Debate: Should the Cuban Adjustment Act be Changed? / 14ymedio

“We are aware the abuses caused by the Cuban Adjustment Act and are looking for a way to ensure that only those facing Government oppression benefit from it.”

Carlos Curbelo, Republican Congressman from Florida


“When things change in Cuba, then we should change the Cuban Adjustment Act (…), which certainly helps to resolve the problem of Cuban refugees, and allows them to move through the system more quickly.”

Joe Garcia, former Democratic Congressman from Florida

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, June 2015 — The announcement of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, last December 17, has revived the debate raised by the most conservative Cuban-American members of congress: Should the Cuban Adjustment Act be changed?

Although US president Barack Obama has been quick to affirm that there will be no change in immigration policy toward the island, the growing criticism of “wet foot-dry foot,” and the consequent fear that this law will be repealed, has increased the number of Cubans trying to reach the US coast from the island. continue reading

Created in 1966, the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) offers special procedures to concede permanent residency to Cubans who manage to enter the United States citing political persecution.

Some criticize that people who take advantage of this measure to legalize their migratory situation in the United States, then return to the “persecuting country” to visit their families.

Others, however, maintain that the rule shouldn’t change until the human rights situation on the island improves.

Florida Republican Carlos Curbelo, the son of exiles, has been the latest voice raised against the special rule, along with other conservative members of congress such as Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and David Rivera.

These politicians demand that Cubans asking for asylum under the Adjustment Act sign a formal declaration in which they specify they are fleeing Cuban for political reasons. Under this proposal, visits to the island would be restricted for these refugees.

“We are aware of the abuses caused by the Cuban Adjustment Act and are looking for a way to ensure that only those facing Government oppression benefit from it,” said Curbelo in a statement.

Republican senator Marco Rubio also thinks the rule should be “reevaluated and updated,” but he doesn’t offer concrete details about his proposal.

The New York Times also hosted a discussion of the issue. The former chief of the United States Interest Section in Cuba, Vicky Huddleston, asked in a column published in December that the Adjustment Act be repealed to “foster a safe and orderly migration, as well as to save lives.”

Congressman Joe Garcia, Miami Democrat, is on the side of waiting. “When things change in Cuba, then we can change the Cuban Adjustment Act. Things haven’t changed and it certainly helps to resolve the problem of Cuban refugees, and allows them to move through the system more quickly,” he said last October in an interview in El Nuevo Herald.

Since 2001, more than 416,000 Cubans have used the rule to legalize their migratory status. In the last trimester of 2014, US authorities reported an increase of 60% in Cubans arriving in the United States (8,624) compared to the same period in 2013 (when there were 5,221).

From Capitalism to Capitalism / 14ymedio, Fernando Damaso

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Fernando Damaso, Havana, 5 June 2015 — Although many refuse to accept it and some prefer to ignore, Cuba is making the transition to capitalism “in haste and with pause*.” This is the true formula being executed, despite the official rhetoric around “saving socialism,” and “making it prosperous and sustainable,” designed more to appease the nostalgic comrades than the Cuban people.

The system is being constructed “with haste” because the authorities urgently need it to survive and remain in power. “With pause,” because they fear that the installation of capitalism will escape their controlling hands. The steps being taken, now mainly in the economy, point to this and it is clear in the interest in foreign investment, coming from Russia, France, Germany, China, Brazil, Canada, Spain or the United States, all market economies. continue reading

The old joke, “the long and difficult transition to capitalism is produced through socialism” is coming true. No one imagines, however, a capitalism in the style of our Republic era, with its lights and shadows, in the short term. Nor does it seem to be that of Norway, Sweden, Denmark or Switzerland, and much less that of France, Germany or the United States. The capitalism that is coming is State Capitalism, far removed from democracy, where the current leaders will try by every means possible to maintain political power and assure the greatest possible control over the economy.

The capitalism to come is State Capitalism, far removed from democracy, where the current leaders will try by every means possible to maintain political power and assure the greatest possible control over the economy.

Those who hold the most important posts today will position their families and closest collaborators as capitalist businesspeople, and will favor their foreign partners with full capital or joint ventures. Meanwhile, what the rest of Cubans will be left with, if anything, will be small agricultural production and services through different types of cooperatives where, as has already been clarified, “The form of management will change but not the form of property.”

In any event, whatever clothing in which they try to dress up such a system, it is capitalism, however primitive. With the passage of years and the activities of citizens, this atypical model will be decanted and humanized, although it will be very difficult at the beginning. In this context, the reestablishment and maintenance of normal relations with the United States will exercise a certain influence in relation to the democratization of the country, but it will not be the determining element.

