Total Uncertainty Among Families Of Cuban ‘Rafters’ Recently Arrived In The United States / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

The speedboat in which the Cubans traveled. (Miami Herald)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 16 March 2017 — A call from Cuba finally let Yandry Perez relax. His aunt had alerted him through an interrupted phone call from the north of Villa Clara, that for two days the whereabouts of his mother and his two younger brothers had been unknown. Organized in absolute secrecy to facilitate their flight, fifty Cubans escaped last weekend in speedboats to Florida, even though they knew they were no longer welcome there.

“For days we have been waiting for news, in complete uncertainty,” says Perez, who two years ago crossed seven international borders to seek refuge under the wet foot/dry foot policy, cancelled in the last days of President Obama’s term. continue reading

“When we heard the news that they had caught two boats with Cubans, we breathed a sign of relief,” he adds.

Last Sunday, a 40-foot speedboat was intercepted by an operations team from the US Customs and Border Protection. It had more than 30 migrants on board

His mother, Marlenes Romero Leon, 47, along with his brothers Yusdiel and Kevin, 20 and 11 respectively, boarded the speedboat as a last option to join the rest of the family that was in the south Florida, in a reunification process that was initiated some years earlier but was frustrated when Romero was denied a visa to travel to the Unites States to reunite with the father of her children.

“On television I was able to see one of my brothers, so I know they are being detained,” says Perez, who only wants to know where his family is so he can hire an attorney to take the case.

“We believe that can ask for political asylum. On more they one occasion they arrested my mother [in Cuba]. They didn’t even let her get to beach so she couldn’t escape Cuba,” he adds.

“My brother is a child, at least they should let us take care of him,” he says.

Last Sunday, a 40-foot speedboat was intercepted by an operations team from US Customs and Border Protection. There were more than 30 migrants on board, five of them ran off into crocodile filled mangrove swamps to escape the authorities but they were caught.

A few hours earlier a small boat with seven Cubans on board was intercepted at Blackpoint Park and Marina, south of Miami-Dade. Another boat with 21 migrants was detained in the vicinity of Cayo Largo.

“We can not give any information about the case or those involved because it corresponds to an open investigation,” an official with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said.

Authorities are investigating the boat operators who transported the Cubans from the island. If it is proved that they are human traffickers they could face severely punished charges

Authorities are investigating the boat operators who transported the Cubans from the island. If it is proved that they are human traffickers they could face severely punished charges in the United States.

Since the press announced the arrival of the Cuban migrants, Julio Infante has not stopped seeking the whereabouts of his father-in-law, who allegedly traveled on one of those boats.

“I’ve gone to several places but they always tell me that they cannot give out information. We’re desperate because we do not even know if he’s alive,” he says.

The missing man is Wilber Hechavarría, 46, who left Cuba on Monday. The relatives were supposed to call to his daughter, Yoandra, who was waiting for the news.

“I wanted to be with her and leave Cuba. She always wanted to leave the country because people there have to steal to eat,” says Infante.

Brothers Kevin, 11, and Yusdiel, 20,, are among the fifty or so Cuban ‘rafters’ detained. (Courtesy)

“My wife came from Guatemala a year ago crossing borders. She arrived pregnant, we already have a family and we wanted her dad to be with us too,” he adds.

Although the migrants knew of the ending of the wet foot/dry foot policy, they ventured to cross the Florida Straits, confident that they would find some way to legalize their situation later in the United States.

For Infante, it’s all the same that the policy that facilitated the entry of Cubans to the United States is over.

“In the end, I would look for some way to legalize or be undocumented, but that will always be better than staying in Cuba,” he says.

When a rafter or any undocumented Cuban migrant arrives in the United States, he is obliged to appear before the authorities for processing

Immigration attorney Wilfredo Allen comments that when Cuban rafters arrive in US territory and do not surrender to immigration authorities, not only will they not be eligible for the Cuban Adjustment Act after staying in the country for a year, but they will not be able to obtain legal status even by marrying residents or citizens.

“When a rafter or any undocumented Cuban migrant arrives in the United States, he is obliged to appear before the authorities for processing. The migrant can apply for political asylum if he is persecuted and fears to return to Cuba,” says Allen.

“If your case is credible you have the right to fight for asylum before a judge and, if granted, you could then adjust your situation through the Cuban Adjustment Act.

“If migrants who illegally entered the United States do not present themselves to the authorities, they remain undocumented and it is very difficult for them to legalize their status later. They are subject to immediate deportation,” he adds.

Scooters Ease The Problem Of Public Transport / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada and Mario Penton

Scooters do not require registration and the only license required is one to drive light equipment. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada and Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 8 March 2017 — Carlos began to travel to Ecuador when Cubans did not need a visa. He brought back clothes and appliances to sell in the informal market, until he discovered a more lucrative business: the import of electric scooters, the flagship product of those who do not want to wait hours for a bus or pay the fares charged by the fixed-route shared taxis known as almendrones (after the “almond” shape of the classic American cars widely used in this service).

At first, he sold these light vehicles discreetly from his garage on 23rd Street, centrally located in Havana’s Vedado district, he told 14ymedio. He asked between 2,500 and 3,000 Cuban Convertible pesos* for each bike, three to four times his investment. It was a “solid business,” he confesses.

“So we had several months until things went bad,” he recalls, referring to the visa controls that the government of Rafael Correa imposed on Cubans at the end of 2015. continue reading

The visa waiver Cubans had enjoyed in Ecuador since 2008, along with the immigration reform approved by Raúl Castro in 2013, led to an “airlift” with thousands of trips made each year by private individuals, allowing them to supply the Cuban informal market with products from the Andean nation. As the Ecuadorian door closed, there were other shopping destinations, including Russia, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.

For Yamilet García, a Cuban based in Miami, the ‘motorinas’, as they are called, are ‘a blessing’

“It is now more difficult” to find customers who are willing to pay what he was formerly able to charge for an electric scooters, explains Carlos. “There are a lot of people traveling,” so the number of “scooters of different brands and colors” has soared.

In South Florida, where the largest concentration of Cubans outside the Island is located, this business opportunity did not go unnoticed.

Yudelkis Barceló, owner of the agency Envios y Más based in Miami, explained to 14ymedio that for the last three years they have been in the business of shipping electric scooters to Cuba.

“The customer acquires the product and in a period of six to eight weeks they can pick it up at the Palco agency, west of Havana. Payment is made in Miami. The company offers Voltage brand bikes of 750 Watts and 1,000 Watts, which cost $1,450 and $1,600 respectively, plus customs costs (70 Cuban Convertible pesos (CUC) plus 400 Cuban pesos (CUP) in the first case; and 170 CUC plus 400 CUP in the second case).

