The "No" Campaign Gains Momentum Among the Opposition

Kiosks have begun to sell the text of the new Constitution. Here in Calle 23 in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 8, 2019 — Mobilization for the “No” vote in the referendum called for February 24 to approve the constitutional reform continues gaining momentum in the ranks of the opposition.

This Monday, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), José Daniel Ferrer, insisted that a “No” vote “is the option championed by a wide number of opposition organizations, defenders of Human Rights, and other members of Independent Civil Society both within and without domestic territory” via a message published on his personal Facebook account.

Ferrer recognizes that none of the voter’s options on the referendum — Yes, No, abstention or a null vote — is going to democratize Cuba on its own, but he believes that authorities “would prefer a broad abstention” over “a broad turnout at the polls that gives rise to a massive and conclusive No, which can be demonstrated.” continue reading

José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu).

Ferrer counters those calling for boycotting the referendum via a massive abstention with the argument that in a dictatorship people don’t participate in elections and reminds his audience of five cases in which an electoral process derailed a regime, among them Augusto Pinochet’s Chile and communist Poland.

“For someone who is very knowledgeable about the Cuban — and international –reality, it’s not the most effective option [abstention],” believes Ferrer, “unless those who champion it as the only valid form have the ability to mobilize, and demonstrate that they did it, with more than 50% of Cubans with the right to vote.”

The opposition figure called on those supporting abstention to join forces and work together with those who promote voting No, although he also warned that “with those who hold paralyzed and sectarian positions, because of orders or malice, no understanding can exist” and he branded them “very good allies of tyranny.”

The Unpacu leader also calls in his message to “together defend the right of Cubans of the diaspora to participate” in the referendum and “in any question of interest for the country.”

Furthermore, the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) has asked the European Parliament, United Nations, and the Organization of American States (OAS) to send observers to supervise and give guarantees of the process, according to a statement published this Monday by the organization.

OCDH, headquartered in Madrid, has recommended that the three international bodies “supervise the process and prevent fraud by Havana’s regime” so that “the regime doesn’t have a free hand to change popular will,” says the letter sent to Antonio Tajana, president of the European Parliament.

The petition was also sent to members of European Parliament Antonio López Istúriz, Beatriz Becerra, María Teresa Giménez Barbat, Javier Nart, Pavel Telicka, and Dita Charanzova, among others.

The letter to European Parliament asks that the behavior of Cuban authorities be taken into account “at the time of examining whether to maintain or suspend the Agreement for Political Dialogue and Cooperation with the Island.”

In December 2016 the European Union and Cuba signed their first bilateral agreement, for political dialogue and cooperation, that put an end to the European Union’s “Common Position,” which, as of 1996, imposed on the bloc a unilateral and restrictive relationship with the Island.

Although Cuba is not part of the OAS, OCDH sent a similar missive to Luis Almagro, secretary general of the body, seeking for “the region’s nations to send delegations of impartial observers” to the Island. “The drafting and review process of the new Constitution of the Republic of Cuba has been exclusionary, conceived by and for the Communist Party of Cuba, which has written and imposed its version of the Law that will rule the destiny of the Cuban nation,” reminds the text.

In the petition directed to Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner ofor Human Rights, OCDH underlines the importance of what will happen on February 24 when “the Cuban people are called to approve, or not, a proposal that could jeopardize their future.”

The Observatory, which along with other organizations supports the #YoVotoNo (#ImVotingNo) campaign, warns that that will be “a day of mobilization, complicated and tense.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

Final Text Published of Cuban Constitution That Will Go To A Referendum on 24 February

The official campaign for “Yes” begins with a blank page in the State newspaper Granma. (Screen Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 5 January 2018 — This Saturday the official media has published the final text of the new Constitution that will go to referendum on February 24. The document comes to light 15 days after it was approved by the National Assembly pf People’s Power during its last session in 2018.

The final text again includes the term “communism,” maintains the controversial Article 5 that consecrates the Communist Party as “organized vanguard of the nation” and ensures that “the concentration of property in natural or legal non-state persons is regulated by the State,” a point also criticized. continue reading

The new Constitution has Many more articles than the current one adopted 1976: 229 against 141, which had dropped to 137 with the last reform of the Constitution in 2002.

The name of Fidel (Castro) appears three times in its different forms: “Fidel” in the preamble, “Fidel Castro Ruz” and “fidelista”; while (José) Martí appears four times in various forms. The word “communist” or “communism” is mentioned five times in the document.

The issue of equal marriage, which had aroused so many passions in the debates, was postponed in a transitory provision: “the National Assembly of People’s Power will, within two years of the Constitution, initiate the process of popular consultation and referendum of the draft Family Code, in which the form of what constitutes marriage must appear.”

On December 28, the 17 members of the National Electoral Commission (CEN) who will organize the referendum were sworn in at the Capitol of Havana. The entity includes members of the Armed Forces and is chaired by Alina Balseiro, who led the parliamentary elections process concluded in 2018.

Previously, the 583 deputies present during the vote on the Constitution unanimously approved the text after a week of debates in which the proposed changes to the constitutional project were discussed, after a three-month consultation process in which the ruling party says that nearly nine million Cubans participated, including residents and emigrants.

The official press has announced that in the course of next week, the state-owned company Correos de Cuba “will put up for sale in all its units and newsstands, the Constitution of the Republic”, at the price of 1 CUP (national currency, approximately 4¢ US) . The document will have a tabloid format and will have 16 pages.

The Government and pro-government organizations are strongly promoting the ’Yes’ campaign in state media, sports broadcasts and social networks. So far no space has been given in the press or national television to the standard-bearers of the ’No’ campaign, despite the fact that social networks and political activism are developing a broad campaign for a ’No’ vote or for the boycott of the referendum.

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Revolution is Disappointment

The 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution was celebrated in Santa Ifigenia cemetery, a few yards from the tomb of Fidel Castro, the large rock seen in the background of the photo. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana | 9 January 2019 — As a gesture of profound symbolism, on January 1 the official ceremony to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution was held in the cemetery of Santa Ifigenia in Santiago de Cuba. More than the birthday of a living thing, its defenders gathered around the cadaver of a process, the tomb of a utopia.

The official slogans commemorated that six decades ago the “bearded ones” came down from the Sierra Maestra and burst onto the national life, but this doesn’t mean that the country has been in a process of renewal this entire time. It remains a task for academics to determine the date on which the original purposes were betrayed, but in day-to-day life it is easy to see that the Revolution has become a cadaver.

Like an earthquake or a hurricane, the process that began in 1959 rumbled for a short time, but the consequences of that initial impulse have extended over time and determined the lives of millions of people. The winds generated devastated generations and molded the mentality of an entire people. Its repressive death throes have affected everyone with more intensity and gravity than the benefits of its so-called social “conquests.”

