"Artistic creation in Cuba is free," says Diaz-Canel After Controversial Law

At the beginning of this month several artists who tried to carry out peaceful protests against Decree 349 in front of the headquarters of the Ministry of Culture were detained. (Nonardo Perea)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, Havana, December 23, 2018 — Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel insisted this Saturday that “artistic creation in Cuba is free and will continue to be so,” after Decree 349, intended to regulate the cultural industry on the Island, put a good part of that sector on a war footing.

“Some tried to twist the reach and objective of the regulation, and associate it with an instrument to exercise artistic censorship,” pointed out the leader during his closing speech at the final annual plenary session of the National Assembly, where the text of the new Constitution was approved.

This is the first time that Díaz-Canel has referred publicly to this controversial matter, which in recent weeks set the leaders of the country against artists and intellectuals who criticized the government for not having reached an agreement with them on Decree 349, whose contents they also considered a potential tool of censorship. continue reading

The leader recognized, this Saturday, that the decree “should have been better discussed and better explained because of its importance” and called “on artists with a proven and committed work” to discuss with the Government “the means of implementing this law.”

Although the decree was intended to go into effect two weeks ago, a part of its contents has remained suspended while a process of dialogue has opened with the pro-government National Union of Writers and Artists (Uneac) and the Saíz Brothers Association to prepare supplementary laws for its implementation.

Díaz-Canel insisted that the Government must protect the values of national culture faced with “pseudoartistic productions that present an image of a country that we have never been” and emphasized that the only objective of Decree 349 is “to protect the culture from false artists and from the pseudoculture that creates false values.”

Additionally, he indicated that among those waging a campaign against the new law are “entities alien to culture, those who never cared about it and remained silent in face of the proliferation of vulgarity, banality, violence, discrimination, and sexist and racist attitudes.”

At the beginning of this month, during the week prior to the law’s taking effect, various artists who tried to carry out peaceful protests in front of the headquarters of the Ministry of Culture were detained and later set free, among them the activist Tania Bruguera.

Both Amnesty International and the State Department of the United States have declared themselves against Decree 349, believing that it contravenes the right to freedom of expression and could be used to censor content.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

_________________________________

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

A Woman Is In Charge of the University of Havana for the First Time In 290 Years

Miriam Nicado García is a member of the Communist Party of Cuba and, since April of this year, also of the Council of State. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio / EFE, Havana, 21 November 2018 – The University of Havana (UH) appointed Miriam Nicado García as the new rector of that institution, the first time that a woman holds the position in the center of higher education of the capital since its founding almost three centuries ago. The decision was announced Monday in an extraordinary session of the University Council of the UH, but was not divulged to the press until Wednesday.

Until now Nicado was the rector of the University of Information Sciences, created by the late leader Fidel Castro as a center of advanced technology to stimulate the national development of software.

The rector is a member of the Communist Party of Cuba and, since April of this year, also of the Council of State, in addition to being one of the deputies of the IX legislature in the National Assembly of People’s Power for the municipality of La Lisa, in Havana. continue reading

Full Professor, top level graduate and licensed in Applied Mathematics, Nicado is also a Doctor of Science in that specialty. Previously, she was dean of the Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Computing at the Central University of Las Villas and vice-rector of that university.

As a professor she has taught in her field of study at universities in several countries in the region such as Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. She has received the National and Provincial Vanguard award, a distinction granted by the Central de Trabajadores (Workers Center) of Cuba.

In the meeting where she was appointed it was also made known that Dr. Gustavo Cobreiro Suárez, rector who was in charge at the time of the announcement, “will assume other functions” from now on, the official press said without specifying more details.

Founded in 1728 by Dominican friars as the Royal and Pontifical University of San Geronimo de La Habana, UH now has 19 schools and 12 research centers.

It is the main center of higher learning on the island and was recently included in the list of the 20 best universities in Latin America, according to the London-based consultancy Quacquarelli Symonds (QS).

In September of this year Dr. Orquídea Urquiola Sánchez became the first woman to ever hold the position of rector in the country at the University of Cienfuegos.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

_________________________

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

Cuba Slams the Door on the ‘More Doctors’ Program in Brazil

More than 8,300 Cuban healthcare professionals work in Brazil (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 14 November 2018 — Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health (Minsap) reported on Wednesday in an official statement that it is withdrawing from the Mais Medicos social program in Brazil due to the “derogatory and threatening” words of president-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who announced modifications to this project that the Cuban Government considers “unacceptable.”

Minsap has also circulated a message among Cuban doctors who work in Brazil to continue working until their transportation is organized for their return to the island. The message specifies that doctors must “avoid provocations” and maintain “self-care and protection.”

