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.”

Mexico Deports 91 Cuban Migrants / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Cuban migrants on the border between Mexico and the United States. (Networks)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Chiapas, 20 January 2017 — The Mexican National Institute of Migration (INM) issued a press release Friday stating that 91 Cubans had been repatriated to the island after the end of the wet foot/dry foot policy that would have allowed them to obtain asylum on reaching the United States.

“In compliance with the provisions of the Law of Migration, 91 foreigners of Cuban origin were sent this morning, from the airport of Tapachula, Chiapas, to their country, after Cuban authorities granted them recognition of their nationality*,” explains the press release.

The group was composed of 20 women and 71 men who, according to the INM, were waiting for the departure office to allow them to reach the US border. continue reading

González fears that on his return, life in Havana, where he is from, will become “a hell”

Yadel Gonzalez Sagre is one of those Cubans. He had been interned in Tapachula for 19 days, waiting for the document to continue to the United States, but in the early hours of this Friday he was forcibly removed from the “21st Century Immigration Station.”

“Suddenly they told us that they were going to deport us and they took us all out of there. It was terrible, they beat us and threatened us. Then they shoved us into vans and from there we were taken directly to the airport and they have been sending us on airplanes in small groups,” he says through the app Messenger.

González fears that on his return, life in Havana, where he is from, will become “a hell.”

“We live in a country with no rights,” he says.

According to the INM, the 91 Cubans “were returned to their country of origin in a plane belonging to the Federal Police.” However, both González and other Cuban migrants claim that they have been transferred in civilian aircraft, which could indicate an even greater number of returnees.

Since the end of the policy dry feet / wet feet, hundreds of Cubans have been stranded in Mexico when they tried to reach the United States

The INM notes that the departure office, provided for in the Migration Law, “is a facilitation measure that is provided to foreigners who do not have their nationality recognized by the authorities of their countries. It gives them permission to travel legally in the national territory for 20 days so that they can [have time to] regularize their migratory situation in Mexico or leave the country.”

In the case of Cubans, the consulate general of that country agreed to recognize the nationality of 91 of its citizens, applied for by the Mexican immigration authority to facilitate the return.

Since the end of the wet foot/dry foot policy, hundreds of Cubans have been stranded in Mexico when they tried to reach the United States. According to unofficial data, there are 300 Cubans at the “21st Century Migration Station” in Chiapas in southern Mexico and several hundred more in the cities bordering the United States.

*Translator’s note: Cuba refuses to automatically recognize the Cuban nationally of people who leave the country illegally.

The Mummified Corpse Of A Rafter, Witness Of The Migratory Drama / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Video of the disappeared rafters building the raft

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 19 January 2017 — A picture of the Virgin of Regla, the identity cards of two brothers and a mummified corpse of a Cuban moored alongside the remains of a raft is the only evidence that remained of the six men who escaped from Cuba’s Isle of Youth to Central America This summer looking to reach the United States.

Missing for six months, the discovery of the remains of a man on the beaches of Corpus Christi last fall shocked his relatives, most of them humble fishermen on the Isle of Youth.

In early October a shrimp boatman from Port Aransas informed the US Coast Guard that he had found a raft with a body, as reported to Entravisión a local television channel. continue reading

Authorities attempted to contact the Pupo Pupo family in Cuba for sample comparison, but the Cuban embassy in Washington did not facilitate communication

The authorities were able to confirm that it was a man in an advanced state of decomposition. In the pockets of the victim they found the identity cards of Juan Antonio Pupo Pupo and Amauris Pupo Pupo, next to a picture of the Virgin of Regla.

Heraldo Peña, a forensic investigator in Nueces County, explained via telephone to this newspaper that, because of the condition of the body, it was not possible to identify the victim, but DNA samples were kept for comparison to relatives who might appear later.

“We could see that it was a man and we determined that he died because of the lack of food and water,” said Peña, who also added that because of the saltpetre the remains were mummified.

“It was not possible to conclude if the corpse corresponds to any of the identifications that he carried,” he says.

An official related the case, who did not want to be identified, said that since the first clues were known about the possible Cuban origin of the deceased, the authorities tried to contact the Pupo Pupo family in Cuba to make the comparison of the DNA samples, but the Cuban embassy in Washington did not facilitate communication.

“It is not allowed to speak about the role of the Cuban Consulate in the investigation because now we want to have better relations with Cuba,” said the official, adding that everything possible was done before burial of the body in a graveyard for the indigent.

“It is not allowed to speak about the role of the Cuban Consulate in the investigation because now we want to have better relations with Cuba”

This version does not agree with the statements of Hugo Vega, officer in charge of the US Border Patrol’s Missing Migrant Initiative.

Vega maintains that the Cuban consular section promised to provide fingerprints and information that would enable identification of the alleged Cuban.

“We try to get the deceased migrants identified by their relatives,” says the official from the state of Texas. Since the case was heard, the Border Patrol agent contacted Noyri Muñoz, the sister of one of the rafters residing in Spain.

14ymedio contacted the press office of the Cuban Embassy in Washington via email in order to confirm this information but received no reply.

Approximate route of the rafters who disappeared after leaving Cuba

The identity cards carried by the body found south of Corpus Christi correspond to two brothers of the Pupo Pupo family, who along with four other rafters have been missing since last July.

The group, initially composed of 13 men, left the Isle of Youth on a precarious boat to try to reach Mexico or Central America and from there to continue their journey to the United States.

After about 15 days of navigation and the breakdown of the engine, they decided to separate. The boat was made of boards and truck tires, so according to the testimony of Guillermo Ramirez, the only survivor of the crossing who is in the United States, they divided the raft in hopes of being found more easily.

According to Ramírez, at least four boats passed by and did not help them

Ramirez, like the rest of the survivors who were repatriated to Cuba from Mexico, does not want to respond to questions from the press. The only testimony about what happened he told a family member this summer.

A group of seven men stayed in half the boat and six others headed off in the other half to increase the chances of a boat finding them.

According to Ramírez, at least four boats passed by and did not help them. The group of seven drifting rafters were rescued by the supply vessel MV Fugro Vasilis, 130 miles from Arrecife Alacranes, north of the Yucatan peninsula. Of the other six nothing is known at the moment.

The names of the disappeared are José Armando Muñoz López, Luis Velásquez Osorio, Rafael Rives Rives, Yoendry Rives del Campo, Amauri Pupo Pupo and Juan Antonio Pupo Pupo.

“We don’t know anything of my husband,” the wife of Amauris Pupo Pupo said by telephone from the Isle of Youth. “We all consider him dead, it is better not to continue with this tragedy,” she adds.

According to the woman’s statements, they have not received any official communication about the finding of the corpse, but through other relatives they are kept informed of the case..

“Their mother is the one who has suffered most through all this. She will end up in a hospital with so much suffering,” she adds.

