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.

In Cuban Piñata, Military Picks Up Five-Star Hotels / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

A man tries to contain the crowd that wants to enter the Fair of Havana. (14ymedio)
A man tries to contain the crowd that wants to enter the Fair of Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 9 November 2016 – The control exercised by the Cuban military over a sector as critical as tourism was common knowledge. However, the recent International Fair of Havana (FIHAV 2016) uncovered that the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) is not satisfied with a piece of the cake, they want the whole thing.

In contracts for hotel administration and marketing alone, of the 80 proposals Cuba presented in the last week as a part of the Portfolio of opportunities for foreign investment, 41 belong to the Gaviota SA group, owned by the FAR. But it is not only in numbers that the military takes most of the market, it is also in quality: 37 of the Gaviota proposals are 5-star hotels located on the most desirable plots on the island, in the midst of the greatest tourist boom in decades. continue reading

In total, Gaviota, which belongs to the Armed Forces Business Administration Group (GAE), is offering 18,768 rooms, the majority of them with a five-star or five-star-plus rating, compared to the 5,782 for Gran Caribe and 3,838 for Islazul, which depend on the Ministry of Tourism. A single night in one of Gaviota’s five star hotels ranges from 100 to 140 Cuban convertible pesos (roughly the same in dollars).

In the last two years the number of rooms and hotels with five-star ratings that Gaviota manages has not stopped growing.

“We are witnessing a slow-motion piñata that the Obama Administration is encouraging,” says Sebastian Arcos, a professor at the Cuban Research Institute of Florida International University (FIU).

For Arcos, the trade fair has made clear that the interest of Raul Castro’s government is not to solve the nation’s need for growth, “but its own oligarchic interests.”

“The Cuban economy has been militarized since the eighties and this fair confirms it,” he adds.

The International Fair of Havana is held every year in November. Since 2014 the Cuban government has been presenting a portfolio of opportunities to convince investors to do business with the island. This year the proposals have been on the order of 9.5 billion dollars.

The latest portfolio offers 395 projects gathered in 14 economic lines, among which Cuba prioritizes tourism, agri-food and energy. The document has 69 more initiatives than in 2015 and 149 more than in 2014.

Everleny Perez, one of the defenders in Cuba of the Raulista reforms, who was expelled from the Center for Studies of the Cuban Economy last April, says that basically the Fair was “more of the same.”

“Where are the 325 Cuban products exhibited? Where are they sold?” asked the doctor of economics who also questioned Cuba’s capacity to produce for a foreign importer, taking into account the difficulties in accessing raw materials in the Cuban market.

For Pérez, the absence of a real liquidity capacity on the part of Cuban companies hinders the negotiation process. “Foreigners exhibit products, but Cubans have no cash to buy them,” he says.

Cuban companies receive allocations in dollars from the Government for their transactions. These do not necessarily correspond to the profits of the company and limit its ability to buy.

Another important element, the economist says, is the number of proposals that have passed from one year to the next without finding investors.

The system of employment, whereby foreign companies contract directly with Cuban government employment agencies for workers, not with the workers themselves, is one of the brakes. The system discourages investors because they have to pay a high cost for labor, only about a third of which is paid to the workers with two-thirds retained by the Cuban government.

Despite three years since the appearance of the first portfolio of opportunities, projects such as a light car factory in Mariel, which would allow the manufacture of “a minimum” of 10,000 units, fail to pass from desire to reality.

“There are several obstacles to investment in Cuba, one of them is the slow pace of negotiations, which requires approval of the Council of Ministers or the State Council. How is it possible that a year later they have only laid the cornerstones of two factories in Mariel,” Perez asks, referring to the Mariel Special Development Zone and the Brascuba project of 100 million dollars as well as the Unilever project of 35 million.

Since the 2014 Law on Foreign Investment came into force, Cuba has approved 83 projects of around 1.3 billion dollars, a very distant figure from the 2.5 billion annually that the country needs to emerge from its economic coma; this year the country is not expected to reach a 1% growth rate in gross domestic product.

In the Mariel Special Development Zone just 19 projects are approved, of which only seven are in operation and none represents the large investments that were expected.

To Everleny Perez, “the country needs to return to the economic dynamics of changes that supposedly led to the coming to power of Raul Castro.”

For Sebastian Arcos, meanwhile, tomorrow will come to the Cuban economy through integration with the United States.

