Santiago Hides Its Indigents / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada

Raw material collectors have been warned “not to appear” until the festivities have concluded (Yosmani Mayeta)
Raw material collectors have been warned “not to appear” until the festivities have concluded (Yosmani Mayeta)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Santiago, 23 July 2015 – The builders hurry to give the last touches to building projects, and the communal brigades obsessively clean the streets. A few days before the celebration of its fifth centennial, the city of Santiago is bustling. The imminent arrival of the delegations to the ceremony for the Assault on the Moncada Barracks has also caused the local authorities to gather up the many vagrants of the historic center.

The psychiatric institutions of the city have established monitoring services for the areas surrounding Cespedes Park in order to proceed with the detention of the mentally ill and homeless or those who beg near the tourist destinations. “Everything must be clean,” explains one of the members of a medical brigade that handles such tasks.

For those who reside in the city of Santiago it is evident that something is missing from the landscape of the so-called “golden kilometer” where the first houses, established in 1515, and the Holy Basilica are located. Absent are those figures, often scrawny and in dirty clothes, who stretch out their hands or display a prescription so that the passersby will give them “some help to live.” continue reading

The cathedral entrance is one of the busiest places for those displaced people who, with a figure of Saint Lazarus, a candle and a little plate, spend the days waiting for parishioners to throw them some coins. Now they are not even seen, due to having been confined in hospital wards until the more than 4,000 guests of the festivities leave.

Regina Lobaina, a nurse at the Gustavo Machin Psychiatric Hospital, confirms to 14ymedio the hospitalization of the vagabonds and explains that although “many have family and receive aid from provincial social assistance, poor living conditions force them to beg on the more affluent streets.”

However, not only the destitute have been removed from the “family portrait” that is being prepared for the city’s anniversary. Those who gather raw materials in the vicinity of downtown have been warned “not to appear” until the week concludes. Bernardo, retired from the Ministry of the Interior, is one of them. He picks up cans in parks, bars and public places because his pension is not enough, but recently they have “knocked down his business,” he explains.

The facilities of the Train Terminal have also been “cleaned” of indigents. Lourdes often takes shelter there, but recently has searched for another roof under which to spend the night “until all this is over.” Her house was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, and she says she has slept in all kinds of places, including the provincial Party headquarters. “My children are in the Shelter for Homeless Children because I cannot have them with me,” she adds.

Lourdes says she “has been lucky” because at least she has not been confined. “I prefer the street even though it is hard because a hospital room is worse,” she asserts while she gathers her belongings in a bag that years ago lost its handles and zipper. Bernardo, Lourdes and the other indigents are superfluous to the showcase of the fifth centennial of Santiago de Cuba which is preparing to be shown off to journalists and authorities.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Ecuador, The Route to El Dorado / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

The route of migration for Cubans. (Reportero24)
The route of migration for Cubans. (Reportero24)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 17 July 2015 – Four years Ecuador has been the route of Cubans who want to reach the United States. For many it was the first step towards the El Dorado of the North. In recent weeks, a fear has been growing that the South American nation might toughen the requirements for access to its territory. Entire families could stay on the island with their bags packed and and dreams broken.

Luis, 27, is the youngest of two brothers. In mid-2014 he put together the money for a ticket to Quito and left. Single, with no job, no bank account or property, no consulate would have granted a visa, considering him as a “potential immigrant”. However, Ecuador does not require a visa for Cubans, nor even ask for a letter of invitation.

The Ecuadorian Constitution adopted in 2008 proclaimed “the principle of universal citizenship, free movement of all inhabitants of the planet and the progressive end of foreign status.” President Rafael Correa said at the time that he was determined to “dismantle the invention of the twentieth century which were passports and visas”. And there the Cubans went en masse. continue reading

Healthy and young, Luis was confident that his hands and entrepreneurship would allow him to make his way anywhere. And so it has been: in one year, in La Mariscal, he has managed to make money as an auto mechanic and has saved something to help his family. His obsession remains the same: hitting the road to take him to Miami, where relatives have promised a roof and work. In a drawer, he saves a two-dollar bill that will bring him good luck on the way.

The route from Ecuador to the US includes a path through seven countries

The route from Ecuador to the United States includes a path through seven countries: Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. It is a road full of dangers, ranging from extortion to death. Of all the variables, it is the most feared is deportation. Returning to the Island becomes the worst nightmare.

Some cross the Darien Gap, 80 miles of tropical jungle extending between Colombia and Panama. Mountains, passes between mountains, muddy terrain, crocodile infested rivers and jungles full of beasts. It is in this area that criminal groups linked to drug trafficking and the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) also operate.

From October 2013 until August 2014, almost 13,400 Cuban immigrants arrived at the border between the US and Mexico, according to a US Customs and Border Protection. Many of them made the route that Luis planned for months. All that’s missing is family members in Havana completing the sale of the family apartment to be able to afford tickets to Quito. His family already has a buyer. Every night his mother lights a candle and thinks of Ecuador, the first step on a long road.