The different administrations of that country, be they Democratic or Republican, have prioritized their interests above all others, just like the Cuban government, having maintained relations with democratic governments as well as others of the authoritarian stripe. The White House has no commitment nor obligation to Cubans to bring freedom to our country. To believe that would be to accept a position of subjugation to a foreign power. The commitment and obligation to restore democracy in Cuba is the responsibility, and exclusively the task, of all Cubans.

*Translator’s note: The phrase references a speech by Raul Castro where he stated economic reforms would be undertaken “without haste but without pause.”

New Outbreaks of Cholera in Santiago de Cuba / 14ymedio, Yosmani Mayeta Labrada

One of the cars with loudspeakers announcing the hygiene measures needed to combat cholera. (Yosmani Mayeta Labrada / 14ymedio)
One of the cars with loudspeakers announcing the hygiene measures needed to combat cholera. (Yosmani Mayeta Labrada / 14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yosmani Mayeta Labrada, Santiago de Cuba, 4 June 2015 — In the midst of preparations for the 5th Centenary of the foundation of Santiago de Cuba, the Hygiene and Epidemiology agencies have enacted several measures to counter cholera outbreaks detected in Altamira and Venceremos in the Santiago capital. The epidemic, thought to have been controlled, has rebounded in slums such as La turbine, La Posita, La Loma de la Candela and El Barrio de los Gitanos.

Gertrudis Mendoza, a medical clinic nurse, told 14ymedio that “There are many suspected cases that came to the 28 de Septiembre clinic.” During her shift last Saturday, “More than six people showed up with diarrhea, who were then taken to a larger clinic to be tested for cholera.” continue reading

In the streets of these neighborhoods cars with loudspeakers from the Provincial Hygiene and Epidemiology Center circulate several times a day, repeating the hygiene measures needed to contain the infection. A call to boil drinking water, frequent hand washing, and avoiding eating street food, are some of the recommendations detailed by the Center’s staff.

Luz Enidia, a resident of Los Muros, says that near her house “A private snack bar was closed down because a man who ate a pizza there was diagnosed with cholera and hospitalized.” Afterwards the place was sanitized according to the protocols. “Hygiene workers came with chlorine and lime to clean everything, but even so the snack bar remains closed.

In the Labadi Home for the Aged and Disabled workers were advised of the extreme need to follow “the maximum hygiene”

In the Labadi Home for the Aged and Disabled in the Antonio Maceo neighborhood, workers were summoned to an urgent meeting to advise them of the extreme need to follow “the maximum hygiene,” so that the vibrio cholerae can’t enter the institution “because the lives of elderly and disabled people are at serious risk,” says a source of the place who requested anonymity.

Yudith Cando, the mother of a child who studies at the Alberto Paz Primary School in La Planta, states that a teacher in the school has cholera and she believes that, although she is hospitalized, the school should take appropriate measures. Like her, many local residents are demanding that the issue be handled with transparency and that public authorities make clear the city’s epidemiological situation.

However, so far the authorities have not confirmed the information and the local newspaper Sierra Maestra has not spoken of the presence of cholera in the area.

Irregularities in the Production of Medicines Affect Cancer Patients / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 June 2015 — The Ministry of Public Health has approved an urgent plan given the deficit in medications facing the country, among which are included some for the treatment of cancer. The details of the measures to implement the plan were offered by the head of the department Roberto Morales Ojeda during the Council of Ministers which met last Friday, according to the newspaper Granma.

The minister said that the situation is is due to delays in the importing of raw materials and the “need to shut down the plant dedicated to this vital line of treatment dies to irregularities in the production process.” Morales, however, did not detail the type of irregularities that led to the current situation. continue reading

The minister also explained that he has approved a program that includes the use of products from the reserve and the purchase of medications in countries of our region that allow for quick transportation to Cuba.

Right now the production plan for cancer medications is shut down, at the same time that construction is proceeding on a new one.

Morales Ojeda explained that, in order to be able to supply drugs in the coming months, he has approved the “required financing” and the Biocubafarma Business Group will adopt measures to improve the situation in the second half of the year.

Shortages of essential drugs has been a constant complaint of the population, particularly in the last half year. Pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, skin and antifungal creams, have sharply dropped in supply. Also on the list are products such as thermometers, elastic bands and adhesive strips, popularly known as Band-Aids.

Vandalism Worsens the Deteriorated Traffic Signs of Cuban Streets / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

A traffic sign on the verge of disappearing. (14ymedio)
A traffic sign on the verge of disappearing. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 28 May 2015 – As a result of vandalism and slackness affecting the deficient signage of roads and streets, drivers traveling through Cuban streets must mix expertise with a guessing game.

The lack of these important roadway elements worsens with vandalism, as stated on Thursday by officials of the National Center of Traffic Engineering speaking to Juventud Rebelde (Rebel youth) newspaper. In the first four months of this year, there were 144 acts of vandalism against road signs, of which 60 occurred in urban areas.