Its repressive death throes have affected everyone with more intensity and gravity than the benefits of its so-called social “conquests.”

Now, although the government insists on continuing to call the political, economic and social situation we have experienced the “Cuban Revolution,” any study of history can find notably differentiated periods in which the paradigms, purposes, and above all the timelines to fulfill the initial promise of a luminous future, have changed. The chronology of disappointment has more dates than the one that marks moments of satisfaction.

Now it is almost obligatory to prepare an accounting that contrasts the achievements and failures, above all to respond to the question whether so many sacrifices, deaths, loss of rights, exoduses and imprisonments are equal to what has been achieved, or – at least – what has been proclaimed as accomplishments. Was it worth it to turn a nation upside down, tear apart its economy and redefine it, and push millions of the children of this land into exile?

Throughout the first three decades, the expressly stated purpose of the process was to “build socialism” and specifically the system described in the manuals of the Soviet academy, from which it was not possible to deviate a millimeter under pain of incurring the grave the sin of revisionism. Those were the times of drawing the future in bright colors and demanding the absolute sacrifice of Cubans for the sake of that ideal.

When the system collapsed in Eastern Europe, the Island’s authorities rushed to add the possessive pronoun “our” to socialism, and from that point any transgression of the dogma was allowed. They reworked the project to fit into the new historic context and, with this work of putting make-up on it, betrayed their most orthodox followers. That was when the Revolution died for those who hadn’t yet buried it during the exodus of the Mariel Boatlift in 1980, Fidel Castro’s support for the Soviet tanks in Prague in 1968, or the massive executions by firing squad of the first years.

A dozen octogenarians, self-proclaimed as the historic generation begin to prepare their withdrawal

In the early nineties of the last century, and without an explanation based in Marxist theory, the religious of any denomination were invited to join the Communist Party; private businesses – which had been exterminated and demonized in the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968 – were permitted; and to top off the heresies, since there was no longer the “pipeline” of subsides coming from the Soviet Union, it was considered necessary and profitable to accept and promote foreign investments, obviously from capitalist countries.

The precepts of the trashy “egalitarianism” that had molded the social reality during the first steps of the process ran up against the reality of the rise of the new rich and the fact that the State could not guarantee a rationed market that could cover people’s needs, nor a system of material privileges to win loyalty. Money resumed its value as a medium of exchange, and to the extent that foreign tourism arrived on the island the dollar delineated the new face of daily life on the Island.

With enthusiasm exhausted and the illusion that the revolutionary process could offer a dignified life to every Cuban extinguished, only repression remained to maintain control. The conquests in public services, such as education and healthcare, also suffered a frank deterioration and today languish under the problems of infrastructure, excessive ideologicalization and large ethical gaps.

Nor is the original leader alive. The years of the permanent call to action and the perennial mobilization imposed by Fidel Castro have been left behind. His brother, Raul Castro, tried to impose pragmatism during his mandate, but barely managed to unlock some legal absurdities, for example allowing Cubans to travel, or to buy and sell their homes and cars. His successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel, can’t get past the discourse of continuity, even though he dresses in shirt sleeves and appears, for the first time in more than half a century, accompanied by a first lady.

Hence, the 60th anniversary is celebrated at a crucial moment. A dozen octogenarians, survivors of purges, heart attacks and accidents, self-proclaimed as the historical generation of the Revolution, begin to prepare their withdrawal and accept the inescapable reality that they need a relief player. The new wolves in the litter show their hands free of the blood and confiscations, as they swear allegiance and promise to sustain continuity at any price.

The permanent call to action and the perennial mobilization imposed by Fidel Castro have been left behind

At the moment, the most notorious and transcendent fact that leaves its mark on the sixtieth birthday is the new Constitution of the Republic. A list of articles that seeks to leave the system “well secured” against potential heirs who might want to dare to change something. It is the road map of immobility, the rigid and unappealable political testament of a process that once boasted of renovation and irreverence.

The text of the new Constitution has been promoted as a way to adapt the initial purposes of social justice to the new times imposed by the 21st century. However, it is clearly a set of regulations to tie the hands of any reformer who attempts to change course. It is not wings for the future but an anchor firmly sunk in the past, a dead weight labeled “revolutionary.”

In its articles are enshrined the “irrevocability of socialism” and the role of the Communist Party as society’s maximum leading force, a clear example of the conservative will – a negation of the revolutionary spirit– that has dominated the regime for a long time. It is the last gesture to try to control from the tomb of the Cuban Revolution the life that continues to flow out here. A corpse that seeks to regulate each step, each breath, as if the coffin of history could condition the future.

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This article was originally published in the Spanish newspaper El País.

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

"El Gallego" Fernandez Dies, a Man of Proven Loyalty

José Ramón Fernández was born in Santiago de Cuba on November 4, 1923. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 January 2019 — In the early hours of this Sunday, José Ramón El Gallego (The Galician)  Fernández passed away in Havana at the age of 95, Granma newspaper reported in its digital version, after long months of the public absence of the official, including from the session of the National Assembly last December in which the text of the new Constitution was approved.

Fernández was born in Santiago de Cuba on 4 November 1923 and was the son of Asturians — despite the nickname that later defined him — his natural father was from Morcín and his mother from Oviedo. In 1940 he enlisted in the Constitutional Army of the Island where he came to hold the rank of Second Lieutenant. continue reading

Closely linked to sports, he ventured into horse riding, shooting, basketball, baseball and softball. He studied and graduated from the Artillery School of Cuba and also from the United States Army Academy in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

In 1952, after Fulgencio Batista’s coup d’etat, he led a group of official professors, lieutenants and captains in the Cadet School, who joined in the “Conspiracy of the Pure.” In 1956 he was tried for rebellion and sentenced to 4 years, 2 months and 21 days in prison.

In the Isle of Pines prison he had contact with members of the 26th of July Movement, the Popular Socialist Party, the Revolutionary Directorate and the Triple A. In January 1959 he was released after the victory of the rebels led by Fidel Castro and joined the new group of leaders of the country.

From that moment he held different responsibilities in the Armed Forces and the Government — he was Minister of Education — as well as serving on the Cuban Olympic Committee. He was a member of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party and a Deputy to the National Assembly of People’s Power. When he died he was Adviser to the President of the Councils of State and of Ministers.

Many consider him “the architect” of the victory of Playa Girón — the Bay of Pigs — in which he participated and for which he used the military knowledge he had accumulated in his years in the army and academies in Cuba and the United States.

In all the responsibilities he carried out during the last 60 years, he was characterized by an extreme loyalty towards Fidel and Raúl Castro.  A man of few words, he was seen as a “hard” by his subordinates and when he died he was part of a very small group of octogenarians and nonagenarians who make up the waning “historical generation.”

According to his wishes, his remains will be cremated and “later there will be information regarding the organization of funeral honors,” says the brief note published in the Granma newspaper.