Diplomatic sources in the United States Interests Section in Havana, who preferred anonymity, say that this year the number of Cubans who will enter the United States, legally or illegally, could exceed 70,000. The fear that the process of reestablishing relations between Washington and Havana will put an end to the Cuban Adjustment Act has triggered the departures.

In 2013, it seemed that Quito might turn off the tap of entry for Cubans. The country started requiring a “letter of invitation” to put the breaks on the migration avalanche. But a few months later, in 2014, it eliminated this requirement in virtue of the “excellent framework of bilateral relations” with Cuba.

The Cuban migratory reform that went into effect in January of 2013 also contributed to the increase of people leaving for Quito. Now, without exit visa requirements to leave Cuba, the main obstacle is the purchase of a plane ticket with prices averaging around $650 from the island.

Ecuadorian authorities reserve the right to decide which Cubans can enter their country

However, the apparent “open door” policy does not work for everyone. Ecuadorian authorities reserve the right to decide which Cubans can enter their country. The decision is taken during an interview with immigration at the airport. Any inconsistency, any doubt and the passenger is put back on the plane heading home. Activist and independent Cuban journalist Ernesto Aquino, was rejected a few weeks ago when he arrived in the country for a leadership course organized by an independent entity. He was returned to Havana without appeal.

Among those on official missions* in the South American nation, desertions are common. To prevent the escape of Cuban doctors the Cuban Ministry of Health has implemented new policies that include “suspension from the practice of the profession” of those who “left the service without authorization.” Unable to practice as doctors in Cuba, the doctors have another motivation to reach the United States.

Barbara, 42, was among the first Cuban who went by way of Ecuador. Almost ten years ago she made a marriage of convenience and settled in that country waiting to take the big leap. She was deported to Cuba when the Panamanian authorities surprised her at the border. Now she is in Havana, desperate and without a place to live. “I can’t stay in my parents’ house because not one more person can fit there,” ahe explains. Her only option now is to cross the Straits of Florida by raft. For her, the door to Ecuador is closed.

*Translator’s note: For example “medical missions” – that is the Cuban regime’s scheme to send doctors abroad as a major source of hard currency income, as the receiving countries pay much more per doctor than the doctor is paid.

Human Rights Foundation suggests “Direct Responsibility of the Cuban Regime” in the death of Paya / 14ymedio

Presentation of the HRF about the death of Oswaldo Payá. (@RosaMariaPaya)
Presentation of the HRF about the death of Oswaldo Payá. (@RosaMariaPaya)

14ymedio, Havana, 22 July 2015 – The human rights defense organization Human Rights Foundation (HRF) thinks that the Cuban government has “direct responsibility” in the deaths of dissidents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero, according to the conclusion of an 88-page report presented this Wednesday at the University of Georgetown (Washington), on the third anniversary of the death of the opponents.

“The accident (…) is the result of an automobile incident deliberately caused by agents of the State,” assert the authors of the report, lawyers Javier El-Hage and Roberto C. Gonzalez, both of HRF. According to the lawyers, there was “intention to assassinate Oswaldo Payá and the passengers who were travelling with him.” The authors of the report also think there was the intention of “causing them serious bodily injury” or that the event “was carried out with negligence and/or extreme indifference – and an unjustified high risk – for the life of the activist.”

The foundation highlights the “errors” and the “contradictions” of the official investigation into the events of 22 July 2012, documenting numerous violations, such as a faulty autopsy of the “most prominent pro-democracy activist in Latin America in the last 25 years,” according to the president of the HRF, Thor Halvorssen.

The report maintains that the evidence, deliberately overlooked by the official investigation, suggests that it was not a traffic accident and implicates the government in the crash between the vehicles.

The organization believes that the Spaniard Angel Carromero, who was driving the car in which Payá was travelling and who is now on probation in his country, was ”obliged” to confess himself to be responsible, and that Cuban Justice paid no attention to the complaints of the dissident’s relatives, excluding them from the trials. Carromero himself, who was then a leader of the youth branch of Spain’s Popular Party (PP), has asserted on several occasions that the accident was an “attack” orchestrated by the Island’s regime. Those responsible for the report insist that Carromero had no access to a lawyer for weeks and that, later, he was forced to be represented by lawyers with close ties to the Government.

“The State of Cuba is responsible internationally for having violated Angel Carromero’s right to an effective legal defense,” says the report, since the authorities refused his defense access to the case file and the opportunity to present new evidence.

“Cuba is not a democratic State in which individual rights are respected or in which there exists independence among the powers of the State,” warns the report, which labels trials that involve dissidents as “a mere formality” in which “all the actors (prosecutor, judge and defense attorney) direct their work towards legitimizing the Government’s decision and not towards the search for the historical truth of events and the punishment of the responsible parties.” The investigation and the later trial in the death of Payá and Cepero were not exceptions, having been carried out in a “context of complete authoritarianism.”

Cuban authorities also did not permit the family of the deceased to speak with the two survivors of the crash (Angel Carromero and the Swede Jens Aron Modig), and three years after the event, they have still not communicated the result of the autopsy. The dissident’s relatives received the clothes that he was wearing the day of the incident already washed which kept them from opting for an independent examination.

