Microbuses or Transport’s Shame / Ernesto Garcia Diaz

HAVANA, Cuba – In the Cuban capital, two cooperatives operate the old public routes of the so-called taxis-ruteros, microbuses which take passengers from the Parque de El Curita, to four destinations: El Náutico, Alamar, Santiago de las Vegas and La Palma.

Curious to know why the people in Havana speak so ill of these services, I asked the impatient passengers: how frequently do they run? how long do they take to get there? And to various drivers of the vehicles, about the contracts the cooperatives use to lease out the buses.

A driver on the Parque del Curita Micro X line – who didn’t give his name – answered me: ” I do about 16 journeys a day, the microbus has 25 seats, and the fares for them to go to the CNoA (Non-Agricultural Cooperatives), 50 seats for the total return journey, or say 250 pesos. The fare is 5 pesos (CUP), equivalent to 20 cents.”

The driver continued: I carry more than 800 passengers a day, I collect about 4,000 Cuban pesos (equivalent to $160).  In 24 working days I hand over to the association, not less than 96,000 pesos ($3840). First I pay over what is due to the cooperative, which leases me the vehicle, the difference, or what is left over, goes to the drivers, because we are the semi-owners of these microbuses. Did you know we have to repair, clean, and cover the cost of maintenance, for which we have to pay third parties and the CnoA itself?

Another driver went further than his colleague: “After paying the association, I am left with some 1,200 pesos ($48), because as I am going along people get on and off. Those receipts don’t go to the CNoA; we keep them for our costs, because we are driving piles of old junk.

I could recognise that the micro’s driver, as well as his own income, receives about 600 pesos a month from the cooperative ($24), as profit share for being associates.

Waiting 40 minutes in the sun and rain. Photo Ernesto García.

Liliana Ezquerra, vice president of the Provincial Administration Council of Havana, recently emphasized to the media: “When the two transport cooperatives started operating, using vehicles rented from the state, the number of passengers in the capital increased and at a lower fare than the private drivers charge.”

Havanans waiting and getting exasperated in El Curita park. Photo Ernesto Garcia.

One passenger in the Micro X Alamar told me “It’s 8:50 in the morning, I waited 40 minutes for the bus, they arrive here when they feel like, come to fill up with fuel and hang around to go back again or to start their working day. They take time having a snack – how should I know?! The bottom line is, it’s a disaster. They may be cheaper than the privates, but I can’t rely on them to get me to my work on time.”

Another passenger told me: “There is no fixed time for them to start work; but nevertheless the pirates are in the street at 6 in the morning, and at 12 at night they are still providing a service; I don’t even want to talk about the public buses, you can’t even count on finding one at 7:30 at night.”

The third passenger, irritated, assured me: “Look, a microbus just got here and it got lost more than 30 minutes ago. Just so you can see. Look, there it comes, who should I complain to if now they are the owners?

As for me, I took a photo of the delayed bus, because I also spent more than 30 minutes waiting for it.

Cubanet, March 11th 2014.  

Translated by GH

24 March 2014

William Soler Pediatric Hospital Worries the Government / Ernesto Garcia Diaz

William Soler Hospital – Photo by Ernesto García

HAVANA, Cuba – On Saturday morning, the President of the National Assembly of People’s Power, Esteban Lazo, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party, visited  the William Soler Pediatric Teaching Hospital, located in the Havana municipality of Boyeros. The hospital’s guarded entry is closed for repairs. Emergency cases and patients requiring daily care are treated in the specialty clinics, adjacent to the hospital.

President Lazo came to the Children’s Hospital accompanied by Mercedes López Acea, the Party’s First Secretary in Havana, as well as a delegation of leaders from the health sector.

The center visited by Lazo is experiencing one of the worst infrastructure crises of the last twenty years, which is compromising care to children hospitalized there and impeding the provision of services to other provinces of the country.

The motorcade in which Esteban Lazo arrived – Photo by Ernesto García

The hospital’s situation is critical. Most of its inpatient and operating rooms are worn out from lack of maintenance, which, as shown by this visit, has begun to worry the government, because of unfavorable public opinion.

