‘All-Included’ Deals at Cuban Hotels Do Not Apply to Domestic Tourism

Dozens of customers wait in long lines at the Cubatur office located on the ground floor of the Habana Libre hotel. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez and Lorey Saman, Havana/Mexico City, 20 May 2021. Since 7 am, dozens of customers have been lining up for more than two hours at the Cubatur office on the ground floor of the Habana Libre hotel to get in on a summer getaway deal advertised by the state-run agencies. Faced with the downturn in international tourism, the government has bet on Cuban nationals to fill its hotels.

“People come here with gigantic bundles of money, like this one young guy who just took out his wallet…it’s tremendous!” exclaims a smiling woman, who on Thursday morning made it over to the central office of Cubatur in Havana’s El Vedado neighborhood.

Indeed, one needs a good sum of cash to pay for these “all-included” hotel packages — among the offers that most attract Cubans’ attention. Prices range from 984 pesos ($40 USD in exchange) per person, per night — not counting transportation, which is paid separately and generally comes out to about 600 pesos. continue reading

“The more economical offers are sold out, leaving the most expensive ones,” asserts another customer who, after checking with the tour operators, decided to get in line. “The minimum reservation one can make is for two days, with a money-back guarantee should the offer be cancelled due to the pandemic.”

The agency announced that the Islazul hotel chain prices were going down, therefore “they removed the signs outside that listed the costs,” according to customers who had arrived quite early.

The tourism packages can only be reserved in pesos, at the state-run offices within the country. No option to purchase from abroad exists should a relative or friend wish to gift a vacation to a resident of the Island.

The package prices run from 984 pesos to more than 3,000 per person, per night. (14ymedio)

“Somebody who goes to these things a lot told me that right now those hotels are like voluntary work camps — I don’t know how true that is, we’ll have to wait and hear what people have to say when they come back,” suggests another customer.

Along with the pool and the beach, the principal attraction of stay at the country’s hotels continues being access to a more varied menu than can be found in private homes, which are very affected by food shortages. Even so, various reports gathered by this newspaper warn of stricter regulations governing these “all-included” packages.

“They’re only allowing one heavy meal at lunch and dinner, while only a part of breakfast is included as a buffet item — the rest has to be ordered à la carte, such as cheese, egg dishes, sausages, and yogurt,” shared a Matanzas resident, speaking with 14ymedio after purchasing two nights at a Gaviota hotel in Varadero.

The woman, who claims to take such a trip annually (“except for 2020, because of the pandemic”), says that the hotel guests “act crazy” in the dining room. “When the servers bring out beer, the people stampede to get in line like they do at stores.” In her view, the food shortages affecting the country are evident “because the menu offerings are more limited and the amounts are smaller.” In any case, she observes, the getaway is still “enjoyable after so many months of being cooped up.”

In other parts of the country, such as Matanzas, since early May only residents of that province have been allowed to purchase packages for various hotels in Varadero*. At that tourist hub, the Island currently welcomes thousands of Russian vacationers, thanks to connections re-established in mid-April between Russia and Cuba, including seven weekly flights.

Meanwhile, some Matanzas businesses have offered discounts to Cuban customers who book before 31 May. Similar offers are available from Havanatur in Holguín, with a 10% discount for the Playa Costa Verde hotel, if the package is purchased by 30 June for stays between 1 July and 15 September.

In Mexico, the Vagamundos agency, which works with the Viva Aerobus airline, as of 7 May began promoting tourism packages to Varadero. A few hotels included in this promotion are also ones in the summer domestic tourism campaigns in Cuba, such as Kawama, Villa Tortuga, and Los Delfines.

Although no specific departure city is identified, tourists could book between four and six nights between 1 June and 31 December, 2021. Rates for four nights run from 784 to 1,186 dollars, with Tuesday and Saturday departures.

The packages include proof of Covid-19 vaccination three days prior to departure from Mexico, a health-check fee, ground transportation to the hotel, and travel insurance. The packages are available to “tourists or Cuban residents of other countries, and they may not depart from the tourist hub,” according to the agency. In addition, “family members will be allowed in the hotel as of the second day” as long as they show proof of a prior negative Covid-19 test and have booked their stay in advance.

In early March, Taíno Tours — a subsidiary of Havanatur — also offered tours departing from Mexico of between 200 and 400 dollars per week at Varadero hotels. These are “therapeutic” packages designed to “prevent diseases and health problems,” with treatments that include Interferon, PrevenHo-Vir, and Biomodulin-T — pharmaceutical products promoted by the Cuban authorities since the start of the pandemic to prevent coronavirus and other infections. However, according to independent analyses, these products have no proven scientific consistency.

*Translator’s Note: Varadero is in Matanzas province.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison 


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Some 40 Mexican Doctors Who Don’t Want to Go to Cuba Request Protection Under a Writ of Amparo

Some of the doctors who filed for a writ of amparo—a protection order—protested on February 9 in the Zócalo of Mexico City against being forced to go to Cuba. (Excelsior)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, February 18, 2021 — Around 40 Mexican doctors have come together to file amparo lawsuits for protection from being forced to study their specialty in Cuba by the Government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The writ of amparo—a legal instrument that exists in Mexico to protect citizens from possible arbitrariness by the Stateis based on alleged violations in the selection process, which they agreed to after passing the National Examination of Applicants for Medical Residency (ENARM) last November.

“In Mexico, any act of authority must be duly founded and motivated, and if it had been established in the call for applicants that the only place of destination was Cuba, there would be no problem,” the lawyer Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, representing to the plaintiffs in Mexico City, explains to 14ymedio. “The point is that the doctors took the exam, but they weren’t told that it was to study in only one country.” continue reading

López Obrador announced in May last year that they would create a program of specialty scholarships abroad for doctors due to the lack of places in Mexico. In November, the health authorities reported not only the doubling of places but also the launch of up to 1,600 scholarships abroad, destined for Canada, the United States, Argentina, Cuba and Australia, under the National Council for Science and Technology of Mexico (CONACYT).

It should be noted that in these countries, access to medical residency for foreigners involves strict immigration requirements as well as qualification by a demanding specialty exam, something which the Mexican Government did not mention at any time when announcing the creation of the scholarships.

When CONACYT published the requirements to fill 1,000 places with scholarships on December 15, the students who had already received their ENARM diplomas discovered that the only destination available to them was Cuba.