“That Cuba is less than an hour’s flight from the US cannot be changed by anyone, not even Fidel Castro. In the recognition of this natural market is the future of the island,” said Arcos.

Trump’s Promised Deportations Could Affect 35,000 Cubans in the US / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Cuban citizens being deported from Ecuador. "Bombero" - firefighter, in this case a medic. (Ecuador Interior Ministry)
Cuban citizens being deported from Ecuador. “Bombero” = firefighter, in this case a paramedic. (Ecuador Interior Ministry)

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 14 November 2016 – On Sunday, Donald Trump promised to repatriate up to three million undocumented immigrants who have had legal problems, to their countries of origin. This group includes 34,525 Cubans who have a deportation order for committing crimes and misdemeanors in the United States, along with thousands of others now in the legal process.

That figure may even be conservative, in the opinion of Wilfredo Allen, attorney and specialist in immigration issues. “In South Florida there are many Cubans. Every day we have new cases of convicted people who have a deportation order. In reality, nobody knows how many there are because the deportations don’t take place in the absence of an agreement with Cuba, but there are many more than 35,000.” continue reading

The vast majority of Cubans with deportation orders are awaiting an immigration agreement between the two countries to be returned to their country of origin, something that not even the administration of President Barack Obama has achieved.

Cuba, along with China, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Somalia, is one of the countries considered “recalcitrant” by the Department of Homeland Security in rejecting the return of its deported citizens. The president-elect himself noted, in a campaign rally in Phoenix in September, that up to 23 countries refuse to accept the return of their citizens expelled by the United States. “That will not happen to me,” said the then candidate without explaining how he would force the measure.

The Immigration and Nationality Act requires the State Department to cancel the visas of immigrants and tourists to these countries, but in practice it has only happened once, according to The New York Times. Allen considers it plausible that this is the mechanism that Trump will use as leverage.

“In the end, the injured party will be the Cuban government. If it maintains its position not to accept the deportees, a conflict could be established with the current administration. If they accept it, it comes to thousands of people who need to be reintegrated in the society, which involves a considerable effort and resources, which would have consequences on domestic politics,” he explains.

If the Trump administration opts for this measure, thousands of people would be affected. In 2014 alone, 54,286 Cubans received tourist visas to visit the United States, not counting the 20,000 emigrant visas awarded by the American embassy in Havana.

In 2014 Maria Luisa Suarez received a multiple-entry visa valid for five years, to visit her brother in Miami. Although she had planned to make the trip just for family reasons, the opportunity to bring goods to the island has multiplied her trips to the United States, and she now makes a living on this clandestine trade that sustains the Cuban economy. Once a year she takes advantage of the measure that allows Cuban citizens to pay taxes on imports in local currency (rather than in hard currency) and in the rest of her travels she manages to evade the controls, bringing everything from lighter parts to shoes, coffee and clothes.

Suarez makes one or two trips a month. In addition to buying cheap in Miami and reselling in Cuba, she is part of a network that sends remittances to the island “without charging a penny.” She explains she receives remittances from people’s families in the United States in dollars, and when she arrives in Cuba she pays the families in Cuban convertible pesos (CUC), which allows her to compete with Cadeca, the chain the Cuban government maintains on the island to “collect” hard currency.

“With Trump now, this is going to be difficult,” she says fearfully.

A Cuban-American businessman with investments in Cuba explained, on condition of anonymity, that he does not believe that he will be able to continue his business under Trump. “These migratory movements are by agreement of both countries, but Cuba has made it known it does not want those people,” he says.

“If Trump did this it would lead to an extreme situation in Cuba. The country needs the United States now more than ever. In conversations far from the microphones, Cuban officials acknowledge it,” he adds.

The Cuban-American Juan Chamizo doesn’t think things will end in a disaster. He manages the Vedado Social Club, a project that promotes intercultural exchanges between the two countries. “Trump is a president who doesn’t come from politics, he comes from business and he knows how business works,” he says.

For Chamizo, responsible for concerts such as those of the musician Carlos Varela in Miami, the cultural exchange “is something that benefits both parties.”

“This way Cuba has been more exposed to the world and the people have seen what American culture is. I do not think Trump’s policy will change that,” he added. For the manager, economic interests will eventually prevail.

Lorenzo Palomares, a constitutional lawyer and active supporter of Donald Trump in South Florida, believes, however, that Trump’s threat is serious. “I feel fabulous that they will be deported,” he says.