Esteban Lazo, who holds one of the top positions in the Cuban chain of command, left after spending an hour in the health facility, without providing any statements to those waiting outside.

Cubanet, March 17, 2014, Ernesto García Diaz

Translated by Tomás A.

No-one Knows What Fish They are Buying / Ernesto Garcia Diaz

Fishermen at Playa de El Chivo - Photo Ernesto Garcia

Fishermen at Playa de El Chivo – Photo Ernesto Garcia

Havana, Cuba – At la Playa de El Chivo (El Chivo beach ), on the northeast coast of Havana, at the foot of the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro (Three Kings Castle), people carry on fishing for sport and business, between the marine waters and sewage, without the health authorities, environmental authorities or the coastguards taking a responsible attitude. The zone receives thousands of cubic metres of polluted water and its sand dunes are deteriorating as a result of the man’s actions.

The grunt, snapper and barber fish, among others, turn the rocky beach into both a centre for boats which arrive every day to seek their economic support; and at best, some people who are enjoying their leisure and are fishing for sport.

This is going on in the mouth of the submerged sewage outlet pipe which runs from the Havana sewage treatment plant, which filters the solid waste coming from the northern and southern collectors of the capital. A concrete pipe of about 375 metres in length crosses Havana Bay, as far as Casablanca, where they pump the dirty water up to La Cabaña, so that it then falls by gravity down to the El Chivo beach, about 150 metres along the coast.

The most astonishing thing is that many fishermen enter into the area of the lower reefs, without any protection, on the edge of where they are fishing in a contaminated area, breathing in the fetid smell from the drain, which keeps the coastal water cloudy with its permanent discharge from the Havana sewers, whose pipes and canals are not lacking in cracks and leaks. Continue reading

Residents of the “Giron” Building Fear for Their Lives / Ernesto Garcia Diaz

Photo: Library of Congress

Photo: Library of Congress

From the “socialist era,” the building cracks before the astonished gaze of people and the terror of those who live there.

HAVANA, Cuba — The Girón building, on Havana’s Malecon between E and F Streets, in Vedado, is on the point of collapse from its cracked structure. Built in the sixties and opened at the beginning of the seventies, it was designed by Eastern European specialists under the brutalist archetype with feet cast in concrete and steel, with the idea that most of the workers of the Girón Bus plant would live there. Its construction used the sliding mold technique for the first time in Cuba.

FOTOS-PAÑOS-DE-LAS-ESCALERAS-REVENTADOS-225x300This apartment building for families has two blocks of 18 stories with 66 apartments each; two elevators and six passageways every three levels.

For years it has suffered from cracks and leaks, but the Housing Authorities and responsible agencies take into account the obvious concerns of its neighbors, fearful of loosing their lives one day from above.

Since its opening, the building has not been maintained and repaired as its years require, aggravated by receiving the blasts of salt, being located so close to the sea.

Cubanet, 3 February 2014, Ernesto Garcia Diaz

This Country Doesn’t Even Produce Tomatoes / Ernesto Garcia Diaz

tomate-300x228HAVANA, Cuba , January www.cubanet.org – The productive uselessness of the regime forces it to import vegetables to meet the demands of international tourism, especially tomatoes. The results of the 2013/2014 tomato harvest does not appear in the press and is barely mentioned by the agricultural authorities, due to the huge losses of private producers, who in previous years saw themselves lose their crops due to lack of marketing and the capacity of the processing capacity.

The tomato is the horticultural product of major economic importance for the country, highly demanded by the population and industry, which transforms it into juices, pastas and other derivatives. But since the current harvest began, prices range between 5 and 10 pesos (national currency) per pound, and no price reductions in the offing. This situation has forced people to drastically reduce consumption.

Although there has been no published information on the crops and the current production results, experts on the subject say that one of the causes of the collapse is related to seed varieties and decreased planting areas, in addition to low levels input delivery to non-state producers and poor disease control, lack of chemicals (pesticides and fungicides), which must be imported. Continue reading

Benches For Rent at Bus Stops / Ernesto Garcia Diaz

Two passengers waiting for the bus. Author photo.