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Havana Grabs Onto The Cricket Theory To Discredit The "Acoustic Attacks"

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 8, 2019 — The audio disseminated in October of 2017 by the Associated Press agency which supposedly reproduces the strange sound heard by the staff of the American embassy and which presumably caused brain damages in almost forty officials of Washington and Ottawa, matches the calling song of the short-tailed cricket, according to a study published by scientists from the University of California at Berkeley. The official press didn’t take long to echo the news and published the results of the study on Saturday.

The study, which is not intended to settle the damages caused nor the supposed attack, focuses on analyzing the sound, and determines that there are up to six lines of evidence that it is the noise produced by this insect typical of the Caribbean and common on the Island, whose scientific name is Anurogryllus celerinictus. continue reading

The academics Alexander L. Stubbs and Fernando Montealegre, from the Biology Department and the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology of the California university, say that “the calling song of the Indies short-tailed cricket of the Caribbean matches, in nuanced detail, the AP recording (…)” in terms of “duration, pulse repetition rate, power spectrum, pulse rate stability, and oscillations per pulse.”

The study’s conclusions may call into question the origin of the audio or its possible relation with the injuries caused to the diplomats, although they do not question whether these occurred.

“This provides strong evidence that an echoing cricket call, rather than a sonic attack or other technological device, is responsible for the sound in the released recording. Although the causes of the health problems reported by embassy personnel are beyond the scope of this paper, our findings highlight the need for more rigorous research into the source of these ailments, including the potential psychogenic effects, as well as possible physiological explanations unrelated to sonic attacks,” maintains the study.

“The line of evidence supports the conclusion that the sound recorded by US personnel in Cuba is of a biological origin and does not constitute a sonic attack. The fact that the sound in the recording was produced by a cricket does not rule out the theory that Embassy personnel were victims of another type of attack,” adds the document.

The mystery of the sonic attacks, as the US refers to them, thus continues without being solved. American authorities maintain that at least 24 members of their staff stationed in Havana suffered migraines, nausea, and brain damage between the end of 2016 and August of 2016, which were, in their view, caused by advanced acoustic devices.

One of the most recent and elaborate scientific theories published was that provided in March 2018 by Kevin Fu, an expert in computer science at the University of Michigan, according to which the health problems of the officials had no relation with exposure to an acoustic attack, but rather with interferences caused by electronic devices.

Fu, in collaboration with professor Wenyuan Xu and his doctoral student Chen Yan at the University of Zhejiang (China), provided this theory based precisely on the audio of the Associate Press.

The frequency of that sound reached 7 kilohertz (kHz), far from the range of between 20 and 200 kHz typical of ultrasound frequencies, which are inaudible and which at an early stage were believed to be the causes of the intriguing event.

Through a series of simulations Yan showed that an effect known as intermodulation distortion could have caused the sound that was heard on the recording and that the Berkeley scientists now categorically affirm is crickets.

Intermodulation distortion is a phenomenon that occurs when two signals of different frequencies combine to produce synthetic signals.

Chen used two ultrasound speakers: one of 25 kHz and the other of 32 kHz. When he crossed the signals of both devices it produced a sharp sound of 7 kHz, which matched the difference in frequency between the two devices and which was the same that was heard in the AP audio.

“If ultrasound is the culprit, then a possible cause is two signals that accidentally interfere with each other, creating an audible secondary effect. Maybe there is an ultrasound blocker in the room and an ultrasonic transmitter,” suggested Fu in an alternative that led to the consideration that the devices that reacted to each other were microphones.

ProPublica had affirmed in February of 2018 that all the hypotheses dealt with until that point were ruled out except for the Russian clue. The digital outlet gave a detailed account of the events after listening to the testimony of various American officials. At the time the sound was heard, the possibility was mentioned that it might have an animal origin, but those affected were divided on the matter.

“I’m very sure that they’re cicadas,” said one of the officials. “They’re not cicadas,” responded another. “Cicadas don’t sound like that. The sound is too mechanical.”

The sounds were described as sharp and disorienting and the diplomats thought, initially, that they were usual episodes of surveillance or harassment that their compatriots have denounced since the United States Interests Section opened in 1977.

What appears beyond all doubt is that there are dozens of diplomats affected by a cause yet uknown but that the United States attributes to a sonic attack.

The options most used in cases of this origin are ultrasonic weapons, those of ultrasound and microwaves, although the first have been imposed because of their matching the symptoms described by the victims.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

Passenger Bus Cashes Into a Train and Leaves 11 Injured, Some in Serious Condition

The bus from Varadero collided with the passenger train that covers the route between Bayamo and the community of Guamo. (Lizet Márquez Gómez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 January 2019 – This Tuesday morning a passenger bus of the state company Transtur collided with a train at a railway-level crossing on the Bayamo-Las Tunas highway, an accident that left 11 injured, according to the official press.

Bus number 4724 with license plate B 173235 was travelling from Varadero when it hit the passenger train that covers the route between Bayamo and the community of Guamo, in the municipality of Río Cauto, according to the note.

It is the third accident involving a passenger bus in less than a month. The injured, whose ages range from 17 to 80 years, are from the provinces of Matanzas, Cienfuegos, Ciego de Ávila and Granma. continue reading

The wounded were taken to the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes provincial hospital in Bayamo, where they are currently receiving medical attention.

According to the witnesses of the incident, the accident occurred when the bus driver did not obey the stop signal at the level crossing and collided with the train that passed through the intersection.

However, a commentator from the Cubadebate site questioned that version and wrote “How many more dead will we have to await in order to put up the needed barriers with bells and lights and warning signs?” The resident in the province of Granma said that “Bayamo has the feature of having to traverse more than 17 level crossings, none with barriers.”

“At night, the darkness on our roads is incredible, there are no lights, there are no signs, there are no phosphorescent lines on the road surface. These things would help a lot to manage and prevent somewhat these unfortunate events,” added another Internet user who identified himself as Julio.

This past December 27, two people were killed and 33 injured in a traffic accident involving a truck with a trailer loaded with sugar cane and a passenger bus from the state company Astro. On December 12 another incident, again with a passenger bus, left three dead and 29 injured in the vicinity of Mayarí, in the province of Holguín.

The authorities traditionally attribute these types of accidents to the carelessness of the drivers, paying little attention to the road, excessive speeding or consumption of alcoholic beverages, but they rarely recognize the bad state of the roads, the scant signage and the technical problems of vehicle parking.

In the first quarter of this year, the number of massive accidents has soared alarmingly in the country.

The problem of the numerous traffic accidents on the island was addressed by President Miguel Díaz-Canel during a meeting with the Council of Ministers last July. The president urged all to worry about the “significant number of deaths and injuries” caused by these events.

On that occasion, the Minister of Transport, Adel Yzquierdo, cited as main causes of accidents “social indiscipline”, inadequate signaling, road deterioration and the circulation of vehicles without updated technical maintenance.