“Cuba takes the spies when they’re discovered, but it won’t take the Medicaid thieves or the drug traffickers. Permanent residence is subject to good behavior. If you violate the laws you have to go back to your country,” he adds.

Palomares also agrees with the president-elect about the possibility of eliminating the Wet Foot/Dry Foot policy, which Trump called “unfair” last February, in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times during his campaign.

In the 12 months of the fiscal year ended September 30, more than 50,000 Cubans arrived in the United States, as confirmed to 14ymedio by the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, a state of affairs Palomares finds unacceptable.

“If Cuba wants anything to do with the United States, it had better accept [the return] its citizens,” he says.


Trump in Miami, Clinton in Havana / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar and Mario Penton

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 8 November 2016 – With the presidential election this Tuesday, not only is the fate of the United States in play. Its results will also affect the future of the island. In Miami, the South Florida city that Cuban exiles have turned into their capital since the sixties, the Cuban-American community will go to the polls very early to exercise their right to vote. Jorge Guillarte, a 30-year-old Cuban-American, doesn’t care for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. He explains that, although he is going to vote, he prefers to do it for local candidates and to use his vote for things that change his own community. “If we had a candidate like Michelle Obama, I would vote for her,” he adds.

“I am a Republican, I am Cuban, we defend the rights and freedom. We want Clinton to leave and Trump to get in to live a little better, with peace and security, with more jobs and more prosperity for the American people,” Enrique de la Cruz, a former Cuban political prisoner, told 14ymedio. continue reading

The New York magnate promised to be tough on the government of Raul Castro if he comes to power. In an attempt to win the Cuban vote, traditionally Republican, but shifting among younger voters, Trump promised to reverse the opening to Havana maintained by President Barack Obama.

“The United States should not protect the Cuban regime economically or politically as Obama has done, and as Hillary Clinton plans to do. They do not know how to make a good deal. She is as bad as him, if not worse,” Trump told the veterans of the Bay of Pigs at a campaign event at the headquarters of Brigade 2506.

Others, however, choose the Democratic option. Such is the case with Ventura Soto, a retired Cuban who was born in the territory that today corresponds to the province of Granma.

Soto explains that he is going to the polls to support everyone who is a Democrat. “Starting with Patrick (Murphy) and doing away with his opponent (Sen. Marco) Rubio who is swarthy,” he says.

In the face of a “racist” speech by the Republican candidate, he is choosing continuity. “He doesn’t want us,” Ventura Soto affirms.

Ileana Cabrera, another Cuban who has spent 22 years in exile, is worried. “We Cubans have experienced monstrosities in our country, it costs a lot of work to believe that in this beautiful country that has accepted as that there are political problems as serious as those facing us,” she adds. “We have to unite, because Cubans divided us.”

In Cuba, the opinions seem to be marked by the influence left by the visit of President Obama in March. Vicenta, a woman selling crafts in Old Havana, believes that the best option for the US is Hillary Clinton, because she seems “fair” and “better person.” Antonio, a retiree, shares this view and, although he was not able to remember the name of the Democratic candidate, he predicts her victory.

Despite the limited access to the internet on the island, Antonio says that judging “online, she” will be the winner.

A young sophomore in the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Havana also expressed an opinion in favor of Clinton and evaluated her victory as a “preferred” way out, adding it would be “among the negative [choices], the better one.”

Only one of those interviewed predicted Trump would be the winner, “with the money he has, he’s going to win.”

On Tuesday morning, Cristina Escobar, the commentator on international issues on Cuban National Television, without venturing a prediction about the possible winner, concentrated on detailing the scenarios for Cuba in either case.

The journalist explained the real estate moguls unstable position with regards to Cuba, saying he has shown a proclivity to open businesses on the island, and also met with the veterans of the Bay of Pigs Brigade 2506. The Republican candidate also promised to reverse the diplomatic normalization promoted by Obama, she said.

On the former First Lady, Escobar predicted that she would maintain the steps toward a thaw taken by the current administration. However, she clarified that Obama considered the issue of Cuba an important part of his “legacy” but Clinton did not seem to give it much importance.

Cuba’s Cienfuegos Refinery Reduced Production By Half Due to Cuts In Venezuelan Oil / 14ymedio, Mario Penton and Nora Gamez Torres

The Camilo Cienfuegos refinery in Cuba. (EFE)
The Camilo Cienfuegos refinery in Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton and Nora Gamez Torres, Miami, 31 October 2016 – Cuba’s Cienfuegos refinery, operated by Cuvenpetrol SA, a Cuban/Venezuelan joint venture, has been forced to cut production by half due to cuts in shipments of crude oil from Venezuela, according to comments made on Monday by an official of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC).