HAVANA, Cuba, January 6, 2014, Ernesto García /www.cubanet.org.- In Curita Park, located on the block formed by the streets of Reina, Galiano, Águila and Dragones, in Havana, on the initiative a citizen, a seat rental service started  January 3 at the P-12 bus stop (served by articulated buses), for passengers traveling from this site to Santiago de Las Vegas.

The benches were built and designed to seat three people each. The experiment was done with three benches. The charge for their use is 1.00 pesos in national currency (CUP), or one centímino in freely convertible currency (CUC). Now all that’s lacking is for the owner to submit his proposal to the authorities who govern the system of self-employment, to get this activity on the approved list and pay his taxes on it.

The new service relieves the impatience and weariness of passengers who have to wait more than 20 minutes for a bus to take them to their destination, time during which they are exposed to the sun, the rain, the dust and the environmental contamination of toxic gases from traffic and the lack of hygiene and cleanliness in the place. All this given the inability of the appropriate organs, the transport cooperatives and the autonomous shared taxis that could roof the areas at the stops and maintain public facilities.

Ernesto Garcia Diaz

Cubanet | 6 January 2014

Abused Cuban Teachers / Ernesto Garcia Diaz

educadora

HAVANA, Cuba , December, www.cubanet.org – While the celebrations for the Day of the Educator succeeded as a cultural fact, in the Palace of Conventions at the Second Regular Session of the Eighth Legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power, with rhetoric of “the changes are more socialism,” but they did not publicly honor the work of teachers. Nor did they envision real changes to the education sector which urgently needs attention, given the profound problems suffered in Cuban society with regards to the development of values.

It’s worth remembering that the Castro regime, from the early years of its government, transformed a secular educational system into an atheist one. From that point forward, students and teachers studied in the schools in the countryside and teaching outposts.

Since then, Cuban education has remained under the “scientific” doctrine of Marxism-Leninism, idealizing the New Man as if he were sculpted in bronze. Martí’s ideas faded from the schools, to the point where it was questionable to call the Apostle (as we refer to José Martí) our National Hero. Continue reading

Life and Death of Cuban Railways / Ernesto Garcia Diaz

They wait for days in La Coubre Station for a ticket

Havana, Cuba, December 27, www.cubanet.org – In Havana’s Central Railway Station, they were fumigating — against the Egyptian aedes mosquito — with passengers inside (children, pregnant women, old people), violating all health standards.  And don’t mention freshening up.  They charge a dollar to use the bathrooms.  And even paying, the bathrooms do not have soap or toilet paper.

The self-employed cleaner told us:  “Some time ago the bathrooms lacked water, they were disgusting, they put a bucket for discharge, we washed them without faucets, the broken toilet bowls, the blocked urinals, we rehabbed the service, but we did have to watch that, because they stole even the brooms from us.”

The disaster of the railways

Almost 20 percent of Cuban trains do not leave or arrive on time. Train departures have been reduced. We asked, “How many trains run from Havana to Santiago de Cuba?” Continue reading

Attorneys in Service to Castroism / Ernesto Garcia Diaz

Havana, Cuba, November, www.cubanet.org — Last November 21 the “2013 International Advocacy Congress” concluded in Havana.  The event was sponsored by the National Organization of Collective Law Firms of Cuba (ONBC). At its opening, Homero Acosta, secretary of the State Counsel, was present, and doctors Joao Maria Moureira de Sousa and Hermenegildo Cachimbombo, Attorney General and president of the Order of Attorneys of the Republic of Angola.  According to the official press, the conclave included the participation of 400 Cuban delegates and 17 foreign countries.

In the event, the Attorney General of Angola, holder of a professor’s chair in Law, gave a keynote lecture about “The importance of ethics and professional conduct of lawyers,” noting that “The attorney is considered by some as a defender of the bad and by others as a professional essential to the full development of the State and society. . . He must comport himself ethically, cultivate moral values and principals.”  So it seems that this professional came with the purpose of teaching habits, skills of courage and ethical values that Cuban lawyers have lost in the exercise of trial defense or in the representation of their clients.