“We know nothing of my husband,” said the wife of Amauris Pupo Pupo. “We all consider him dead, it is better not to continue with this tragedy”

For Noyri Muñoz, sister of José Armando Muñoz López, hope is the last thing that is lost.

“I have brought my nephew to live with me in Spain. He did not have the opportunity to see videos about the rafters and the migratory drama in Cuba, and every time he does he gets very ill,” says Muñoz, 48.

Muñoz’s mother remains on the Isle of Youth with her sister-in-law.

“At least I have the consolation that wherever he is, my brother will be happy to see that his son was able to leave Cuba, which was why he launched himself into the sea: to have freedom and prosperity,” she says.

Thousands Of Cubans Stranded Along The Continent Put Their Hope In Trump / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Elisabet Casero (right) defected one day before the United States eliminated the Cuban Medical Professional Parole program. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 18 January 2017 — Abandoned to their fate on islands, in jungles and at borders, thousands of Cubans have not recovered from the surprise measure of Barack Obama’s administration that frustrated the trip for which they sold their few belongings in Cuba to venture to reach American soil.

With a soft voice, sometimes broken by emotion and sadness, Elisabet Casero Fernández, a Cuban dentist who fled Venezuela a week ago, laments the situation in which her compatriots have been left.

Casero escaped one day before the United States eliminated its Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) program – through which doctors who deserted their missions abroad were allowed to settle in the United States – and the policy of wet foot/dry foot, by which Cubans who touched land in the United States were allowed to stay and become legal residents. continue reading

Cuban doctors go abroad with an official passport, which is why on the border between Colombia and Venezuela they are easily identified and handed over to the Cuban authorities

“We believed in American legality, in the opportunity to rebuild our lives away from a government that does not allow us to be free and that clings to not changing,” she says from Bogota.

Cuban doctors go abroad with an official passport, which is why on the border between Colombia and Venezuela they are easily identified and handed over to the Cuban authorities, who will forcibly repatriate them and retaliate.

“I had to cross the jungle on a motorcycle. It was the only way to circumvent the surveillance that doctors are subjected to,” she explains.

Leaving is expensive. Dr. Casero earned barely 27,000 bolivars a month (less than 10 dollars when exchanged on the street) while working in the state of Carabobo. In order to flee, she had to save as much as she could from her meager salary.

“The Cuban medical mission also did not give us money for water and gas, we had to rely on the ‘solidarity of friends’,” she told us.

In practice, the Cuban authorities asked their doctors to have Venezuelan patients pay for the cost of these basic services.

The decision to travel to Venezuela was also made under pressure, according to the doctor. “They told us that we should go on a mission. If you refuse, you can lose even your career because they call you a counterrevolutionary,” she says.

According to Casero, once in Venezuela she understood the urgency of the Cuban Ministry of Health.

“You are a mainstay of the medical mission,” they were told. The reality, according to this young woman of 24 years, is that Venezuela “pays more” for dentists than for other doctors, so they had to work more hours and were carefully monitored to enforce the statistics of consultations in exchange for which the Venezuela Government pays Cuba in oil.

“I did not even have the opportunity to finish my residency,” she adds.

The doctors are carefully monitored to enforce the statistics of consultations in exchange for which the Venezuelan Government pays Cuba in oil

With the recent changes, even Cuban doctors who have already applied for the CMPP program will be treated like any other migrant, so the dentist’s hopes of resolving her case are increasingly distant.

“When I arrived at the US embassy in Bogotá, they told me that I could no longer ask for asylum. Now that I have deserted I cannot enter Cuba for eight years and if they catch me, I will end up being retaliated against,” he says.

Her money that, as a stimulus, the Cuban Government deposited in an account in a bank in Cuba, has already been expropriated, she learned directly from her mother, whom she had lived with.

In Colombia hundreds of doctors are waiting for a favorable decision from the US embassy. An indeterminate number are in Brazil where, in 2016, 1,439 doctors benefited from the CMPP.

But doctors are not the only ones affected. There are also dozens of emigrants who are transiting Central America after their departure from Ecuador and Guyana. They seek to reach Panama by going through the Darien Gap, one of the most dangerous jungles in the world.

In Trinidad and Tobago, of a group of 15 Cubans detained by the immigration authorities, there are only six left. All the others have been forcibly repatriated to Cuba.

“The Cuban embassy is involved in this and we are desperate. There were political refugees among us, but they did not care,” explains Baldomero Despaigne speaking from that Caribbean country.

“They are preparing everything to return all of us who are still here. We need help,” he says.

In Suriname, another group of Cubans, including women members of the Ladies in White with their children, are asking for clemency to reach the United States.

In the Caritas hostel in Panama, in less than a week more than 230 refugees have arrived, waiting for the American administration to grant a grace period

In the Caritas hostel in Panama the presence of Cuban migrants has increased significantly. In less than a week more than 230 refugees have arrived for the US administration to grant a grace period that allows them to reach their destination.

“They are calling by phone to indicate that they will continue to arrive from the jungle. At least 70 migrants are announced for the next few hours,” said Deacon Victor Berrío, who is in charge of the institution.

However, the director of Panama’s National Service of Migratio, Javier Carrillo, announced that undocumented Cubans must leave the country. “The law is clear, they must leave the national territory,” Carrillo told this newspaper.

Some of these migrants have not stopped at the announcement of the end of the policy of wet foot-feet and continue their way towards the American border. On Tuesday, the presidential adviser Ben Rhodes said the US does not host the Cubans who were on the border of that country and Mexico.

“We are not going to stop, we will continue to the border, we have spent a lot of time to escape from Cuba and we have no desire to go back, we have no house or money or anything,” says Yuniel Ramos, a migrant who left everything and crossed Central America from Ecuador. Now he is about to cross Mexico.

“The Siglo XXI Migrant Station in Tapachula is full of Cubans, people do not want to go there because they leave you in jail,” says Miguel Antunez, another Cuban who is in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

This situation of defenselessness makes migrants the victims of scammers and corrupt officials

“The lines are long to get the safe passage and cross Mexico. They gave me an appointment for the second week of February,” he adds. This situation of defenselessness makes migrants the victims of scammers and corrupt officials.

“An attorney with connections inside Migration is giving Cubans papers for $500. Even the Migration officials themselves tell you that if you give them money they will move your turn up to the next day,” adds Antunez.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Cubans continue to arrive from Central America. Next to the US border dozens of Cubans wait to see what the new White House tenant will do.

“Trump is the only hope we have left,” says Antunez. “Obama has betrayed us, and he went to Cuban to become the friend of Cubans. Trump is the only hope left to us,” says Antunez.

____________________

This article is part of an arrangement between 14ymedio and El Nuevo Herald.

The Drama of Hundreds of Cubans Who Have Their Bags Packed / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Hundreds of Cubans have been stranded in various Latin American countries in their flight to the US. (Archive).