The provinces most affected by predation are Cienfuegos, Villa Clara and Havana, with effects ranging from the most serious – causing accidents – to generating misinformation about the locations of sites or their distance. continue reading

The lack of explanatory signs especially affects those who have no experience on the road, such as tourists who rent a car or drivers who venture into an area for the first time.

Vandalism, however, has many faces, and though none of them is justifiable, some of them point to the material shortage that the population encounters. The absence of a market where iron or steel angles, screws and metal plates can be legally acquired, leads people needing these materials to ignore ethical considerations or civilized coexistence.

The absence of a market where some materials can be legally acquired can lead to predation

There are a lot of animal pens, garages for cars or even walls and informal housing ceilings built with “recovered materials” which were once traffic signs. That is without counting the most serious damage, which with similar purpose, has been wreaked on electrical transmission towers or even on railways.

The problem affecting traffic signs is not a minor issue. The absence of a legal advertising infrastructure with commercial purposes means ads for concerts, notices of housing swaps, car sales and many other private classifieds find their space on a Yield or a No Parking sign. On the other hand, there is an inadequate policy of installation, replacement, and maintenance of these important elements by the State.

Translated by Alberto

Cuba Nostalgia / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Cuba Nostalgia 2015 was held between 15 and 17 May. (danydiegonews)
Cuba Nostalgia 2015 was held between 15 and 17 May. (danydiegonews)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, 19 May 2015 – On Saturday the 16th, being in Miami, a friend invited me to visit the show Cuba Nostalgia. No one knew for sure what it was about, but the name made ​​me curious. The event took place in the outskirts of the city at the Fair Expo Center near the main campus of Florida International University (FIU).

Upon arrival, we saw a huge parking lot full of cars, from which it was common to see a young person emerge – a son or grandson – pushing a wheelchair or leading by the hand their grandparents toward a roofed space in which they reconnected with a vital part of their past.

Cuban music could be heard from afar. Once inside, the displays of old bank notes, photographs, stamps, medals, books, music albums, brand name products, hats and other attractions completely captured the attention of the visitors who, in some cases, spend a long time looking at a single piece, as if transported back in time to their childhood memories, youth, mischief in the Cuban countryside, or pranks and dancing in the cities, always hectic in those Republican years. continue reading

Dominoes also had their space. Ladies and gentlemen who seemed to be about 90 – some of them complete with cigar, guayabera, ring and hat – delighted in the slapping down their tiles to the beat of the legendary Macorina played by a band.

It might be better if they keep the memories that are etched in their minds of the Cuba they left

Others tried to locate the neighborhood where they lived on a giant map was printed on the floor.

Amid all the activity, a man walking hand-in-hand with his wife says to me, “This is good guajiro. But I’m pissed off.” “Why,” I ask him. “Chico, you come here to have an enjoyable time, and the first thing you come across is them offering you a coffin and the whole funeral service as if it were beer they were selling. What’s wrong with these people? I am not going to die just yet, so it’s going to be a while before they get a hold of my cash,” and he lets out a cackle that reminds me of some of my uncles.

Suddenly we hear the sounds of a danzon and my interlocutors say goodbye to join in the dancing. Few spectacles please me as much as seeing elderly couples moving to the sounds of Island rhythm. While I watch them, I imagine what their impression would be if they returned to Cuba and visited the villages and cities they left behind half a century ago.

I think it might be better if they keep the memories that are etched in their minds of the Cuba they left, I don’t know. What I am sure of is that these people have maintained their traditions with pride, their Cubanness, and their love for their country every day of their existence. To all of them, my affection and respect.

53 Ladies in White Arrested in Havana /14ymedio

Ladies in White in front of Santa Rita church in Havana. (File Photo / Agustin Lopez Canino)
Ladies in White in front of Santa Rita church in Havana. (File Photo / Agustin Lopez Canino)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 31 May 2015 – This Sunday the Ladies in White Movement experienced its eighth consecutive Sunday of repression in Havana, resulting in the rest of 53 of them. Some of the 25 activists who participated with the women in their traditional Sunday pilgrimage were arrested near the Church of Santa Rita in the capital municipality of Playa.

According to several witnesses, 53 Ladies in White and 25 activists were arrested at the exit of the parish and taken to a destination still unknown. At least seven women had been prevented from arriving to the place and several dissidents reported threats by State Security since Saturday, warning them not to attend the pilgrimage.

Among the activists arrested was Juan Angel Moya, a former prisoner of the Black Spring of 2003, and Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles, leader of the opposition group Estado de Sats.

Iriades Hernández Aguilera of the Patriotic Union of Cuba informed 14ymedio that no arrests of activists of the organization were reported in the province of Santiago de Cuba, although a heavy guard was seen around the headquarters of the organization. Our correspondent in Pinar del Río, Juan Carlos Fernandez, reported that three Ladies in White were able to attend Sunday mass.