In the official note published on Facebook on Wednesday, Minsap emphasizes that in the five years of work in that country “about 20,000 Cuban employees performed 113,359,000 patient consultation” serving a population of “up to 60 million Brazilians,” (out of a total population of about 209 million), at a time when the Cuban brigade represented 80 percent of all doctors participating in the program.

“It is not acceptable to question the dignity, professionalism and altruism of the Cuban collaborators who, with the support of their families, currently provide services in 67 countries,” the Cuban health authorities added.

Jair Bolsonaro’s reaction was immediate. In his Twitter account he said that Brazil had conditioned the continuation of the program on a validation of the credentials of the more than 8,500 Cuban doctors in the country according to Brazilian standards, along with a change that would allow them to personally receive the full salaries Brazil pays for them. He also demanded that they be free to bring their family members with them. “Unfortunately, Cuba did not accept,” he added.

Minsap affirms that the collaborators “have stayed at their jobs at all times and receive 100 percent of their salaries in Cuba,” without mentioning that the Cuban Government keeps at least three quarters of the amount received from Brazil for the services of Cuban health professionals.

“Those who come here from other countries earn the full salary [that Brazil pays for them]. The Cubans earn approximately 25% of the salary [Brazil pays for them]. Does the rest go to fuel the Cuban dictatorship?” Bolsonaro asked on November 3.

Before being elected president, Bolsonaro had been very critical of the agreement signed in 2013, under which more than 18,000 Cuban doctors were sent to Brazil under the government of Dilma Rousseff. At that time, the Workers Party, an ally of Havana, agreed that through the intermediation of the Pan American Health Organization, Cuba would keep about 75% of the 3,300 dollars a month that Brazil pays for each Cuban doctor.

After the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the Cuban government pressured the Brazilian authorities to renegotiate the contract for its doctors and obtained an increase of 9% in the payments for them. The Plaza of the Revolution also achieved an increase of 10% for feeding the doctors in indigenous areas. None of that money went to the doctors, according to several testimonies obtained by this newspaper.

In Cuba, where the average state salary barely exceeds $30 a month, a mission abroad is one of the most common legal channels for qualified professionals to increase their income, despite not receiving the full salary paid for their services.

The Cuban State has declared that it receives more than 11.5 billion dollars annually in income from professional services abroad, and that this income is the country’s main source of foreign currency.

 __________________________

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

Cuban Writers and Artists Union Will Not Debate Constitutional Reform

Uneac urged its members to attend meetings of their work centers and neighborhoods. (Uneac)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 5 November 2018 — Cuba’s Union of Writers and Artists (Uneac), the pro-government organization that brings together a large part of the island’s intelligentsia, confirmed on Monday that it will not call on its members to debate the project to reform the Constitution and urged them to go to the meetings in their workplaces and neighborhoods.

“Unlike popular consultations carried out in previous years, the political, mass, social, professional and other organizations that belong to our civil society are not participating, as such, in this process,” said a statement from the Uneac Presidency published on Monday on its website.

Prior to this announcement, several Uneac members openly protested against the organization’s refusal to debate the constitutional reform bill. Among those who have explicitly joined the controversy is the doctor of economics Esteban Morales, who, on Tuesday, published a letter sent to the Vice Minister of Culture, Fernando Rojas, in which he refuted a tweet from Rojas who praised the high participation of Uneac members in the meetings on the reform. continue reading

“We reject any elitist vision that tries to separate us from our people, as well as irresponsible opinions and manipulations that try to establish matrices of opinion on the alleged violation of human rights in Cuba, especially those of the intellectuals,” replies the text issued by the Uneac.

Uneac explains in the note that, as a workplace, “it developed the consultation with the workers of its headquarters and other guests linked to the institution,” but its members “do so as citizens in their respective workplaces or communities.”

“However, under the assumption that the organization should have called all its members to the debate in its associations, sections and subsidiaries, there are those who have questioned not only the procedure, but the authority and prestige of the Uneac,” the statement laments.

It argues that the organization “has never evaded the debate, as complex as it may be” and later defends, “without guilt complexes or shameful attitudes, the culture committed to a Revolution that fosters spaces of freedom for authentic artistic and literary creation.”

Therefore, despite rejecting the idea of a debate within Uneac, the entity calls on its members to participate as “thousands of artists have done” in the constitutional debate meetings held in neighborhoods and workplaces that began in August and continuing to the middle of this month.