“Havana’s authorities believed that it was necessary to destroy my father,” said the daughter of the opponent, Rosa Maria Payá, present at the University of Georgetown. “This report will be an important tool against the impunity of those authorities,” she added. According to the activist, the document “is the end of the first part” of her efforts, and the process to clarify what happened to her father “is only beginning” with “the analysis of the evidence” in the hands of the family.

“We plan to use this report as a tool in front of all the international bodies,” said Payá, who calls on Cuban authorities to release her father’s and Cepero’s autopsy reports.

The authors of the report accuse Havana of having violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

“Paya Was An Example Of Dedication And Persistence” / 14ymedio

Oswaldo Payá holding the Transitional Program for political change in Cuba. (EFE)
Oswaldo Payá holding the Transitional Program for political change in Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 July 2015 — Three years after the death of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero, 14ymedio has collected the opinions of some Cuban activists who knew the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement. They is people who shared with him projects and risks, who admired or were inspired by his civic labor. Let these seven testimonies serve to approach the legacy of a man who devoted his best years to achieving greater rights and freedoms for the citizenry.

Father José Conrado

He has left us a testimony of life, a consistent life in service to his people, a courageous life that knew how to respond to the difficulties and the circumstances of the times. A life true to his convictions of faith and his love for his country until his last moment. It is a testimony that we will never forget and at the same time something to be deeply grateful for, because men like him are the ones who are needed, men like him are those who build a people from within.

Martha Beatriz Roque

It is very difficult to summarize in a few lines his life and the legacy he left us. First of all we have to note his actions as a father, a husband and a member of the Catholic Church. He knew how to pass on an excellent education for his children and to sow love in his family. Now we have Rosa María [his daughter], who is continuing his struggle and also persevering in seeing that justice is done for those who murdered him. His life’s companion, Ofelita, is doing the same thing.

Payá witnessed in favor of democracy and his legacy is reflected in the continuity of his work. These men who have acted with dignity in life, in times as difficult as those we Cubans have had to live through, one can say they have not died, they continue with us.

Jose Daniel Ferrer

I always had great respect and great affection for him, and joined in with the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) for many years, especially on Project Varela. I would like to highlight one way he is remembered in the eastern region, especially in the province of Santiago de Cuba. The term that we are referred to by, whether we are members of UNPACU, of CID, of the Republican Party, the Citizens for Democracy, or any other organization, is “Varelistas” [“supporters of Project Varela”], and not because of a direct relation to Felix Verala, who well deserves it for his contribution to Cuban nationality, but precisely because of Project Varela, which not only collected thousands of signatures at that time, but also left a lasting impact.

So that is what people call us there and, on occasion, even our worst enemies do. So every time they call us Varelistas, they are remembering Payá.

Dagoberto Valdes

The first thing I want to point out about the legacy Oswaldo left us is the integrity of one person who throughout his life remained consistent with what he thought and believed. Secondly, he left us what in my view is the most important civic exercise of the last decades: the Varela Project. Third, he left us the perseverance of a man who believed in the cause of freedom and democracy for Cuba and who dedicated his entire life to it.

Pastor Mario Felix Lleonart

His legacy goes far beyond even the Christian Liberation Movement he founded. His precious heritage belongs to Cuba and is found in the shared yearning for democracy and respect for human rights, for all individuals who think as he thought. For this he will always be respected. When Cuba can enjoy democracy, he will not be with is, but his teachings will be.

Felix Navarro Rodriguez

He was a great leader in the peaceful Cuban opposition because he accomplished what no one had been able to accomplish, which was to collect those thousands of signatures supporting Project Varela and doing it within the very laws of Cuba.

Still today I feel I see him, with the enthusiasm that characterized him, seeking unity among Cubans so that we can manage the change in a peaceful way, so that the people would be the owners of their own opinions and be able to put their rights into practice. It fills us with great satisfaction to have been able to be at the side of a man like him at those moments before the Black Spring of 2003, and to continue working with his daughter Rosa María today.

Miriam Leyva

He was a very self-sacrificing person who was characterized by believing in what he was doing. He was convinced that he could fight for a better life for Cubans to achieve progress and democracy for Cuba. He was a practicing Catholic and also a tireless worker. In his specialty, medical equipment repair, he was acknowledged and respected, not only in his workplace but in all public health facilities where he went to provide services.

Payá was an example of self-sacrifice and above all persistence, so his legacy extends beyond the MCL and Project Varela; an example as a human being, as a Cuban. That is what remains in my memory and I appreciate all the years I knew him in the midst of such difficult situations.

Activists Will Help Users In Wifi Areas In Santiago de Cuba And Havana / 14ymedio

An Internect connection room in Santiago de Cuba. (Yosmani Mayeta / 14ymedio)
An Internect connection room in Santiago de Cuba. (Yosmani Mayeta / 14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Havana, 21 July 2015 — A few weeks since the opening of 35 wireless Internet access zones throughout the country, activists announced a project to help people connect to the web. The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) circulated a text on Monday in which it explains that the organization will provide services “to anyone interested in using the Internet for peaceful and ethical purposes.”