In 2017, 11,187 traffic accidents were recorded in the country, leaving 750 dead and 7,999 injured, according to reports from the National Road Safety Commission. Since 2012, according to the same source, more than 4,400 deaths have been reported on Cuban roads.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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“Betrayals” According to Batista

Did Batista believe he could once again be “The Man” of providence, in the absence of somewhat demagogic leaders like Chibás? (Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jacobo Machover, París | 5 January 2019 — Cuba Betrayed is the English title of Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar’s book, published two years ago in Mexico and titled simply Respuesta… (Response). It is the defense by the island’s one-time strongman against all the attacks against his regime and his person.

The American edition takes up again the key idea of the book: that of betrayal. But it would have been better to say “Batista betrayed” instead of Cuba. Because his defeat was, according to his point of view, much more a consequence of an interminable series of betrayals by the Americans, by the Cuban bourgeoisie (which he sometimes designates as “the economic classes” in opposition to the workers, who had remained faithful to him), and by some of his peers, the closest military figures, than by the struggle of Fidel Castro’s rebels. continue reading

This testimony contrasts, in any case, with the epic tales about the Revolution, the majority based on the stories of the guerrillas once in power, principally Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War by Ernesto “Che” Guevara, published throughout the first years after the taking of power and reorganized in one volume in 1963, but also from the anecdotes distilled in the speeches of Fidel Castro or in the interviews granted to innumerable foreign journalists.

Other versions of the same “feats” appear in The Book of the Twelve — first published in various European countries in 1965 and then in Cuba in 1967 — by Carlos Franqui, one of the ideologues of Castroism, who left the island as a result of the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968. But few were those who made an effort to analyze the rotting of power from within.

This is the fundamental interest of Batista’s book, which is not simply a response to his detractors but also an attempt to justify his coup d’etat of 10 March 1952, and a detailed account of the evolution of the opponents within and outside of his own side until the final disintegration of his Army, in the last days of December 1958. And also of his abandonment by his old allies, the United States, explicitly accused of having taken the side of the rebels. From that perspective, the Cuban Revolution is of course different. It’s time to take an interest in this version, not at all heroic, but which does express the vision of the defeated, without pathos, with a certain clarity.

Fulgencio Batista, considered a “ruthless tyrant,” instigator of a “dictatorial and cruel” regime, endeavors to emphasize in his own defense that his objective was not such, in taking power by force in 1952, but rather on the contrary that he wanted to re-establish a democracy weakened by the chaos that reigned in the Republic, during the third constitutional mandate initiated in 1948 under the presidency of Carlos Prío Socarrás, consecutive to his own presidential period between 1940 and 1944 and that of Ramón Grau San Martín between 1944 and 1948.

Carlos Prío’s years in power were marked by an increase in confrontations between gangs, all of which presented themselves as revolutionary but which did no more than kill each other in order to gain positions, very well paid, in the police or administration, and to control the University Students’ Federation (FEU), bands of which Fidel Castro, personally accused of having carried out various murders, formed a part.

Cuban society was violent and profoundly corrupt, also marked by the collusion of certain political figures with various representatives of the American mafia — whose establishment in Cuba happened long before Batista’s coup — who found on the island the opportunity to continue with their businesses (hotel and casino construction, trafficking of all types), far from the severe controls of their home country’s administration.

Cuba had also been shaken by a drama that forever marked national history: the suicide, in 1951, practically live on the radio of Eduardo Chibás, the most popular of politicians, leader of the Cuban People’s Party (Ortodoxo). Chibás fired a bullet into his stomach but the radio program had been interrupted by advertising because he had by then exceeded the time that he had paid for, so the suicide was not actually carried live. He had made the fight against corruption his goal, adopting the symbol of the broom to clean the stables of the elites of the island.

When unable to offer the proof of his accusations against an acting minister, Aureliano Sánchez Arango, Chibás had preferred to end his life. His proverbial integrity and a certain degree of madness had finished him off. The Cuban people would never recover from that loss. His burial was the largest spontaneous expression of mourning by Cubans — the funerals of Fidel Castro, organized and controlled to the millimeter by his brother Raúl in 2016, cannot be considered in the same way.

Did Batista believe he could once again be “The Man” of providence, in the absence of somewhat demagogic leaders like Chibás? In any case, the motivations for his uprising are not at all clear. Indeed, he does not allude to a coup d’etat but rather to the “revolutionary regime of March 10.” Within the family, as his son Bobby explains, they referred to the “regime of March,” eliminating the description “revolutionary.”

That “revolution” was not bloody, he explained, justifying himself, just like that of the “sergeants,” which he had led in September of 1933, almost twenty years earlier, and which had put an end to the uncontrolled violence that followed the fall of the dictator Gerardo Machado. That action had made him, until his democratic election to the presidency in 1940, the true creator in the shadows of the island’s politics.

The coup d’etat of 10 March 1952, however, was not as peaceful as he claims. During the wee hours between March 9 and March 10, General Batista left his residence located to the west of Havana, the farm called Kuquine, in the company of his closest circle.

They split up in three vehicles and without firing a shot entered, at 2:43 in the morning, the military camp of Columbia, the most important in Cuba. The nocturnal coup was perfectly organized. The security barrier was raised right away to let them pass while, with the same ease, his generals were taking command of the principal military strongholds of the capital: the colonial fort of La Cabaña and the barracks of San Ambrosio.

Batista was dressed as a civilian, with a leather jacket and an open shirt. He nevertheless was hiding underneath his clothing a 38 calibre pistol, in case the action didn’t go as planned. Photos show him smiling in front of a portrait of José Martí — the “apostle” of the war of independence against Spain, killed in action in 1895 — surrounded by soldiers, received triumphantly by the troops.

This undoubtedly led him to think that the Republic was waiting for him as if he were its savior and that he would restore even the degraded democracy. At least that was what he wrote to his second wife, Martha Fernández, in the letter that he had left when he left Kuquine, his eventual testament. It was just an illusion.

Later, in the early morning, after the radio announced the revolt, president Carlo Prío, who had only a few months left in his mandate, since elections were supposed to take place on June 1, was arriving at 4:30 am at the Palace, located at that time in the heart of Havana.

In front of one of the side entrances of the building, a shootout took place between several of Batista’s men, who were in a police vehicle, and the Palace guard. Two of the assailants died in the act, as well as one of the guards, struck by the rebound of a bullet, while another was injured. It was the only effective resistance that morning.

But, quickly, some twenty students from the FEU met with Carlos Prío to demand arms. The president judged that any type of resistance was futile at that moment because the Army was in control of communications and all of the strategic points in the capital and in the whole of the country: Batista was still popular in the military institution, as in the time of the “sergeants’ revolution.”