There are also other models of scooters: the Ava Aguila costs 1,950 CUC, the Hornet is 1,850 CUC and the Mitshozuki is 1,750 CUC.

Barceló notes that the shipment of this equipment is intended for personal use only, so his company does not violate the US embargo. Shipments are made by sea.

Another circumstance that favors scooters is that they do not have to be registered and can be driven with a license to drive light equipment

For Yamilet Garcia, a Miami-based Cuban, the motorinas, as they are called, are “a blessing.”

“Everybody knows what transportation is like in Cuba. I sent one to my brother who lives in Cotorro and he’s happy because he doesn’t have to wait for the bus or take the shared-taxis,” he says.

The Caribbean Express agency is another company that sends motorinas to the Island.

“They are taking four to five months” to be delivered, explains one of the sales agents who for protocol reasons prefers not to be identified.

“Only the Palco agency receives this type of product because it has the scanner to analyze them, so there is a delay,” he adds.

Another popular article among relatives who send products to Cuba are electric bicycles, much cheaper than scooters and with speeds of between 15 mph and 30 mph.

The deterioration of public transport, which has intensified in recent months, has contributed to a rebound in orders

On the Island you can buy the 60 volt LT1060 model with a three phase 1000 watt motor that the Angel Villareal Bravo Company of Santa Clara assembles from components from China.

These are higher powered bikes compared to those previously produced by that factory, and they are capable of reaching speeds of up to 30 mph. They have hand controls to activate the horn, digital screen and disk brakes, among other features.

This model “has characteristics similar to those currently imported by many individuals” and will be sold in the government chain of “TRD stores at a price of 1,261 CUC,” Elier Pérez Pérez, deputy director of the factory explained to the government newspaper Granma, saying they expect to produce 5,000 units by the end of the year.

The deterioration of public transport, which has intensified in recent months, has contributed to a rebound in orders.

Many motorists and passers-by complain, “If anybody hits you, they flee and you can not even see a license plate to complain about it”

Another circumstance that favors scooters is that they do not have to be registered and can be driven with a license to drive light equipment. A condition that many riders do not meet.

However, many motorists and passers-by complain, “If anybody hits you, they flee and you can not even see a license plate to complain about it,” says Pascual, a driver of a state vehicle.

“I’ve even found children under 16 driving these things,” he complains.

“I take care of it like it’s my child and the truth is that it has saved me from a thousand problems,” says Maikel, a computer engineer with a Voltage Racing bike.

His problems go in another direction. “There are few parking lots where I can feel safe leaving the bike and the cars don’t show me any respect on the road,” he complains.

However, he says that the motorina has totally changed his life by giving him a freedom of movement that he did not have before.

*Translator’s note: Cuba has two currencies. Cuban Convertible pesos are officially worth one US dollar each, although transaction fees raise the cost for foreigners converting money on the island. Cuban pesos are worth roughly 4 cents US each.

With A Pension Of 240 Pesos, Raquel Survives Thanks To The Trash / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar and Mario Penton

With a system of unsustainable pensions in the medium term, economic recession and a foreseeable impact on social services as a result of the aging population, the country faces one of the biggest challenges in its history. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar/Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 6 March 2017 — At age 67, struck by old age and a miserable pension, Raquel, an engineer “trained by the Revolution,” scavenges among the garbage for the sustenance of each day. Her hands, which once drew maps and measured spaces where promising crops would grow, are now collecting cartons, cans and empty containers.

“My last name? Why? And I don’t want any photos. I have children and I had a life. I don’t want people to talk about me,” she says while agreeing to tell her story with a certain air of nostalgia and disappointment. “I never thought I would end up a dumpster diver, one of those who digs through the cans in the corners and is the object of jokes.” continue reading

Cuba has become the oldest country in the Americas, according to official data. It has been an accelerated process that surprised even the specialists, who had calculated that the problem would not become acute before 2025.

With a pension system that is unsustainable in the medium term, an economic recession and a foreseeable impact on social services as a result of the aging population, the country is confronting one of the biggest challenges in its history.

The state welfare program does not include those elderly people living under the same roof with relatives. (14ymedio)

“I receive a pension of 240 Cuban pesos a month (less than 10 dollars). From that money I have to spend 50 pesos to pay for the Haier refrigerator that the government gave me [when it switched out older, less energy efficient  models] and an additional 100 pesos for the purchase of medicines,” says Raquel.

Although she is retired, the pharmacy does not subsidize the medicines she needs for her diabetes and hypertension. The state welfare program does not include those elderly people living under the same roof with relatives.

“One of the affects on the country of the aging population is a significant increase in public spending and the decline of the population of childbearing age,” explains Juan Valdez Paz, a sociologist based on the island and author of several books on the subject.

According to the Statistical Yearbook of Cuba, health spending fell from 11.3% of GDP in 2009 to 8% in 2012.

Almost 20% of the Cuban population is over 60, and the country’s fertility rate is 1.7 children per woman. In order to compensate for the population decline, it would be necessary to raise that number to 2.4 children for every female of childbearing age. In 2015 there were 126,000 fewer active people than the previous year.

Almost 20% of the Cuban population is over 60, and the country’s fertility rate is 1.7 children per woman. (14ymedio)

For Valdés, no society is prepared for the demographic difficulties such as those facing Cuba.

One solution could be to increase production or for emigrants to return, according to the specialist. So far both possibilities seem very distant.

In the country there are almost 300 Grandparent Houses (for day care and socialization) and 144 Elder Homes, with a combined capacity of about 20,000 places. The authorities have recognized the poor hygienic and physical situation of many of these premises. Many elderly people prefer to enter the scarce 11 asylums run by religious orders that survive thanks to international aid, an example of which is the Santovenia nursing home, in Havana’s Cerro district.

The cost to use the Grandparents House facilities is 180 Cuban pesos a month, and the Elder Homes cost about 400 Cuban pesos. Social Security grants a subsidy to the elderly who demonstrate to social workers that they can’t pay the cost.

Cuba had one of the most generous and most comprehensive social security systems in Latin America, largely because of the enormous help it received from the Soviet Union, estimated by Mesa-Lago at about 65 billion dollars over 30 years.

The Family Care System allows more than 76,000 low-income elderly people to eat at subsidized prices. (14ymedio)

“Although pensions were never raised, there was an elaborate system provided by the State to facilitate access to industrial products and food at subsidized prices,” explains the economist.

“It annoys me when I hear about how well they care for older adults. They don’t give me any subsides because I live with my son, my daughter-in-law and my two grandchildren, but they have their own expenses and cannot take care of me,” says Raquel.

“I need dentures and if you don’t bring the dentist a gift they make them badly or it takes months,” she adds.

With the end of the Soviet Union and the loss of the Russian subsidy pensions were maintained but their real value fell precipitously. In 1993, the average retiree could barely buy 16% of what their pension would have bought in 1989. At the end of 2015, the purchasing power of pensioners was half of what it had been before the start of the Special Period, according to Mesa-Lago’s calculations.