The Undersecretary of Health Hugo López-Gatell— the visible face of the Government during the Covid pandemic—told the protesters that they “are free” to not go to the Island, but in this case they will have to repeat the exam in the next call.

In this regard, the lawyer recalled that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ensures the rights of people during the pandemic, and that the document asks governments and their leaders to be ethical and clear in their pronouncements. The official’s position, Rodríguez says, was added as evidence in the last lawsuit.

“There were only four locations authorized in Mexico where you could take the exam, and doctors from all over the Republic had to travel to these places. Many of them had to borrow money to do so. They didn’t know that they would have only one option for being placed, and this is something that López-Gatell didn’t consider. He is not taking into account the effort put in by the doctors who participated and won a place in the quota,” the lawyer points out.

“The rules weren’t clear, which is either an inconvenient mistake or a purposeful violation, and that is what we are contesting by way of a writ of amparo,” insists Rodríguez, a member of the Lex Artis Medica, a medical law group.

“Changing these circumstances is detrimental to the rights of resident doctors, who have earned a place in Mexico’s academic system,” he explains. “We want the judge to order the authority to respect the doctors’ rights, since they passed the exam.”

According to the lawyer, the doctors are aware that the Mexican health system can’t take on so many residents, and in the event that the State alleges that there are no places to send applicants, the lawsuit also requests that the quota they’ve already obtained serve them for the following year.

“This is not a problem generated by the doctors; it’s a problem that the State itself created by increasing the number of places, and by the Mexican health system for not having the capacity to accept them,” he asserts.

The lawyer also considers it extremely serious that the Cuban Medical Services Marketing Company prohibits postgraduate studies for HIV carriers and pregnant women. “The State should put an end to these discriminatory barriers and gender-based violence and it hasn’t done so, nor has it issued one single statement of agreement to improve these circumstances,” Rodríguez denounces. “In no way are we asking the Court to issue a recommendation to another country, but it can tell the Government to revise those parts of the agreement between Mexico and Cuba.”

The process began with the lawsuit filed last January by 12 doctors, which was joined at the beginning of February by another group. Little by little, Rodríguez assures, more doctors are being added: “They can either lose their place and retake the exam or join the lawsuit.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has slowed down the process due to the suspension of activities in the courts, but this week the doctors were informed that the lawsuits are already being reviewed. “At any moment we will have a resolution; either they will support the claims or they will ask us to clarify some point for the judge; in the worst case, they will dismiss the lawsuits.”

In March the doctors are supposed to begin residency in their specialties, but the processing of the protection orders could postpone their studies.

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Hope Reborn for Cubans at Southern U.S. Border

Cuban migrants in Ciudad Juarez, after finally deciding to stay and work in Mexico. (EFE/Capture)

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14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 12 February 2021 — The announcement by Joe Biden’s administration to reopen the cases of asylum seekers who were sent back to Mexico, as of Feb. 19, has renewed hope for many Cubans who remain at the southern U.S. border in the expectation of being able to access an immigration court.

“In almost two years, it’s the only positive news we’ve had,” Luis Hechavarría, who is stuck in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, tells 14ymedio. “In the Trump era all the news was negative; all the executive orders that came out were to make the process difficult for us and to leave us here in Mexico, but now a new path is opening up for us.”

Hechavarría does not stop harboring some doubts and recalls that there is a lot of desperation among Cubans since last January. “They have wanted to force their way to U.S. soil and that’s no good. Violating the national security of a country like the United States is a serious crime and I don’t want to add federal charges against myself.” continue reading

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Thursday that it will reopen asylum cases as part of a program “to restore the safe and orderly processing” of immigrants who remain at the southern border under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) known as Permanezca en México, established through an agreement between Donald Trump and his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The DHS estimates that some 25,000 people have active cases, as is the case with Hechavarría, who has only been able to attend court once. “I have known people who have had to attend up to four times, it is unfortunate and very stressful this situation.”

“Many of these people prefer not to show up at the border again so as not to be deported,” he says. Many like him cannot afford legal counsel, nor do they have sufficient knowledge to defend their cases. Hiring an immigration lawyer, he says, costs between $6,000 and $8,000 and “that service does not guarantee you a favorable resolution.”

Since the pandemic arrived in the United States, the courts have suspended their hearings on several occasions. “They haven’t worked for months and the new administration suspended them altogether.”

Faced with this panorama and the uncertainty of being deported to the Island, some Cubans along the border have decided not to appear before an immigration judge and have opted to apply for residency in Mexico, says the man, who is originally from Holguín (Cuba).

The violence and social insecurity on the Mexican side keeps Hechavarría on alert because of the large number of murders, but he admits that the people have been very welcoming to the Cubans. “We behave well and just work. If we were misbehaving there would be more deaths, but since I’ve been here I’ve only heard of two murders in our community.”

Hechavarria, who has been working in a restaurant for a year and a half, left Cuba for Guyana in 2018. “I have a daughter and I saw myself at 27 years old and with nothing in my hands, with no future to give her. In me, the pain of that last hug and that last kiss always remains,” he says. “But well, you know, one must be made of stone.”

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Mexican Doctors Rebel Against Being Required to Study in Cuba

Mexican doctors protested this Monday in Mexico City’s Zocolo plaza.

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14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 9 February 2021 — A score of doctors demonstrated Monday in Mexico City’s Zocalo plaza in protest against Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government requiring them to study their specialty in Cuba.

“They say that the infrastructure there is greater than what we have in Mexico, but here we have more hospitals and there is a greater need for specialist doctors,” declared Ingrid Izar Cuéllar to the local media; Dr. Izar was one of the doctors who protested this Monday in front of the Palacio Nacional, the seat of the Mexican Executive and also, since he took office two years ago, the residence of López Obrador.

The Mexican president had announced in May of last year that they would start a program of scholarships for doctors to live abroad, due to the lack of vacancies in the country. Months later, in November, the health authorities reported not only the doubling of positions but also the launching of up to 1,600 scholarships abroad, with destinations in Canada, the United States, Argentina, Cuba and Australia.

In fact, when doctors took their specialty exams, they were asked if they wanted to go abroad and which country they preferred. continue reading

However, when the Mexican National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) published the call for the scholarships last December 15, they were only for Cuba. On that occasion, health consultant Xavier Tello noted that Mexico would pay the Cuban government a total of 40 million dollars as “tuition” for this program.