Prío then made the decision to hide in the home of some friends located at the beach of Guanabo, to the east of Havana. Batista knew where he was. He nevertheless permitted him to take refuge in the Mexican embassy, from which he could leave on the way to exile, which he would take advantage of to later organize armed actions against him. That weakness toward his political enemies, even Fidel Castro, was later going to cause him to make bad moves, hastening his downfall.

Excerpt from the book “Betrayals,” according to Batista, published by Editorial Verbum, Madrid, 2018.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

14ymedio Faces of 2018: Cristina Escobar Dominguez, From Stardom to Silence

The journalist and television presenter Cristina Escobar. (Youtube)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 December 2018 – She began the year as the primetime presenter of Cuban television, where she was one of the voices of the Plaza of the Revolution, especially with respect  to the relations with Washington and anti-Trump speech. Suddenly, at the end of this year, Cristina Escobar Domínguez disappeared from the small screen.

The explanation arrived in unexpected fashion when the embassy of the United Kingdom in Havana announced on its Facebook page that the presenter had obtained a Chevening scholarship financed by the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was confirmed shortly after by Sergio Alejandro Gómez when he appeared presenting Escobar’s program Solo la verdad (Only the Truth), which analyzes films with political themes. continue reading

So it was not, as some speculated, because she made politically inappropriate comments on her social networks after an incident on the beach of Varadero, where she was not allowed to spend the night in front of the Arenas Blancas Barceló hotel. “As far as I knew, the beaches are public in Cuba … well, no! They are only for those who pay, (…) if we  allow them to continue to violate our rights,” she said at the time.

The incident was not reported in the official media and a few weeks later Escobar was in Lima (Peru) with the Cuban delegation to the VIII Summit of the Americas and covered it via Facebook Live.

Upon her return to Havana, she inaugurated the digital transmissions site Dominio Cuba, which in her own words, intended to “provide press coverage about Cuba that confronts the misinformation and manipulations around the reality of the Island.”

In June, she was selected to be a member of the National Committee of the Union of Journalists of Cuba, during the quinquennium 2018-2023, right in the middle of the preparations for the creation of the new information policy of the Island.

During the summer, Escobar conducted the program Only the Truth in which she presented films and criticized the politics and social problems of the United States. This, without abandoning her presence in the morning magazine Buenos Días, nor in the Roundtable and on the nightly broadcast of the National Television News, where she comented on international news.

For that reason, her sudden disappearance is surprising. The explanation that it is due to a postgraduate course in the United Kingdom is not convincing since the requirements of the Chevening Scholarships are geared to young people with little work experience, “at least two years,” and Escobar has more than double the experience and a meteoric career.

So, what really happened?

See also: 14ymedio Faces of 2018

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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

Santiago de Cuba’s Evangelicals Celebrate in the Street Over Removal of Article 68

The first Christmas pilgrimage of the Pentecostal Church Assembly of God celebrates the non-inclusion of Article 68 in the Constitution. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ernesto Camué, Santiago de Cuba | 26 December, 2018 — Dozens of members of the Pentecostal Church Assembly of God participated in Tuesday night in a Christmas pilgrimage through the streets of Santiago de Cuba and celebrated the withdrawal of Article 68 from the Constitution; the article would have opened the door to the legalization of equal marriage.

It is the first procession of the Assembly of God that has received an official authorization. During the tour through the streets of Santiago, the faithful called it an “achievement” that the final text of the Constitution did not include legal recognition of unions between people of the same sex, a proposal that appeared in the draft and that generated a great controversy. continue reading

Along with the thrill of holding a Christmas time pilgrimage for the first time, the faithful demanded the traditional family model promoted by the Church, as opposed to homosexual marriage demanded by members of the LGBTI community.

Last week, after Article 68 of the constitutional text was eliminated, several groups of evangelicals publicly congratulated themselves and announced their intention to mobilize against the Government’s project to include, within two years, that same concept in the Family Code.

“The news that the National Assembly of People’s Power rejected the proposal of Article 68, because it was shown that a majority of the population of Cuba rejected it, is a measure of how much the thought of the Evangelical Church of Cuba represents the Cuban People,” the Methodist Church said on its Facebook page.

For its part, the Assembly of God was one of the five evangelical denominations that signed a declaration against equal marriage last July. In the document they asserted that the “gender ideology” does not have any relation with Cuban culture “nor with the historical leaders of the Revolution.”

At that time, these five congregations, which are not within the Cuban Council of Churches, also requested permission from the Government to carry out a march along La Rampa, a major street in Havana, from the corner of 23rd and L to the Malecón, but this request was rejected by the authorities.

The congregation of the Assembly of God that held a pilgrimage this December 25 has more than 2,000 faithful who frequently attend the services and is led by the pastor José García, a native of the town of Baracoa.

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

Despite its Shortcomings and High Cost, Cubans Celebrate the Arrival of Internet to Cellphones

On December 6 the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (Etecsa) enabled web browsing on cellphones. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 6 January 2019 — A month into Cubans’ ability to connect to the internet from their cellphones, users are complaining of the high prices of the service and the shortcomings of the 3G but, at the same time, many appreciate the advantage of being able to connect from anywhere.

On December 6 the Telecommunications Company of Cuba enabled web browsing on cellphones. However, a considerable number did not get the capacity because of the incompatibility of their devices, lack of 3G coverage, or the high cost of the packages.

Yordanys Labrada, resident of Songo La Maya, is one of those to whom the technology dealt a raw deal. With a very modern phone, made in 2018, this young Santiago native laments that the device cannot connect at the frequency of 900 Mhz, that chosen by Etecsa for sending and receiving web data. “My phone works in 2, 3, and 4G, but with the problem of the frequency I can’t do anything,” he explains to 14ymedio. continue reading

Now, to connect, Labrada has to keep visiting the wifi zones that began to be installed in plazas and parks all over the Island beginning in 2015. One of the most evident signs that internet has come to mobile phones is, precisely, the lack of crowding in these areas, traditionally full of customers wanting to check the worldwide web.

On La Rampa in Havana the number of internet users has decreased in the past month. “Even though it can be a lot more expensive connecting on mobile versus on wifi, people really value being able to do it in the peace and privacy of their home,” believes Jean Carlos, a young man of 21 who says that since the beginning of the service for cellphones he has used two packages of 2.5 gigabytes, for a total of 40 CUC, the equivalent of an engineer’s monthly salary.

Browsing on cellphones is sold through data packages and its price goes from 7 CUC for 600 megabytes up to 30 CUC for 4 gigabytes. Jean Carlos can afford those expenses because he works as a ’mule’ bringing merchandise to the Island. “Via email and WhatsApp buyers tell me what they want me to bring them.” His informal business depends on being connected the majority of the time.