In the province of Matanzas, the activist Sayli Navarro confirmed that at least 38 Ladies in White across the province made it to their respective parishes without difficulties.

Cane Cutters Complain about Their Working Conditions / 14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa

Cane cutting in Cuba (Conexion Cubana)
Cane cutting in Cuba (Conexion Cubana)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa, Holguin, 31 May 2015 – The recently concluded sugar harvest failed to fulfill production forecasts. Analysts have struggled to explain the reasons for the repeated failure and have spoken of incomplete or ineffective repairs and poor organization, but none have mentioned the social factor.

Workers involved in cutting cane in Holguin complained of the abandonment to which they were subjected and multiple violations of their labor rights during the harvest that just ended.

Members of the Basic Economic Unit from the Loynaz Hechavarria center from the Cueto municipality say they worked more than 16 hours a day beginning at five in the morning during the four months of the harvest. continue reading

Heriberto Cuenca Tamayo, operator of a cane combine, told 14ymedio that his brigade had been victim of labor law violations and they were the group that suffered most: in spite of intense heat during these months, they had no cold water for lack of ice. Nor did they receive the promised work clothes, and they ate what they could manage on their own since they were not even provided coffee.

He mentioned that the enterprise is still in default on the incentive pay in convertible currency that is due the members of the team under the labor contract. He also lamented the lack of technical assistance that would have helped with the combine breakdowns during the cane cutting. They are only paid as operators, but they also had to act as mechanics, work for which they are not qualified.

“We were on our own when the machines broke, and in order to continue working we had to personally manage the parts and the repair,” Cuenca Tamayo told this daily.

Together with his companions, he said he felt unprotected. The bosses only speak of obligations, order, discipline and demands. “When they say to do more with less, it seems that they are thinking of more effort and worse conditions, more duties and fewer rights.”

“Neither the Constitution nor any other Cuban law legally establishes the right to strike, but nor did the union solve our problems in spite of raising them on several occasions,” said this cane worker.

For his part, Mario Gonzalez, harvest boss for the Azucarera Company, said that Holguin failed to meet the sugar production plan by not reaching the projected figure of 207,801 tons, lacking almost 4,000 tons to achieve the goal. In this harvest the province milled with only five of the ten sugar refineries it has had since 2002.

The official explained that among the causes that led to the failure are the breakdowns of the combines, the refinery stoppages for lack of cane caused by the late arrival of squads to the cutting fronts, and others of an organizational nature. “There was enough cane in the fields, but it was not known how to get it to the centers,” asserted Mario Gonzalez on a local radio program.

Translated by MLK

The Sugar Harvest Grows But Fails to Meet the Plan / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

A sugar cane field in Cuba. (Flickr / CC)
A sugar cane field in Cuba. (Flickr / CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 29 May 2015 – As has already become a tradition, Cubans will not know how many tons of sugar are ultimately produced at the end of the 2014-2015 harvest. A summary of the report prepared by the Azcuba Sugar Group, published by the newspaper Gramna, limits itself to saying that, although the “plan is 45% below expectations,” production “experienced an 18% growth relative to the prior year’s milling.”

According to the report, sugar production grew for the fifth consecutive year but has not reached its target for a series of reasons. Among them, the delay in making repairs, attributed to the late arrival of certain resources, due in turn to the lack of deliveries on the part of the importing countries. This detail alone had as a consequence that 11 sugar mills didn’t start on time, “or started without testing the machinery in advance, which increased the breakdowns during the milling.” continue reading

A report by Azcuba president Orlando Celso Garcia to the Workers Center of Cuba Plenary at the end of 2014, said that the mistakes of the past would not be made again and announced that 15 million dollars were invested in importing equipment for irrigation. He added that the reception capacity in the collection centers will be increased and more than 3,400 trailers will be added with a capacity of 20 tons each, along with 80 re-engined Kamaz trucks and another 287 trucks without trailers.

Despite these forecasts, the main problem was the low capacity utilization of the mills in the industry, which did not exceed 65%, caused by downtime, plus missing the quantities in the cutting and throwing of cane. On the other hand, performance improved as 100 tons of cane crushed yielded an average of 10.27 tons of sugar, 0.77 more than in the previous harvest. It is to this that the increase in total production is due.

The report mentions the most outstanding provinces and sugar mills and announced that, according to estimates, sugarcane mass will increase between 15% and 20% annually in the coming years. Maybe by the end of 2015, when speaking of the next harvest, we will get to know how many tons were produced in the harvest now ending.

Rebellion in Platanal / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Santa Isabel de las Lajas.
Santa Isabel de las Lajas.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 28 May 2015 – Just a mention of the name Santa Isabel de las Lajas, a town in the province of Cienfuegos, recalls one of the greatest of all Cuban musicians, Benny Moré, the “Barbarian of Rhythm.” Dancing and fun, joy and youth.