It also repudiates “the unscrupulous way in which media paid by the enemy distorts” the debates and, in another paragraph, the organization maintains that Cuba is threatened in the field of culture “by the subversive projects that try to divide us and by the global colonizing surge.”

More than 7.3 million Cubans (out of a population of about 11 million), according to official sources, have already participated in the debate on the constitutional reform, in which the most discussed topics have been the modification that would legalize homosexual marriage and the limitation of the presidential term, among others.

The document was already approved by the National Assembly of People’s Power — Cuba’s parliament — at the end of July and although it does not incorporate modifications of the political system, it does recognize private property, eliminates allusions to communism, establishes the figure of prime minister and redefines marriage as the union between two people without specify their gender.

Once the stage of popular consultation is concluded on November 15, the group of senior officials and lawyers will study the proposals made in the debates, incorporate those deemed appropriate and send the new draft to Parliament for final approval and subsequent endorsement in a popular referendum in 2019.

 ________________________

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.

Havana Begins Experiment in Restructuring Private Transport

In Havana, around 90% of self-employed workers with a license to provide transport, engage in passenger transportation.

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, 9 October 2018 —  The private transport of passengers in Havana, where mobility is an important problem, will be the subject of an “experiment” as of Monday, that includes new rules and economic and fiscal incentives to restructure a sector that has been unable to meet demand for decades

A total of 6,119 private holders of transport operation licenses have been summoned to take part in the experiment, which establishes a new classification of routed shared taxi service — unregulated and high-comfort — versus the “classic” mode, according to the authorities in charge of implementation.

In Havana, around 90% of self-employed workers with a transport license dedicate themselves to passenger service, which is recognized as “complementary, alternative and necessary” to the service provided by state-owned companies. continue reading

For years, public transport provided by buses in the capital has been insufficient for the daily movement of hundreds of people, who must turn to private drivers, in a country where buying a vehicle is a luxury available to very few.

Private carriers, mostly owners of US-made cars from the ’40s and ’50s popularly known as “almendrones” — after the ‘almond’ shape of that era’s vehicles — have been summoned as of Monday to appear at the municipal offices that oversee these license holders.

To obtain a license to operate transport, the license holder is required to have a contract to acquire fuel and to have a bank account.

Among the main incentives is that the contract allows the purchase of fuel at lower prices — a savings of between 2 and 66 cents on the dollar per liter depending on the type of gasoline. The requirement also is intended to stop the black market purchase of stolen state fuel.

Another advantage offered to the private carriers that benefit from this initiative is the ability to acquire tools, parts and accessories for their vehicles in a wholesale market at 20% lower prices.

With regards to regulations, private carriers will be required to comply with minimum and maximum fuel consumption volumes according to the type of vehicle, its capacity and fuel class, and also according to the route contracted for with the state transport company

The new system, which establishes 26 terminals and 23 associated routes, will be developed over a period of four months in Havana and will involve license holders with cars, SUVs and minibuses with capacities of between 4 and 14 passengers.

Later, the experiment will be extended to the western provinces of Artemisa and Mayabeque and within a year to the rest of the island. Vehicles of greater size and capacity will also be incorporated, in accordance with what has been explained by those responsible for the scheme.

The Deputy Minister of Transport, Marta Oramas, said recently that the measures taken seek a balance between “the interests of the population, associated with more affordable prices and safety,” and those of the carriers, “so that they do not see their incomes diminished and lose access to facilities,” for fuel and tools, parts and accessories.

“The State must guarantee a stable, orderly and quality service,” said the official.

These regulations are part of a package of 20 measures ordered by the Cuban government that will go into force on December 7 to “reorder” the growing private sector, with the aim of grouping and expanding the profile of permitted activities, as well as restarting the issuing of licenses, which has been on hold since August of 2017.

As of August, more than 593,000 private workers were registered in Cuba, a figure that represents 13% of employed persons, according to updated data from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.

 _________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 __________________________

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

Cuba Calls for Stronger Precautions Against Dengue and Zika Outbreaks

Two young people of the Youth Labor Army with the fumigation ’backpackmachine’. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, Havana, 31 July 2018 — Cuban health authorities acknowledged the existence of outbreaks of dengue fever and zika in several provinces of the country and asked citizens to “reinforce prevention measures” in the summer rains, the official media reported on Tuesday.

“In  Cuba, chikungunya has not been reported for two years, and yellow fever has been eliminated since 1909, but in the case of dengue fever and zika there are outbreaks of transmission in several parts of the country,” the director of Epidemiology with the Ministry of Public Health, Francisco Durán, told the state newspaper Granma.