Those aspiring to residencies were up in arms, because it was not even optional: if they did not accept the place on the Island, they would lose it, and their exam results would not be considered.

“It is unfortunate for the aspirations and dreams of doctors who yearn to do a specialty outside the country, that they are not given the opportunity to do it in the place they prefer,” Belinda Cázares Gómez, president of the Mexican Medical Association, told 14ymedio. “It is frustrating, moreover, that if they do not accept studying in Cuba, they will lose their exam passing grade and their efforts will not be recognized.” And she adds: “I don’t think they were even warned.”

“Because of the conditions associated with the pandemic, doctors prefer to stay in their own country and not go out to take risks,” says Dr. Cázares.

Along the same lines, Dr. Izar told Imagen Radio: “We are in the middle of the pandemic and we demand a position here because our selection certificate is about to expire in two weeks.”

Those, like Izar, who passed the National Medical Residency Examination last November, must begin their residency on March 1, but those who chose to go abroad, in this case Cuba, must apply for the Conacyt scholarship before February 12.

“For Rehabilitation Medicine, 449 applicants were selected, of which only 149 obtained a national position,” said Izar. The remaining 300 have to go to Cuba, “obviously doing all the paperwork, which costs between 15,000 and 20,000 pesos, at our own expense,” not to mention “nor are you assured of acceptance.”

With the 1,100 dollars that Conacyt will pay each month for each scholarship holder who goes to Cuba, Izar reflected, two doctors could do their specialty in Mexico, since what is paid to residents in national territory is half the cost. “That is why we think that those economic resources should be redirected to our country and not to Cuba, because we do not know what study plans they manage, what hospitals they offer, we know nothing, everything is phantasmal.”

Dr. Belinda Cázares adds in an interview with 14ymedio: “The doctor who wants to do a specialty wants to have the certainty that his studies have the right academic conditions, that they are what he aspires to, that within the Cuban academic infrastructure he can know which are the study programs and the hospitals where he will work and what opportunity he will have here to occupy a position as a trained specialist once he finishes his specialty” in Cuba.

The president of the Medical Association sees it as positive that other countries receive Mexicans to study specialties and carry out scientific exchanges, but she asks: “What guarantee will these doctors who will go to Cuba to do a specialty have of obtaining a professional license to be able to practice when they return to the country?”

Cázares says he has “very certain information” that there are medical degree students graduated in Cuba but who were later not granted professional licenses in Mexico by the Mexican General Directorate of Professions “because the Cuban academic programs are not compatible with the Mexican ones.”

The issue of forced specialties in Cuba is a new episode that divides the healthcare profession and the president with regards to the Island. The College presided over by Cázares was, precisely, one of the signatories of the letter addressed to López Obrador last June in protest against the hiring of Cuban doctors to work in Mexico.

“We first asked why we as a guild had not been informed”, says Cázares, “what were the specialties of the Cuban doctors who were coming to the country because of the pandemic.” On that occasion, the schools heard “many concerns from the healthcare personnel… They didn’t know if they were doctors, intensive care or emergency physicians, nurses, we didn’t know their academic quality,” he says. “The authorities were very secretive, even the Cubans didn’t talk much.”

Another complaint of the doctors was that they did not even enter the spaces where the COVID patients were being treated. “Did they come to support us?” Cázares asks doubtfully. “The Secretary of Health of Mexico City [Oliva López] answered us that they were observers, epidemiologists, who came to do work of that nature.” Thus, denounces the doctor, “there was a double discourse: did they come as support for the pandemic or to be observers?”

The more than 700 Cuban Brigadists were in Mexican territory during the first wave of the pandemic, distributed between Mexico City and Veracruz returned to Cuba last October. The National Welfare Institute paid the regime more than 6 million dollars for their services, although the contract between the two parties was never made public.

Despite the uproar, Lopez Obrador “imported” again, two months later, a brigade of 500 healthcare workers, joined by a new contingent of 200 last January. Unlike those who worked during the first wave of the pandemic, stationed in civilian hospitals, this time they are in military hospitals, “attending” with the help of the Navy and the Armed Forces, as the Mexican president himself said and a medical source confirmed to 14ymedio, which makes the information about them, if that were possible, even more opaque.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

No News of 22 Rafters Who Left Cuba’s Isle of Youth in November

Fabio González, the son of Yanet Paz, was one of the three underage youth traveling by boat. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, February 8, 2021 — The families of a group of 22 Cubans who have disappeared in the Gulf of Mexico since November 29 are desperate. The migrants, three habaneros and 19 piñeros, including three minors, left the Isle of Youth for Cancun, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, but it’s not known if they reached their destination.

Family members of the rafters filed complaints in several Mexican cities, including Chetumal, Cancún and Islas Mujeres, without obtaining a response from the authorities.

Yanet Paz, mother of one of the minors who was on the boat, tells 14ymedio that two lawyers have also presented the case before the National Human Rights Commission in Mexico. Along with the Cubans, Paz says, the three Mexican boatmen they were traveling with are missing. continue reading

The boat left Mexico for the Isle of Youth to pick up the Cubans and return to its starting point. The last they heard about the rafters, from the call to a relative, is that they were near the Mexican coast. “One of the boatmen said that they had run out of fuel and were being towed by another boat. Since then nothing else has been known,” says Paz.

Her son, Fabio Francisco Paz González, is only 16 years old, and although it’s been more than two months, she says that she still has faith and hopes that he will appear along with the other migrants. His goal was to get to the U.S., where she is living.

“No, I didn’t know anything about that trip; my boy didn’t tell me. Three days after leaving Cuba, I found out that he had left in a boat. Since then I’ve searched for him everywhere.”

The 421 kilometers that separate the Isle of Youth from Cancun are one of the most common routes for Cubans trying to escape their country. Another of the most frequent points that serves as a port of departure is the province of Pinar del Río, just under 200 kilometers from the Mexican coast.

According to data published by the Mexican press, between 2014 and 2017, 393 Cubans were rescued on the high seas when they were seen by cruise ships, cargo ships or tourists, who reported them to the Mexican Navy. The average number of people per boat ranges from a minimum of 4 to a maximum of 18.