Raúl Castro’s administration drastically reduced the number of beneficiaries of social assistance in a process that he called “the elimination of gratuities.” From the 582,060 beneficiaries in 2006, some 5.3% of the population, the number fell to 175,106 in 2015, some 1.5% of the population.

Several products that had previously been supplied to everyone through the ration book were also eliminated, such as soap, toothpaste and matches, and now are only available at unsubsidized prices.

In the patio of her house a retiree has created a tool to crush the cans she collects in the streets. (14ymedio)

The government has authorized some assistance programs for the elderly. The Family Care System allows more than 76,000 low-income elderly people to eat at subsidized prices, although it is a small figure considering that there are more than two million elderly people in Cuba.

Some elders receive help from churches and non-governmental organizations.

“People see me collecting cans, but they do not know that I was an avant-garde engineer and that I even traveled to the Soviet Union in 1983, in the Andropov era,” Raquel explains.

When she retired, she had no choice but to devote herself to informal tasks for a living. She cleaned the common areas of buildings inhabited by soldiers and their families in Plaza of the Revolution district, until the demands of this work and her age became incompatible.

“They asked me to wash the glass windows in a hallway on the ninth floor. It was dangerous and because I was afraid to fall, I preferred to leave it, even though they paid well,” she says.

Many elders are selling products made with peanuts or candy in the streets to supplement their income, others ask for alms. (14ymedio)

For each week of work she was paid 125 Cuban pesos, (about 5 dollars) almost half as much as her pension.

Raquel now collects raw material to sell in state-owned stores, although she confesses that she wants “like mad” to get a contract with a small private canning company to sell her empty bottles and avoid the state company and its delays.

In the patio of her house she has created a tool to crush the cans she collects in the streets.

“In January I made 3,900 Cuban pesos from beer cans. Of course, you have to deduct the 500 pesos that I paid for the place in line, because I can not sleep there lying on a porch. Each bag of cans is worth forty pesos. It is eight pesos for a kilogram of cans.”

In Cuba, there are no official statistics on poverty, and the only data available is old. In 1996 a study concluded that in Havana alone, 20.1% of the population were “at risk of not meeting some essential needs.” A survey in 2000 showed that 78% of the elderly considered their income insufficient to cover their living expenses.

The 20,000 places for care of the elderly are insufficient in a country with two million people over 60. (EFE)

Most of the older adults surveyed said their sources of income were mostly pension, support from family living in the country, something from their work and remittances from abroad.

Many elders are dedicated to selling products made with peanuts or candy on the streets to supplement their income. Others resell newspapers or search the garbage for objects they can market and a significant increase in beggars on the streets of the country’s main cities has become apparent.

“It doesn’t bother me to go out in old clothes picking up cans. The one who has to look good is my grandson, who started high school,” says Raquel.

“The boys at school sometimes make fun of him, but my grandson is very good and he is not ashamed of me, or at least he does not show it. He always comes out and defends me from mockery,” she says proudly.

Cuba Seeks To Encourage Women To Enter Military Service / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

A woman soldier participates in the rehearsal of the parade for the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the socialist character of the Revolution, in 2011 in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 3 March 2017 – With the opportunity to study at the university by passing the University entrance exams with the “minimum score,” the Ministry of Higher Education (MES) is offering an incentive for young women who want to enlist in Military Service, which is an obligation for men.

The announcement was made by the MES authorities during a press conference this Thursday, where they stressed that the requirements for regular entry to higher education for candidates who are not military women remain the same: “Pass exams in Math, Spanish and History with a minimum of 60 points” and compete in the provincial roster for a university seat.

“They will be offered first-rate careers and the Ministry will do everything possible to offer them the majors they request,” said a journalist at the meeting. continue reading

“An important element is that they will be given the possibility of enrolling in the regular day course,” he added.

The enrollment for the subjects that are studied in regular daytime courses will be 36,705 places for the next course.

In the case of women who choose to wear the green uniform of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, they will skip the requirement that they compete with other candidates in their provinces and may enroll in the universities simply by passing the entrance tests.

Recruits to compulsory military service in Cuba have the opportunity to study a university career through Order 18. That law privileges the recruits’ access to the university the second year after joining the FAR. In the case of women, they can start at the university the same year they enlist.

In the case of woman who choose to wear the green uniform of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, they will skip the requirement that they compete with other candidates in their provinces

After the arrival of Raúl Castro in 2006, university enrollment declined sharply, a trend that contrasted with the increase in the previous 20 years, when enrollment in the social and human sciences increased by 4,000%.

The entrance exams for higher education also underwent changes, becoming more rigorous.

Starting with Raul Castro’s reforms, enrollment in the humanities decreased by 83% while enrollment in the national sciences great by 13%.

In 2014, university enrollment decreased by 30%. In the 2014-2015 academic year there were 18,112 fewer university graduates than in the previous academic period.

According to statistics provided by the Cuban Government, 356,600 women worked in the country’s defense, public administration and social security in 2015, fewer than the 451,400 women that made up these organizations in 2014.

The Army continues to be one of the main institutions in the life of the Cuban nation. Its presence extends to the Government and controls the Business Administration Group that manages the main tourist companies of the country.

In 2016, Global Firepower placed Cuba in 79th position among the world’s major powers and one of the 10 most powerful military forces in Latin America.

Panama Will Deport Almost 500 Cubans in the Coming Weeks / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Video: Lajas Blancas Camp Where Almost 100 Cubans Are Living

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 2 March 2017 – In the next few weeks Panama will deport almost 500 Cubans who remain undocumented in the country, after being stranded by the end of the United States’ wet foot/dry foot policy in January, which had previously allowed Cubans who stepped foot on American soil to remain in the country.

According to reports to 14ymedio by sources from Panama’s National Immigration Service, the deportations could begin when the Service’s director, Javier Carrillo returns; currently he is in Havana in the fourth round of migration talks between the two countries.

“The deportations depend on the agreement between the two nations, but we can confirm that all undocumented migrants who are currently in the country will be returned to Cuba,” said the official source.

“The Memorandum of Understanding for the deportations has been signed but the details have not yet been made known,” he said.

In Panama, 383 Cubans remain in the care of Caritas Panama, 92 in Lajas Blancas and another 24 in the shelter of the National Migration Service. For the migrants who are in the shelter set up by Caritas the news was disconcerting.

“They are very worried they did not expect something like this,” says Victor Luis Berrio, permanent deacon in charge of the Catholic institution.

Last week two Cubans attempted suicide by taking sleeping pills due to the uncertainty of their fate, they said

“At the moment we are making every possible effort to avoid the massive deportation of these Cubans,” he adds.