The source did not specify which areas are affected and referred to information from various media, according to which at least 10 people have died in the last weeks in central and eastern Cuba due to hemorrhagic dengue fever. continue reading

In Cuba, the epidemiological situation is considered almost a matter of State and the dissemination of figures on the numbers infected by viruses and levels of transmission is not common in the press, almost all of which is state controlled.

The increase in diseases transmitted by mosquitoes in the summer is due to the increase in heat associated with the rains, which is very marked this year,” Durán warned.

Faced with this situation, the Cuban State responds with the cleaning of possible sources of transmission, “weekly fumigations, inspection of homes, surveillance and daily screening of the population, looking for people with symptoms of these diseases.”

Despite the government’s effort, “the cornerstone in the prevention and control of these viruses remains the responsibility of families and individuals to cooperate with these measures,” the doctor insisted.

Durán also recalled that summer “the rise” of respiratory and diarrheal diseases is common, but stressed that their incidence in Cuba “has decreased and cholera has not been reported for two years.”

According to the most recent official data, published last March,  Cuba  reduced dengue cases by 68% in 2017, recorded no chikungunya patients, and detected autochthonous Zika transmission in 14 of its 169 municipalities.
___________________________

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.

Paya Denouces the ‘Theater’ of Constitutional Reform on Sixth Anniversary of Her Father’s Death

A Mass for Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero was celebrated this Sunday at the Copper Hermitage in Miami. (RosaMariaPaya)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, Miami, 23 July 2018 — Cuban Dissident Rosa María Payá stressed to EFE that the legacy of her father, Oswaldo Payá, is still alive six years since his death and the constitutional reform under way in Cuba is, in her opinion, both “theater” and a “trap.”

“My father’s words are especially relevant today, as they denounce the attempt of the Castro family and the group of the dictatorship’s generals to perpetuate their power through what my father calls ’fraud change,’ which is exactly what they are seeking with this theater of constitutional reform,” said Payá.

Payá, who leads the Cuba Decides movement, spoke some hours before the celebration of a thanksgiving mass in Miami, held in honor of the sixth anniversary of the “double state crime” whose victims were Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Payá (1952-2012) and Harold Cepero (1980-2012). continue reading

The Payá-Acevedo family and the Foundation for Pan American Democracy invited the community to attend this Mass that took place in the chapel of La Caridad in Miami, a place of devotion and gatherings for Cuban exiles.

Payá and Cepero died on July 22, 2012 in Bayamo (Cuba), when the car in which they were traveling left the highway. The car was being driven by a Spanish politician, Angel Carromero, who survived and was convicted in Cuba of reckless homicide.

Rosa María and her mother, Ofelia Acevedo, affirm that it was not an accident, but that Cuban State Security agents hit the car with another vehicle from behind, causing the car to crash.

The daughter of the opposition politician said that the goal of the mass was to “honor” the lives of her father and Cepero and to “thank them for their legacy.”

The family, she added, is encouraged by the recent publication of the first book by the creator of the Christian Liberation Movement, La noche no será eterna (The Night Will Not Be Eternal)(Editorial Hypermedia, 2018), and by the fact that the United States Senate has taken up an initiative “to change the name of the street in front of the Cuban embassy in Washington to Oswaldo Payá Way.”

This initiative dates back to 2015 and is supported by senators such as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, she said.

With regards to the constitutional reform announced by the Cuban government, she affirmed that “the dictatorship desperately needs to legitimize itself before the great discontent of the people” and the “imminent physical disappearance of the so-called ’historical leaders’.”

It has also influenced, she says, “the support won by the citizen demand for a plebiscite to change the system,” which the Cuban movement she leads proposes.

The government’s constitutional reform will be submitted to a referendum but, according to Payá, the whole process is a “fraud” and “lacks guarantees.”

She emphasizes, in this regard that, the “drafters of the preliminary draft,” members of the National Assembly, “have not been elected by Cuba’s citizens,” and that “(political) campaigning is not possible (because it is outlawed), nor are independent observers (allowed to be) present), nor is parallel counting (i.e. citizen oversight of the vote count),” nor is there  freedom to not vote without being coerced” in the  announced popular consultation.

But in addition, she added, “Whether YES wins or NO wins, the result is the same: the Communist Party in perpetuity,” because “the dictatorship” has already made clear the irrevocability of socialism and the continuation of the communist party as “governing force of society and the state.”

Oswaldo Payá, winner of the 2002 European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, will also be remembered this week at a ceremony in Miami with the the official presentation of his book La noche no será eterna, which has been available on Amazon since July 5.