Plans to build a neighboring petrochemical complex with Venezuela’s participation are also on hold, said Lidia Esther Brunet, first secretary of the Cienfuegos Provincial PCC.

The official admitted that the Camilo Cienfuegos refinery, a plant from the Soviet era, will not meet its targets this year “as it had done since its reactivation in 2007” and will process about 9.43 million barrels of oil, just 53% of the plant’s planned production. Brunet attributed the causes to “contract issues, Venezuela and other questions,” as she explained to the Chinese news agency Xinhua. continue reading

“Right now it is not processing Venezuelan crude. Shipments decreased substantially since last year,” said a specialist at the refinery who requested anonymity.

This month marks 16 years since the signing of the cooperation agreement between Venezuela and Cuba under which oil is exchanged for Cuban doctors and other services.

A worker at the refinery said the plant is refining crude oil from Algeria. “The situation is unstable, we start again Sunday, but sometimes it stops and restarts. We are all very afraid that in the end we will be lout of work. It would be a tremendous blow,” he said. The plant has a payroll of 780 workers, according to official data from 2010.

“The managers are saying that the joint venture could be closed due to the economic situation of Venezuela, and Cuba would wait for another country to assume their 49% of the shares. The big problem is that the refinery has never been profitable, because there were a number of needed investments that were never made,” said the refinery specialist, adding that “there has not been a reduction in the workforce yet, but it has already been announced. ”

In July of this year,Luis Morillo,general manager in Cuba for the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSZ, announced that the refinery would partially shut down for 120 days in various periods of the year “for maintenance.”

“The statements confirm what was already announced. Cienfuegos is not operating, but not because of technical problems, but because Venezuela does not have enough crude oil to send to refineries in Cuba. It is not about Cienfuegos, but about Venezuela,” said Jorge Piñón, acting director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin.

The expert, who monitors the movement of tankers in the Caribbean, said that in the last three or four months “there has been almost no traffic to Cienfuegos.”

The refinery’s expansion plans included increasing oil processing capacity to 150,000 barrels per day, the construction of a plant for olefin and aromatics, expanded storage capacity, and reactivating the pipeline between Matanzas and Cienfuegos.

According to Piñón the impact of the decrease in oil supply from Venezuela has not been even greater because the country continues to import oil from other sources, which comes in primarily to the port of Matanzas.

On Monday, Foreign Trade Minister Rodrigo Malmierca, admitted that the Cuban economy, severely hit by the crisis in Venezuela, would not grow even the 1% expected.

Starting in the second half of this year, the government announced cuts in fuel and electricity consumption, mainly in state enterprises. Under this plan, the central government assigns each company a monthly allocation of kilowatts of electricity. If the company exhausts its quota before the end of the month, their supply is cut off and workers go home “on vacation.”

The authorities have also cut public lighting and the distribution of fuel to companies, a part of which was diverted to the black market for private transport, the prices of which have risen as a result of this decision.

During a televised speech in July, President Raul Castro confirmed the decline in oil shipments from Venezuela. According to Reuters, citing internal PDVSA data, Venezuela supplies fell 40% in the first half of 2016. Jorge Piñón, the expert from the University of Texas, estimated that the reduction is 25% since the beginning of this year. The government has no recent statistics on the total refinement and extraction of domestic oil.

“It Is Not Because You Write In ‘OnCuba’, It Is What You Write,” University Professor Told / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Juan Antonio Fernández Estrada, a professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Havana. (Cubaposible)
Juan Antonio Fernández Estrada, a professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Havana. (Cubaposible)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 26 October 2016 — “It’s not because you write in OnCuba, it is what you write,” were the words used by the authorities of the Faculty of Law of the University of Havana to tell Juan Antonio Fernández Estrada that he could not continue to be a university professor. This measure “put the lid on the jar” and provoked a reaction from the teacher, who says he will not stay silent about this new outrage.

“I do not want to make a media show of this. I am submitting demands through the relevant channels and waiting for the responses to a situation that I consider unjust,” Fernandez told 14ymedio by phone, after an email he shared with friends explaining his situation went viral on the national servers. He further clarified that had never asked anyone to share or make public that communication which was meant to be private. continue reading

As of March 2012, the professor has contributed articles to the American magazine OnCuba, a publication with correspondents in Cuba that is widely disseminated through informal networks on the island.