According to Berrío, his organization has sent a letter to the president of the nation explaining that all the humanitarian work of the Government could be jeopardized if they proceed with the deportation.

Hundreds of Cubans stranded by the end of the United States’ wet foot/dry foot policy in January. (Courtesy image)

According to Deacon Barrios, who follows the message of Pope Francis to shelter refugees, “the authorities’ intention has always been deportation.” He thinks, however, that it will not come to pass, “without a fight.”

“We are going to open our doors so that Cubans in Lajas Blancas can come to Caritas and we will continue to protect these defenseless people,” says the deacon.

“The decision of Caritas is to defend all the migrants that are in its care,” he says.

Last week two Cubans attempted suicide by taking sleeping pills due to the uncertainty of their fate, they said. They were in a Cuban migrant camp in the village of Lajas Blanca, near the western Panama border. Many crossed the Darien Gap jungle to get there.

 

Brothers To The Rescue: A Crime That Hurts “Like The First Day”/ 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 24 February 2017 – Members of the Cuban exile remembered the anniversary of the death of four Cuban Americans after the shooting down of two planes of the humanitarian NGO Brothers to the Rescue by the Cuban Air Force in 1996.

The commemorative activities began with an act of homage to Manuel de la Peña, Carlos Acosta, Armando Alejandre and Pablo Morales, at the monument in Opa-locka that reminds them of the 21st anniversary of the tragedy.

“Every year when we remember them, we feel immense pain,” says Ana Ciereszko, sister of Armando Alejandre, one of those murdered. continue reading

“When President Obama returned the spy responsible for the murder of our relatives it was very hard because they gave their lives to save the lives of others, Cuban rafters, many of whom have disappeared at sea,” she added.

Cuban-American Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen also recalled those killed and lashed out at the Obama administration for the release of spy Gerardo Hernandez, convicted of providing information to the Cuban government that allowed the perpetration of the crime.

“Our nation must defend these murdered Americans and ensure that justice prevails so that the families of these victims can have the final peace they so deeply deserve,” said the congresswoman.

A third plane was able to escape and asked for help from the US authorities, who never delivered it

Brothers to the Rescue emerged as an initiative of civilian aviators of various nationalities and Cubans interested in assisting the rafters who escaped from the island in fragile vessels during the migratory crisis in the early 1990s. The collapse of the Soviet Union caused the greatest economic crisis in the country’s history and thousands of migrants threw themselves into the sea in the hope of reaching the United States.

The two Cessna 337 Skymaster aircraft, from Miami, were shot down with air-to-air missiles by a MiG-29UB 900 fighter and a MiG-23 fighter. A third plane escaped and called for help from the US authorities, who never gave it to them.

The Cuban government accused the organization of having “terrorist purposes” and defended the demolition of light aircraft on the grounds that they were over Cuban waters. Brothers to the Rescue, however, says that the shooting down took place in international waters.

“There has been no justice because there was no clarification of the truth. The facts were carefully hidden under the presidencies of Clinton and Castro,” says Jose Basulto, 76, president of Brothers to the Rescue and one of the survivors of the tragedy.

“It was a joint action, complicit, because they wanted to resume relations between both countries,” he says. He adds that on the Island there practice runs for shooting down the planes and that it was suggested to American officials what was going to happen. “We were exposed to the enemy fire and nobody helped us,” he adds.

According to Basulto, the days before each commemoration of the demolition are filled with memories and are “very sad.”

The gathering has become a tradition to remember the four Cuban-American youth

“Brothers to the Rescue was an example of human solidarity with the people of Cuba and to teach the world the harshness of the suffering of the people, capable of committing suicide at sea in order to escape from that dictatorship,” he recalls.

At Florida International University (FIU) a commemorative event was held with relatives of the victims and a broad representation of the exile. The meeting has become a tradition to remember the four Cuban-American youth and, as every year, silence was held between 3:21 pm and 3:28 pm, the time at which the planes were shot down.

“My brother was my first baby. He was just a boy when he was killed,” says Mirtha Costa, sister of Carlos Alberto Costa.

“He loved being together with everyone in the family. He was also a very cheerful person and always looked for how to make jokes to others,” he recalls.

Both Costa and the other relatives are responsible for the CAMP Foundation, named after the initials of each of the victims of the shooting down.

The foundation supports diverse organizations that promote youth education, such as Miami Dade College and the University of Miami.

The families of the victims will honor their memory with a Eucharist at St. Agatha Church at 7:00 pm this Friday.

 

‘El Sexto’ Appears Before US Senate to Speak of Human Rights / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Danilo Maldonado, El Sixto, appears before a commission of the United States Senate. (14ymedio)

The video of Maldenado’s remarks is here. His prepared remarks begin at 01:18:00, and can be read here in English. He then answers questions at 2:18:31.

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 16 February 2017 — Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, a well-known Cuban graffiti artist and human rights activist, appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues on Thursday, and called for solidarity with the cause of democracy in Cuba.

“First, we request solidarity for the cause of democracy in Cuba, given that we have suffered a regime that does not allow democratic elections for almost 60 years. The world should give us solidarity and should ask Raul Castro for a plebiscite and democratic elections in Cuba,” said Maldonado in his informal remarks before Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American senator who presided over the panel. continue reading

The artist asked the people and the government of the United States to put pressure on Castro to release the “thousands of political prisoners” in Cuban prisons.

According to El Sexto, 85% of the Cuban prison population would be considered innocent if they had been tried under the laws of democratic countries.

Senator Bob Menendez, also of Cuban origin, asked Maldonado if the US government should put human rights and free elections before further deepening relations with Havana, and El Sexto responded “definitely.”

“If there is someone who does not respect human rights and is complicit in murder, how is it possible that they do not have to appear before a court?” asked Maldonado.

“It does not matter how they can help me, but how they help 11 million Cubans who are constantly trying to escape,” he said.

The artist asked the people and government of the United States to put pressure on Castro to release the “thousands of political prisoners” in Cuban prisons

The artist described the violations of human rights on the island and emphasized the lack of freedoms for artistic creation.

“In Cuba, freedom of speech by artists is prohibited by Article 39 of the Constitution. According to this, “artistic creation is free provided that its contents is not contrary to the Revolution.” This means that the work of artists such as myself and my colleagues Gorki Águila and Tania Brugera, who is critical of the dictatory regime of the Castro brothers, is illegal in Cuba,” he said.

The Cuban Constitution states that “artistic creation is free provided that its content is not contrary to the Revolution.”

The graffiti artist recalled that in 2014 he was imprisoned for ten months for attempting a performance art piece in Havana’s Central Park inspired by the novel George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

“During that time I was tortured physically and psychologically by the dictatorship to the point that I declared myself on hunger strike and even considered the possibility of letting myself die in prison as a result,” he said.