The project will begin in the provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Havana and the beneficiaries will receive navigating advice, help in creating social networking profiles and the opportunity to use a tablet or laptop belonging to UNPACU if they don’t have their own.

In statements to 14ymedio, UNPACU’s leader Jose Daniel Ferrer explained that among the objectives of this initiative is to “give Cubans access to different sources, but it is also a way to encourage them to seek another version of events.” According to the activist, “so many years of misinformation have caused apathy and an unwillingness to know when inquiring about any event.”

Among the objectives of this initiative is to “give Cubans access to different sources, but it is also a way to encourage them to seek another version of events.” 

The promoters of the initiative also say they are “aware of the great importance for society as a whole of an open, uncensored flow of information.” In promoting this freedom they will help the interested to find data and “to open accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Gmail.”

Contact phone numbers to request UNPACU’s help are + 53-537-40544 and + 53-45-21382 in Santiago de Cuba. In Havana you can seek help at + 53-525-28719 + 53-720-21574.

Cuban Embassy In The US Refuses To Receive A Letter From Activist Rosa María Payá / 14ymedio

The activist Rosa María Payá in front of the new Cuban embassy in Washington. (Twitter)
The activist Rosa María Payá in front of the new Cuban embassy in Washington. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 July 2015 — The activist Rosa María Payá tried to deliver a letter to the newly inaugurated Cuban embassy in Washington on Tuesday. The daughter of the late Oswaldo Payá, however, denounced through her Twitter account that the officials would not open the door and sent a police car.

The letter, from her mother Ofelia Acevedo, was addressed to the Cuban Minister of Health, Roberto Morales, to request the autopsy reports for Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero.

“The Cuban embassy has not opened, it continues to be closed for Cubans. I try to deliver a letter and nobody answers,” she writes. “Despotism is called diplomacy,” she adds in another message.

The activist also reports that some officials were watching her through the glass.

Rosa María Payá said that vice consul Armando Bencomo refused to receive the letter, although he said he would “communicate with the embassy” [so that they would open the door, but it never happened].

Monday, the activist demonstrated in front of the new Cuban embassy. “This is only the beginning of diplomatic relations that up to now have meant conversations between two elites, people who weren’t there and who don’t represent the Cuban people because the Cuban people never elected them,” she said.

The Vertiginous Days of Anger / 14ymedio

Protesters outside the headquarters of the Embassy of Cuba in the USA. (14ymedio)
Protesters outside the headquarters of the Embassy of Cuba in the USA. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 20 July 2015 – Recently, many calculations have been made about the time that has transpired since Cuba and the United States broke diplomatic relations. The journalists’ texts have emulated each other in the search for an exact number of years, weeks and days since 3 January 1961. However, so far none have alluded to the 734 days that transpired before the two countries parted ways.

Now that the emphasis is too frequently on how slow, complex and difficult the normalization process between the two nations will be, one has the right to wonder what would have happened if, between the first day of January 1959 and the third day of 1961, the principals implicated in this history had been animated by the same spirit that now measures each step with serenity, without haste but without pause, and takes it all gradually.

It is too difficult to resist the temptation to calculate at what speed normalization could occur if, in the next 734 days, the initiatives on one side or the other had the vertigo that existed then.

If harmony could be supplied with the same fuel on which the anger of those days gorged, one might venture the date of 23 July 2017 (just when the elections are being organized that will conclude with a new government in 2018) to take stock of what has been advanced.

Timelines are boring, almost no one reads them fully. The one I’ve suggested here includes some facts that more intensely marked the course of events. Only official Cuban sources have been used, and are certainly missing documents, speeches, declarations, and above all, actions, many of them to be declassified.

Cubans Expect Thaw to Lead to Improvements For All The People / 14ymedio

The new embassy of Cuba in the USA. (14ymedio)
The new embassy of Cuba in the USA. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 20 June 2015 – This Monday, a group of protestors outside the new Cuban embassy in Washington accompanied the speech by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez with shouts of “Cuba sí, Castro No”; “Freedom for Cuba”; “Democracy.” While some chanted, “Viva Cuba,” others responded, “Freedom.”

At some points “Castro sí” was also hears. “Never in this country would I have imagines I would hear something like this,” said a Cuban who came to renew his passport in the consulate.

“I’m here to support the human and civil rights of the Cuban people who have not had free elections for more than 60 years,” said Laura Martinez, a Cuban-American, 26, gathered outside the building that, since 1977, housed the Cuban Interests Section in the United States. “Although I support the reestablishment of relations between Cuba and the United States, I want the human, civil and political rights of the Cuban people to be respected and we are demanding that right now,” she added.

The activist Rosa Maria Paya believes that “this is only the beginning of diplomatic relations that so far has meant the conversation between two elites, of people who were not there and don’t represent the Cuban people, because the Cuban people never elected them.”