For Lorena Rodríguez the view is very different. The high school student describes the price as “still very expensive” and she became sad when the first package of 1GB that she purchased ran out in two days in which she only used Imo, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

Others lament that there are areas of bad or no coverage. Yusef Hernández complained on Twitter because in Cárdenas (in Matanzas province) the connection “is very bad and it’s a lot of work to access the internet.”

Something similar happens on Calle 14 near the centrally located Avenida 23, in Havana, where the residents insist they are in a “zone of silence.” Some of them have commented ironically on social media about the nearness of the cemetery and the “dead spot” of connectivity in which they live.

Other criticisms arise from the ineffectiveness of the additional voucher for 300 megabytes which allows users to browse only on domestic sites, and comes with the purchase of any package. Technical difficulties and little interest in visiting these websites, all in the hands of the government, mean that the option has not had a great popularity according to what this newspaper was able to confirm after investigating among numerous customers.

“I’m still using the principal data package even when I visit a .cu website,” complained a reader of the official newspaper Granma. The response he received from Etecsa officials boils down to the fact that, even though Cuban pages are housed on domestic servers, they have elements or modules inserted that come from foreign services.

“The majority of the people I know don’t use this service to visit any domestic website, but rather to interact on social media and look up information from other independent or foreign media,” 14ymedio is told by a young man who has found a business gold mine in configuring Access Point Names (APN) in mobile phones.

“The customers who come also want me to set up their Facebook accounts, help them understand how messaging or chat services work, or install some application to control data use,” says the computer specialist, who has a small mobile phone repair place on Calle San Lázaro in Havana.

“Mainly older people come because young people know how to do all this on their own,” he explains. “Now with internet on cellphones, many people over the age of 50, who before lived with their backs turned to new technologies, have realized that they need to learn in order to communicate with their children or with other family members abroad.”

In the first week Etecsa recorded “up to 145,000 simultaneous data connections from the mobile network.” Although there have not been new updates of those figures, on social media a larger volume of posts coming from the Island is noted, as well as a greater immediacy in response or interaction times.

In the last three weeks almost all of the ministers and members of the Council of State have opened Twitter accounts after the head of the Government did so. But the officials still seem awkward on social media and merely repeat slogans or retweet news from official media.

The arrival of internet service has coincided with a worsening in shortages of basic products, like flour and eggs. From their cellphones internet users have discovered that they could denounce the absence or poor quality of rationed bread and show the empty shelves in stores.

The referendum on the new Constitution, on February 24, is also material for the Net. The government has determinedly thrown itself into promoting the vote for “Yes” on all its digital sites and on the social media accounts of its officials. The supporters of the “No” vote and of abstention have done likewise, lacking access to mass media within the Island.

The ideological battle experiences moments of commotion on the internet and connections from mobile phones seem to have contributed to heating up the debate.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

Wealth Doesn’t Only Come From Work, There’s More

In their analysis of the economy, Marxists spurn human motivation as an element in the creation of wealth. (Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Miami, January 6, 2019 — The communist newspaper Granma devotes an article in today’s edition to the economy, and specifically, does it with an untruthful title: “Wealth will come from work.” I have nothing against the journalist who wrote this pamphlet because certainly it will have been dictated to her. But since it commits some very serious errors of elemental economic analysis, this blog will dedicate its first entry of 2019 to commenting on its contents.

To begin, since many years ago, so many that memory doesn’t reach so far back, economic science has known that work, as a factor of production at the macro and micro level, is fundamental for a productive system. But obviously it is not the only factor capable of creating wealth, and with time, economists have stopped speaking of work, homogenous and generic, typical of Marxist teachings, and have started to establish talent as the most adequate measurement of contribution to productivity and wealth.

They are different things. For example, the article assumes a grave error, and I cite from the text: “having more resources, including monetary, for the sake of satisfying growing needs and more quality of life (…) will only come from work, and from individual and collective efforts being directed toward developing the economy.” continue reading

False. This only happens in economies of societies of poverty, of subsistence, in which salary only exists as income, and the population does not have alternative assets that would permit them to generate wealth.

In modern economies, the means that allow people to enjoy a greater standard of living come from work, but not only from work. Above all, of all that can be gained by capitalizing on work, an effort to save, identifying opportunities and risks, and taking positions for the future.

It’s not difficult to observe that in Cuba “activating all the potentials to produce more and with efficiency,” is unthinkable with the current model, because it lacks a fundamental element for that: human motivation.

In their analysis of the economy, Marxists spurn human motivation as an element in the creation of wealth. For them, social uniformity is the priority. Social justice focuses on lowering aspirations, reducing individual motivations in favor of certain collective objectives that are difficult to measure and assess, but scarce and limited. And in this postulate resides the failure of the model. On the other hand, people are driven by incentives that guarantee them the ability to access a better standard of living, to fulfill their dreams, to see realized a better future for their children and grandchildren. That is the motivation.

And so, in addition to the fruits of labor, although only a small part is saved, the fruits of those resources allow access to other goods and services, or supplemented with bank credits they allow investment in one or several homes, in land, buildings, machines, patents, etc, any lawful thing that allows more wealth to be generated.

The capital factor, in Cuba harassed and extinguished by the communist regime for 60 years, hasn’t been used to fulfill its important role in the generation of wealth. Cubans have to flee from Cuba to establish that economic reality, in Miami, Madrid, or wherever destiny takes them.

Economists know that the life cycle of human consumption is conditioned by human wealth, which comes from work throughout one’s life, and non-human wealth, which has to do with the property rights that people have over certain assets, like land, homes, plots, savings, investment and pension plans, etc.

In advanced economies, work is just one factor of the many that generate income and wealth, and governments know that for a country to get out of underdevelopment and firmly direct its evolution toward prosperity, it is necessary not to place obstacles in the way of factors associated with non-human wealth, as happens in Cuba.

Additionally, the article in Granma doesn’t take into account the fact that we live in a global world, in which technologies associated with the fourth industrial revolution are changing the forms of producing, consuming, investing…of working. By now work is not respresented by those gray and uniform human masses of the Europe of the Iron Curtain, Soviet Russia, or the Chinese of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

Work in this new century is measured in terms of talent and skill, which is nothing other than a measurement of the quality of the work. Fidel Castro once spoke of rewarding work according to its quality, and there is his legacy: Cuban salaries, some 30 dollars per month, are among the lowest in the world. Without skill businesses cannot function, and for that reason they fight over talent and pay elevated wages to those workers who provide that distinguishing element of competence.

Unskilled workers have to make an effort not to miss the train of the future and opt for a strategy of learning throughout life that, in many cases, encourages businesses to be more productive and efficient. Educational and training systems must be reoriented to contribute in a decisive manner to this process, demand less social prominence, and opt for professional skill.