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Havana/Miami, 14 January 2017 – Yeny Varela cried bitterly this Thursday when she heard on national television about the immediate end to the wet foot/dry foot policy.

Repatriated to Cuba from Mexico after a long month-and-a-half trip from Ecuador in 2014, and after raising the necessary funds to leave the country again, her hopes of escape from the Island were ruined.

“I did everything to get to the United States where I have my elderly aunt and uncle. I went to the embassy, and they denied me a visa, I walked from Ecuador, and the Mexicans deported me, the last thing I had managed was a work contract in Mexico for which I paid thousands of dollars, and now I have lost everything,” she laments.

At 32 years of age, this young Havanan believes that the best years of her life are behind her.

“And now where do I go?” she says. continue reading

“They (the US government) are doing that because they believe that they are going to force a change, but it’s not going to happen,” she says. Although everyone is “sick” of that system, no one can protest because “they disappear you,” she says.

“Do you really believe they are going to give you a visa at the embassy? No one believes that. Don’t you realize that once someone has a visa he’s going to stay?” she adds.

Varela is not the only one dressed up with no place to go. In Villa Clara, Rosa, age 26, had sold her house and all her belongings to begin the dangerous trip through Guyana.

Cuban women stranded while trying to make their way to the US through Central America. (EFE)

Her intention was to make the trip that thousands of other migrants have made in recent years to get to the southern border of the United States. After the immigration policy change, she is “devastated.”

“Our intent was to leave the country in order to live a little better. There are no opportunities here,” she explains. The Villarena does not plan, however, to go to the United States embassy to seek political asylum.

“I don’t involve myself in politics, that doesn’t interest me. I wanted to leave Cuba for economic reasons,” she explains.

Now she will have to start again from scratch. Meanwhile she decided to live with her mother.

Not only in Cuba were migration plans cut short. Throughout the continent hundreds of Cubans who were headed to the United States border have seen their plans thwarted.

“I never get involved in politics at all, but Obama has been worse than Pontius Pilate, seven days from leaving the presidency, it was not for him to have done such a thing,” says Maria Isabel, a Cuban who lives in Argentina and was preparing her trip to the United States.

“I have left everything behind. I was just taking a small step here in order to continue my journey,” she says.

According to the Cuban, who spent three months awaiting papers to continue to Mexico, the most misguided thing about the Obama administration’s decision is that it “tackles the consequences but not the causes.”

“How many people have risked or lost their lives? The degree of despair and frustration is so great that we can only cry,” she laments.

The latest statistics from the US Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services calculate that 56,406 Cuban citizens benefitted in the last fiscal year from the wet foot/dry foot policy.

After the resumption of relations between Cuba and the US, a migratory crisis unfolded which had regional repercussions when several thousand Cubans were stranded in Central America after Nicaragua refused to permit the islanders to pass.

With the later closure of the Costa Rican and Panamanian borders, the crisis spread to Colombia and Ecuador when those countries took steps to prevent mass migration from the Island. Two “air bridges” arranged with Mexico allowed the evacuation of the Cubans; however, since the departure of the planes from Panama in May, hundreds of other migrants continued arriving.

More than 80 Cubans on their way to the United States are in a hostel run by Caritas, a non-governmental organization tied to the Catholic Church.

One of them, Andres, says that “Obama is abominable” and that they did not expect it.

His situation was apparently made worse by the Immigration General Director’s statements only a few hours earlier that Cubans must leave the country.

However, the migrants being sheltered by Caritas have the support of the Catholic Church, which will intervene to prevent their deportation, as explained by Deacon Victor Luis Berrio, head of the organization.

At least those in Panama have protection, says Yuniel Ramos, who together with another 40 Cubans is continuing his journey through Honduras to get to the American border.

“They will have to do something with us because Cuba won’t take us back,” he adds.

But the doors to the United States are now closed for Cubans.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

End of Program for Resettlement in the US Causes Anxiety Among Cuban Doctors Who Have Fled Missions / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Cuban Health Deputy Minister Marcia Cobas greets the island’s doctors at the University of Brasilia. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 13 January 2017 — Thirty Cuban doctors met Friday in Bogota to protest the ending of the Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) program, which until yesterday allowed Cuban medical personnel working in third countries to qualify for a visa to go to the United States.

The CMPP was created by the administration of Republican George W. Bush in 2006, to enable thousands of professionals to escape from Cuban medical missions abroad.

Havana has long called for its repeal, which was announced by President Barack Obama on Thursday, and had made it a condition for progress in normalizing relations with Washington. continue reading

“We went to protest for them to keep that program that is vital for Cuban doctors,” says Alberto López, a Cuban critical care specialist who escaped from a medical mission in Venezuela.

In ten years, more than 8,000 Cuban professionals have benefitted from this program, especially in countries like Venezuela and Brazil.

“We fear for what could happen to our colleagues. There are many people who are on the way and we do not know what can happen now, because they can neither return to the mission nor to take shelter under the parole program,” explains Lopez.

Havana has long called for its repeal, which was announced by President Barack Obama on Thursday, and had made it a condition for progress in normalizing relations with Washington

Another of the protesters called for the granting of visas to all those who have been waiting in Colombia for a response to their requests.

“We are working as waiters, in markets, in whatever we can. We hardly have money to pay our expenses because we lost everything in our Cuban bank accounts. We’ve been waiting for months, and now Obama comes out with this. And I was counting on it,” he says.

The “healthcare cooperators,” as the Cuban government calls them, are assigned a bank account on the island where each month some of their wages are deposited in dollars. Those accounts, which remain frozen until the end of the mission, are seized by the Government if the doctors desert.

For Dr. Julio César Alfonso, president of Solidaridad sin Fronteras (Solidarity Without Borders) a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Cuban doctors who come to the United States, “it is very regrettable that President Obama leaves such a sad legacy to the Cuban community.”

Alfonso regrets that the new policy does not take into account that Cuba’s healthcare personnel who are working in third countries have the status of “modern slaves.”

“Cuban medical missions are considered one of the largest human trafficking operations that has ever existed in history,” he says.

“Doctors have always tried to escape. What is going to happen now is that it will end the organized ways of escaping from this reality. It is very negative what is happening,” says the doctor, who estimates that more than 3,000 professionals will be in migration limbo because they have escaped the missions but no longer have the certainty they will be accepted in the United States.

” Cuban medical missions are classified as one of the largest human trafficking operations that has ever existed in history”

The Cuban health system has 495,609 workers, according to the most recent data provided by the Government, of which more than 58,000 are specialized doctors. Its cooperation programs, which are funded through international organizations, extend to more than 90 countries in the world, from Africa to Russia.

The discomfort extends among Cuban doctors “on mission” in several countries.