Obviously, the Angolan Prosecutor, coming from the emergent third power of the African continent, rich in petroleum, diamonds, gold and other natural resources, was not interested in the binding central theme of “the economic rights of those who lost a family member and the sick or mutilated veterans of the international war of Angola.”

The president of the ONBC, Ariel Mantecon, did likewise. True to the Castro pattern, he said that his organizations focuses “On the Cuban juridical context in considering access to defense as a constitutional right, making possible the immediate presence of this in the criminal process.”  Deceptive words when, precisely this year, and in the month of October, the opposition Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), reported about the 909 arbitrary detentions, the highest number in 18 months; and his organization does not make fair use of Habeas Corpus against the Detentions by the Castro Regime.

Even if Advocacy 2013 focused its topics on core aspects of modern societies, this group servile to the Castro regime has done little in the face of complaints that the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights makes which sent letters to the Cuban government in order to have an opinion on this part, in cases that take place constantly and are not responded to by the Cuban communist regime and sometimes even, the answers come in empty envelopes, according to the said Commission, or official answers arrive that far from answering the cases that are exposed to them, they oppose:  “You all do not have authority or any jurisdiction to inquire about the cases for which you solicit us.”

Likewise Rene Gonzales, ex-convict for the crime of espionage against the United States, who took part in the event in order to get to know the attendees as they are “his brothers” and to teach them ethical norms of loyalty to the regime, and not his confrontation over the factual limitation of individual liberties in Cuba.  He should have told them that Cuban ex-agents are treated respectfully and enjoy good health and feeding.  In contrast with those that are prisoners in Cuba for fighting for individual freedoms and respect for human rights. Maybe Rene is not familiar with Cuban fighters like the Ladies in White who are detained and left deprived of resources in areas and towns far from their homes as a new punishment practice of Castros?

In summary, the Congress served to raise funds on which the regime feeds: it strengthened the control structure between the executives and the member lawyers of the guild; just as it ratified the servile role of the ONBC supervised by the Ministry of Justice and watched by the Department of Organization of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, without really being an “autonomous national institution and of social interest.”

By Ernesto Garcia Diaz

Cubanet, November 26, 2013.

Translated by mlk

Havana’s El Trigal Market Reappears / Ernesto Garcia Diaz

MERCADO-EL-TRIGALHavana, Cuba, November, www.cubanet.org — The Cuban regime, in pursuit of “unleashing the productive forces,” has established, through Law Decree No. 318/2013, the new “Rule About the Commercialization of Agricultural Products in the provinces of Artemisa, Mayabeque and Havana.”  The communist leaders say that this new regulation is directed to eliminate the mechanisms that hinder the process of agricultural commercialization, as well as the “quest to make it more dynamic, efficient and flexible.”

The official newspaper Granma circulates, with optimism, various articles about this new Commercialization System which will begin to function this coming December.  The Havana population receives the news with despair and reservations, because it does not see substantial changes in the scarcity of food, their high prices, or the lack of quality and variety.

Producers continue to be circumspect because although the regulation permits the sale and purchase of the surplus once the contracts with the State have been fulfilled, the control and Statism that the regime maintains make them doubt that this will happen.  Also because the State does not sell them the necessary equipment to assure the safety of their products to their final destination.

It is reasonable to remember that during the decade of the ’80’s, in the capital of the Island, three farmers market hubs operated: Berroa, Ocho Vias and El Trigal. These centers have been led by the Council of the Administration of Provincial Popular Power of Havana and the ministers of Interior Commerce and Agriculture.

For many years, the commercial organization created facilitated the illegal markets or “black market,” which occasioned crimes of larceny, theft and diversion of resources, with the consequent loss of millions.  Audits and inspections by the Agricultural Ministry and other State agencies have reflected excessive costs and alleged losses.  El Trigal, not a few times, was implicated and closed for said causes.

On the other hand, on the esplanade of 114th Street and the Pinar del Rio Highway, belonging to the Marianao township, a wholesale agricultural market functions in the open, attended by productive methods, points of sale and brokers. This structure, headed by Colonel Samblon, will close in December, and has not been exempt from acts of vandalism and a regulated commercial organization.