The magazine is permitted by the Government and is a refuge for journalists and academics who see their contributions as a way to increase their meager income working in the state sector. Fernandez has published twenty columns ranging from opinions, history, politics and other topics of interest to Cubans.

“They informed me that my contract as a guest lecturer at the Faculty of Law could not be continued because I had been asked to resign from the Center for the Study of Public Administration (CEAP), and having done so, I had resigned from all of the University of Havana. I told them that other teachers had continued on as guest lecturers after having resigned as professors, but they explained to me that my resignation from CEAP had been for personal problems, the University considered it was because of my writings for OnCuba, and especially for an article about President Obama’s visit to Cuba,” reads an email that Fernandez sent to his friends.

The article referenced said, “I don’t want to know anything about the Industriales (baseball team) or Obama,” published at the beginning of April of this year, after the visit of the US president to Cuba. In this opinion column, Fernandez lambasted “the cries that warn us of Obama’s deception” and, putting his finger on the wound, wrote, “We, the people, we are not the one approaching the United States, nor like sovereigns did we talk in secret for more than a year with that government, nor did we invite President Obama to Cuba, nor did we invite him to speak live on national television.”

Given the impossibility of being hired, the professor told them that teaching was his only work, but the officials, undaunted, spit out that “you should have thought of that before writing those things.”

“I am telling you this because my silence is over this time,” said Fernandez in his email. “The University has not respected my silence all these years. I didn’t complain in 2008, I didn’t complain in 2012, but this time they can’t eliminate me without my speaking and responding.

The pressures of the Cuban authorities so that journalists and academics don’t collaborate with the private press and the emerging digital platforms has intensified over the last year. Presenters on radio and television were told in a circular transmitted verbally that they were prohibited from cooperating with these other media. According to a witness to some of the meetings, they were reminded “within the Revolution, everything, but outside of the Revolution, nothing,” which motivated everything from letters of protests to continued desertions to the independent press.

“The confusion of some has been to think that all my problems at the University of Havana have been because of errors,” concluded Fernandez, “because of naiveté, but it’s not like that, my problems have been for telling the truth, for being dignified and honest, for defending socialism and criticizing the opportunists and the shameless. These are my crimes and I will continue committing them.”

Escape Or Get Married: The Dilemma Of Cuban Doctors In Brazil / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

The Cuban doctor Yohan Batista Martí when he resided as a volunteer in Brazil. (Courtesy)
The Cuban doctor Yohan Batista Martí when he resided as a volunteer in Brazil. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 16 October 2016 — Yohan Batista Martí spent nearly four months hiding to avoid persecution by the authorities of the Cuban Medical Mission in Brazil. Like him, thousands of Cuban doctors have fled to the United States before the date of their return to the island. Escaping or marrying a local resident are the best options for these health professionals.

“I had to hide. I commented to the Brazilian in charge of the mission that I was going to Cuba on vacation and that was how I escaped from the region of Piaui in the north, but when they realized I had defected they began to look for me,” Batista told this newspaper. continue reading

The cooperation program with Brazil was announced three years ago as a “stimulus mission” for the best Cuban professionals. The initiative was officially launched to support Brazil’s Workers Party (PT) and then-President Dilma Rousseff, considered a “friend of Cuba.”

During their work in the program each doctor receives a salary equivalent to 1,000 dollars US, 600 paid in Brazil and the other 400 deposited in a bank on the island and payable on their return. This represents less than one-third of the $3,300 that the Brazilian government pays the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to be paid to the state Cuban Medical Services.

Many doctors, however, pass up the money accumulated in Cuba and choose to flee. Throughout the country, this year alone, 1,439 health professionals have escaped Brazil to the United States, taking advantage of the US Professional Parole program, a visa program started under President George W. Bush which over the last decade has brought more than 8,000 of these workers to the US.

Other doctors have resorted to the option of marrying Brazilian citizens to avoid forced return.

“The Cuban government benefited from the money due us and now they want others to come so they can do the same,” a doctor working in the region of Minas Gerais and who requested anonymity told this newspaper. The health professional says they are “alarmed” by the increase in marriages between Cubans and Brazilians for the former to obtain residency.

Marriages with foreigners and loving relationships are a taboo subject on the missions. The disciplinary regulations of civil workers abroad regulates that “if any loving relationship develops with natives it must be reported immediately and be consistent with the revolutionary thought of our stay and in no measure be excessive” (sic).