On November 28, 14 Cubans were rescued by personnel from the Secretariat of the Mexican Navy when they were navigating in the vicinity of Isla Mujeres. The rafters had been on the high seas for more than five days and had intended to reach the coast of Honduras.

In addition, Cubans try to enter the U.S. through South Florida. On January 1, the Miami Border Patrol detained 12 rafters in Key West, the first in 2021 to reach land in a homemade boat.

In 2017, the Obama Administration eliminated the wet foot/dry foot policy that benefited Cubans who stepped onto U.S. territory. However, dozens of the island’s residents continue to jump into the sea in precarious boats to escape a life without a future in their own country.

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cubans Stuck in Colombia Want a “Humanitarian Bridge” to Panama

“Many illegal boats have been leaving, but we don’t have the money to pay for them, so we had to remain on the beach,” says a Cuban migrant in Colombia, waiting to get to Panama.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Havana, February 4, 2021 — More than a thousand migrants trapped in Necoclí, Colombia, are staying in tents and experiencing hunger and disease due to poor sanitary conditions. On Thursday, a first group managed to leave on a boat for the Panamanian border. When they get to Capurganá, they will try to enlist the support of local authorities to create a “humanitarian bridge” that will allow them to reach Panama, the neighboring country, without having to cross the inhospitable Darien jungle on foot.

“Many illegal boats have been leaving,” Emanuel Novoa, “but we don’t have the money to pay for them, so we had to remain on the beach.” Novoa is a habanero who came from Uruguay to this border point in the Colombian department of Antioquia. He shares a destiny with dozens of Cubans (23, according to official sources, although it’s said in the town that there are actually a lot more).

He was lucky on Thursday, Novoa tells 14ymedio, since he was finally able to get on a boat that will take him to the Panamanian border for 65 dollars, instead of the 400 that the coyotes are charging. From the tourist town of Capurganá, a few hours away, he’ll be just 45 minutes by boat from the Panamanian port of Puerto Obaldia. However, crossing the border could be complicated. continue reading

Because of the pandemic, the border between Colombia and Panama was closed on January 15. Hundreds of migrants remained in Necoclí, most of them from Haiti, Cuba and Africa. The growing makeshift camp has alarmed the authorities, and they’re finally making decisions in order to prevent what could be a serious source of COVID contagion.

“It wasn’t until the arrival of the press here in Necoclí that things began to change, especially because of the Telemundo correspondent,” confesses Novoa, who is just 26 years old. “Only then did we see a light at the end of the tunnel regarding the sale of tickets by the government company that is transferring tourists to the other side of the Gulf of Urabá.”

On Tuesday, the Colombian authorities, in coordination with Panama, began to sell tickets, and the legal transit of migrants in boats is scheduled to begin on Thursday.

Daniel Muñoz, the Telemundo reporter who “worked the miracle,” tells 14ymedio about the suffering the migrants have endured. “They’ve spent this time sleeping in crowded tents or outdoors, without water or food for the children. Older people have had diarrhea and vomiting.”

According to the journalist, most have survived through the help of nearby residents. “To cook they gather wood, pieces of trees, papers or garbage. They prepare what the villagers give them, such as ripe and green bananas or used oil, which is a blessing, because the migrants can at least fry an egg,” adds Muñoz.

Necoclí has ​​registered a low level of Covid-19 infections, the reporter explains, but the situation in the settlement is extreme, because, among other factors, the municipality doesn’t have drinking water. “Imagine how easily the virus can be transmitted in this place, when nobody uses a mask and you can’t wash your hands or use any gel.”

The migrants harbor the hope that, due to the pandemic, Colombia and Panama will create a humanitarian bridge, as several legislators have requested, but the authorities haven’t declared anything yet, and this is something that has never happened before.

However, Novoa insists: “The authorities explained to us that we won’t travel through the different camps in Darien. They will take us to a Panamanian city so we don’t have any contact with the residents.”

According to his version, Cuban migrants would be transferred first to Capurganá (in Chocó, Colombia) and from there to other points, “always with the advice and guidance of the Colombian government, which will support us along the way and receive us at each site.”

Novoa was a teacher in Cuba, where he was in the third year of Special Education at the Enrique José Varona Higher Pedagogical Institute, but on January 31, 2020, he decided to leave the island to improve his future. “I got to Suriname and wanted to stay there, but I realized that there was a lot of unemployment in that country and a very low standard of living.”

That took him to Uruguay, his second stop. “I had to go through Guyana and Brazil and ran into very corrupt policemen along the way,” says the young man, who was even swindled by a Cuban posing as a coyote. “When I reached Brazil, with the help of Venezuelan friends I met, I got to Uruguay and spent ten months there.”

His goal, in any case, was to go to the U.S., and he left on December 15 after collecting some money and organizing a caravan with 14 other compatriots. The group followed trails and avoided migratory checkpoints in Brazil, Peru and Ecuador until they reached Ipiales, in southern Colombia. From there, negotiating with “corrupt policemen,” he continued by bus through Cali and Medellín, until he reached Necoclí.

In the makeshift camp of people, there are also pregnant women and small children. Surayma Bosque, one of the members of the group encouraged by Novoa, traveled with her husband and two children, ages 3 and 6.

“I left Cuba due to the lack of opportunities, the economic situation and the repression, but above all to find a better future and freedom,” says Bosque. In Uruguay, where they couldn’t find work, they didn’t do well and embarked on this adventure, which has stopped for the moment.

“It’s a sacrifice for my children and for me, but I think it will be worth it to reach our destination and be able to offer them a better future. That’s why all we Cubans are struggling to get to the U.S.,” she says with certainty.

The 33-year-old habanera knows that she has embarked on a “long journey where many things can happen,” but she is convinced of something: “If I can’t enter the U.S., I will stay in Mexico. Returning to Cuba is not an option for me, and I have faith that we will achieve our goal.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cubans and Other Migrants in a Critical Situation at the Frontier of Colombia and Panama

Migrants at an improvised camp on the shore of the beach. (Semana)

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14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 29 January 2021 — More than 100 Cubans have been stranded for 23 days in the Colombian border municipality of Necoclí, in the department of Antioquia, along with hundreds of Haitians, Venezuelans and other migrants. They are waiting to be transported by boat to a point in Panama in order to continue on to the United States.