“When health professionals leave Cuba we do it with an official passport. The government appropriates most of our salary and if we escape we are prevented from returning to Cuba for eight years,” explains a doctor living in Brazil who claims to have completed all her paperwork to receive the Parole. However, she asked that her identity not be revealed,” just in case.”

“Yesterday I was very nervous all afternoon, suddenly we got that bucket of cold water. I can only think of the other professionals that this measure leaves without protection. There are hundreds who were waiting for the opportunity to defect,” she explains.

Through the Mais Médicos (More Doctors) program, the Brazilian Government, at that time under the presidency of the Workers’ Party and allied with Cuba, hired more than 11,000 doctors through the Pan American Health Organization. The agreement, which included a payment of $ 3,300 per doctor per month, plus the payment of other fees for accommodation, represented significant income for the island’s economy, which in 2014 acknowledged that it received $ 8.2 billion in exchange for “medical services.”

Of the salary agreed to with the Government, only a third is paid to the Cuban professionals.

Since the beginning of the program in 2013, defections have been routine. In 2016, 1,439 health professionals escaped to the United States; another 1,600 took the exams to revalidate their titles in Brazil and to obtain contracts to work their on their own. Marriage has also been another way to escape the control of the Cuban government. According to data provided by the Brazilian authorities, more than 1,000 Cubans have marital ties with citizens of that country.

“I was able to submit my paperwork. Now I have to wait, but what will happen to others who were thinking of fleeing?” asks a Cuban doctor who was in Venezuela.

“At least before you had the security of knowing that if you jumped you would have a place to fall. If you escape now you know you’re playing outside the rules,” an X-Ray specialist, who works in the state of Anzoátegui, said using the vocabulary of sports. “Venezuela is going down the tubes like Cuba but now we have no choice but to stay here.”

Wet Foot-Dry Foot Policy for Cubans Eliminated / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

A boat in the florida Straits flies US and Cuban flags. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 12 January 2017 – [Note: This is an extended version of an article that appeared earlier today.] The Obama administration ended the “wet foot/dry foot” policy that allowed Cuban citizens to stay in the the United States as long as they touched land in that country.

The Obama administration has also eliminated the Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) program, which was set up under the presidency of Republican George W. Bush, to host the hundreds of doctors fleeing the island’s government from third countries, where they were serving on “medical missions.” continue reading

In an official communication, aired jointly in both countries, the Cuban Government committed to receiving individuals from a list of 2,746 Cubans who were considered inadmissible after the Mariel exodus and others who did not originally appear on the list.

This measure by the United States does away with the entry by land and sea of ​​all Cuban citizens without visas, repealing the “wet foot/dry foot” policy that gave legal status to Cuban migrants who managed to reach US territory.

Cubans awarded permanent residence in the United States (2010-2015. Blue: Number of residence permits. Black: Number of arrivals by land.

From now on, citizens of the island will be treated like any other Latin American migrant.

“And now what do we do?” asks Yuniel Ramos, a Cuban migrant who is in Honduras accompanied by more than forty compatriots heading to the United States.

“We are desperate, in the middle of the jungle, how can Obama bypass Congress and change things without even giving us a period of time to arrive?” he added.

The end of that policy was an old demand from the Cuban government, which called it “criminal” and “responsible for the deaths of thousands of Cubans.”

The “wet foot/dry foot” policy is an executive order, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995, following the Rafter Crisis of that era, put into effect after negotiations with the Government of the Island.

“The Government of Cuba agrees to begin accepting the return of Cuban nationals with return orders,” read the press release issued as part of the exchange.

The end of that policy was an old demand from the Cuban government, which called it “criminal” and “responsible for the deaths of thousands of Cubans.”

The presidential adviser who made the announcement in the United States also suggested that the measure is consistent with the strategy proposed by the Administration to promote change in Cuba.

Between 2006 and 2015, more than 8,000 health professionals have arrived in the United States through the Medical Parole Program, according to figures from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In 2015 alone, 1,663 Cuban health professionals were welcomed. The elimination of the CCMP program represents an important triumph for the Cuban government, which earns great profits from the work of its doctors abroad, who are paid only a small portion of the money paid to the Cuban government by foreign governments in exchange for their services.

President-elect Donald Trump threatened to end Obama’s reestablishment of diplomatic relations unless the Cuban government signed a “better deal” with him.

On December 17, 2014 both countries announced the reestablishment of diplomatic relations after 50 years, generating a wave of repulsion among the historic exile in Miami.

“Castro uses refugees as pawns to obtain more concessions from Washington, so there is no reason to end the Cuban medical program, which is a reckless concession to a regime that sends its doctors to foreign nations in a modern-day servitude,” said Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

“And now what do we do?” asks Yuniel Ramos, a Cuban migrant who is in Honduras accompanied by more than forty compatriots heading to the United States.

“The revocation of the Professional Parole Program for Cuban Doctors was done because that is what the Cuban dictatorship wanted and the White House gave in to what Castro wants, instead of defending the democratic values ​​of the United States,” she added.

According to Alexander Jiménez, a Cuban living in Ecuador, the news left him in shock.

“I had everything ready to go to the United States with my wife, I have a lot of family members on the road, they are in the jungle, we are desperate because we cannot communicate with them and now they cannot continue on their way,” he said.

Dariel Gonzalez, a Cuban health specialist who came to the United States a year ago through the CMPP program, said he had “run out of words.”

“It’s a low blow that Obama is giving to all health professionals who want to escape the slavery to which they are subjected by the Cuban government. This leaves us totally defenseless,”he said.

On the same Thursday that the announcement occurred in Havana and Washington, meetings were held between delegations of both countries to discuss the trafficking of people and the claims of confiscated goods.

Both countries stated, however, that the United States will continue granting 20,000 “exceptional” visas to Cubans on the island to promote safe migration between countries.. The family reunification program will also be maintained.

“It is important that Cuba has a population of young people who become agents of change,” said White House adviser Ben Rhodes.

Cuban exodus by sea to the eee

The White House has made clear that it is aware that the reasons for emigrating are more economic than political.

Cubans who show up at the border will be treated like any other immigrant. They will have the opportunity to explain their motives if they are afraid to return home, according to Ben Rhodes.

According to the announcement, Cuba will change its own immigration policy and will allow Cubans to remain outside the country for a term of up to four years before they lose their right to reside in the country. Until today, Cubans who remained outside the country for more than two years forfeited their right to live in their native country.

Note from the Editor: Contributing to this report were reporters from El Nuevo Herald: Nora Gámez and Abel Fernandez.

 

Cuba’s New Minister of the Interior Inaugurates His Tenure With a Repressive Wave Across the Country / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Vice Admiral Julio César Gandarilla, Cuba’s new Minister of the Interior, has unleashed a fierce crackdown across the country (ACN/ Marcelino Vázquez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 11 January 2017 — While in the United States Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, made it clear that human rights will be an important part of Washington’s policy toward Cuba, the island’s police forces carried out repressive actions in different parts of the country.