“Until today I have not been served any notice of pending criminal charges nor have I been summoned for any type of trial.”

El Sexto explained that he was imprisoned four times because of the lack of freedoms, the last of which occurred after the death of former Cuban President Fidel Castro last November, when he painted graffiti on an exterior wall of the Habana Libre Hotel. The artist was detained for two months in the Combinado del Este prison on the outskirts of the Cuban capital.

With regards to his graffiti and the call he made through social networks to celebrate the death of Castro, he explained that he did so following the example of Vaclav Havel, the former president of the Czech Republic who had a leading role in the Velvet Revolution that ended with The communist government in 1989.

In the police unit I asked the officer: Do you know me? Have I done something to you? If I have not committed any crime, why do you beat me for my way of thinking?”

“Havel advised all those who, like him, had to live under communist totalitarianism, to Live In Truth. To stop pretending that the reality imposed by the regime by force is genuine,” he added.

El Sexto told the congressmen that once arrested he was beaten and tortured psychologically.

“When in the unit I asked: Do you know me? Have I done something to you? If I have not committed any crime, why do you beat me for my way of thinking?”

According to the artist’s testimony, the officer replied: “the laws support us.”

El Sexto accused the Castro brothers of being “murderers.” He cited as examples the victims of the 13 de Marzo Tugboat massacre, the thousands of executions, and the deaths of Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá.

“The Castro have supported guerrillas and dictatorial regimes in different parts of the world,” he said and accused the Cuban government of supporting the dictatorial system of the Chavista regime in Venezuela.

“All Cubans are hostage of the Castro brothers’ regime and the life of all Cubans, particularly artists, opponents, and dissidents, are under permanent danger at the hands of the repressive dictatorship. Once again we need the solidarity of the United States and the support of all people of the world,” he said.

“Those Who Do Not Help the Victims of Castro-ism Are Complicit in the Oppression,” says Rocio Monasterio / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Video not subtitled: Rocio Monasterio talks about her dreams for Cuba in Miami

14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 11 February 2017 – Rocio Monasterio, a Cuban living in Spain who became popular after starring in a televised debate at the end of November in which she confronted Castro supporters about the legacy of former Cuban President Fidel Castro, gave a talk Friday in Miami about her ideological platform and her aspirations for Cuba’s future.

This 43-year old Cuban with parents from Cienfuegos and a member of the (conservative) Vox Party in Spain defends the family and liberty as supreme values. She is a passionate speaker who strongly criticizes the Cuban government and condemns those politicians disposed to dialogue with Havana.

“Cuba raised a big wall in 1959. Since then night fell on the country, the search for liberty was interrupted. Unfortunately, 60 years later, Cubans are still in the shadows and we don’t see a light that illuminates our homeland. All those who live in Cuba are imprisoned,” she said before emphasizing, “When we see a brother imprisoned we have to do everything possible to help him.” continue reading

An architect by profession, Monasterio decided to go into politics as a result of the loss of values that, in her judgement, Spanish society has experienced. She joined Vox as a way of giving voice to hundreds of Spaniards who do not agree with the relaxation of policies by the Popular Party, currently in power, an organization to which she delivered her vote every year but about which she is singularly critical.

“It is extraordinary that a Hispanic Cuban can speak to Cuban Americans in Miami. We are united by the Hispanic phenomenon,” she said.

About those who opt for investment in Cuba in order to foster an emerging middle class that in the future will be able to demand political changes, Monasterio asserts that those politicians and businessmen are “soothing their conscience for collaborating with the regime.”

“It is being shown that investment in Cuba is nothing more than supporting Castro-ism,” she adds.

As an alternative to totalitarianism, Monasterio proposes Hispanic values.

“We have inherited from Spain the Christian values that are society’s foundation: equality, defense of freedom, right to life, belief in the individual and in his individual responsibility, also the family as a fundamental value of society. All this is this based in freedom,” she said.

One point that she emphasized was the relationship between the European Union, above all Spain, and the Cuban Government. For the Hispanic Cuban, the credibility of the institutions and the parties that negotiate with Raul Castro are in jeopardy.

“In the collective imagination of Spain, Cuba is the most beloved. The relationship of both countries is that of brotherhood,” said Monasterio. Nevertheless, she characterized as “a great betrayal” the normalization of relations without a single word about human rights violations on the Island.

“Those today who do not help the victims of Castro-ism are accomplices in the oppression and contribute to the perpetuation of night in Cuba, a night that has already lasted too many years,” she added.

The architect conceives her battle as not only against communism but against all kinds of totalitarianism, which according to her is being exported from Cuba to Spain and Latin American countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador.

“Totalitarianism is not only the lack of freedom, but also the elimination of the individual. All contrary to our values,” she says.

She also admitted that she fights hard against gender politics and is radically opposed to homosexual marriage:

“I don’t meddle in civil unions between people who have another view of sexuality, but that is not matrimony. Matrimony is between a man and a woman,” she says.

For Monasterio, gender ideology is “another big dictatorship of our time.” She condemns Spanish education in this sense.

“We are subjected, once again, to determined ideologues who come from big institutions. Gender ideology is contrary to the family and our values,” she said.

To oppose the proposed education in gender ideology values, Monasterio’s party proposed a platform for freedoms that defends the right of parents to educate their children according to their values.

About her dispute with “the defenders of the indefensible, that is, Castro-ism, Monasterio reminded that the Castro brothers came to Cuban government promising equality,” but what they have done is to equalize everyone “in misery and oppression.”

“A Castro military elite controls Cubans and makes them ignore freedom.”

According to Monasterio, the Cuban diaspora confronts three big responsibilities: the obligation to denounce what Castro-ism means before those who truly do not know what it is; to be effective in the use of a new discourse and new tools for telling and transmitting the values of our culture; and to create a new iconography. “We have to pass to the next generations the commitment to fight for the freedom of our land.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Cubans In Ecuador Ask Ecuador’s Next President To End The Medical Missions / 14ymedio, Diana Ramos and Mario Penton

Cubans working in a medical mission to Ecuador. (américatevé.com)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Diana Ramos and Mario Penton, Quito/Miami, 10 February 2017 — A group of Cubans in Ecuador united in the Movement X Cuba (MXC) requested in an open letter to the next present of Ecuador, the end of the medical missions of the Cuban government in the Andean nation.

Doctor and president of the association, Duniel Medina, signed the letter that expresses “concern” over the opinions of some of the presidential candidates that the organization considers “xenophobic and poorly focused,” especially with regards to the presence of Cuban citizens in the country. continue reading

“We believe it is important to release this communication due to the kinds of statements the candidates are making. Many of them believe that Cubans come here to take Ecuadorian jobs and they think we are all employees of the Cuban government,” says Medina in statements made to 14ymedio.