“We are expecting that, at least in their discourse, those people who approach Cuba converse not only with the elites in power, but that they also support the right of Cubans to decide, of legislation conducive to [exiles’] visit to the island, and the extension of immunity from violence to those who demonstrate [against the regime] inside and outside of the island,” she adds.’

The writer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo stressed the importance of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana also resulting in greater freedom for independent journalists. He asks for “a more inclusive future,” in which “the chokehold that the regime keeps on civil society is loosened.”

About 70 Ladies in White and Activists Arrested Sunday / 14ymedio

The Ladies in White in Gandhi Park on a previous Sunday
The Ladies in White in Gandhi Park on a previous Sunday (Americateve)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 19 July 2015 — This Sunday has led to the arrest of forty Ladies in White and thirty activists, at the conclusion of their usual march on 5th Avenue in the Havana neighborhood of Miramar.

After Mass in the church of Santa Rita, the Ladies in White gathered together with several activists in Gandhi park. There, from the speakers of a car, was heard a composition by the rocker Gorki Aguila, that pays tribute to these women and their human rights movement.

Gorki Aguila told 14ymedio  the song that just premiered, was produced in the studios of La Paja Records, managed by the group Porno for Ricardo. In addition to the melody of a cello, the musical theme includes strings, guitar, bass, drums and a solo by Aguila himself.

According to the artist “the intention was to give to the Ladies another song, to encourage other artists to make artworks to them, they deserve it.”

The renowned musician was taken to the so-called Vivac de Calabazar prison with Jorge Moya, Jorge Luis Antunez, Claudio Fuentes, Egberto Escobedo and Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles, among others. The women may have been transferred to a detention center in Tarara, east of Havana, where they are routinely detained.

Marino Murillo, the “Antifidelista” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Mariano Murillo, Minister of Economy and Planning in Cuba. (EFE)
Mariano Murillo, Minister of Economy and Planning in Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 18 July 2015 – Like those erratic comets whose pulse astronomers have not yet measured, Marino Murillo disappears and reappears on the Cuban political scene, generating gossip about his “thunder” when he disappears and expectations about its relentless ascent when he returns.

Those who knew him when he was the Director of the Economy in the Ministry of the Food Industry say that Murillo was the official who struggled hardest to get national production to substitute for imports. However, when he served as Minister of Internal Trade (2006-2009) he was the one who increased the trade in imported drinks, with obvious consequences for the domestic industry.

Now, in addition to being Minister of Economy and Planning, he is the member of the Communist Party Politburo responsible for implementing the guidelines of the 6th Congress, or, and it’s the same thing, the man who keeps track of the reforms.

“We must concern ourselves with creating wealth, because the economies with the best results are those that have been able to sustain production.” said Murillo continue reading

Which explains that Murillo will “put it to the test” as teachers say to their students when they present them with some new significant detail of the subject at hand. And recently he pointed out something revealing to the deputies of the 8th legislature of the Cuban Parliament: Cuban companies are governed by the fundamental law of capitalism. Clearly, he didn’t formulate it like that, but for someone with a degree in Economics who studied in the Soviet Union, the statement that the fundamental law of the capitalist system is to profit through capital gains is something that is learned like a catechism.

Therefore – and I am quoting from memory now, when he said that the basic objective of companies (Socialist State companies) was to produce, sell and make profits, it was like setting aside what the theorists enunciate as the fundamental law of the Socialist system which is expressed in the proposition of “satisfying the needs of an ever growing population.”

Not content with that, two days after he appeared before the delegates of the 10th Congress of the Young Communist Union, and after clarifying that the growth of 4.7% in the GDP is still not reflected in the domestic economy, it is understood on the shelves and in the refrigerators of every home, he said that, “for this to happen the GDP needs to grow at a sustained rate of 5% to 6% over several years.”

And he added, “We must concern ourselves with creating wealth, because the economies with the best results are those that have been able to sustain production. The model must start from the idea that all the economic actors  and the productive forces are working equally and non-stop.

Murillo is the loudest voice against the chorus loyal to Fidel, he said that the time will come when people can live on their wages

Perhaps I have not been attentive to the evolution of the official discourse and I’ve forgotten something, but I don’t recall the moment in which a self-criticism was made to what was, in its time, the magnetic north of the Revolutionary compass: “It is not to create conscience with money or wealth, but to create wealth with conscience.” (Fidel Castro, speech delivered on 26 July 1968).

If that has changed, Murillo is the loudest voice against the chorus loyal to Fidel, proof of that is in the same speech delivered to the Party pigeons, Murillo said that the time will come when people can live on their wages, which will increase depending on the ability to create wealth. “We have to make efficient use of the Socialist State enterprise to create wealth, which will be returned in salaries,” he stressed in case anyone had not understood.

Murillo is absolutely right, although he stops short, or perhaps he is measuring his steps. What I can’t understand is why this Minister of the Economy doesn’t mention “socialist emulation” or “moral incentives”… am I missing something?