But on the night of May 16 the El Platanal de Bartolo discoteque, in the little homeland of the greatest sonero, was the scene of a minor quarrel of which no one now wants to remember the origin. “Drunkenness,” said a waiter. The point is that someone with sufficient authority decided to end the day on the stroke of midnight, an hour earlier than usual. Hundreds of young people gathered there protested against the measure with all the energy of their age and, in addition, with every right. continue reading

From El Platanal they went toward Marti Park, one of the many in the major towns that serve as a point of rendezvous and conquests. When the police patrol passed through the area in their Chinese-made jeep Number 553, tempers were still running high, so always ready to repress anything that looks like a protest, the uniformed officers warned the boys they were making the rounds and on their return they didn’t want to see anyone there.

Those who had gone out without their IDs, those with something to lose or something to hide, went to their homes, but some 60 preferred to stay… and the patrol car returned. In retaliation for what they interpreted as unspeakable disobedience, they imposed a fine on every person, but there were three who did not accept the outrage and were threatened by one of the police officers with his regulation pistol.

Neither Yoexis Llorente, nor Oscar Luis Santana, nor Miguel Armenteros felt intimidated. They took off their shirts as a sign of protest and told the cops, “Shoot here, in my chest.” Brute force prevailed – on this case the force of arms – and the three were handcuffed and taken to the police station. It’s been 12 days, they still haven’t been formally charged in court, and they remain detained. It’s been said they will be charged with resistance and contempt.

The apparent abyss that separates popular discontent from the political opposition can be leaped in a minute and for unforeseen reasons

Jorge Luis Oliver, an activist in the Reflection Movement in Santa Isabel de las Lajas, said that Miguel Armenteros’s mother told the town’s Communist Party Secretary that she would turn in her Party membership card if her son, recently demobilized from military service, was legally affected by any measure, and that she and the mothers of the other two would take the matter wherever necessary. Including to the “Human Rights people.”

Among the topics discussed at the Tenth Congress of the Young Communist League, there was one identified as “Cultural consumption and recreational options.” Except in some of the provincial capitals, the only thing left for young people in the small towns is walking in the park and drinking alcohol.

There will be no uprising in Lajas, nor any uncontrolled social explosion because a discotheque closed an hour earlier than planned; but the apparent abyss that separates popular discontent from the political opposition can be leaped in a minute and for unforeseen reasons. And no one wants to be the “the fundamental clay” of any experiment in social engineering. At any moment El Platanal de Bartolo, that mythical site of Cuban enjoyment, could be registered as a center of conspiracy.


About 60,000 Havanans Receive Water via Tanker Trucks / Rosa Lopez, 14ymedio

At the end of February the situation got worse because of leaks and electrical problems (14ymedio)
At the end of February the situation got worse because of leaks and electrical problems (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 25 May 2015 – A sound that is inseparable from the streets of Habana Centro (Central Havana) is the screech of the trucks filled with water, with their metal wheels on the asphalt. This symphony of necessity has become more intense in recent months because of the frequent cuts in supply that the city has undergone due to repairs, breakages and a drought affecting the entire country. More than 58,760 people receive water through tanker trucks, as affirmed, this Monday, in the Trabajadores (Workers) newspaper.

In Havana more than half of the water being pumped is lost in leaks, 20% of which are located in the so-called household networks, inside homes and buildings. For the engineer Antonio Castillo, Deputy Director of Operations for the Havana Water company, the situation is unsustainable in the medium and long term. “Supply basins are like bank accounts. If you deposit, but take out more than you deposit, you have less and less, and if you stop saving, one day you’ll have no money. That happens with the water,” he declared to the official press. continue reading

In late February the situation began to worsen because of the disastrous combination of leaks and electrical problems that caused large losses at La Cuenca Sur reservoir. About 45,000 residents of Habana Vieja, Plaza de la Revolución, Diez de Octubre, Centro Habana and Cerro municipalities in Havana were severely affected.

In order to reduce leaks, sector specialists propose to continue with network rehabilitation plans and impose a new fee on the charge for service for the residential sector. Meanwhile, capital residents are demanding shorter water delivery cycles and a higher quality of the precious liquid. “The water is very hard and this damages the pipes and bathroom iron fittings, that’s why there are so many leaks,” says Ruben, a self-employed plumber in La Lisa municipality.

Capital residents are demanding shorter water delivery cycles and a higher quality of the precious liquid

Others demand, as soon as possible, the enactment of a water law to regulate the consumption of this important natural resource. “Although in December the Council of Ministers approved a stricter policy, they are still indiscriminately wasting something that should be treated as a real treasure,” expressed Yaquelin de la Osa, engineer and promoter of a more focused policy on caring for the environment and natural resources.