The president of the association signed the letter that expresses “concern” over the opinions of some of the presidential candidates that the organization considers “xenophobic and poorly focused”

Movement for Cuba defines itself as a peaceful organization that seeks change in Cuba. During its short months of existence has created 3 different cells inside of Cuba. It is fundamentally composed of Cubans who migrated to Ecuador but who maintain a close relationship with their country of origin.

The group of Cubans also stays updated on the situation of their undocumented colleagues in Ecuador and has assisted in several ways the hundreds of migrants who asked for an airlift that would allow them to travel safely to Mexico to continue their journey to the United States.

“We are making a call for attention so that they can differentiate between the Cuban doctors and health professionals who live in Ecuador and share the same fate as the Ecuadorian people,” the note adds.

The MXC, representing Cuban doctors and health professionals who migrated from Cuba to Ecuador, is expressing its desire to put an end to the medical agreements signed by President Correa and the Cuban Government “that undermine the employment opportunities of Ecuadorian and foreign citizens who live in Ecuador.”

Some candidates for presidency of the Republic have emphasized the need to eliminate contracts with Cuba and give priority to Ecuadorian doctors.

Cynthia Viteri, one of the candidates, has called for the “recovery” of jobs in public health by Ecuadorians, as has Guillermo Lasso, who in an interview with the newspaper El Universo indicated that the health sector’s priority is “more non-Cuban Ecuadorian doctors.”

The agreement of cooperation with Cuba stipulates that the salary of Cuban professionals is of 2,700 dollars, of which only 800 dollars ends up in the hands of the professionals themselves while the rest stays with the Cuban government.

The Movement condemns this practice: “We advocate that Cuban doctors be free and can decide their future, their country of residence and have the freedom necessary to exercise such a worthy profession.”

“We advocate that Cuban doctors be free and can decide their future, their country of residence and have the freedom necessary to exercise such a worthy profession.”

Hundreds of Cuban doctors took advantage of the free visa that Ecuador provided between 2008 and 2015 to emigrate to that country. Through a relatively easy process, health professionals achieved the accreditation of their qualifications and were integrated into the national health system.

According to official data, in 2015 almost 800 foreign doctors were in Ecuador, the great majority of Cuban nationality.

After the migratory crisis triggered by the thousands of Cubans who were stranded in Central America in 2015, Ecuador reinstated the visa requirement for citizens of the island. It is estimated that Ecuador hosts the third or fourth largest group of Cubans abroad, with a population of over 40,000 Cubans.

Ecuador is immersed in its electoral campaign. On February 19 the country will elect a new president and decide whether to continue with the program of the current president Rafael Correa or to distance itself from the left.

Between 2 And 100 Cubans Expelled From Panama, According To Sources / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Cuban migrants stranded in Colombia. (Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 9 February 2017 — A Cuban couple were deported Wednesday by the National Migration Service in Panama. Both were detained by the authorities in Guabalá, in Panama’s Chiriquí province.

According to immigration sources, the couple entered the country “irregularly.” Both were returned to Uruguay, where they legally reside. Their intention was to reach the US border.

The government office told 14ymedio that the deportations of migrants passing through Panama to reach the United States increased in January. continue reading

Last month 81 people were expelled, which means 20 more deportations than in January of 2016. Among the irregular migrants were 19 Colombians. Citizens of Ecuador, China and the Dominican Republic were also counted, with 9 immigrants expelled from each of these countries. According to statistics, only one Cuban was deported from Panama last month.

However, complaints from Cuban migrants who attempted to enter through the Darien jungle claim that there have been at least one hundred deportations of Cuban migrants on the border with Colombia.

Panama’s Director of Migration confirmed to this newspaper that access will not be allowed to Cubans, not even through the Darien Gap, a route where humanitarian posts were set up to help migrants after the border was closed on 9 May 2016.

Several hundred Cubans were stranded in Panama following then President Barack Obama’s elimination of the “Wet Foot/Dry Foot” policy on January 12th of this year.

About 200 migrants remain in the Caritas refuge center in Panama City, waiting to continue their journey to the United States or to regularize their situation in Panama.

According data from Panama Migration, in 2016 more than 27,000 irregular migrants crossed the territory on their way to the United States.

First Group of Cuban Doctors Arrives in Miami after the End of the ‘Parole’ / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 6 February 2017 – Two dozen health professionals who abandoned their Cuban medical missions abroad arrived this afternoon at the Miami International Airport from Colombia. This is the first group to arrive in the United States after the end of the Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP).

“This is a triumph for the whole Cuban American community, our organization and the offices of the Cuban American congressmen who have worked so that these guys can get the right deal, and their petitions were satisfactorily answered,” said Julio Cesar Alfonso, president of the organization Solidarity Without Borders (SSF) which supports Cuban doctors.

Yerenia Cedeno, a 28-year old Cuban doctor, characterized the situation they experienced in Venezuela as “horrible.” She escaped five months after arriving at the mission, pushed by insecurity and the precarious conditions where they worked. continue reading

“You would find out that they took the phone from this one or robbed that one on the minibus. It’s horrible,” explains Cedeno.

The doctor adds that she could not go back to Cuba because there she “would be marginalized and looked at badly.”

“They put you in another place, not in your job because they look down on you because you don’t agree with what you experienced and for what you were badly prepared,” she adds.

The doctor felt exploited in Venezuela, where she shared her work with her husband, also a doctor, who accompanied her on her trip to the United States but did not want to make a statement to the press.

Their plan is to take their little three-year old daughter who lives in Guantanamo out of Cuba and resume their studies in the United States.

“I want to work as a doctor or something similar. This is the start of a new life,” she says.

This past January 12, the then-president of the United States, Barack Obama, eliminated the CMPP, a program established under the administration of Republican George Bush that in a decade allowed the flight of more than 8,000 Cuban health professionals.

Cuban Health Personnel Received through Cuban Medical Professionals Parole

 

According to the non-profit organization Solidarity Without Borders, which helps integrate these doctors into the US health system, it helps those fleeing from the biggest human trafficking system in the modern history of the western hemisphere.

Arisdelqui Mora, a young Cuban who escaped the Island four years ago on a raft, waited for her half-sister Arianna Reyes, a Cuban doctor who escaped from the mission in Venezuela. The happiness of the reunion, which included the grandmother of both, received wide media coverage.

“We have been separated but during the whole time we remained in communication through the networks,” explains Mora to 14ymedio.

“They have worked a lot,” she adds.

Celia Santana, a dentist, only spent five months in Venezuela.

“Venezuela is much worse than my country. I never imagined that it would be like that. That country is a disaster, and of course the Venezuelan people are not to blame,” explains the doctor.

She spent five months awaiting the parole in order to travel to the United States.

“It’s absurd to end the program. They should have taken other measures,” she says.