The Cuban Government Unveils Its Version of Google / 14ymedio

The search engine "CUBA" is on redcuba.cu
The search engine “CUBA” is on redcuba.cu

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 July 2015 — The launching of a new Cuban Internet search engine was barely mentioned on official websites or on tonight’s national newscast.

However, it was reported that on the occasion of the Tenth Congress of the Communist Youth League, a new search engine would be launched. “Unified Contents for an Advanced Search” (“Contenidos Unificados para Búsqueda Avanzada, or “CUBA”), is meant to serve as a Cuban version of an alternative to Google.

Available through redcuba.cu, the CUBA portal provides a search engine for websites using the .cu domain. According to its developers, the idea behind CUBA is to link all websites located on Cuban servers unto one site, thus providing the user a “faster and more efficient” search engine.

This website now joins the Cuban government’s growing trend of creating imitations of the most important online resources and social media. The island already has Eucred, mimicking the free content encyclopedia Wikipedia, “La Tendedera” (“The Clothes Line”) competing with Facebook, and an alternative to the illegal “weekly packet” nicknamed “La Mochila,” or “The Backpack.” Still, none of them are as popular as the originals. continue reading

The CUBA project was developed at UCI, the University of Information Science, over three months, two of which were focused on sorting all of the country’s websites. Its developers guarantee that from the moment of its launching, it contains 500,000 indexed web pages, and among these are 6,695 using the .cu domain.

Ariagna González, director of UCI’s Center for Internet Studies and Development, told the official press that CUBA’s design is adaptable to different types of electronic devices, be they computers, tablets, or smartphones. It will allow the user to retrieve information posted on Cuban servers, and could also be an alternative for people who only have access to intranets, such as Infomed and Cubarte. Several computer users who spoke to 14ymedio agreed that “while it’s not the internet, at least it [CUBA] makes searching Cuban websites easier.” Gloria, a 34-year old user of the Cubarte intranet said that for years now she has needed “a search engine that could help me find everything from a theater group to a “Joven Club,”* and now I’m hoping to do so with this new tool.”

Others, like sixteen-year-old Anthony, are a bit more wary when it comes to recently launched CUBA: “Honestly, I prefer Google. This new search engine is like reinventing the wheel, but for the Internet. All the search engines we need have already been invented.” Anthony was connected to WiFi on Havana’s La Rampa Boulevard when 14ymedio asked for his opinion.

CUBA’s technology is based on the Orión search engine developed by UCI in 2013. In order to publicize the existence of this new tool, all “Joven Club” staff is being trained on how to instruct users on all the resources available through it. Apart from its home page, CUBA offers direct access to sites dedicated to sports, entertainment, news, health, art, and the humanities.

The real test for the search engine’s developers will be the upcoming school year when it is projected that 295 high schools and 329 trade schools throughout the whole country will be connected to the web. The plan includes connecting middle schools, special education schools, and daycare centers to the Internet before 2017, and elementary schools one year later.

Nevertheless, CUBA’s principal obstacle will be overcoming the public’s misgivings, since it seems they are more interested in using original sites than their Cuban versions.

* Translator’s Note: “Joven Club de Computación y Electrónica,” or “JCCE,” is a nationwide network of computer centers, where users only have access to the Cuban intranet. There are currently over 600 such centers throughout the island. Nevertheless, much of the equipment is obsolete, and the use of the Internet is closely monitored.

Translated by José Badué

Blogger and Activist Angel Santiesteban Released from Prison / 14ymedio

Angel Santiesteban. (14ymedio)
Angel Santiesteban. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 17 July 2015 — The writer and journalist Angel Santiesteban Prats was released from prison on Friday night. Speaking to 14ymedio, Santiesteban said he wanted the quick release of other activists and that a new stage “of struggle” was now starting.

“Just a few minutes ago Major Adonis and First Lieutenant Guillarte said “Angel Santiesteban, congratulations, you have just been released’,” explained the writer. “Then I was given my personal belongings and left.” Asked by this newspaper about his next steps, he answered: “Now, to fight, and other releases have to happen, such as that of El Sexto (Danilo Maldonado).”

In December of 2012, after a process that has been labeled by many as arbitrary and precipitous, Santiesteban was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for “violation of domicile and injuries.” Since 2008, he has published in his activist blog, The Children Nobody Wanted, in support of human rights on the island.

From the prison where he began his sentence, the Lawton Settlement Prison, in Havana, he passed from one prison to another, accused of “attempted escape.” For almost a year, he was imprisoned in the Border Patrol Unit, west of Havana, a military base where he experienced a more severe prison regimen.

Angel Santiesteban has won important literary awards, including the Casa de las Américas Prize in 2006. His book The Summer God Slept received the Franz Kafka Novels From The Drawer Prize in 2013.

Reporters Without Borders had called on the Cuban authorities to withdraw all charges against Angel Santiesteban Prats and release him immediately.

Criminal Acts Cause Losses Of More Than Six Million Pesos In Public Health / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 July 12015 — Amid reports that various state bodies have reported to the standing committees of the National Assembly, the powerful Comptroller General of the Republic (CGR) is among those doing so. According to the statement made by that entity on Monday, criminal acts persist in the institutions of the Ministry of Public Health and Communal Services.

