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.”

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.”