The problem is that the world has changed — a lot — and the communist regime of the Castros has remained in an artificial bubble since the 1950s, and the worst thing is that they want to make us believe that they are right. An absurd disaster.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

From Camels to a Sleigh, Cuba Moves from The Three Kings to Santa Claus

On the island there is a silent battle between the old traditions inherited from Spain and the American ways. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 6 January 2019 — Red hats with a white band, beards as props, and gifts placed under the tree are Christmas elements increasingly frequent in Cuban homes. The increasingly fluid contact with Cubans in exile, after the immigration reform of 2013, has reduced the tradition of the Magi, while Santa Claus is more present on the island.

Suany del Valle, 45, recalls that when she was a child in the 80s, the celebration of Three Kings Day on January 6 and any mention of Melchior, Gaspar and Balthasar was frowned upon by the ruling party. “My grandmother and my mother kept the tradition in whispers,” she tells 14ymedio. “But now that it is allowed, many people prefer to deliver the gifts on the night of December 24,” she laments.

Del Valle was one of the girls who bought toys through a rationed distribution mechanism that was invented during the years when Fidel Castro ruled and the Soviet subsidy was a major source of support for the island. “They moved the sale of toys to July* to erase any closeness to the Magi and you had to stand in long lines to get a doll,” recalls this Havana graduate in economics. continue reading

Now, toys, sweets and even children’s clothing can only be purchased in stores in convertible pesos under the law of supply and demand. “That has meant a new social division, between children who only receive chocolates or sweets these days and others who get remote control cars or Nintendo,” says Del Valle.

On the black market, the offers focus on children’s gifts to be delivered around Christmas Eve. “We sold most of the toys in the days before December 24, some parents wanted to keep them for the Magi, but most wanted to deliver them on Christmas Eve,” says 28-year-old Geovanny Lopez, an informal merchant.

“I traveled to Panama at the beginning of December with a list of customer orders. They were mainly looking for accessories and costumes related to Santa Claus, plastic trees, lights, balls and garlands to decorate, as well as children’s toys,” he tells this daily. “Most buyers told me that they needed gifts for Christmas,” says López.

The trend is confirmed by Miguel Godínez, 54, who lives in Tampa. “I sent some 300 dollars to my family to celebrate the end of the year and to buy Christmas Eve gifts.” The emigrant is one of the many Cubans living in the United States who is helping to mold a new tradition, to the detriment of the Three Kings.

“When I arrived in the United States during the Rafter Crisis, I was surprised that almost nobody celebrated on January 6; eventually I got used to Santa Claus.” Now, Godínez has started his family in Sancti Spíritus in the practices of the gentleman with the beard and the sack loaded with presents. “It’s better that way, because then we’re doing the same things, the same days and almost at the same time even though I’m not with them, and this way we feel more united.”

Cubans in the United States are the largest Cuban community outside the island. In 2013, the United States Census Office estimated the number of Cubans living in the United States at 2 million, counting those born there of Cuban parents. Their influence in the lives of their relatives left in Cuba has been growing, to the extent that the sending of remittances and trips to and from both sides of the Straits of Florida have also done so.

Cuban-Americans have been an outpost of Santa Claus, who in Cuba is not called by his other names: Father Christmas or Saint Nicolas. On the island there is a silent battle between the old traditions inherited from Spain and the American ways. Private businesses contribute to reinforcing the latter by preferring the decorations or motifs in which the plump gentleman dressed in red is seen.

The shortages in the network of state stores do not help to maintain the tradition of the Magi. “All the children’s departments are empty or almost empty,” laments Liane, the mother of two children aged six and nine. “I could only buy them chocolates because there are no toys.”

Liane also denounced to 14ymedio that in the primary school where her children study, in East Havana, the teacher explained to the children that “the Magi do not exist” and that it is “a practice of capitalism.” The mother complained to the school principal but it was too late, her two children no longer “put out water for the camels before bed or write a letter to the Kings because they know that with or without water and with or without a letter, the gifts will not change.”

In the midst of the liquidity crisis that Cuba is experiencing which affects the import of merchandise, not only are there no drugs or flour for bread, but the deficit also reaches the products destined for children. Maria Ysabel Travieso recounted in her Facebook account that she visited the toy department in the Centrally Located Plaza de Carlos III on January 3 and found all the shelves empty.

“What emotion, we went looking for the toys for the Three Kings…,” she wrote on her wall on that social network; her publication was shared more than a hundred times and generated dozens of comments. The actor Luis Silva, who plays the popular humorous character of Pánfilo, was one of those who asked Travieso about the place she had gone to buy and shared her images on his own wall.

However, it is not only the shortages and the American influence that have contributed to a cut in the celebrations of January 6. Despite the permissiveness of recent years, the Plaza of the Revolution has continued to look on the the festivity with ill-will and often the most orthodox voices of the ruling class criticize the “consumerism” that the date generates.

Abel Prieto, former Minister of Culture, recently posted on his Twitter account that “the commercial use of Christmas is deeply anti-Christian.” The official has been at the head of the government’s attack against the influence of American traditions on the island and other “imported” events such as certain musical genres, Hollywood movies or video games with major action.

In 2001, the Magi became the center of a bitter diplomatic dispute between Havana and Madrid. The Cuban press attacked the Spanish embassy in Havana for having organized a procession with Melchior, Gaspar and Balthasar in an area close to the Spanish embassy and the Havana Malecon. The caravan, in cars pulled by horses, threw caramels in its wake.

The state newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) called the initiative a “disgusting spectacle” and called the diplomats who were dressed in the costumes of the Magi “monstrosities,” “unrecognizable clowns” and “pseudo-magicians.” However, in an unusual gesture on national television the news reported on the statements of one of the participants who wished that the tradition “would increasingly be a party shared by all children.”

*Translator’s note: Fidel Castro used the excuse of needing the entire nation to focus on the sugar harvest as a reason to “reschedule gift-giving” to the summer.

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

14ymedio Faces of 2018: Doctors Repatriated from Brazil by the Cuban Government

The doctors arrived home from Brazil afterCuba broke with the Mais Médicos program. (Granma / Juvenal Balán)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 December 2018 — At the center of an intense political dispute in recent weeks have been the 8,471 Cuban doctors who served in the Mais Médicos (More Doctors) program in Brazil. Since the Brazil’s newly-elected president, Jair Bolsonaro, demanded new conditions for their stay in the South American country, the accusations between Havana and Brasilia have risen in tone.

For five years Cuban doctors worked in Brazil through an agreement signed between Havana, the government led by then Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).  Approximately 20,000 of these collaborators, deployed in 3,600 municipalities, passed through the country before the electoral victory of the right-wing Bolsonaro last October.

Bolsonaro demanded that the Cuban doctors must undergo tests to measure their knowledge, and in addition must be given the right to have their families with them in Brazil, as well as to receive their full salary, of which they were only paid 30% with the rest going to the Cuban government. The rightist called the doctors “slaves” of a “dictatorship,” and also questioned their qualifications. continue reading

In response, Cuban authorities ordered the withdrawal of their doctors on November 14, of which about 90% returned to the island, some 7,635, according to official figures. The rest decided to stay in Brazil and will not be able to enter the Island for eight years, the penalty imposed by the Cuban Government on those it calls “deserters.”