“The increase in repression is due to several causes, among them a push that the government is making in the last days of Barack Obama’s administration to make it clear to Trump that they do not care about the policy change he has announced towards Cuba,” said José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu) speaking from Santiago de Cuba. continue reading

Ferrer denounced the arrest of Jesús Romero and Alexis Rodríguez, activists of his organization who were accused of “posting an opposition sign in the center of the city.”

Among Unpacu members recently detained are also its coordinator, Ovidio Martín Castellanos, and the singer Yuniel Aguilera.

“After the death of his brother, Raul Castro needs to increase terror levels to maintain power,” says Ferrer, who says the government is willing to do anything to eliminate any hint of dissent.

“The increase in repression is due to the push the government is making in the last days of Barack Obama’s administration to make clear to Trump that they do not care about the policy change he has announced towards Cuba”

“They know people are tired of the same thing. When in April we mobilized more than 1,000 people the political police told us that we would never do something like that again,” he adds.

At the other end of the island, the editor of the magazine Convivencia (Coexistence), Karina Galvez, was the victim of search of her home, which ended up being sealed. Galvez herself, age 48 and an economist by profession, is under arrest for the alleged crime of tax evasion.

The director of the Center for Coexistence Studies, Dagoberto Valdés Hernández, called the escalation against the civic project he leads – including the suspension of a planned meeting and multiple arrests – acts of “harassment” by State Security.

Also arrested this day was regime opponent Óscar Elías Biscet, founder of the Emilia Project, which seeks the change of government in the island by means of a popular uprising. After a few hours, Dr. Biscet, who has spent long years in jail, was released.

Activists Eduardo Quintana Suarez, Jose Omar Lorenzo Pimienta and Yoan Alvares, who belong to the same organization, were also arrested, as reported by El Nuevo Herald.

Activist Martha Beatriz Roque was arrested when she attempted to attend the scattering of the ashes of the recently deceased opponent Felix Antonio Bonne Carcassés. She explained to 14ymedio that her detention lasted until two on Wednesday afternoon.

Opponent René Gómez Manzano told this newspaper that they “appealed” to his sanity so that he would not attend the ceremony where the ashes would be scattered, although he finally succeeded in doing so.

This repressive wave unfolds a few hours after the replacement of the recently deceased Interior Minister, Carlos Fernández Gondín, by Vice Admiral Julio César Gandarilla

According to a press release from Democratic Directorate in the city of Holguín, human rights activist Maydolis Leiva Portelles, together with her three children, under arrest since November 27, 2016, were brought to trial.

The entire family, according to the press release, including two minors, was the subject of an act of repudiation that included “violent raiding of the home, beatings, and robbery of personal property.”

This repressive wave has been unfolding within a few hours of the replacement of the recently deceased Interior Minister, Carlos Fernández Gondín, by Vice Admiral Julio César Gandarilla. Among other prerogatives, the person who controls the portfolio of the Interior Ministry also exercises command over State Security and the National Revolutionary Police.

“With the [previous minister] repression was quite extensive, although it must be said that in Cuba a minister cannot do anything without Raul Castro authorizing it. The policy carried out by Gondín continues with Gandarilla. We will have more repression as the discontent increases,” says José Daniel Ferrer.

In Guantánamo, Lighthouse Rafters Feel Pressure To Return To Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Cuban rafters took refuge in the highest part of a lighthouse in the Florida Keys for fear of being repatriated to Cuba. (Screenshot: WSVN)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 9 January 2017 – They crossed the Florida Straits six months ago and in a desperate act took refuge in the American Shoal Lighthouse to avoid being deported to Cuba. A bottle thrown into the sea and miraculously found made known their complaints about the conditions they found on the US Coast Guard cutter. After demonstrating “a well-founded fear” of being repatriated, they were taken to the Guantanamo Naval Base. Today, some members of the group of the “Lighthouse Rafters” feel pressured by the authorities to return to the Cuban-controlled part of the island, and are overwhelmed by the lack of work.

“We want to work, we are refugees, not prisoners,” explains one of the 17 rafters who remain at the base waiting for a third country to decide to receive them as refugees. Having been considered “wet feet” at the offshore lighthouse, they were not able to take advantage of the so-called “wet foot/dry foot” law — the Cuban Adjustment Act — that automatically gives refuge to Cubans who step foot on US soil.

“We are very grateful for all the help they have given us, but we do not understand why we are not allowed to talk to lawyers or work,” he explains. continue reading

Although initially there were 20 emigrants taken to Guantanamo, three of them were returned to the island, two voluntarily and a third when it was discovered that at some time he had worked for Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior, the main repressive organ of the Cuban government.

“We are forbidden to speak to the press about our situation,” explains the rafter and asks to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation by the authorities at the Naval Base.

Of the group of 17 men who remain there, 10 are unemployed, according to the testimony of a second rafter who also did not want to give his name.

“We can call our families once a week, but nobody tells us how much longer we have to be here. Some of us work in manual jobs and they pay us $4.97 an hour,” he explains.

According to the migrant, “the number two of the base,” Denis Mojica, has told them twice that if anyone who does not accept the conditions proposed to them, “the door is open to return to Cuba,” a phrase in which they suspect there is hidden pressure to return to the island.

“People came here to interview us, but no one explains to us what our legal situation is and when we can work; they tell us there is no work. It’s very difficult to sit around with our arms crossed all day. The only thing we are asking for is that they let us earn our keep,” he explains.

According to a spokesperson for the US State Department who spoke with 14ymedio, “all the protected migrants who are living on the Guantanamo Naval Base are there voluntarily. They are free to return to their country of origin at any time, but the United States is not pushing them to do so.”

The spokesperson also said that migrants are regularly visited by officials who care about their situation and the most recent inspection visit was made last December.

However, they clarified that the employment opportunities on the base are “limited.”

Apart from the lack of work, refugees emphasize “the excellent care” received from US personnel.

“The take us out walking and with regards to sanitation we have no complaints. We have health coverage and we are given financial aid of 107 dollars on Sunday to buy our food. We also have thirty minutes to talk to our families on the phone,” he adds.

“The first demand was for them to consider the lighthouse to be United States territory, and the rafters as ‘dry feet’ and we lost. Right now we are in the process of appealing,” explains Ramón Saúl Sánchez, leader of the Democracy Movement that filed a legal appeal for refugee status for which the rafters fought in the court for a judicial verdict that would allow the rafters to stay in the US.

According to the activist, the group of lawyers who is undertaking their defense pro bono has not lost hope that the judge will declare the structure to which the rafters fled, built 136 years ago seven miles from the Florida Keys, part of US territory.

If this happened, the Cubans could remain in the United States. Otherwise, the State Department must find a third country to host them, a process that can sometimes be extremely long and complex.