In June 2015, a case came into the public spotlight and exposed the limitations under which Cuban doctors live. After nine months of a legal battle the Cuban doctor Adrian Estrada Barber managed to marry the Brazilian pharmacist Letícia Santos Pedroso. “I met the woman of my life,” said the proud husband on hearing the court ruling.

Estrada Barber is just one case among hundreds. During the first ten months of this year more than 1,600 Cuban doctors took the exam to revalidate their titles in Brazil and win contracts on their own. They make up the largest group of foreigners who have applied for recognition of their university degree in the South American giant.

After the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the Cuban government pressured the Brazilian authorities to renegotiate the medical contract and obtained a 9% increase in payment. The Plaza of the Revolution also achieved an increase of 10% for food for doctors in indigenous areas, which will be effective in January 2017.

The government of Raul Castro has demanded the doctors return to the island when their “lease” expires. After much prodding, Brazilian authorities managed to get Cuba to reluctantly reauthorize the married doctors to be contracted for another three years.

Brazilian Minister of Health Ricardo Barros declared that in the middle of this year he had asked the Cuban Government and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to relax the conditions that force the doctors to return to the island, because,”More than 1,000 have married Brazilians and some have children,” the official said.

After hiding as a fugitive, Batista currently lives in Miami. From that city he related how he first tried to flee to Argentina but then traveled to Brasilia to seek refuge in the US embassy. “Everything has to be done in secret. A colleague in Venezuela who said she wanted to leave the mission was accused of a robbery that never happened and returned to Cuba,” he recalls.

Although he is a general practitioner abd also has a specialty in physical rehabilitation medicine he has had to start from scratch in Miami. “I deliver results of laboratory tests and study to revalidate my title,” he says proudly, while helping others through social networks to “restore the dignity of Cuban medicine.”­­­

Cuban Diaspora Organizes To Send Aid To Areas Affected By Hurricane Matthew / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

A woman holds her sewing machine amid the desolation left by Matthew in Baracoa. (EFE)
A woman holds her sewing machine amid the desolation left by Matthew in Baracoa. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 7 October 2016 — The devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in Baracoa and in the east end of the island has sparked a movement of solidarity from the Cubans who live in different parts of the world. Hours after the passage of terrible hurricane, dozens of people looked for how to send aid to those affected.

The Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), based in Miami, will send humanitarian aid through the opposition group on the island, the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU). continue reading

Cristina Canales, a member of the board of the CANF, told 14ymedio that they have been collecting aid for a week.

“From the images that have come out of the affected areas and multiple comments from Cubans interested in collaborating, we decided to offer the chance for the community to also send aid through our organization,” said Canales.

“UNPACU has been posting videos of how to deliver this help. We want to be very clear as to where the money goes, and for that we will be posting regular updates on our website. We urge people to help through our website or to call the foundation’s offices,” she said.

From Spain, the news aggregator CiberCuba on behalf of one of its founding members, Luis Manuel Mazorra Fernandez, has posted a petition on the platform to ask Cuban Customs to eliminate the payment of fees for sending humanitarian aid to the island.

The action, called “Eliminate tariffs at Customs Cuba for sending Hurricane Matthew Relief” already has more than 4,100 signatures of the 5,000 needed, explained Mazorra by telephone from Valencia, following a precedent from 2008.

Cuban Customs levies a fee of about 20 CUC (roughly $20 US) for every kilogram entering the country.

“We want to use our media power to help the victims. There are many people who are suspicious about the use of the money. So we want to promote this petition for Cubans wishing to send food and clothing without tariffs, and in this way to help their fellow countrymen, “he said.

The platform has also made a collection of money to be sent to Caritas, which has begun a campaign to help the most impoverished areas of Guantanamo, along with other non-governmental organizations. But according to Mazorra, “It is much better, if instead of sending money, we can send products, because we already know that not much is resolved in Cuba with money.”

“The most important thing is to raise awareness, create noise for the Cuban government to wake up and react,” he said.

The founder of the digital site also referenced the censorship they have been subjected to in recent weeks by the Cuban government.

“It’s unfortunate because we have become one of the 10 most visited pages of Cuba. It has affected us a lot. In Cuba we had a brutal audience and maintained a neutral editorial line.”