Some families of doctors who did not return to Cuba have denounced acts of discrimination against them by official organizations. Last November, a group of them who escaped to the United States sued PAHO, alleging that the entity benefited from what they consider a forced labor scheme.

The end of the Cuban participation in Mais Médicos is contributing to the gloomy forecasts facing the national economy. In the midst of Cuba’s liquidity crisis, the country will stop receiving about 300 million dollars a year that came through this program.

From a multiplicity of specialties, ranging from Comprehensive General Medicine, through pediatrics to cardiology, thousands of physicians depart from all over Cuba, after going through a strict selection process in which they assessed for their labor skills but also their ideological affiliation to official organizations, such as the Communist Party and the Young Communists Union.

On their return to the Island the Government has the obligation to place each of these doctors in a workplace and to give them access to the money from their salaries, in Cuban pesos, that was deposited in their bank accounts in Cuba while they served abroad. Each doctor also receives a magnetic card with which they can buy, at preferential prices, some merchandise in hard currency stores.

 See also: 14ymedio Faces of 2018

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

The True Path is Not to Weaken the Oppressor but to Strengthen the Oppressed

The ‘boteros’ (self-employed taxi drivers) drove empty during their ’strike’ on the 23rd street in Havana and did not stop for passengers, as a sign of protest. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 21 December 2018 — The tug-of-war between a government leadership accustomed to impose its will like an absolute monarch and the sectors of the citizenship that are beginning to energetically claim their rights through peaceful resistance as actors of an emerging civil society, has come to the fore in recent months, especially in December of 2018, a year that, when it concludes, will mark sixty years of the same group in power. These days of protest show conclusions and lessons that we can not fail to point out:

1. The offensive of government restrictions such as the paquetazo* and Decree 349, is a clear indication of the concern of the Party-State leadership, and in particular of the hard-line sector, over the development of civil society in recent times: independent galleries, alternative theaters, private recording studios, blogs, the unbridled growth of the self-employed market, in particular the paladares (private restaurants), the private transporters and an infinity of micro-businesses with a wide variety of services. continue reading

This is something reminiscent of the growth of the Third State on the eve of the French Revolution in the face of the excessive obstacles of the feudal monarchy. In this case, it is a living and creative force, both economically and culturally, against a political-military superstructure that slows down its development.

2. The power has made a serious mistake in imposing such unpopular measures less than three months from the date chosen to carry out the popular consultation on its proposed constitutional reform, probably because of its confidence that it can continue to benefit from the consent of the population.

Either because of indolence or fear, or, in the later instance, because they feel they can manipulate the results of the referendum to their benefit without unfavorable consequences, as has been done on previous occasions, or because they underestimate the response capacity of civil society, including the protests of well-known personalities which, until now, have distinguished themselves by their support for that leadership.

The result has been a malaise that the opposition could exploit in favor of the campaign to vote NO on the constitutional reform.

3. The granting of access to the Internet through cell phones on the same day, December 6, when the restrictions announced against artists and self-employed workers came into force, shows that their main objective was to divert the attention of the population to better weather the storm of protests. The internet access had been delayed by the fear of unleashing the “untamed wild colt” of the internet on the population with their computers and cell phones.

The new telecommunications technology undermines all centralized structures, mainly totalitarian models, as it breaks the monopoly of government information, dissemination and propaganda, enables rapid communication between citizens in different locations, and facilitates the recording of the outrages of the authorities and a rapid international dissemination through mass communication networks.

The oppressors, especially those who hide behind Marxist ideology, know very well how the changes of social regimes take place, a theory embodied by Marx himself in “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy,” where he wrote “the productive forces” (read: technology) “when reaching a certain stage of development (…) are in contradiction with the relations of existing production” (read: the economic-political structures of the oppressors) which generates a deep crisis of the system, “and thus opens an era of social revolution,” that is, a time of profound changes.

4. The fact that after the start of the protests the regime reacted by reversing some of the announced restrictions means that citizens (that is, those nominally without power) do exercise power when they become aware of their rights and express, publicly, their willingness to change.

5. The opposition must take note of the magnitude of the protests in general that far surpassed the most numerous of its political demonstrations and adjust, accordingly, its steps and its demands. Instead of urging the population to join them, they must unite themselves with that population in their demands and support them as much as possible, focusing on their immediate needs.

To the extent that they give their support to these spontaneous initiatives, they will achieve the sympathies and support of the people, they will gain prestige, and even, in this way, they will be able to call on them when they need to reach more far-reaching goals.

*Translator’s note: A package of restrictions tightening the conditions of self-employment.

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

14ymedio Faces of 2018: Lis Cuesta, the ‘First Lady’ Who Doesn’t Speak

First Lady Lis Cuesta has accompanied Miguel Díaz-Canel to various events and on trips. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana | 27 December 2018 — The assumption of the presidency by the engineer Miguel Díaz-Canel also meant the return of a first lady, a figure who disappeared from the Cuban political scene from the time of the 1959 Revolution. At 47, Lis Cuesta Peraza has appeared in the headlines of the foreign press from her new public role as the wife of the ruler, although Cuba’s official media hardly mention her.

After graduating from the Holguin Pedagogical Sciences Institute, Cuesta worked at the Book Institute and at the Paradiso Travel Agency, which belongs to the Ministry of Culture. They met when Díaz-Canel was appointed secretary of the Communist Party in the province of Holguin, a position that catapulted him into one of Raúl Castro’s men of confidence. continue reading

Cuesta has attended numerous official receptions throughout the year, welcoming Nicolás Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores to the Palace of the Revolution, as well as on the trip to New York she made with the president last October on the occasion of his participation in the General Assembly of the United Nations. In spite of her public prominence, her voice has not yet been heard in the national media, nor has she been seen performing activities on her own.

Last April, a few days after Díaz-Canel’s inauguration as president, an image of the first lady showing a fragment of a tattoo on her back in the shape of a fleur-de-lis was disseminated through social networks. The tattoo generated an immediate comparison between Cuesta’s new style and that of other female figures close to Cuban power, such Raul Castro’s late wife Vilma Espín, who had a much more conservative aesthetic.

Cuesta’s public appearances also contrasts with the secrecy that for decades surrounded Fidel Castro’s private and family life. His wife and the mother of five of his children, Dalia Soto del Valle, was only seen in the last years of the ruler’s life and during his funeral.

For the time being, although she does not speak to the national media or have an agenda of her own, the Cuban first lady is contributing to giving a more modern and human image to her husband’s mandate, perhaps an official strategy to bring the president closer to the population, which did not know him before Raúl Castro appointed him as his successor to the presidency.

See also: 14ymedio Faces of 2018

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