Sounds Of War To Drown Out The Economic Crisis In Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Raúl Castro with senior level government staff greets the crowd from the stand in the Plaza of the Revolution. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, 2 January 2017 – With a military march and a “parade of the fighting people” the new year dawns in Cuba. This time there were no tanks in the Plaza of the Revolution, but thousands of Cubans were taken there from their workplaces in order to demonstrate unity with the Communist Party and the figure of Raul Castro in the absence of his brother Fidel, who died on 25 November of last year.

The event was dedicated to the young, “those who are carrying on the work of the Revolution,” to the deceased leader and to the disembarkation from the yacht Granma, which in 1956 brought a handful of revolutionaries from Mexico to Cuba who overthrew the government of Fulgencia Batista. All this in a year that is called ‘complicated’ after a fall of 0.9% in the GDP, which reflects the failures of the Raulist reforms and resurrects the old ghosts of the Special Period. continue reading

“It is ironic that they dedicate this demonstration to young people, because they are the first ones who are escaping to wherever they can because that don’t see hope or any possibility of progress in Cuba,” says Manuel Perez, a young Cuban psychologist who emigrated to Argentina looking for better work opportunities.

Residence awarded to Cubans in the U.S. (2010-2015). Upper line: Number of residents. Lower line: Number of arrivals by land.

 

Carlos Amel Oliva, youth leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), shares this view.

For Oliva, the Cuban government is in the midst of “a campaign whose strategy is well thought out” to revive nationalism among young people, following the ideological vacuum left by the reestablishment of relations with the United States.

“Young people are indifferent to these old demonstrations. The only thing that interests many young Cubans is to escape to any country to find what they cannot find in theirs,” he says.

In the last three years more than 100,000 Cubans have arrived in the United States by various means to avail themselves of the Cuban Adjustment Act and obtain residence in that country. A large proportion of these migrants are young or of working age, which increases the problem of the aging of the population on the island. In 2025 Cuba will be the oldest country on the continent in demographic terms.

Negative migration balances, coupled with a low level of fertility, the already obsolete just-opened technology park, and the scarcity of foreign investments, which amounted to scarcely 6.5% of what was planned, constitute serious problems facing the country. Added to that is the crisis in Venezuela, the Cuban government’s main ally, which has substantially reduced trade with the country, according to official data.

Cuban trade with Venezuela. Blue: Commercial trade with Venezuela. Green: Cuban exports to Venezuela. Red: Imports from Venezuela.

“When the enemy disappeared, there was no one to fight against. That is something that should be given much attention and hopefully the US administration will maintain an intelligent discourse and offer no reason to revive the old Cold War discourse,” says Oliva, 29, who opposes the regime. This Unpacu leader believes that the warlike message was also addressed to the US government.

For Arnoldo A. Muller, president of the Social Democratic Co-ordination of Cuba, a Cuban opposition organization attached to Cuban Consensus, an umbrella organization that brings together several organizations in exile, the January 2nd march “is a demonstration of strength.”

“They want to maintain the continuity of the system and do not want change. It is a message about who has military control over the country, the regime makes it known to the people that Castroism continues,” he says.

The military parade was barely able to count on some troops trying to recall the significant moments of Cuban independence battles and the struggles against the government of Fulgencio Batista. Transportation in the city was focused on bringing thousands of people from their workplaces, and there were reports of traffic jams due to the terrible state of Havana’s main arteries.

From the province of Pinar del Rio, Dagoberto Valdés, director of the Center for Coexistence Studies, adds that military parades “are a throwback to the culture of war” and “the legacy of a history that has been written about warlike events and not about the development of civil society.”

For Valdes, it is a manifestation “of that tradition that has believed that the triumph of the Cuban nation is to make it strong as a Republic in Arms and not as a Republic of Souls.”

Valdés believes that, on the contrary, it is necessary to “change the logic of war for that of peace, the inheritance of war for the ethical inheritance, the building of the republic over virtue and love.”

After Half a Century of Trying, Cuba Cannot Replace Imports / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

A man waits in his ‘bicitaxi’ for a customer to tour the streets of Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 30 December 2016 — “This is the last thing the ship brought,” you hear a young man say, to refer to one of the most recent products imported and sold on the black market in Havana. Being made abroad is synonymous with quality for many Cubans despite attempts to boost local production through state enterprise in a socialist model.

Decades have passed since the first time Cuba’s rulers said it was necessary to replace imports and increase local production to develop the country, a matter that the executive, presided over by the Castro brothers, has suspended year after year.

For the economist Omar Everleny Pérez, one of the gurus of the national economy, this is a fundamentally “ideological” issue. continue reading

“If the State would prefer to avoid paying the Vietnamese in dollars and allocate at least half of those resources to finance domestic production, it would not be necessary to import rice”

“If the state would prefer to avoid paying the Vietnamese in dollars and allocate at least half of those resources to finance domestic production, it would not be necessary to import rice,” Perez says.

However, Raúl Castro – recognizing that Cuba entered a recession this year, with a 0.9% drop in its gross domestic product – once again hopes to salvage the economy using the same formula that has failed for decades.

“It will be necessary to fulfill three decisive premises: to guarantee exports and timely collection of payments, to increase the national production to replace imports, and to reduce all nonessential expenses,” said Castro before more than 600 deputies in the National Assembly.

Exhortations to reduce imports began almost at the same time as the revolutionary government. The phrase can be found over and over in the speeches of the top leaders, but the figures published by officialdom show that, over and over, it has remained just words.

“Stimulating development and diversification of exports and taking advantage of opportunities to replace imports,” is reflected in the document Theses and Resolutions of the First Congress of the Communist Party in 1975.

In the documents of the Second Congress, celebrated in 1980, the same recommendations can be read almost verbatim, which remain unmet and are reformulated at the next Congress in 1986.

“The essential problem of the country’s economy in the five-year period 1981-1985 was that, although we had more than acceptable growth, it was insufficient where we needed it most, that is, in the export of goods and services and in the replacement of imports,” states the conclusive document of the Third Congress.

“When production increases often there is also an increase in the need to import intermediate products necessary for this production, such that it does not necessarily end up positively affecting the global figure for imports.”

Replacing imports is not a Cuban invention. It is a trade policy based on the premise that a country should try to reduce its dependence on the outside world through the development of its local industry, and it was an ideology in vogue in a post-war Latin America that sought to industrialize third world countries and promoted protectionism.

However, as the Cuban economist Antonio F. Díaz explains in a research paper at the University of Havana on the measurement of the effect of replacing imports (2015), it is not simply a matter of dispensing with imports to develop the local industry.

“It is a complex process,” explains Díaz, who states that the government’s progress in replacing imports cannot be effectively measured because of the absence of official statistics.

Total Exchange and Trade Balance in Cuba (millions of dollars)

“There has been growth in many of the sectors where there is the attempt to replace imports, but when domestic production increases, often there is also an increase in the need to import intermediate products necessary for this production, such that it does not necessarily end up positively affecting the global figure for imports,” he explains.