Apart from the specialized opinions or those with in the environmental field, the main demands come from a population sector that needs to bring the water into their homes with wheelbarrows, buckets and bottles. “I don’t remember when was the last time that I could take a shower, because for several months I have had to bathe with a pitcher,” says Xiomara, resident of a tenement room at Marqués González street in Centro Habana.

Everyone agrees that repairs to the hydraulic networks are necessary, but the slowness and lack of efficiency with which they are tackled causes discomfort among many Havanans.” This seems like a city after a bombing,” said an owner of rooms for rent for tourists located in Amargura street in in Habana Vieja, who must deal with the holes and trenches in the street every day to find customers. The municipality is being subjected to a replacement of the water networks which will be completed in 2017 and which has a budget of more than 64 million.

I don’t remember when was the last time that I could take a shower, because for several months I have had to bathe with a pitcher

The water that should fall from heaven hasn’t performed as expected in this rainy period. Downpours that flooded parts of the city in late April and early May failed to fill the cachement areas supplying the city. Precipitation was not abundant in the southern provinces of Artemisa and Mayabeque, which are the main sources of supply, nor in the Almendares-Vento basin, which supplies 47% of the water which is destined to Havanans.

As the situation worsens, Havanans wake up trying to detect clouds on the horizon and fall asleep with the sound of the trucks on the pavement.

Translated by Alberto

‘El Sexto’ dedicates his award to his jailers to show them that he is not alone / 14ymedio

Lia Villares collects the award for Danilo Maldonado, "El Sexto” Wednesday in Oslo. (MileydiMC)
Lia Villares collects the award for Danilo Maldonado, “El Sexto” Wednesday in Oslo. (MileydiMC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 May 2105 – The Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto, could not collect the 2015 International Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissidence, in the ceremony organized by the Oslo Freedom Forum. The prize, awarded by the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) of New York, was received by the activist Lia Villares, since the graffiti artist has been in prison since last December, charged with contempt, for trying to stage a performance with two pigs decorated with the names “Fidel” and “Raul.”

After presenting a brief music video, with the refrain repeating “Three years [in prison] for two pigs, no,” and closing with the images of a rally to demand freedom for the artist and the phrase, “Contempt should never be avoided,” Villares read a letter written by El Sexto from Villa Marista penitentiary. continue reading

“I want to dedicate this prize also to those who have me in prison, to remind them that I am not alone,” the artist said. The graffiti artist also thanked the Ladies in White, his daughter, the writer Angel Santiesteban (who is also in prison) and the artist Tania Bruguera (arrested this Sunday in front of her house and released shortly afterward).

The other award winners, members of the Sudanese non-violent resistance movement and the Indonesian comic Girifna Sakdiyah Ma’ruf, personally received a representation of the Goddess of Democracy, the iconic statue erected by Chinese students during protests in Tiananmen Square in June 1989.

The Oslo Freedom Forum, which opened Monday in the Norwegian capital and will close on Wednesday, gathers the proponents of freedom and human rights from several countries. This year’s gathering is the Freedom Forum’s seventh, and focuses “on those places where it is impossible to stage protests, which are silenced or attacked, as in Cuba and Russia,” according to its founder, Thor Halvorssen.

Visits by Americans to Cuba rose by 36% between January and May / 14ymedio

Female entertainers take photos with foreign tourists to earn a few convertible pesos. (14ymedio)
Female entertainers take photos with foreign tourists to earn a few convertible pesos. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 May 2015 — The number of visits by US citizens to Cuba has increased 36% in the first five months of the year compared to the same period of 2014, according to data released Tuesday by the Associated Press. The figure, which includes travel through third countries to circumvent restrictions on tourist travel, comes from statistics provided by Jose Luis Perello Cabrera, professor at the University of Havana.

In the months that have followed the announcement of restoration of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana and easing of the rules governing the travel of US citizens to the island, Cuba received 51,458 visits from its neighbor to the north. Of this total, 38,476 traveled directly from the US, while another 12,982 did so through a third country (57% more than in 2014), mainly from Mexico, the Bahamas, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. continue reading

Between January and early May, visits to the Island from international travelers also rose, for an increase of 14% compared with the same period last year. A total of 1,547,104 tourists came from 206 regions, led by Germany (+ 22%), France (+ 25%), Great Britain (+ 26%) and Spain (+ 16%).

Americans who want to travel to the island must certify that their trip falls into one of 12 categories permitted by law, such as family visits, professional research and support for the Cuban people.

Travel between Cuba and the United States is facilitated by new air links, with maritime routes expected to join them shortly.

“True Intentions”: Brief Sketch of a Long Relationship / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Raul Castro with Barack Obama at a press conference at the Summit of the Americas
Raul Castro with Barack Obama at a press conference at the Summit of the Americas

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 14 May 2015 — Few sentences of the Cuban official discourse have been as well-worn as one that refers to “the true intentions” hiding behind the actions of the US government.

