

Morais, a journalist and author of the book on which the film is based, investigated the case of the five Cuban spies and published his book in 2012. From the beginning he tried to show an independent perspective of Havana that included not only ‘The Five’ but also to other nine characters of the Wasp Network who collaborated in the United States and some of whom fled to the Island.

Morais has complained that his relationship with the government was not fluid and that he was not always able to interview or access the people he needed for his book.

However, in 2013, surrounded by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, then president of Brazil and a close ally of Havana, and Armando Hart and Ricardo Alarcón, Morais presented a translation of his book in Spanish at the Third International Conference for the Balance of the World, a kind of gathering of the internation left in Cuba. At that time, Morais said he hoped to “celebrate the return of The Five to Havana soon.”

“The trial against the spies lasted several months with an irrefutable amount of evidence,” said Mario de la Peña, father of the pilot of the same name who died after the downing of his plane in international waters. “They try to justify sending the spies because they supposedly protected them from violent actions on the part of the exile,” he said.

“Those spies tried to infiltrate American bases and penetrate peaceful organizations of the exile whose only sin was to be against the Castro brothers’ regime,” he added.

“Gerardo Hernández and the others were convicted not only for espionage, but for conspiracy to commit murder. They can write whatever they want now, but the evidence that they are murderers is there,” said De la Peña.

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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 Remains of the Energy Revolution

A sign outside an appliance repair shop clarifies that it does not accept televisions or refrigerators with “adaptations.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 27 September 2018 – The TV in the  living room arrived 13 years ago at Carlota’s house, during the same days that her youngest grandson was born. Now, the teenager has a girlfriend, but the old Panda brand device sometimes turns on and sometimes not. “It’s a headache  because very few workshops have parts,” laments the retired woman, who at the beginning of this century benefited from one of the last campaigns promoted by Fidel Castro, the Energy Revolution.

During the years that the offensive against high-consumption household appliances lasted, the government distributed, with installment payments and bank credit facilities, refrigerators, energy-saving light bulbs, Chinese-made air conditioners and televisions. “I spent more than five years paying for it and although it was a great sacrifice I managed it”, says Carlota, while recalling that time when “it seemed that the country was going to progress quickly”. continue reading

Beginning in 2005, the Energy Revolution mobilized thousands of people to inventory all the equipment that consumed kilowatts excessively. The social workers, a shock troop created by Castro himself and responding directly to his orders, joined the task and listed old American-made refrigerators that had conserved the food of hundreds of thousands of families for more than half a century throughout the Island.

At least 2.5 million refrigerators were replaced and few incandescent bulbs were saved from that offensive, in which most were replaced by compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). The authorities assured that this change meant an annual saving of 354 million kWh, equivalent to between 3% and 4% of the total electricity consumed in Cuba.

The fans also got their turn. The Electric Union (UNE) reported that 1.04 million of these devices were exchanged, especially those that were the fruit of popular ingenuity that, in order to cool a room, were adapted from old Soviet washing machine motors by attaching blades, a device which could waste more than 100 watts to run, almost triple what a modern device consumes.

The televisions became a symbol of that technological renovation and Carlota felt proud when she went to buy hers. However, shortly thereafter flat screen devices came to the black market and stores that accept convertible pesos and “these devices were devalued,” she acknowledges. The daughter of the pensioner bought a more modern TV for her room and Carlota’s Panda began to break frequently.

Private repairmen kept changing the parts of the apparatus. Many patches were made so it could still be watched but left the TV “rejected by the state workshops where they do not accept those that have ’adaptations’, laments the woman. The last time she tried to have it repaired, a technician sarcastically told her she should “throw away the Panda and buy a Samsung.” Although for that Carlota knows that she will have to pay “in cash with convertible pesos and without any little poster of the Energy Revolution”.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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