“Imports are always going to grow, as happens in all countries, but their replacement [with domestic products] as an economic policy is effective when economic growth is greater than the growth in imports,” the expert explains.

Cuba’s balance of trade over the last decades has shown a trend of increasing deficits, which accelerated in 2008 when the balance of trade was negative 10.57 billion pesos.

In the economic policy guidelines promoted by Raul Castro in 2011 as a guide to “perfecting socialism,” the replacement of imports is mentioned 20 times. The term is revisited in the update of those guidelines for the period 2016-2021.

The reduction of the immense Venezuelan subsidy, as well as the fall in the demand of the export of Cuban services abroad, can not be compensated with the increase of the tourism and the remittances

The document calls for “promoting an accelerated and effective process of import replacement, with mechanisms that stimulate and guarantee the maximum possible use of all the capacities available to the country in the agricultural and industrial sectors and in services and human resources.”

In 2015, Cuba reported a decrease of more than 1.5 billion dollars in exports, motivated to a large extent by the deterioration of economic relations with Venezuela, the island’s main trading partner. Official Cuban statistics reveal that the exchange between both nations decreased by more than 3.0 billion dollars in 2015.

The reduction of the immense Venezuelan subsidy (valued at its peak in more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day, part of which Cuba re-exported), as well as the drop in demand for the export of Cuban services abroad – in healthcare and other sectors – cannot be made up for through increases in tourism (3.8 million visitors) and remittances sent to Cubans on the island from family and friends abroad (more than 3.0 billion dollars).

For now it will be necessary to wait for the postponed plenary session of the Central Committee of the Party, originally scheduled for December 2016. The Central Committee must approve the Conceptualization of the Economic and Social Model and an Economic Development Plan to the Year 2030, in which surely the exhortation will be repeated to replace imports and strengthen local industry.

Fidel Castro’s Name And Image Are Enveloped In Prohibitions / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Castro with a photocopy of the newspaper Granma, with the headline “Absolved by History,” on August 12, 2006, a few days after he underwent an intestinal operation. (Networks)

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 27 December 2016 — The Cuban parliament unanimously approved a bill on Tuesday stating that the name of the deceased former president Fidel Castro cannot be used to designate public spaces and it is forbidden to market his image.

“They want to keep the image of Fidel Castro with that halo of mystery that always characterized him. They were in charge of presenting him to the people as a superman, about whom we had little information regarding his private life; we have to pay attention because they could be trying to maneuver into converting him into one more national symbol,” said the columnist Miriam Celaya from Havana. “They don’t want it to be the same as what happened with Ernesto (Che) Guevara,” she said.

Che’s image has been indiscriminately commercialized and turned into a symbol of rebelliousness and belonging by the entire world’s left wing movements. You can find everything from underpants to national flags with his image. In Cuba, a good share of the handicrafts sold to tourists bears the image of the Argentinian guerilla. continue reading

The law, the discussion of which had been announced at Castro’s funeral rites, supposedly corresponds to the will of the deceased, who asked that his name not be used for plazas and avenues, and also prohibits the raising of statues or the minting of coins with his image.

Although the deputies believed that Castro deserved “these traditional forms of homage, or even greater ones,” they decided to abide by his will as proposed by his brother, Army General and President Raul Castro.

“Only the sacred respect for his will, an expression of the humility and modesty that characterized him, and the fact that he always honored Marti’s preaching that all the glory of the world fits into a kernel of corn, leads us to adopt a legal text of such nature,” said the deputies, according to the official press reports.

The National Assembly, however, excepts the use of the name of Castro for the creation of some educational institution on “his invaluable trajectory.”

“They want to avoid the fact that once the tyranny is destroyed, his statues would be torn down by a free country,” says José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union on Cuba (UNPACU), an opposition organization in the east of the island.

For Ferrer, the approved law seeks to “justify” the cult of personality that the government has imposed on the nation, a cult that the UNPACU leader describes as “sick.”

“The country has been filled with his images and slogans for decades. As Castro knew, when tyrants fall their symbols disappear; it seems he wanted to avoid a spectacle like what happened in the former USSR,” he commented.

For Elisa Valdés, a housewife in Cienfuegos province, the law puts the name of Fidel almost on a par with that of God. “It’s like it’s sacred,” she says on the phone. Instead of “you will not take the name of God in vain, we will now have to say: you will not take Fidel’s name in vain,” she says wryly.

The legislation also prohibits “the use of names, images or allusions of any nature referring to the figure of the Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz for use as a trademark or other distinctive signs, domain names and designs for commercial or advertising purposes.”

It is not clear if all the artistic photos and images of Fidel Castro that are sold in the tourist areas, from postcards recalling the deceased leader to T-shirts with his effigy, will be eliminated.

According to the Cuban press, it would be a question of “avoiding the use of the figure of the leader of the Revolution in commercial traffic or for commercial advertising purposes,” although it would not limit artistic use or the photographs and banners used up until now in state companies, walls, propaganda billboards, and even stones on the edges of the streets.

“For all those who are grateful that they will always accompany compañero Fidel, the homages they render him will be few,” said the more than 600 deputies who make up the unicameral body, speaking in the last session of this year.

Graffiti Artist ‘El Sexto’ Declares Hunger Strike After Six Days In Custody / 14ymedio, Mario Penton & Abel Fernandez

El Sexto’s graffit after the death of Fidel Castro. (14ymedio)
El Sexto’s graffit after the death of Fidel Castro. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton & Abel Fernandez, Miami, 2 December 2016 – The Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado, known as ‘El Sexto’ (the Sixth), declared a hunger strike this Thursday, according to reports to this newspaper from his mother Maria Victoria Machado. The artist’s decision comes six days after his arrest for having painted on a  centrally located wall in Havana, the words “Se fue” – He’s gone – in reference to Fidel Castro.

El Sexto’s fast comes amid worsening repression against the dissidence and independent journalists on the island, during the period of national mourning for the death of the former president.

“I had the first interview with the investigator who is handling Danilo’s case today. He told me that as of yesterday my son does not want to eat to demand his release,” Machado told this newspaper by phone. continue reading

Maldonado was arrested on 26 November after painting graffiti on the exterior wall of the Habana Libre Hotel, at the centrally located corner of 23rd and L in the Vedado neighborhood, and publishing a video on his Facebook page celebrating Castro’s death.

On Tuesday, family members of the artist denounced that he had been severely beaten and said he was holding firm against what he considers an injustice.

“Mamá, I have had a lot of aché (luck/blessing) to be a Cuban artist the day that bloody tyrant died and to be able to express myself. I’ll get out of here,” Machado said her son told her at the Guanabacoa detention center to the east of the capital.

According to Machado, her son is accused of damaging state property.