The peculiar and striking thing is that the colonel mentioned, converted into the president of the non-agricultural cooperative who will operate the El Trigal market, will head that center under the supervision of General Colás, according to what I was able to learn there.

The farmer’s market will offer to sellers and buyers a night service between six in the afternoon and six in the morning.  To that end, it will rent spaces for the sale of merchandise.  The entry (as much for trucks as for persons), the loading and unloading, the weighing and other secondary services will be leased and collected by the cooperative.

Also, the competitors will be obliged to leave the market at six in the morning with their unsold merchandise in tow, in order to get in a new line and enter the enclosure again at six in the afternoon.  An agonizing way of marketing, conserving and preserving perishable products in an installation whose refrigerators are not operational!  In the daytime they will weigh the trucks that come from the provinces, for their distribution to the basic units or network of markets.

It is anecdotal to remember when the communist ex-dictator Fidel Castro Ruz, in August 1960, before 600 cooperative coordinators, said, “Now we enter a higher level, now we enter into a new project, a new purpose, a new aspiration: the aspiration to diversify agriculture.”  The ex-leader, with his “development programs,” years later destroyed the productive and industrial base of the Cuban economy.  Will we now be journeying through the dreams and deliriums of the General President?

In summary, the new commercial organization that the regime tried to implement will enrich the cooperative businessmen of military ancestry, at the expense of producers, private sales representatives and the people, who will continue enduring the experiments of the dictatorship of the Castro brothers.

Ernesto Garcia Diaz

Cubanet, November 12, 2013

Translated by mlk

Non-Agricultural Cooperatives: New Deception / Ernesto Garcia Diaz

campesino-cosecha-yuca-foto-cabrera-peinado-300x200HAVANA, Cuba, November www.cubanet.org – Last year the regime institutionalized non-agricultural cooperatives through Decree-Law No. 305 and its associated rules. There are now more the 56 institutions of this type. In principle, the legal statute is questionable, because it’s a rule dictated by the totalitarian power regardless of existing constitutional provisions .

In Article 20 of the Constitution, there is no contemplation of cooperatives other than voluntary associations of small farmers, which constitutes the only form of privately organized business permitted in Cuba, outside the state.

So, once again, the government violates its own laws and uses its totalitarian power to act according to its own interests. It also uses this chosen method to prevent citizens from association freely, or establishing forms of business that strengthen the role of private property within the national economy. Meanwhile, it avoids the process of constitutional reform and referendum, which could complicate its strategy of power.

By violating the provisions it itself has established, the regime socially and economically assaults the supposed beneficiaries (unemployed workers in the state system), as it states in the law that this new aperture is “experimental.” At the same time, disguising their own statements about these institutions, which are claimed to have “their own legal structure; use and enjoy and dispose of the benefits of their property; cover their expenses with their income and liable for their obligations.”
7687ccab99db4753c2afcd636e6f694c_XL-300x204In fact, the legal provision is permeated by authoritarianism, centralization and interference, and oriented to state control of economic life. The regime establishes for cooperatives a set of measures and administrative bans for the interventions of municipal governments, to provide that, for the constitution of each one, the project must be presented to the local organs of People’s Power or the national agencies that govern the activities.

These entities, in turn, must refer the matter to the Standing Commission for Implementation and Development to evaluate and present the proposal to the Council of Ministers at the beginning of the process proposed in the relevant entities. I ask you, will they be free to act as true owners of these new cooperatives?

As a demonstration of the fact that that economic opening in not genuine, it is also provided that: “The cooperatives may not merge, fold, split, or modify themselves without the prior approval of the body, agency or entity authorized its national constitution.”

On December 13, 2012, the General-President emphasized to the National Assembly of Popular Power: “We appreciate that updating of the economic model and with safe passage will begin to delve into broader issues.” Is he referring to the new deception that they are pulling over Cuban society by not allowing the establishment of private corporations?

Ernesto Garcia Diaz

Cubanet, 6 November 2013