The book is subtitled Peligros y esperanzas para Cuba (Dangers and Hope for Cuba), with a prologue written by Payá’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo, and its purpose is none other than, as the author explains, “to help discover that we can live the process of liberation and reconciliation and walk to the future in peace.”

 __________________________

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.

Eight More Deaths in Cuba From the Rains, Which Damaged 9,972 Homes

Heavy rains from subtropical storm Alberto caused major loss of lives, homes and crops. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, via EFE, Havana, 6 June 2018 — Cuba reported this Wednesday the death of one of the two people who disappeared in the intense rains of last week, and 8 deaths were added to the previous total. The rains also damaged 9,972 homes, of which 486 were total collapses, according to information provided in a meeting led by Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel.

With the passage of subtropical storm Alberto, which caused serious flooding and left 115 communities in the eastern and central part of the Island completely cut off, the additional deaths included seven men and one woman died in the provinces of Pinar del Río, Matanzas, Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara and Ciego de Ávila, according to official reports.

Last Saturday, initial reports from the General Staff of Civil Defense included a missing a 17-year-old from Villa Clara who might have been swept away by the Arimao River, and a 51-year-old man missing in Chambas, Ciego of Ávila. Both provinces are in the center of the country. continue reading

The state newspaper Granma did not specify today in its report of the meeting — held on Monday — which of the two is the now known to have died.

Díaz-Canel asked the interior minister, Vice Admiral Julio César Gandarilla, to carry out “a detailed analysis, case by case, to determine the causes that caused those regrettable events,” Granma noted.

The Cuban president said, “there are acts of social indiscipline and recklessness” despite “the constant calls to order” to the population by the authorities of the island, which issues warnings before, during and after the passage of meteorological phenomena.

Diaz-Canel also insisted “that the country should remain alert as intense rains have been predicted in the coming days, for which they must be prepared.”

Due to the storm, 62,000 people were evacuated in the western and central parts of the Island.

Preliminary reports put the homes affected by the rains at 9,972 — of which 486 were totally demolished — according to the Minister of Construction, René Mesa, who assured that they have already allocated resources to compensate for the damages.

In Cuba’s central zone some 700 kilometers of roads were damaged, most of them flooded, so that even today nine places in the Sancti Spiritus province remain isolated.

The “most difficult scenario,” according to the official report, is access to the community of Zaza del Medio, the bridge to which was partially destroyed by the flood waters of the Zaza River.

Due to heavy rainfall, Cuba lost 1,500 hectares of beans, while some 10,000 hectares of other food crops were affected.

“At present, everything is being harvested and taken directly to the markets,” said the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Julio García.

There is also “intensive” work underway to minimize possible losses affecting about 5,000 hectares of rice that continues under water in the western province of Pinar del Río. In addition, 600 tons of rice under water in Ciego de Avila cannot be harvested.

In that same territory, where about 70% of the tobacco harvested on the island is produced, more than 150 hectares of the leaf have been lost, which serves as raw material for the famous Cuban cigars whose export is an important source of hard currency for the country’s coffers.

During the meeting it was also stated that the epidemiological situation on the island “is under control” and “so far no outbreak of disease has occurred,” said Health Minister Roberto Morales.

The intense rains of storm Alberto have filled Cuba’s dams, where some 5 million cubic meters of water are stored, a situation that contrasts with last year, in which the island experienced one of the worst droughts in the last 110 years.

 __________________________

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

Cuba Has Debts with More than 250 Spanish Companies, says Jaime Garcia-Legaz

The Melia Cohiba Hotel in Havana, Cuba.

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Havana, 14 June 2018 — Spanish companies with a presence in Cuba seek to overcome the financial difficulties they face in order to maintain their privileged position in the market and increase investment, said visiting company representatives this Thursday in Havana.

“Cuba is a market and a country of the future, and when it is finally integrated into the global market, we Spanish companies have to be first in line,” said Alfredo Bonet, international director for the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the XXII Spanish-Cuban Business Committee begun today in Havana.

Representatives of the Spanish business sector and its Cuban counterparts addressed, on the first day of the meeting, ways to overcome “the financial difficulties of the last two years,” according to Bonet, which affect approximately 250 Spanish companies with presence on the Island.

Specifically it has to do with the “the Cuban public sector’s unpaid debts” to these companies, explained the Spanish co-president of the bilateral committee, Jamie Garcia-Legaz, a problem that makes continued business projects as well as new investments on the Island difficult.

“The Cuban government is making every effort that is within its reach in order to make payments, although the macro-economic situation does not help either,” said Garcia-Legaz in relation to the recent bump Cuba experienced as a consequence of the deep crisis of recent years in Venezuela, its principal partner and defender in the region.