“When I asked the official what my son’s sentence would be for this crime, he told me just a fine, but then he started to talk about ‘historic conditions’ the country is going through and right there I told him that for me the state property demagoguery wouldn’t work,” she explained.

According to his mother, Maldonado has been beaten on several occasions since his arrest.

“He told me himself. In Guanabacoa two officers beat him up,” she explained. The police told her that El Sexto’s phone was given up for lost, but had finally been found in police custody.

Alexandra Martinez, Maldonado’s girlfriend who lives in Miami, said that El Sexto’s detention “shows the cruelty of the Castro regime that continues to violate its people.

“The regime must release Danilo immediately. His life, his health and his safety are in play and we need him,” she said.

Family and friends of the artist are working with three human rights organizations, an international attorney and several local attorneys on the release of the artist, Martinez said.

“This shows how fearful and insecure the Cuban regime is,” she added.

This Saturday the prosecution is expected to rule on El Sexto’s case.

Cubans Directed To Be Sad / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar and Mario Penton


14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar/Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 29 November 2016 — Women crying on camera, Facebook profiles turned into portraits of Comandante Fidel, long lines to bid farewell to his absent ashes. No reggaeton in the streets, no “good morning” from the announcers on national television. For a tourist, the people, Cuban and devoted to Fidel, transfixed by pain, have not lost any opportunity to say goodbye to their leader. But the reality is very different from the slogans.

“The Student Federation sent me this picture by email,” says a computer science student in Santa Clara, while looking at an image of a young Fidel Castro in his inbox. “The directions are for us to put it on our social networks and dedicate a dignified farewell to the old man,” says the teenager. “All of it, it doesn’t matter to me, but if I don’t do it, it could affect my career,” he adds. continue reading

Teresa, a woman from Cienfuegos who works in education, spends the hours as the sun passes overhead in front of a photograph of the former president and follows protocol to show signs of pain, which isn’t pleasant.

“I went because the union made me. If you dare not to go you’ll find out what happens to you. He died, but the system he created is just the same. He could have done a lot of good, but forcing us to go say goodbye to him seems abusive to me,” says the teacher, who added that she ended up with a migraine after so much time standing in the sun.

Perhaps the most notable case of following the forms was the debate between two news announcers, Froilán Arencibia and Mariuska Díaz, caught on open mike, about whether they should greet viewers with “good afternoon” or simply “greetings.” Finally, the direction to eliminate the “good” won the day because how could it be a good day if Fidel Castro had died?

“They put us in a huge line where, at the end all we had in front of us was a photo and his medals, because the ashes were for the leaders,” an independent worker told 14ymedio.

On elderly messenger in Havana had his own hypothesis about why Castro’s ashes weren’t on display to the thousands of people who waited at least four hours to enter one of the three “altars” in the Plaza of the Revolution. “Looking at his photo were his admirers and opportunists who wanted to look good at work. If they’d put the ashes on display, they’d have to have someone guarding them and there might have been some damage done,” he said, in reference to the Afro-Cuban rites where the bones of the deceased or, failing that, the dust of the skeleton contains the spirit of the departed.

“There are people who really loved him and they’re sorry. Fidel had a people,” a lady of 60 years, retired from the army, says ruefully.

In a Havana street, a young man who was with his girlfriend in a car complains that a policeman knocked on his window and asked, discourteously, that he turn off the music with which the couple was passing the time.

In the case of Cubans abroad connected with the country, the directions have been clear: you must first participate in a ceremony in which a book of dedications and lamentations is filled, then you have to reflect that pain in social networks.

“We want to make Facebook into a place where our Comandante is remembered and colleagues from other countries can go there to see the pain of our people,” a coordinator of the Cuban medical mission told Cuban doctors at a meeting in Brazil.

“The truth is easy come easy go, they force us to stand in lines,” jokes one of the doctors of the mission who requested anonymity.

“This is like an open stage or one of the famous ‘marches of the combative people.’ Doesn’t anyone ask why there were not spontaneous mass gatherings after the announcement? The people have to wait for directions from above to be sad.”

Fired “Like A Dog” For Satirizing Fidel Castro / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Apologies: The video is in Spanish without subtitles

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 30 November 2016 — Leamsy Requejo Lorite, who worked as a curator at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana, was expelled from his workplace on Tuesday, after publishing on the social network Facebook an ironic text about the death of Fidel Castro, accusing him of owing him thousands of pesos that he was never paid for the work of his whole life.

“Good morning to those who know the true reality of Cuba,” Requejo said in a video posted on his Facebook profile in which he denounces his dismissal. “It saddens me greatly to use my Facebook profile to give this news. The abuse here in Cuba is becoming more evident,” he adds. continue reading

On November 26, a day after the death of Fidel Castro, this 31-year-old Cuban wrote a post for which he was fired. According to what he explained to 14ymedio by telephone, his co-workers reported him to the museum administration.

“I feel so sad, but so sad, that a person died who was paying my monthly salary,” his Facebook page said.

“He left and didn’t pay me what he owed. He left owing me thousands of pesos.”

“On Monday I approached Oscar Antuñu, deputy technical director of the museum, and he berated me for having posted these words on Facebook. He had not yet made the decision to fire me, but it was already rumored. A day later, he told me to get out because I’m not trustworthy,” says Requejo.

“They have not given me the pink slip, but at least verbally they kicked me out. They have told me I can not even enter the museum,” he adds.

The reason offered by the administration for his firing was the negative comment against “an idol of the Cuban Revolution.” Requejo asked what kind of idol is someone he never voted for to represent him.

“In one of the discussions they threatened not only to kick me out of the museum, but that I would never work in a state institution again,” he says.

Faced with the possibility of not being able to support himself and marked as a “counter-revolutionary,” Requejo threatened to call the international media to report his case, which finally precipitated the decision to dismiss him.

“They categorized me as untrustworthy and verbally abused me,” he explains, but says he didn’t fall short of words to defend himself against the attacks.

Requejo worked as a conservation specialist with six other colleagues, earning 365 pesos (14.60 dollars) per month, which was supplemented by 12 CUC (roughly 12 dollars) a month given to him to pay for his lunches.

“It was a shitty salary, but as bad as it was, it was what supported me,” he says. “In the two years I had been in that department I was always the best, but now they fire me like a dog.”

“I can not understand what my personal Facebook has to do with my workplace. I was fired from the museum simply for stating a political opinion, that goes against every right.”

Requejo says he is afraid of the pressure of State Security on him and it grieves him that this event destroyed his working life.

His immediate boss, Anniubys Garcia Blanco, refused to answer multiple calls from 14ymedio for comment, as did the deputy technical director of the museum, Oscar Antuña.

“I do not know what will happen to me, because I also work at the museum,” said Requejo’s mother, Barbara Lorite. “The only thing clear is that they threw him out, he’s out. Probably, they will fire me too when I return from my vacation,” she added.