This explains the discomfort that the “Paused General*” feels about the American Interests Section in Havana teaching courses to independent journalists or when they hold teleconferences about digital journalism, among other activities. These “illegal activities” that the US government promotes through its Havana Section even award certificates of studies to its graduates. Because “the true intentions” of the government of that country is for these journalists to undermine the strength and ideological unity of our people, piercing it with the intimidating US influence. continue reading

Beyond the blatant disregard of those studying under the auspices of the US government, the “Emerging President*”, a graduate of who-knows-where, does not seem to rely too much on the strength of his media monopoly or in its capacity to influence the masses despite the proven loyalty of its hired scribes. For this reason he “is worried” – his own words – about this exchange of journalism courses and conferences that run outside the classrooms, so strictly controlled by the government, where many graduates get more credit for their demonstrations of loyalty to the regime than for their academic achievements or their talents.

Brief historical look at the “harmful” American influence in Cuba

An article appearing on the last page of the newsaper Granma (The Teachers’ Lessons, Ronald Suárez Rivas, Wednesday May 13, 2015) supports what is already emerging as a new ideological crusade against American “penetration,” so crucial at this time when the government of the Island strives to make peace with its historic enemy.

The work in question goes back more than 115 years ago when, as part of the US intervention in Cuba, after the end of the war of independence from 1895 to 1898, the US government took the initiative to “contribute to training a group of Cuban teachers, and, as if it had been against their will, they “were taken” to the United States.

But, of course, collaborating in the field of education was not “the true intentions” of the northern government, but “one of Washington’s first concrete actions in the ideological field, intended to directly influence the Cuban people” according to the words of a local historian, quoted by the Granma scribe.

In an effort to rewrite history to suit the Castro-ocracy, important details have been omitted that show that the US influence in Cuba was not all absolutely negative

Obviously, in their wish to rewrite Cuba’s history according to the Castro-ocracy’s taste, both the journalist and the official historian omit some important details recorded by renowned writers and other personalities of the time, documented in the Cuban National Archives, showing that the US influence on the Island had already penetrated deeply, long before the military intervention in the Spanish-Cuban-American war took place. Documents, that, in addition, show that the US intervention was not an absolutely negative event.

An event should be mentioned that, at the time, marked the sensibility of the Cuban people in a special way, and earned the gratitude and affection of the poorest sectors: the assistance provided by the US government to the victims of the Reconcentración de Weyler** (1896-1898).

In early January 1898, at the request of the then president William McKinley, Clara Barton, president of the American Red Cross arrived in Cuba to organize the relief to the reconcentrados. She and the US consul in Havana, with the help of Bishop Santander, toured various towns and cities on the Island and were responsible for the coordination and distribution of food, clothing and medicine that began arriving by sea at the port of Havana, thanks to the solidarity bridge established by a Central Committee on Relief, spontaneously organized by the American people.

The philanthropy demonstrated by the Americans had the additional benefit of raising the awareness of the wealthy sectors on the Island of Cuba, which until then had remained indifferent to the scenes of death and desolation caused by the colonial government and intensified by the incendiary torch of the mambises***, both of which had ruined the Cuban countryside, seriously damaging food production.

It was then that some societies and leading Cuban personalities of the era began organizing fund raisers through dances, opera and theater events, raffles, bullfights, book sales and other activities in order to help the reconcentrados and charitable institutions responsible for helping the poorer sectors, suffering from hunger and epidemics due to their lack of resources.

The philanthropy demonstrated by the Americans had the additional benefit of raising the awareness of the wealthy sectors on the Island.

It is true that the US naval blockade, which began on April 22,1898 and ended on August 14th of that year, temporarily worsened the shortages and general poverty. However, just two months after the war’s end, the tireless Clara Barton was able to restart the bridge of essential help – interrupted since the beginning of the naval blockade — which this time would also be enough to provide help to the insurgent mambises, still camped out in rural villages.

The previous month, a flotilla from the US had already been established, responsible for at least partially supplying food to the markets. Though not enough, the aid from the US was the assistance that reached the Cuban people when they needed it the most.

Later on, the work of Clara Barton in Cuba were aimed at creating the basis for what eventually became the Cuban Red Cross and the first health system through the Casas de Socorro (Free emergency clinics) caring for the poor sectors.  Also under the hand of the occupying American army, important sanitation work took place, the engineering work of planning the new sewer and paving systems were started (its construction began in 1908 and ended in 1913), sanitary facilities were established, and the improvement of the aqueduct commenced.

The “Paused General’s” concern for the danger of US influence on Cubans through independent journalism is untimely

The list of benefits derived from the relationship between Cuba and the United States, going back to the history of our nation, would be too long to finish in one article. Suffice it to note that many poor families in Cuba in recent decades would not be able to survive shortages or escape extreme poverty if it were not for the remittances and aid arriving from that country, to which most Cubans looking for a promising future emigrate.