Thus, both parties have put in place financial tools in recent years, like the lines of support from COFIDES for the internationalization of small and medium businesses and especially the exchange fund created with 400 million dollars of debt that Spain forgave Cuba in 2015.

This fund, which still finances five operations and is looking at another five, “has permitted co-financing investments by Spanish companies and helping finance everything possible in local currency,” according to the international director of the Chamber of Commerce.

The Bilateral Committee meetings are held annually, though no meeting was held in 2017, and are the main channel of dialogue and connection between the Spanish businesses and Cuban authorities.

During Thursday’s work day, Garcia-Legaz and his Cuban counterpart at the head of the committee, Orlando Hernandez, signed the work program for 2018 and 2019, and tomorrow will conclude the meeting with institutional visits by the Spanish delegation made up of by 88 members.

After China and Venezuela, Spain is Cuba’s third commercial partner, to which it exports about 900 million euros’ of various products, from food to parts and machinery, according to data from the Chamber.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

_________________

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

Cuban Coalition in Miami Announces Media Campaign Against Cruise Trips to the Island

The cruise ship ‘Adonia’ has already provoked protests in Miami by anti-Castro groups. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Miami, 7 June 2018 — The Cuban Resistance Assembly kicked off in Miami a new media campaign, No Colabores [“Do Not Collaborate”] against cruise-ship trips to Cuba and insisted on no support of tourism to the Island because it “directly finances the repression” of the opposition.

Orlando Gutiérrez, director of the Assembly composed of organizations within and outside the Island, explained during a press conference that this activity additionally contributes to the “exploitation” of Cuban workers and makes use of confiscated properties, e.g. the piers where the ships dock. continue reading

“Cruise ships cannot function without the exploitation of the Cuban people, who, besides, have always been harmed by Cuba’s dual currency,” Gutiérrez asserted.

The campaign includes TV spots and two billboards installed near busy avenues and streets adjacent to the Miami neighborhood of Little Havana. It calls those who travel to Cuba by cruise ship “accomplices” to the stampedes that occur on the Island towards cruise-ship travelers.

During the press conference, Sylvia Iriondo, president of Mothers and Women Against Repression (MAR), claimed that there is a direct connection between the revenue that the Cuban government receives from tourism, and the ill-treatment to which opposition members such as the Ladies in White are subjected.

“Tourism increases the repression; it is one of the major sources of income for the military,” and it is difficult to separate it from the hostilities inflicted on dissidents, Iriondo said.

She assured besides that this money, estimated at $3-billion annually, never goes to the people of the Island. “It does not better the lives of Cubans–it increases the resources for the regime to carry out repression,” Iriondo added.

Javier Garcés, who spoke on behalf of Cubans whose properties were confiscated 60 years ago “in violation of national and international laws,” said that they cannot remain “silenced” while in Cuba “they use our properties.”

Meanwhile, the Mexican judge René Bolio, who presides over the Justicia Cuba (JC) commission, stated that the functionaries who manage tourism on the Island are “directly” linked to the human rights violators under investigation by this international group of activists, with the objective of bringing them to justice.

During the press conference, Bolio mentioned Alejandro Martínez, manager of the Hotel Nacional de La Habana, as an example of individuals being investigated by JC.

On the other hand, the director of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance announced that next Saturday they will collect signatures supporting a request to US President Donald Trump for legislative changes that would permit JC to try those responsible for repression in Cuba.

Along those lines, Iriondo pointed out that the Cuban ex-president, Raúl Castro, should be tried for the deaths of four pilots with Hermanos al Rescate [Brothers to the Rescue] who were shot down by Cuban fighter-bombers in 1996.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison 

_____________

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

Cuban Government Blames the Weather for Worst Harvest in More Than a Century

Since the end of April, the constant rains forced most of the country’s 54 sugar mills to shut down. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Havana, 5 June 2018 – Cuba finished the 2017-2018 sugar harvest ahead of schedule and without meeting the its production targets due to the effects of weather events including an intense drought, the scourge of Hurricane Irma last year, and the rains that fell on the island in recent days.

This was reported by the directors of the Azcuba state sugar group, which heads the sector on the island, during an appearance before the Agri-Food Commission of the National Assembly of People’s Power, one of the ten belonging to that legislative body that met Monday in Havana

Industry experts calculate that the final harvest results, whose figures have not yet been disclosed, will be around 1.1 million tons of sugar compared to the 1.6 million tons initially forecast, which had recently been reduced to 1.3 million in response to the weather problems. continue reading

That data would match that of the 2009-2010 season, the worst in more than a century and considered the moment when this industry, which decades ago was the island’s economic engine, hit rock bottom.