Ileana Flores Izquierdo, head of the department of “Attention to the Population” in the CGR, said the modus operandi of these illegalities still includes bribes, inflated payrolls and padding the payroll with no-shows. To these are added such irregularities as failure to record invoices and vouchers for products without signatures, as well as the diversion of resources for subsequent illegal sale.

The gap between the detection of one of these crimes and the analysis of it or proceeding to eradicate it is still excessive: between six months and one year, the official explained. Economic losses resulting from these illegal acts amount so far this year to 6,266,893 Cuban pesos.

The modus operandi of these crimes include bribes, inflated payrolls and padding the payroll with no-shows

The deputies participating the in committee of Health and Sports agreed that such events occur because the management of the health care entities are lax and undemanding.

Teresa Perez Morales, deputy for the town of Bejucal, noted that, “The cadres should end the favoritism and cronyism to solve the problems.” For this deputy, “There will cease to be political myopia when we urgently focus on eradicating these problems.”

The area of communal services continues to have the largest number of criminal acts that have not been resolved.

WiFi in Pinar del Rio: Slideshow / 14ymedio

Several people connected to the WiFi from the center of Pinar del Río. (14ymedio)
Since early this month, the landscape has changed in Pinar del Rio with the installation of a wireless network to surf the Internet, installed by the State Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA)
1conexion-wifi-Pinar-Rio_CYMIMA20150714_0009_12
Some young people share a application that lets others connect through a single account and so save money
2wifi-Pinar_CYMIMA20150715_0002_12
Young girls look for friends on Facebook. The complicit laughter and whispers into each other’s ears complete the picture.
3wifi-Pinar-Rio_CYMIMA20150715_0004_12
The WiFi service has changed the face of the central avenue for the four blocks from Independence Park to La Chiquita store.
4Senoras-conversando-EE-UU-wifi_CYMIMA20150715_0006_12
The park where as recently as two weeks ago only drunks and vagrants spent the night has been taken over by whole families gathered around a screen.

continue reading

5Familia-Extanjero-Portal-Comercio-Bosque_CYMIMA20150715_0008_12
At any hour of the morning, afternoon or night, the place is packed with entire families talking via Skype with their family members abroad.
6wifi-Pinar-Rio_CYMIMA20150715_0010_12
Students download information they can use in their next course, young people recently released onto the World Wide Web create their Facebook profiles
7Madre-nieto-portal-calle-Marti_CYMIMA20150715_0015_12
No one wants to be without their kilobytes. The tricks to it are shared outloud and if someone finds a way to optimize the connection time, the news travels from mouth to mouth.
8amigas-laptop-Parque-Bosque_CYMIMA20150715_0018_12
A commotion, a jolt or a social phenomenon, the fact is that everyone agrees this city is not the same since the first of July.
9Arquimedes-EE-UU-Parque-Bosque_CYMIMA20150715_0017_12
The artist Arquímedes Lores Nelo talking with a family member from the Parque del Bosque
10Chicas-revisando-Facebook-Portal-Marti_CYMIMA20150715_0016_12
A girl, sitting in a doorway, chats her cellphone. “For us, who have nothing, this is very good,” explains the young woman without taking her eyes off the screen.
11Parque-Bosque-Pinar-Rio-conectandose_CYMIMA20150714_0017_12
The park where as recently as two weeks ago only drunks and vagrants spent the night has been taken over by whole families gathered around a screen.
13Jovenes-conectados-centro-Pinar-Rio_CYMIMA20150714_0015_12
The reduction in hourly connection costs, although still out of reach relative to wages, has motivated many to try this thing called the “interned.” (sic)
14Joven-Parque-Bosque-Pinar-Rio_CYMIMA20150714_0014_12
Now, at two convertible pesos an hour*, residents of Pinar del Rio have been added to the many Cubans who have taken to the places where 35 WiFi points have just been unveiled throughout the country.
15Wifi-centro-Pinar-Rio_CYMIMA20150714_0013_12
A month before the service was turned on in Pinar del Rio, the antennas were installed for the connection and, barely two weeks beforehand, the bandwidth was tested with 120 people connected at the same time
16Joven-Parque-Independencia-Pinar-Rio_CYMIMA20150714_0011_12
In Independence Park the connectivity is quite a spectacle. Loudspeakers play reggaeton every hour, while hundreds of young people are everywhere, some connected to the web, others dancing.
17Familias-Parque-Bosque-Pinar-Rio_CYMIMA20150714_0010_12
People, despite the costs, bite the bullet and live the experience of access to a vast diversity of information
18wifi-Pinar-Rio_CYMIMA20150715_0007_12
Alejandro, a young college student who has already tested the service a couple of times, told 14ymedio, “This is the best vacation gift you could imagine, this is my best summer.”
19wifi-Pinar-Rio_CYMIMA20150715_0011_12
The bright flashes of the red LED on the USB memory shows they are making copies of everything they read.
20wifi-Pinar-Rio_CYMIMA20150715_0014_12
“Cubans always look for ways to overcome obstacles,” points out Andy, one of those connected to the peculiar network formed by all these guys stuck to their laptops
Midnight is approaching and the parks are still full. It seems that Pinar del Rio doesn’t want to go to sleep.
Midnight is approaching and the parks are still full. It seems that Pinar del Rio doesn’t want to go to sleep.
The ETECSA offices in Pinar del Rio
The ETECSA offices in Pinar del Rio