“Cubans escape because of the economic situation and also because of the politics because they want freedom of expression.”

Mildre Ester Martinez, recently arrived in Miami, appreciates the help received through the media and the service of Solidarity Without Borders.

“I did not feel right. I was disgusted, disappointed by all the work we did there. I thank God to be here,” she added.

Maikel Palacios, health professional and spokesman for the group of Cubans, reminded that although Cuba has said publicly that they can rejoin the public health system, “they don’t let defectors enter the country for eight years.”

Health worker Veidy Diaz, from Cuba, is received by her family and friends on arriving at MIA from Colombia (NH).

Palacios also questioned the supposed good will of the Island’s government when the official communication from the Minister of Public Health did not mention the frozen bank accounts that the aid workers lose once they abandon the mission.

“They don’t talk about the money. There are people who have up to 7,000 dollars, and they lose it all the day they decide to escape,” he said.

The Cuban government appropriates two-thirds of the salary earned by the Cubans abroad. They are generally sent to the most remote places in deplorable working conditions. In countries like Brazil they do not have the right to receive their family while the aid program lasts, even though the laws of that country permit it.

Solidarity Without Borders is in the middle of a campaign to re-establish the Parole program for Cuban doctors. Currently they are working with the offices of Cuban American congressmen in order to present a proposal to President Donald Trump to reinstate the CMPP.

“We will keep working so that our colleagues may reach the land of freedom and in the near future the Parole program will be re-established for professionals who are in third countries,” explained the president of SSF, Julio Cesar Alfonso.

According to statistics from SSF more than 69 Cuban doctors have been killed in Venezuela in the last 10 years. The Cuban government has divulged that currently more than 50,000 professionals from the Island are dispersed throughout more than 60 countries worldwide.

Working conditions and political pressure push thousands of professionals to accept the missions proposed by the Cuban government. Even though the salary was increased in 2014, the average salary of a doctor in Cuba is about 60 dollars a month.

The massive exportation of health services has generated income for the government on the order of 8.2 billion dollars a year in 2014 according to official sources.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Dozens Of Cuban Doctors Stranded In Colombia Will Travel To The United States / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

A group of Cuban doctors stranded in Colombia protests about the delay in US visas. (Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 2 February 2017 — Dozens of Cuban doctors stranded in Colombia are preparing to travel to the United States on Monday after receiving a visa as part of the recently repealed Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) program.

The doctors will be the first to reach North American soil after the end of the program that, every year, sheltered every year hundreds of health professionals who escaped from Cuban medical missions abroad.

“There will be more than 20 of us who will fly on Monday, because another flight planned for Friday was suspended,” explains Maikel Palacios by telephone from Bogota. continue reading

The health worker, who spent six months in Colombia after escaping from the Cuban medical mission in Venezuela, says he lives in “an atmosphere of hope among the hundreds of physicians stranded in that country.”

“The news that comes to us from Miami is encouraging. Solidarity Without Borders has been interested in our case,” he explains.

“We are worried about more than 20 professionals who escaped the mission before the program was eliminated and now they have no way to reach the United States and cannot return to Cuba”

Solidarity Without Borders is a non-governmental organization created by Cuban doctors who fled the countries to which the Cuban Government had sent them. Its purpose is to help colleagues, once they arrive in the United States to revalidate their titles and integrate into that country’s medical system.

According to Palacios, dozens of visas have been issued since last January when former President Barack Obama, in a surprise move, gave in to the old request of the government of Raul Castro and repealed the program created by George Bush in 2006.

The export of health personnel generated income for Cuba ion the order of US $8.2 billion in 2014.

In the ten years of existence of the CMPP more than 8,000 doctors and health personnel escaped to the United States.

“We are worried about more than 20 professionals who escaped the mission before the program was eliminated and now they have no way to reach the United States and cannot return to Cuba,” Palacios explains.

Personnel who leave medical missions are prohibited from returning to Cuba for eight years and are considered “deserters” by the Cuban authorities.

Statistics Reflect The Serious Crisis Of The Cuban Education System / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

To ensure the presence of a teacher in front of the classroom, the government has had to move teachers from one region to another from the country to another. (Telesur)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 1 February 2017 – The rapid aging of the population, joined with the reduction in available resources and the decline in the quality of teaching, are three of the features with which the economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago has characterized the situation of Cuba’s educational system.

“In 2007, the government of Raul Castro declared that he could not sustain the expenses of the educational system inherited from the previous administration, since then the investment in education and social spending in general have been reduced,” Mesa Lago explained on Saturday at a conference sponsored by the Center for Coexistence Studies.

“It was supposed that Cuba was going to have the same indicators as Uruguay by 2025, but today not only has it reached the level of that country, it has surpassed it,” said the researcher referring to the aging of the population. continue reading

Cuba is now the oldest country on the continent and this has a direct impact on the education system. The students enrolled in primary school have been fewer year after year. As has the numbers in their productive years, which in the opinion of the economist poses a serious danger, because that segment of the population is responsible for financing society’s old and young.

General indicators of education in Cuba. Blue: Teaching positions. Black: Enrollment

Specifically, the education system has seen its budget shrink by 4 percentage points between 2008 and 2015.

Some of the measures that Raul Castro took when taking power were the closure of “schools in the countryside,” (boarding schools), as well as the gradual elimination of more than 3,000 university seats opened by his brother Fidel in the years of the Battle of Ideas. There has also been a progressive readjustment in schools, closing those with less enrollment, and moving the remaining students to other educational centers.

Castro also eliminated costly programs like social worker programs, which graduated thousands of young people who ended up controlling fuel consumption at gas stations or handing out refrigerators and light bulbs in massive exchange programs. Programs for emerging teachers and art instructors were also dismantled, while universities for older adults and the use of technological devices in classrooms were reduced.

Between 1989 and 2007 there was an increase of the offerings of careers in the area of ​​humanities and social sciences were greatly increased, while university-related careers in the natural sciences were greatly reduced.

With Raul Castro in command, the panorama changed radically with a decrease of 83% in humanistic careers and a 13% increase in those related to the natural sciences.

However, university enrollment declined by 30% in 2014, a trend shared by other sectors, such as secondary education, where enrollment dropped by 11%.

Mesa Lago recognizes that universal and free access to education is a very important achievement that has had positive effects “in the lower income sectors such as Afro-Cubans, women and peasants.” However, the researcher emphasized that the ideologization of education and absolute control of the State on educational projects are its most important shortcomings.

Another criticism, in the opinion of Mesa Lago, is teachers’ salaries, which are among the lowest in the continent. The average salary of the educational sector is 537 Cuban pesos, which is equivalent to 21.40 dollars a month.

“Cuba has extraordinary human capital, but it is lost because it emigrates to other economic endeavors that have higher remuneration,” he explained.