Since then the sector has failed to take off to recreate the results of up to eight million tons that managed to reach in earlier years.

Adverse climate events marked this year’s sugar harvest from its beginning, causing delays and subsequently forcing repeated stoppages, poor industrial output and affecting the energy balance of the sugar factories, due to the poor quality of the cane, explained the first vice president of Azcuba, José Carlos Santos.

Sugar production in Cuba in Million Metric Tons, 1985 to 2017, from government sources.

These factors caused a “total deterioration” of the sugar plan indicators, added the executive, quoted by the state-run Cuban News Agency.

Since the end of April, the constant rains stopped the processing of the cane in most of the country’s 54 sugar mills, he said.

With regards to the situation of the main indicators of the industry, the executive said that the industrial output reached 98%, the behavior of the estimate of cane was 104% and the delivery of electricity to the national electric power system was 84%.

The head of Azcuba, Orlando Celso García, said in the parliamentary session on Monday that the preparations for the 2018-2019 sugarcane season will advance depending on the repairs of the plants, the equipment and the available resources.

He went on to say that the next harvest is expected to start early and will have enough raw material because 60% of the cane that milled is what is left from the current harvest.

Cuba produced some 1.8 million tons in the 2016-2017 sugar harvest.

____________________

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.

Carnival Lines Announces New Cruise from South Carolina to Cuba in 2019

A cruise ship docked in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, Miami, 16 May 2018 — Carnival Cruise Lines announced on Tuesday the expansion of its cruise itineraries to Cuba with sailings from the port of Charleston, South Carolina, starting in 2019, while the airlines JetBlue and United Airlines also plan to increase their flights to the Island.

Carnival said in a statement that it will expand its trips to Cuba by 2019 with the first itinerary from Charleston and the addition of between 23 and 25 cruise days on five different ships departing from Miami and Fort Lauderdale, both on the east coast of Florida, and from Tampa, on the west coast of the state.

The ship that will sail from the port of Charleston is the Carnival Sunshine, with a capacity of 3,002 passengers and 102,853 tons, which will be the largest cruise ship that will dock in the port of Havana, said Carnival. continue reading

The Carnival Triumph will leave the port of Fort Lauderdale, the Carnival Paradise will depart from the Port of Tampa, and the Carnival Victory and Carnival Sensation cruises will sail from the Port of Miami, in southeastern Florida.

“Cuba has been a very popular destination among our cruisers and we are delighted to offer more opportunities to experience and explore this fascinating destination,” Christine Duffy, president of Carnival, told EFE.

With regards to air service, United Airlines recently indicated that as of 20 July it will increase direct daily services between the city of Houston (Texas) and Havana.

“This expansion to Havana will provide significant public benefits to our city — where many speak Spanish — as well as to the region and the state,” Houston Mayor Houston Sylvester Turner said in a statement.

United Airlines, which opened its first ticket sales office in Havana in 2017, operates the “only service to the Cuban capital from the entire center and west of the United States” and also offers daily direct flights from New York, the airline said.

Meanwhile, JetBlue announced last week that as of 10 November it will operate direct flights on Saturdays from Logan International Airport in Boston to Jose Martí Airport in Havana.

JetBlue will also expand its flights to Cuba with up to three daily flights to Havana from the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, north of Miami, also starting in November.

__________________________

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

Cuban Doctors, a Controversial Signing in Kenya and Uganda

Signing of the Health Agreement last year in Geneva with Minister Roberto Morales Ojeda on the Cuban side.

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Pedro Alonso, Nairobi, 6 May 2018 — Hundreds of Cuban doctors are going to cross the Caribbean Sea for the African savannah and will travel to Kenya and Uganda to strengthen their public health services, but without even boarding the plane, they already encounter the rejection of unions and medical associations.

Last week, Kenya and Cuba signed an agreement for one hundred Cuban doctors to come to the African country and fifty Kenyan doctors to travel to the Caribbean island to receive training, especially in the field of family medicine.

The agreement was signed after the historic visit the president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, made to Cuba in March to boost bilateral cooperation, the first of a Kenyan head of state since both countries established diplomatic relations in 2001. continue reading

The Kenyan Ministry of Health of Kenya insists that the Cuban reinforcements, scheduled for before July, will improve access in rural areas to specialized medical services in areas such as oncology, nephrology and dermatology.

In neighboring Uganda, the president, Yoweri Museveni, returned this week to defend his government’s plan to hire 200 doctors from Cuba as a buffer against the persistent threats of strike by local doctors, who have called the project “treason.”