The Colombian government announced on January 15 that it was extending the closure of land and river borders until March 1. The director of Migration Colombia, Francisco Espinosa, reported that due to the increase of cases and the worrying hospital situation, due to the high occupation of COVID-19 patients, the passage between Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Venezuela was suspended.

According to Wilson Patiño, director of Migration in Antioquia, “it is not a time to travel”, but “to protect ourselves, in order to minimize the risks of COVID-19 infection”. continue reading

Necoclí has become a place with no way out for the migrants: “Every day more and more Cubans continue to arrive, becoming completely trapped in a nightmare”, describes Telemundo’s correspondent, from a makeshift camp where migrants, including small children and pregnant women, find themselves

“What prevents us from leaving is the sea, and I have a son with diarrhea and vomiting,” Cuban Odalys Trobajo, says with impotence, having been stuck halfway after Colombian authorities closed the border because of the pandemic, she tells the news channel.

In the last year, given the restrictions on mobility and quarantine due to COVID, as reported by the Colombian magazine Semana, the passage of migrants has decreased in that region. However, at the beginning of the year, the movement of travelers returned in “Necoclí, the next-to-last step before crossing the Gulf of Urabá and venturing on a path of death through the Darién Gap”, the article states.

First, travelers must reach Capurganá in order to board a boat that will take them to a point in Panamanian territory. “They don’t sell us a ticket because the borders are supposedly closed to us, the migrants, and the illegal boats are leaving,” Ailen Campos, another Cuban, tells Noticias Caracol.

Cuban Jany Perez tells Telemundo: “We are afraid to cross in the illegal boats, because when they arrive they throw you in the water and we don’t want to go through that moment”.

Father Aurelio Moncada, parish priest in a settlement near Capurganá, affirms that the number of migrants arriving in the area continues to rise, too much “for the coyotes (traffickers)”, reports the Colombian newspaper El Espectador. “Since October they have been smuggling them at night”, adds the priest.

For his part, the mayor of Necocli, Jorge Tobón, denounces the critical situation of migrants: “They are taking care of their ’necessities’ on the beaches, that is why we have decreed a health emergency and a humanitarian emergency”.

“I call on the national and departmental government to help us, because the truth is that we are overwhelmed,” insists the mayor. “I hope they help us, many of these migrants are already enduring hunger today. The children are sick too. Migration Colombia should also support us with these people.”

Data published by the International Organization for Migration, collected by El Espectador, point to the increase in the transit of migrants between Colombia and Panama: whereas in 2006 only 79 people crossed the Darien Gap, in 2012 the number rose to 1,777.

By 2015 there were already 29,289 migrants and a year later there were 30,055, “mostly Cubans hoping to quickly to reach the US” in view of the possibility, implemented by Barack Obama in January 2017, of the elimination of the wet foot/dry foot policy, which allowed Cubans who “touched land” in the United States to be on a path to citizenship.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

For Melissa Barreto Galvez, a Cuban from Santa Clara, the Trip Ended in Mexico

For Melissa Barreto Gálvez, a Cuban from Santa Clara, the trip ended in Mexico (Cortesía)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 17 January 2021 — When Melissa Barreto Gálvez boarded the plane in Havana that would take her to Nicaragua, the only thing on her mind was her three-year-old son Mylan Kahled. She left him behind, under Grandma’s care, but he was her driving engine to make the big leap and become an immigrant.

“Leaving my little one in Cuba, whom I love most in life, causes me pain that grows stronger every day, which leaves me hardly able to breathe. It’s as if the world is going to fall on you,”  this 22-year-old resident of Santa Clara said moving to 14ymedio.

Melissa is one of thousands of Cubans who in 2020 chose to petition for refuge in Mexico. This process has been triggered in the last four years among the nationals of the island, who have ranked as the third highest of nationalities that requests it, behind Hondurans and Haitians. continue reading

Here she arrived last July, in the midst of the health crisis across the region, dodging obstacles, corrupt cops, dealing with scammers, and some fears. “I left Cuba with other people. When I arrived in Nicaragua, blind, I got my rent by myself and a way to sustain myself,” recalls the young woman, who left in the middle of her medical career in Cuba to seek a better future.

“Since every Cuban is known by our accent and even the way we dress, on my way out of work I met two Cubans. We started sharing and struck up a great friendship.” Like her, the boys also wanted to jump the borders into Mexico, and that’s what they did together.

Melissa and her friends were set up to a contact with coyotes. Within a few days, they had set out on the road. The $1,200 of the initial fare for the trip ended up at $3,500. “I spent some very difficult days, because in the end coyotes took money from us whenever they could. They left us 15 days in a house, almost without food because, according to them, the passage was difficult, but they did it all in order to ask us for more money. Most people arrive in Chiapas [Mexico] in four or five days, I spent 26 days and they were the worst.”

The young woman, who never gave up hope of arriving in Mexico, says she felt a lot of distrust at first “because of the things she heard” about the journey. “But along the way I was losing my fear, because I also knew my friends wouldn’t abandon me.”

The day after she stepped on Mexican soil, on July 12, she showed up at the Office of the Refugee Aid Commission (COMAR). “I did it all very quickly and easily, there were no queues. In those months almost no one was entering the country, mainly because Honduras and Guatemala had their borders closed because of COVID.”

“The third month after I went to the COMAR, I was called to interview for the asylum process. Within a few days I was told to go and pick up the resolution that recognized me as a refugee in the United Mexican States.” She is already in the process of obtaining permanent residency.

The migration landscape in Mexico for Cubans has changed a lot in a few years here. The usual, before, was the immediate deportation of the nationals from the island, a procedure interrupted for a few months, just over five years ago, when, faced with the imminent elimination by the Obama administration of the wet foot/dry foot policy, there was an avalanche of Cubans who entered the Chiapas border with the intention of reaching the United States by land. They then received an expedited “letter of exit” from the Instituto Nacional de Migración (Mexican National Institute of Migration), which allowed them to remain in the country legally for 15 days, until they reached the northern border.

Melissa now lives in Monterrey. She went a few days without a job, but she then was able to find one in order to move ahead. She claims that the important thing is to work, and she has lived it from the south to the north of the country, within a Cuban community that grows every day. And she also found love in another Cuban, a man who is young like her, who also wants to “throw in” (echar pa’ lante = work hard to get ahead), she says.