According to a study carried out by the academic, in 2015 real wages adjusted for inflation only covered 28% of the purchasing power of incomes in 1989.

In order to guarantee the presence of a teacher in front of the classroom, the Government has had to transfer teachers from one region to another, as has been the case in Matanzas and Havana, where there is a significant presence of teachers from the eastern region of Cuba.

Although Cuba does not participate in the international examinations that measure the quality of educational programs, the government itself has offered a mea culpa for the deterioration of the system.

Comparisons of educational spending at a percent of GDP

Mesa Lago proposes eleven points to take into account in the future of the management of the educational system. According to the economist, resources must focus on the population most in need in the poorest provinces. The demand for work for training programs should also be taken into account.

To achieve the sustainability of the system, the economist proposes to collect tuition in higher education from those with a high income. The education system must be open and oriented to the world market.

Another important aspect is to offer more university careers in those specialties of greater demand. The fair payment to teachers and the opening to private education, through the de-ideologization of the educational system, would be indispensable for the future of the Island.

Finally, the academic proposes to restore the financial autonomy of the research centers so that they can attract international investments and allow self-employment in the educational area.

Coexistence Profiles Future Proposals For Cuban Education And Culture / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Carmelo Mesa-Lago during his presentation at the Coexistence Study Center meeting. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 30 January 2017 — A pluralistic education, deeply democratic, with a privileged use of technology and communications together with a vision of culture open to universality: these were some of the proposals of the third meeting of the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC) for the future of Cuba held this weekend in Miami.

The Cuban think tank, based in Pinar del Rio, held its meeting at Florida International University (FIU) within the framework of an journey of thought for Cuba. A similar process is taking place in parallel on the island, although that meeting had to be suspended in the face of the repression of the political police. Paradoxically, the prohibition decreed by the authorities facilitated greater interaction through alternative means such as email. continue reading

Dagoberto Valdés, director of the CEC, offered an overview of the national reality that, in his opinion, is marked by several elements, including the country’s economic crisis “in free fall,” the death of Fidel Castro and the end of the wet foot/dry foot policy that allowed Cubans who touched American soil to remain in the country, regardless of whether they had a visa.

The analysis of Cuban culture involved preparing a list of paradigmatic personalities, institutions and referential processes that make up the nucleus of the nation’s identity. It also addressed “weaknesses” and “negative features” in the country’s cultural processes.

With regards to education, there was a discussion of pedagogical models that tend to strengthen ethical values ​​and individual autonomy.

“The projects presented seek to clarify the roots of identity that should be rescued and maintained, as well as detail models, content and methodologies. Also, the types of institutions and educational spaces that should predominate in the future, and what the profile of an educator should be,” said the press release issued by the institution.

Four sessions enriched the meeting, including one led by the economist Carmelo Mesa Lago, another by anthropologist and journalist Miriam Celaya, as well as two led by members of the editorial team of Coexistence magazine, Dagoberto Valdes and Yoandy Izquierda.

The meeting at the FIU, together with the work being done in Cuba, has enabled the drafting of 45 legislative proposals for a new Cuban legal framework.

The results of the workshops will be compiled by the Center’s Academic Council and the Board of Directors and published on its website.

Voices Of Official Journalism Strike Against A Foreign Correspondent / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Screenshot of the article that triggered the wave of criticism about Fernando Ravsberg’s blog. Headline: “Self-employment advances at a tortoise’s pace” (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 30 January 2017 — The controversy between the most radical wing of Cuban officialdom and the correspondent of Uruguayan origin resident in Cuba, Fernando Ravsberg, is rising in tone.

The latest blasts from the most orthodox defenders of “revolutionary” journalism call out nine alleged false pieces of news from the communicator. The list is preceded by a phrase resuscitated from former leader Fidel Castro, who in 2006 called the then BBC correspondent in Havana “the greatest liar,” for daring to question his energy revolution in the midst of blackouts. continue reading

The animosity toward Ravsberg is not new; he was fired from the BBC and is now a correspondent for the leftist Spanish publication Publico. Last August the vice president of the Journalists and Writers Union (UPEC), Aiza Hevia, launched the first darts against the journalist for his defense of the ousted official journalist José Ramírez Pantoja, of Radio Holguin. On that occasion she even floated the idea of ​​expelling him from the country.

“The pack is coming, hungry for revenge,” said Ravsberg through his blog, Letters from Cuba.

Last August the vice president of the Union of Journalists and Writers, Aixa Hevia launched the first darts against the journalist for his defense of the ousted official journalist José Ramírez Pantoja, of Radio Holguin

“They shout that I am part of conspiracy of the international information monopolies against the Cuban Revolution but they omit that I work on a leftist publication because it doesn’t help their defamation campaigns,” he said

The latest controversy arose when Ravsberg published a critical note about the Cuban economy on his blog, accompanied by a caricature of a tortoise leaving a trail with the colors of the Cuban flag. This led to several official journalists feeling especially offended.

Carlos Luque Zayas launched the first stone from a blog. Under the title “Ravsberg: From Insult to Manipulation,” the journalist wrote an article to “protest” the use of national symbols. Next, from Granma, the official organ of the Communist Party, Pedro de la Hoz wrote, “You can agree or disagree with the contents of the controversial note, but the grotesque manipulation of one of our patriotic symbols cannot be overlooked.”

Ravsberg counterattacks saying that in the Cuban media the image of the flag is used indiscriminately. He offers as an example the case of the “thousands of flags” which everyone walks over in every parade organized by the authorities in the Plaza of the Revolution.

For the Uruguayan journalist, who spent more than 20 years working on the island as a correspondent for foreign media, “there is a lot more than offended patriots” behind the attacks on his work.

For the Uruguayan journalist, who spent more than 20 years working on the island as a correspondent for foreign media, “there is a lot more than offended patriots” behind the attacks on his work.

“There is a campaign organized by the extremists,” he says, with the Cuban government’s intention “for years” to expel him from the country.

“They do not support a different voice, nor different optics. For extremists the only truth is ‘their truth’ and all other criteria must disappear or at least remain in a fearful silence while they become the only voice, “he adds.

In the revolutionary blogosphere, there are those who even questioned his seriousness as a journalist. Iroel Sánchez, one of the most sectarian (and official) bloggers on the island and also a staunch critic of Ravsberg, accuses him of being “promoter of apocryphal interviews with anonymous subjects.”

Ravsberg, who was criticized in the past for his closeness to the regime, defends himself by saying that “no matter how much the obscurantist forces do,” Cuba advances.

According to the journalist, with regards to the alternative digital media that has emerged during recent years on the Island, “a way of doing a journalism has emerged that is already far removed from the infantile topics of the extremes.”

“They call on the government to use force because they know they are incapable of participating in a battle of ideas, where they would have to fight with arguments and proposals.”