 

 

Pinar Del Rio Comes Alive With The Internet / 14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez

Several people connected to the WiFi from the center of Pinar del Río. (14ymedio)
Several people connected to the WiFi from the center of Pinar del Río. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez, Pinar del Rio, 15 July 2015 – For a long time the city of Pinar del Río has languished in the evening. The central Martí Street was a scene of complete desolation and only came alive Saturday with groups of young people wandering aimlessly. However, since early this month, the landscape has changed with the installation of a wireless network to surf the Internet, installed by the State Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA).

The WiFi service has changed the face of the central avenue for the four blocks from Independence Park to La Chiquita store. It is now a hive of people with phones, tablets, laptops and whatever technological device serves to access the web. At any hour of the morning, afternoon or night, the place is packed. continue reading

Entire families talk via Skype with their family members abroad. Students download information they can use in their next course, young people recently released onto the World Wide Web create their Facebook profiles, and hundreds of people, read, search and flit from one page to another. No one wants to be without their kilobytes. The tricks to it are shared outloud and if someone finds a way to optimize the connection time, the news travels from mouth to mouth.

A commotion, a jolt or a social phenomenon, the fact is that everyone agrees this city is not the same since the first of July. The park where as recently as two weeks ago only drunks and vagrants spent the night has been taken over by whole families gathered around a screen.

The park where as recently as two weeks ago only drunks and vagrants spent the night has been taken over by whole families gathered around a screen

The reduction in hourly connection costs, although still out of reach relative to wages, has motivated many to try this thing called the “interned.” (sic) Now, at two convertible pesos an hour*, residents of Pinar del Rio have been added to the many Cubans who have taken to the places where 35 WiFi points have just been unveiled throughout the country.

A month before the service was turned on in Pinar del Rio, the antennas were installed for the connection and, barely two weeks beforehand, the bandwidth was tested with 120 people connected at the same time. Last weekend the phenomenon was launched and threatens to revolutionize the entire city.

Alejandro, a young college student who has already tested the service a couple of times, told 14ymedio, “This is the best vacation gift you could imagine, this is my best summer.” With a tablet in hand, he navigates the social networks like Twitter, and watches videos on YouTube, while checking his email and looking for information on topics that interest him. The appetite for information is huge.

Like love, the Internet has no age and Leopoldina, 60, is almost crying with joy as she sees again via videoconference an emigrant son she hadn’t seen in ten years. “My son, how beautiful you are and how pretty your house is. The whole neighborhood sends you greetings and kisses,” the lady repeats, still a little surprised that this “box with keys” had returned her “little boy” to her.

Nearby a group of young girls looks for friends on Facebook. The complicit laughter and the whispers into each other’s ears complete the picture. A few yards away another girl, sitting in a doorway, chats her cellphone. “For us, who have nothing, this is very good,” explains the young woman without taking her eyes off the screen. “The price is high and many people can’t afford the equivalent of 50 Cuban pesos per hour, but I hope they’ll lower it later,” she says with enthusiasm.

Leopoldina, 60, is almost crying with joy as she sees again via videoconference an emigrant son she hadn’t seen in ten years

In Independence Park the connectivity is quite a spectacle. Loudspeakers play reggaeton every hour, while hundreds of young people are everywhere, some connected to the web, others dancing.

Baseball lovers, in Rock Forest Park now consult the web for the latest results of the Cubans playing in the major leagues. The minute they hear of the recent high level leaks against the United States their comments contrast with the silence of the government press on these matters. “They don’t have to say anything now, explain anything to us. Now we already have the news of the day,” a fan shouts loudly.

People, despite the costs, bite the bullet and live the experience of access to a vast diversity of information. “It is a sensation of freedom that I’ve never experienced before, ‘brother’,” Geddy Carlos enthuses. Seated next to eight young people who share an application through which they are all linked through a single account and so save money.

“Cubans always look for ways to overcome obstacles,” points out Andy, one of those connected to the peculiar network formed by all these guys stuck to their laptops. A young couple, next to them, jumps from El Nuevo Herald to el Diario de las Americas, and before they disconnect they take a look at El Pais. The bright flashes of the red LED on the USB memory shows they are making copies of everything they read.

“Look at what Antonio Castro is saying in Turkey!” a surprised young man murmurs, and an flood of friends come over to look at the page appearing on the screen. Midnight is approaching and the parks are still full. It seems that Pinar del Rio doesn’t want to go to sleep.

*Translator’s note: 2 convertible pesos is more than $2 US, the equivalent of two days wages or more for many workers.