According to Mazorra, what is happening is a brutal campaign against bloggers and official journalists. “We were accused of being financed by USAID (US Agency for International Development), a complete lie, because we have no relationship with any government or foreign agencies. We are funded with advertising on the site. This is a project of only 20 people in Spain, Miami and Cuba,” he argued.

Cuban Youth From US ‘World Learning’ Course Find Themselves Amid Slogans And Fear / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Young Cubans during the 'World Learning' program in the United States. (Courtesy)
Young Cubans during the ‘World Learning’ program in the United States. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 1 October 2016 — Their names are barely known, but now they find themselves in the middle of acts of political reaffirmation and facing police interrogations. They are young people between the ages of 16 and 18, high school and polytechnic students who participated in the World Learning program by attending a summer course in the United States. Today their lives pass amid slogans and fears.

On condition of anonymity, this newspaper contacted several of the young people who spent four weeks in the program in the United States. None wanted to reveal their identity, out of fear, although at this point the people they fear know who they are. continue reading

“What did you do there. What did they say to you? What did they want you to do when you returned to Cuba? Who paid for your trip?” These are some of the questions that the Department of Technical Investigations (DTI) from the National Police have repeated to many of them in recent months.

The young people went for the joy of knowing another country and interacting with teenagers from other parts of the world, only to be cited by the police on their return to Cuba. In these meetings they were also warned that they should not talk to the press nor with anyone else about this matter.

According to the teens, the worst was not the interrogations, but being compelled to participate in political events to repudiate the US organization. In their own schools and amid the shouts of revolutionary reaffirmation, they constantly have their hearts in their mouths for fear of being singled out and repudiated.

The work of the DTI was not the end of it, also involved are the Secondary Students Federation (FEEM) and the Young Communists Union (UJC). In morning assemblies and meetings, the leadership of both organizations explained to the young people “the true intentions” of the summer courses and warned them they should reject World Learning if they don’t want to be considered counterrevolutionaries, and in the worst case, lose their chances for higher education and a career.

The president of the FEEM, Suzanne Santiesteban, went a step further and cataloged the rallies against World Learning as “acts of repudiation” in the style of those traditionally made against activists and opposition on the island. The young woman called for extending these actions to schools in Havana, and the “rest of the country.”

However, after the hubbub of public events they have also been subject to pressures in the classroom. “I tried to read what was written to show that there was nothing subversive in those classes, but they gave me a paper with things that I didn’t even know what they meant and forced me to read it out loud in front of everyone,” says one of the young people who traveled to the United States between 2015 and 2016.

“In this program we never talked politics and we were never forced to do anything we didn’t want to do,” he told 14ymedio .

World Learning organized English classes for the Cuban students, along with training in leadership skills such as public speaking, network building and skills a leader can use to connect with others and identify with the aspirations of their collective.

In a statement from the president of the organization, Carol Jenkins, sent to Martí Noticias, she stated that “The program was designed to help students form personal ties between high school students in the United States and Cuba. During the two years, fewer than 100 Cuban teenagers participated in the program in the United States, for one month. They were divided into groups and traveled to communities in Virginia, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Washington, Oregon, and Missouri.”

Jenkins added, “While they were in the communities that hosted them, they volunteered with young Americans in activities such as local food banks, cleaning parks in collaboration with recycling centers, and reading books to young children in youth centers.”

“What they taught us was how to use the internet and things we could do with the technology. But it was never anything violent or anything having to do with politics,” emphasizes the uneasy student.

Another teenager who traveled to the US spoke about the four weeks spent there. “The only thing I regret is not having had the opportunity to stay. Now I realize it was a mistake to come back here,” he says.

In addition to language classes they were told about the history of the United States and taken to historical sites in Washington and other states. They cooperated in the work and lived in the home of a family that welcomed them as a member.

“What’s subversive about that? I still don’t understand,” he says.

Another of his peers is more radical in his statements:

“Me? A traitor? Why? For going to some summer classes with other people from all over the world? Betrayal is making the whole country a prison. Betrayal is everyone who has collaborated on the absurd current system of my country.”

The first group of young Cubans who attended World Learning summer courses. (Courtesy)
The first group of young Cubans who attended World Learning summer courses. (Courtesy)

Another of the students involved in the projects recalls, with an almost childlike tone, that when he was in the United States they took him to eat in a restaurant with Cuban food and always considered his opinion.

“They were educated (the teachers). They treated us with a lot of respect, we engaged in participation games to get to know each other, and we became like siblings. They did anonymous surveys to find out what we thought about the program and took our opinions into account in adapting the program so we were more at ease. They hosted us in places and hotels comfortable for young people, they didn’t overwhelm us, and they were concerned about our wellbeing the whole time,” the young man said.