If everything becomes better on the northern border, does she plan to apply for asylum in the United States? “My son is not here with me and I have no plans to go to the USA yet. Maybe tomorrow, when I have my son, I will be able to tell you, but the truth is, I want to be here, in the beautiful country that has welcomed me.”

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuban and Central American Migrants Clash on Mexico’s Southern Border

Between January and November 2020, 4,893 Cubans had requested asylum in Mexico, according to data published by the Comar. (News from Chiapas)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 7 January 2021 — A group of Cubans stranded in Tapachula, in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico, got into a fight this Tuesday in front of the main entrance of the offices of the National Institute of Migration (INM), when they tried complete the paperwork for a humanitarian visa that allows them enter the country legally and continue their journey to the northern border to request asylum in the United States.

According to an account published in Chiapas News, the confrontation, which involved more than 1,000 Central American and Cuban migrants, began with angry shouts of “they do not want to respect the line, back, back, respect the line.”

The newspaper details that there was an exchange of “bumps and scratches” during the discussion to obtain a position in line. Many migrants who had started their paperwork on December 23 had to wait until this week to complete it because the offices closed for several days.

Fidel Hernández, a Salvadoran who was standing in line, pointed out that the Cubans had drawn up a long list of hundreds of them and that they were not allowing Central Americans to enter. He said that in the confrontation there were several injured and that the Cubans also hit each other.

A week earlier, Chiapas News reported that around 400 migrants from Haiti, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Cuba remained at the 21st Century Migration Station in Tapachula without optimal sanitary conditions due to the pandemic.

When people who are detained in the federal station can leave, they request refugee status before the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (Comar). The process allows them to legally stay for 45 days in the city and in that time they can appeal to the Mexican immigration authorities far a humanitarian visa.

Cubans continue to enter Mexico from the south despite the closing of the borders of the Central American countries due to the pandemic. Between January and November 2020, 4,893 had requested asylum, according to data published by Comar. The island is surpassed only by Honduras with 13,404 applicants and by the 5,314 people from Haiti. In that period, only 670 Cubans successfully achieved recognition as refugees.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Priest Censures Leaders Who ‘Cling to Outdated Ideas, Already Obsolete’

Father Maikel Gómez said that “the freedom of the children of God”… “can never be coerced, much less conditioned.” (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 26 December 2020 — The voices of Cuban priests have made themselves heard with great force in recent months. This December 24, as Christmas was being celebrated, Deacon Maikel Gómez, from the Parish of San Juan Bosco, in Havana, gave a homily in which he reflected on freedom within the Island.

“Our society today needs the touch of love, a love that unites and not disunites, a love that joins together and not separates,” said the Catholic father.

“We do not have the right to say that our streets are for some or for others, our streets belong to everyone, to all of us who were born here, wherever we are,” said the priest amid a growing official campaign of stigmatization against critics of the system. continue reading

Gomez affirmed that progress could not be made if they continue to “build walls that Christ once demolished for you”… “We need to transform our hearts, we need to transform our thinking, and this will be the only way to transform our society, a society based on Christ, founded on love, understanding and solidarity among all.”

He added that, “Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of the Father,” came to “a Cuba ripped apart, in the midst of sadness and uncertainties, in the midst of poverty and pain, in the midst of a pandemic that has claimed the lives of many,” but also he comes “to guide us with his light in the midst of so much darkness and uncertainty.”

The priest affirmed that the “Word of the Lord” is present “in response to the desperate cry of a people who, like Israel, walk in a desert led by others who do not want to see the light and cling to outdated ideas, now obsolete.”

During the homily, which was shared on social networks by the Center for Coexistence Studies, Gómez said that “the freedom of the children of God” “can never be coerced, much less conditioned.”

In addition, he made reference to the religious censorship that has been experienced on the Island: “His birth [of Jesus] today echoes once again of the need for love that still exists among all, the need for love and love of God, love that at some point they tried to erase from our minds, and that, despite all these years, even when the Church was decimated, threatened and intimidated, that love continued to beat and the fact of our presence here confirms my words.”

Quoting the Cuban philosopher and educator José de la Luz y Caballero, he affirmed that it will be necessary to give up training “purely mechanical and routine men,” and to achieve a legion of thinkers with the necessary capacity for reflection on existential issues, including social problems.

Deacon Maikel Gómez’s reflections come a few days after the Cuban Catholic bishops, in their traditional Christmas message , included a call “for dialogue and negotiation between those who have different opinions and criteria”, amid strong smear campaigns of the Government against its critics.

At the end of November, more than 200 priests, religious and lay people residing in Cuba joined the wave of solidarity with the San Isidro Movement and the activists on hunger strike and signed a letter asking the Government not to let them die. They requested that the event not end in a fatal outcome, “to be consistent with the demands of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which proclaims the dignity of every human being as an absolute value.”

On the other hand, among the religious who have spoken individually about the situation on the island in recent months are Father Alberto Reyes, parish priest of the church of San Jerónimo, in Esmeralda, Camagüey, who posted on his Facebook wall a text in which he lamented the fear and oppression that Cubans suffer; and the priest Jorge Luis Pérez Soto, parish priest of San Francisco de Paula, in the municipality of Diez de Octubre, in Havana, who claimed that “the Church does have to get involved in politics.”


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Losing Your Head Over a Match, a Common Scene in Cuban Kitchens

The poor quality of the boxes and the damp sandpaper are a part of the nonsense that it takes three to five attempts to light one. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 7 November 2020 — Some products and services have earned a place of honor in the jokes and ridicule of Cubans. Bread, internet connections and matches compete for the most maligned position, the latter for their poor quality, the danger they represent when they do not meet certain standards and because they are cursed every day in kitchens throughout the Island.

Even Cuban comedians, who have a lot of material, make fun of matches, but now not only because of their terrible quality but also because they are an endless target of “search and capture” — impossible to find. Even your hidden sources and contacts don’t have them and those who have them do not sell them, and more than one stove has remained cold for several days because of the absence of them.