Beyond “the true intentions” of our powerful Northern neighbor, the “Paused General’s” concern over the danger of the biasing effect of the United States on Cuba through independent journalism is, at the very least, untimely. In reality, Cuba and the US never had more mutual interaction than in the last half a century, and perhaps never before did Cubans count on, with so much hope the prosperity that has always arrived from that country, and now, even more than ever, with over two million Cubans living on its soil. And it can be said, without a doubt, that this all took place thanks to the Cuban Revolution.

Translator’s notes:

*”Without haste, but without pause” has been a catch phrase for Raul Castro, in speaking of economic reforms in Cuba. “Emerging President” is a reference to a former program to fill classrooms lacking ‘regular’ teachers with “emerging teachers” – teenagers with hardly any training.

**Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau, Marquis of Tenerife, Duke of Rubí, Grandee of Spain was a Spanish general and Governor General of the Philippines and Cuba whose Weyler Reconcentration policy was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Cubans and for the almost complete destruction of the countryside.

***Mambises (plural of mambí) refers to Cuban independence and Filipino guerrillas, who in the nineteenth century took part in the wars for the independence of Cuba and the Philippines against Spain.

Translated by Norma Whiting

They Murdered My Son in the Streets of Camaguey / 14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco

Mandy Junco killed last Saturday in Camaguey.  (Pedro Junco, Fury of the Winds blog)
Mandy Junco killed last Saturday in Camaguey. (Pedro Junco, Fury of the Winds blog)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco, Camaguey, 22 May 2015 – Pedro Armando Junco Torres, alias “Mandy,” 28 years of age, was stabbed to death in Camaguey in the early morning of Saturday, May 16, a day before the beginning of the rock festival Sounds of the City. Mandy would have participated in it as guitarist and leader of the band Strike Back. His father, writer Pedro Junco, Thursday posted on his blog, The Fury of the Winds, this open letter in which he asks for “true justice.”

They Murdered my Son on the Streets of Camaguey

By Pedro Armando Junco

It is very difficult for me to write. All you mothers and fathers who read these lines, put yourselves in my place. Just for a minute think that it was your son who was stabbed to death in the street at the hands of four killers who did not even know him, who did not even do it to steal from him or to settle accounts. They think that the motivation was to kill, the pleasure of killing. Put yourself there for only one minute and then assimilate what you have felt in your hearts. That is what I am enduring and will endure until the end of my existence. continue reading

I write in order to thank so many people who, in and out of the country, have been at my side recently: the cruelest moments that I have suffered in my long existence. I also do it for so many friends who have not yet heard the news.

Saturday May 16, between 2:40 and 3:00 in the morning, my 28-year-old son: young, beautiful, intelligent, good, was surprised by a foursome of sadistic killers who, for no other purpose than to stab, riddled him with blows and knife wounds. The pathologists found 46 contusions on the body of my beloved Mandy. He was a joyful rocker, always smiling. He had no enemies. He was adored by the most beautiful young women in the city. He was returning from a rock festival, in which he was supposed to participate as a guitarist with his group the following night. Minutes before his murder he spoke with friends about his projects, about the successes he had already achieved and hoped to surpass with each new day, since he was already a professional musician.

I want to put in writing what I feel at this moment. As I said yesterday to a priest, I am angry with God. And I ask him: Lord Almighty, where were you then that you permitted such an injustice? Perhaps you were sleeping so that you did not run to his aid? What debts did we owe you? I believe in you, God Almighty, because you are evident to me, but I doubt your kindness and your justice.

To those who govern my country and dictate the laws; to the members of the courts that say they do justice: how long must one wait before terrifying events like this one receive exemplary punishments? The perpetrators of bloody events go to jails like they were on scholarships, and inside they are trained like graduates, they enjoy monthly visits with their women, they enjoy regular furloughs, and at half their sentence, if they have behaved well, they are granted “conditional” liberty, which many take advantage of to kill with impunity, because now in Cuba the death penalty is not used.

The city of Camaguey is electrified by this event. My son was the third victim of the gang which, that morning, carried out the crime spree. Cases like this emerge almost daily on our streets; but the press, muzzled, is not empowered to disseminate them. And to hide the truth is the most sordid way to lie.

The dismay that overwhelms me will not leave me for as long as I exist. But from now on I will fight with all my strength so that the streets of our city will be truly safe for our young people, whose parents today, horrified, corral them at home. Today it is my turn. Tomorrow the victim might be your child.

Let us demand true justice. Exemplary punishment.

I have been a zealous defender of the right to life. But if the use of the maximum penalty is necessary to save innocent people, then use it.

Translated by MLK