“I want to bring Cuban doctors because our people behaved very badly and unprofessionally, they started strikes, they incited other doctors and they let our patients die, they blackmailed us,” Museveni said last Tuesday.

During a celebration of Labor Day, the veteran president, who has led Uganda since 1986, referred to the three-week strike that last November paralyzed Ugandan hospitals to demand better wages, among other demands.

“A doctor who goes on strike is not a doctor, he is an enemy of our people and we should treat him as such,” snapped Museveni, not known for mincing words.

Despite the excellent global reputation of Cuba’s “white coats,” the unions and medical associations of the two countries reject the Cuban agreements outright, arguing that they are expensive and do not offer a permanent solution to the lack of specialists.

According to the Ugandan Minister of Public Service, Wilson Muruli Mukasa, the State will pay about 1,500 dollars a month for each Cuban doctor, a salary higher than the 1,200 dollars earned by a high rank Ugandan specialist doctor.

“Uganda already has many specialists, all we want now is better salaries, better working conditions and the tools to offer those services,” demanded the president of the Uganda Medical Association (UMA), Ekwaro Obuku.

The Kenyan Union of Physicians, Pharmacists and Dentists (KMPPDU) has urged the Ministry of Health to hire the more than 2,000 Kenyan doctors, including 171 specialists, who are looking for work, before importing doctors from the Latin American country.

“The Cubans are not going to come to do something that we can not do, they are not going to contribute anything special,” said KMPPDU general secretary Ouma Oluga, who believes that the government plan is a waste of public resources.

In the opinion of gynecologist Nelly Bosire, of the Board of Doctors and Dentists of Kenya, “Cuba trains doctors for export to generate income, Kenya can not afford to buy that expensive product, which should be manufactured at home.”

Doctor Bosire is not mistaken, because the sale of medical services is one of the main sources of income of Cuba, which in 2016 had doctors deployed in more than sixty countries, according to official data.

In contrast to some of the detractors, some voices advocate opening the doors of Kenyan and Ugandan hospitals to Cuban doctors, including the Kenyan entrepreneur Njoroge Mbugua, who received medical attention in CUba.

“On February 2, I started my medical treatment in Cuba and in the last seven weeks I have achieved more than in the two years I was hospitalized,” writes Mbugua in an article published on 8 April in the main Kenyan newspaper, Daily Nation.

In his “letter from the bed of a Cuban hospital,” the businessman relates that he spent a year in a hospital in Kenya and eleven months in centers in India and Dubai in search of a cure for his illness, until he arrived in Cuba, where he found “the end of the road” for his sorrows.

And, without the least bit of doubt, Mbugua sends a message to the Kenyan authorities: “Bring Cuban doctors.”

________________________

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

Cuba Hopes To Grow Avocados Year-Round With New Planting System

Avocados are rich in vitamins D and E, potassium, folic acid and natural fats. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, 29 April 2018 — Cuba plans to harvest avocado year-round with a new system of staggered sowing that alternates different varieties and clones of the crop, designed to meet the high local demand for the fruit, which is also one of the products the island could export.

Created by the Institute of Tropical Fruit Research (IIFT), the proposal has already been applied with “encouraging results” in the western province of Artemisa, according to a report published Saturday by the state-run Cuban News Agency. continue reading

The IIFT’s research is also being applied to the harvesting of mamey sapote and focuses on the behavior of the fruits according to the state of maturation, the climate conditions and soil characteristics by region.

“The avocado, rich in vitamins D and E, potassium, folic acid and natural fats, can be planted throughout the year, provided that, among other factors, water is available to guarantee the plant’s requirements,” said IIFT director Guillermo Almenares.

With regards to the mamey, a fruit with a red pulp greatly appreciated for its digestive and antibiotic properties, Almenares said that they have selected artificially developed varieties that can be harvested at various periods of the year.

The Tropical Fruit Research Institute, based in Havana, is in charge of providing the scientific and technical base to achieve sustainability and competitiveness for the fruit agroindustry in Cuba.

On the island there are more than 300 agricultural cooperatives responsible for maintaining a stable and diverse supply of fruits in the state agricultural markets and hotels, a mission that is not always fulfilled in the case of the markets that serve the population.

Cuba has 10.9 million hectares of total area, of which about 6.2 million are agricultural and 3.3 million are forested.

Within the economic reforms promoted by former President Raúl Castro, one of the objectives of the Cuban Government is to encourage local food production, since the island spends about 2.5 billion dollars a year to import food.

_________________________________

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.