In addition to food shortages, an ever-present theme in Cuban daily life, matches have disappeared from the state markets in recent months. In Sancti Spíritus, since the Ministry of Internal Trade announced in August the modification of the product sales system from regulated to regulated release, “most of the people of Sancti Spiritus have not managed get them,” the local press published. continue reading

Nor are they the matches dreamed of by cooks, smokers and the lighters of spiritual candles. With a fragile body and a wayward head, they can end up burning clothes rather than lighting a stove. The poor quality of the boxes and the damp sandpaper are part of the nonsense that makes it take three to five attempts to light one.

The Cuban government never allowed the private production and distribution of matches, according to ministerial sources, for fear that allowing private hands to possess certain raw materials could also lead to the creation of firecrackers and explosives. For more than half a century they have been a state monopoly, like tobacco, coffee and telecommunications.

Three months after the decision by which, according to the aforementioned ministry, each territory must establish “the network in which the product will be marketed, serving all the popular council areas,” the people of Sancti Spíritus can’t even find a match with “a magnifying glass,” Escambray points out.

The reality of Sancti Spíritus is that, since August, only one shipment has been received from the two producing industries that supply the province and “previously they used the existing reserves to deliver the last regulated allocation that was pending,” the official newspaper reported. According to an official interviewed, there are difficulties with receiving the imported raw materials needed to ensure the manufacture of matches.

“For years the matches were sold unrationed in the bodegas — the ration stores — but with this collection of chaotic circumstances they have disappeared from shops because the people who sell through online ads have bought up the whole supply to resell them,” a housewife residing in the city of Santiago de Cuba told 14ymedio.

Unlike Sancti Spíritus, which is supplied by shipments from the National Phosphorus Company from Havana, Santiago de Cuba has one of the four factories in the country, so they can be found more easily. “They give me four boxes a month, but on the street they are 5 pesos,” said a resident of the Vista Alegre neighborhood from Santiago.

Another consumer dissatisfaction is the poor quality of the production. A reader asked the Granma newspaper in 2018, why is it so difficult to light the matches that the country markets, referring to the fact that they have “an extremely poor quality, out of a hundred ten work, if that,” in addition to the fact that the sandpaper is not effective and the boxes are half empty.

According to the official media, the Ministry of Industries recognized that the dissatisfactions with the quality of the product were due to the deterioration and aging of the equipment of the National Match Company and “the solution lay in the execution of technological investments that would allow achieving the efficiency parameters and productivity.”

In addition to continuing poor quality, the sale of matches has always been closely controlled. Cubans attribute this control to their possible use in protest actions. The truth is that, even in the boom years of the Soviet subsidy, the sale and distribution of matches was closely supervised and the quantities that an individual could acquire were always scarce.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

In Ecuador, Cubans Protest in Front of Consulate Over Costs to Extend Stay

Consulate of Cuba in Quito, Ecuador. (Google Maps)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 13 October 2020 — The announcement of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs this Sunday, regarding Cubans or foreigners residing on the island to extend their stay abroad until October 12, 2021 without losing the right to return, came with a condition that was not reported and that has outraged the expatriate community: the cost of the process.

The price depends on the country where they are located. In any territory of the European Union, for example, the application costs 25 euros, plus 40 euros for each month that you want to extend your stay between this October 12th and the following year, that is, 480 euros for the whole year. In addition, if the procedure is carried out by a third person, you have to pay another 25 euros.

But those who are in the United States bear the worst burden: 20 dollars per application, plus 150 dollars for each month of extension (1,800 for the whole year) and another 20 if the interested party does not present it directly. continue reading

In Ecuador, the Cuban community organized a “sit-in” for Tuesday in front of the Cuban consulate in Quito to protest the fees. “I learned that to extend my residence I have to pay 40 dollars per month. It is unfair, it is not my fault that Cuba and the world had to close their borders, it is an abuse. Why do I have to pay so much money if I have sufficient time to enter Cuba?” a Cuban who resides in the Andean country told this newspaper.

With the hashtags #EliminenPrórrogas (Eliminate Exension [fees]), #LosDerechosNoExpiran (Rights Don’t Expire), #SomosCubanosDePorVida (We Are Cubans for Life) and #ReformaMigratoriaYa (Reform Migation Now), they also ask “to have an effective consular representation for all members of our community.”

The indignation is greater for having learned the news informally; many hear it through audios that circulate among the community where the consul supposedly refers to the costs.

This is how Hiram H. Castro, a Havanan who is studying for a doctorate at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Ecuador, found out. “In my case, November 2 marks my 24 months and the José Martí airport is still closed. I cannot travel or buy a ticket in those uncertain circumstances. The question is: should I still pay 40 dollars for each month that passes without being able to travel to Cuba?” he laments in a group that brings together Cubans in that country.

Another woman, a mother from Villa Clara, insists that this new provision does not benefit her at all: “On the contrary, I had my trip prepared for July, because I have a five-year-old girl who is here with me, and I planned my trip to last a month, but because of the coronavirus everything fell apart.”

“I’ve spent several months without working and had to pay for everything, I ran out of money. Now I have to save again for another trip, but my Cuban residence has already expired and I have no money for that extension. And I am the one who supports my mother in Cuba. I mean, I can’t go enter as a tourist and that’s it. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t want to lose my residence rights, but I don’t have money either,” she told 14ymedio desperately.

The amounts that Cubans have to pay for consular procedures have always been the subject of criticism and complaints. From the price of the passport, one of the most expensive in the world, and its extensions, to the confirmations of university degrees, which cost around 1,200 dollars, something that migrants describe as “a whole business” set up by the Government of the Island to squeeze their pockets.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Without ‘Frankensteins’ There Would be no Transport in Guantanamo’

Authorities in Guantanamo will legalize vehicles that have been converted into taxi vans. (Ricardo Romero)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, September 14, 2020 — A piece from here, a piece from there. Parts of an old Chevrolet are combined with those from a Soviet-era Lada and some accessory from a more recent Citroen to fashion a vehicle that can cruise the streets instead of lying “in eternal rest” at some repair shop. In Guantanamo more than four-hundred of these hybrids are what keep the city running.

So far this year, city officials have discovered hundreds of vehicles made from pieces of other cars. According to investigations carried out by public transportation officials and reports in the local newspaper, Venceremos, residents have been using these parts to craft one-of-a-kind motorized bicycles, tricycles, vans, motorcycles — with and without sidecars — and even buses.

Details of this “resurrection,” as it is described in official parlance, come as no surprise to anyone living in a country where getting around requires inventiveness. Who here has not climbed aboard a hybrid vehicle? What Cuban does not have a friend or know someone’s father who buys parts from different vehicles to fashion his own form of transportation. continue reading

A Lada gearbox, a Fiat steering system, a Cadillac body, a Polski steering column, a Ford engine and a Moskovich suspension are just some of the components in the mechanical Frankensteins that keep the island running. The problem is these vehicles are often illegal and subject to heavy fines.

Though cars made from multiple parts have been used as a means of transportation for decades, and were essential during the so-called Special Period of the 1990s, officials have never liked them.

A new wave of regulations requires that certain vehicles be registered with the provincial transport agency. Highest on the priority list are those which have been converted from gasoline to diesel, and vice versa, as well as cars converted into passenger vans. Though there has been some regulatory relaxation, vehicular mutants made from different automobiles remain in the crosshairs of local officials.

A new law was adopted in 2019 regulating the conversion of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers. It stipulated, however, that  “conversions must first be approved by local transportation authorities [after which] owners have one year to make the changes, a period which can be extended another six months.”

“Making certain changes requires a technical report which must be later reviewed and approved by the appropriate authorities. Once the changes have been made, the vehicle must undergo a technical inspection (a CT scan),” according to an article in the official press.

Most of the Frankensteins cannot meet these requirements, therefore the only option is to operate under the radar and risk fines and confiscation.

Guantanamo residents have decided to ignore these regulations. When faced with a choice between legalization or transportation, they choose the latter. A striking Willys jeep stopping to pick up passengers could be made up of parts from any number of other vehicles. Assembled with creativity and daring, there is a whiff of necessity about them. They have been brought to life by the lightning bolt of urgency.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuba Sues Mexico for Non-payment of Salaries to 28 Coaches from Cuba

Cuban coaches who are part of the cooperation agreement with Mexico. (Government of Mexico)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 17 September 2020 — The Cuban Embassy in Mexico filed a lawsuit against that nation’s National Commission for Physical Culture and Sports (Conade) for the failure to pay the salaries of 28 coaches from the island who are part of an agreement between the two countries.

Since the beginning of the year, the technicians of the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation of Cuba (Inder) who work in 11 disciplines in Mexico have not received their salary. On January 3, the debts of 2019 were canceled “and we return to the same situation with the lack of payment,” a member of Inder who trains in Mexico City told the Cancha newspaper.

The technician, who maintains that Conade has requested the withdrawal of the lawsuit, insists that the Chinese delegation has not been paid since November. continue reading

During the presentation of Mexico’s sports development plan, Ana Gabriela Guevara, general director of Conade pointed out that between the years 2013 and 2020 140 million Mexican pesos (almost 7 million dollars) were allocated to the payment of Cuban and Chinese technicians in accordance with the agreements signed with those nations.

According to Guevara, the work of the coaches did not live up to the expectations outlined in the contract. “We are going to choose now, we want to create our own academy, our own curriculum, our own human material,” explained the former sprinter, according to Latinus review.

Non-compliance with salary payments also affects other Cubans who are not part of the official agreement, such as national fencing coach Juan Alexis Salazar Márquez. “I am only claiming my right and they got angry. The truth is, I feel tied because there is no one who can solve my situation, but this is what is happening,” Salazar told the local newspaper El Demócrata.

The coach decided to leave the official Cuban delegation with his family in June 2012, when he was competing in Cancun (Quintana Roo) in a Pan American Championship. Shortly afterwards, he joined the Mexican Olympic Committee and began working at the National High Performance Center. But since the beginning of 2020 he has not received payment from the Mexican Fencing Federation, dependent on Conade.

Salazar has managed to survive by teaching private classes. “In fact I asked for help from the parents of some athletes who deposited money with me and if I ask for the proof of the deposit they will give it to me to prove what I am saying,” said the fencing teacher.

Conade is involved in alleged cases of corruption and irregularities. In an audit, ordered by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, an embezzlement of 50.8 million pesos (2.4 million dollars) was detected in the Fund for High Performance Sports in 2019.

Cuba and Mexico have had operation agreements for decades in science, culture, education, economy and sports. In 2017, the two countries also signed an agreement in Healthcare that facilitated a contract of 135 million pesos — 6.2 million dollars — for the collaboration of a Cuban medical brigade for three months.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

With the App Cola.cu the Cuban Government Strengthens its Control Over Sales in 86 Stores in Havana

Line in Havana, first thing in the morning of this Wednesday, to buy soy yogurt. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 16 September 2020 — Dealing with the lines and fighting the resellers continues to be the obsession of the Cuban authorities. The application Portero and the multiplication of police officers and local guards at the doors of shops and markets in Havana, joins a new control mechanism: the application Cola.cu.

This application, launched on September 1, registers the customer’s identity card and creates a database with the date, place and products purchased, according to the official newspaper Granma.

The Provincial Defense Council said that it is already working in 86 stores in the capital’s municipalities and justified its use saying that it “guarantees discipline in access to food” and that it also serves to alert “about the use of false profiles on social networks attributed to personalities to generate discomfort in the population.” continue reading

The application prevents “the same people from buying certain products several days a week,” the authorities said. In this way, they say, “greater access will be allowed to those who have not been able to buy food or toiletries and the hoarding of basic necessities is avoided.”

The application, which was created at the José Antonio Echeverría  Technological University of Havana (Cujae), also controls the mobility of capital residents, who are prohibited from acquiring basic necessities outside of their municipality of residence.

When it’s time to exert control, the agents have no qualms. A neighbor of Centro Habana testified how an old woman was not allowed to buy a product that a store was selling at that time. “When they asked for her card, they saw that it had an address in eastern Cuba and the police did not let her buy the package of noodles, which was what they were selling, one per person,” the man told this newspaper. “The poor lady could not buy her noodles and the police told her to go to the Government to complain.”

Although at the moment only the Provincial Defense Council works with the application Cola.cu, the municipal authorities will apply some measures in the coming days with the information provided by the new computer platform.

For months, the authorities have also used the application Portero created at the University of Informatics Sciences (UCI), which records what day a customer accessed a store and can warn if they behave like a reseller. Shortly after, the tool was updated and now works in connection with the police database, the criminal record database and even the National Tax Administration Office (ONAT).


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.