The Cuban government has undertaken a campaign almost like the one that demanded the “liberation” of the child rafter Elian Gonzalez, or the release of the five spies serving prison sentences in the United States. Classroom by classroom and school by school the young people have been called to participate in acts of repudiation and of “revolutionary reaffirmation.”

As a part of the government’s campaign, a special edition of the Roundtable TV show was held with Alejandro Sánchez as a guest, one of the youths who participated in the courses.

The young man explained on camera how the summer school was developed. According to Sánchez, the objective of the program is to foment civil society on the island (during the first session, in 2015, 34 young people participated). “Even many of us participating in the program expressed our concern about the growing politicization,” he said.

Sánchez detailed the “subversive” topics they were taught in the United States, including how democracy works, what life is like in that country and what human rights are.

During the first days of the program, which passed in a villa in Virginia, Sánchez considered it suspicious that, “We could not post pictures or videos of any of the activities we were doing in the program, under the pretext of safeguarding our security and avoiding repression once we returned to our country.”

For the Cuban Government the curriculum seeks to “capture” young people to fabricate “false leadership” and implement change on the island. The main accusation is that World Learning receives funding from USAID.

This newspaper tried to contact one of the US teachers who is a part of the course and who deals, in particular, with the graduates, but the teacher said he was not authorized to give statements to the press.

Ethics Commission Rejects Appeal by Journalist Expelled from Radio Holguin / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Journalist Jose Ramirez Pantoja shows the medal that was conferred on him by UPEC before he was fired (courtesy photo)
Journalist Jose Ramirez Pantoja shows the medal that was conferred on him by UPEC before he was fired (courtesy photo)

14ymedio biggerMario J. Penton, 14ymedio, Miami, 30 September 2016 — The National Ethics Commission of the Cuban Journalists Union (UPEC) this Thursday ratified the expulsion of journalist Jose Ramirez Pantoja from Radio Holguin. The ousted professional now will be able to appeal to the UPEC Congress, which could encourage the debate currently taking place about the role of censorship and the protection of the Communist Party over the press.

The move comes after a long series of appeals since Ramirez Pantoja was expelled from his job last July 11. The journalist was penalized with removal from office for five years at the end of which he could return to work, provided he “has an attitude that comports with UPEC’s ethics code.” continue reading

14ymedio spoke by phone to Ramirez Pantoja who declined comment but did not deny the ruling.

“He is being pressured a lot by the authorities. They have told him that when he spoke with the independent press he complicated his case and in this trial they did the opposite of what they had announced: they treated him like dirt and affirmed an unjust sentence,” says a Holguin source close to the journalist.

“It was no use for Arnaldo Marabal [official journalist for the daily Giron in Matanzas] to try to ‘clean him up’ writing an interview in which he assures that Joseito is and always will be a revolutionary. They wanted him to pay the price in order to scare the others and so that no one dares to speak without permission,” adds the same source.

The Holguin journalist was dismissed from his job after publishing on his personal blog some controversial comments by the vice-president of the newspaper Granma, Karina Marron, about the current economic crisis in Cuba.

At the beginning of September, the recently elected president of the National Ethics Commission for UPEC, Luis Sexto Sanchez, visited Holguin in order to interview Ramirez Pantoja. After the interview and even though different people assured him that the situation would calm down and he would be able to return to his job, he received the ratification of the decision at both a provincial and national level.

Before the incident with Marron, Ramirez Pantoja even had been recognized with the highest distinction that UPEC awards, the Felix Elmusa. On that occasion, the same authorities who today condemn him to ostracism awarded him for fighting “from an ethical premise,” in order to make “the truth about Cuba” known to the world and “for educating, informing and revealing that Cuba is now free.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Ethics Committee Hears Appeal From Expelled Holguin Journalist / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Journalist Jose Ramirez Pantoja. (Facebook)
Journalist Jose Ramirez Pantoja. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 29 September 2016 – Today the National Ethics Commission of the Cuban Journalists Union (UPEC) will finally hear the appeal filed by Cuban journalist Jose Ramírez Pantoja, who was fired from his job at Radio Holguin last August.

Ramírez Pantoja was accused at that time of republishing on his personal blog, Verdadecuba, comments from Karina Brown, vice president of the official newspaper Granma, who had spoken publicly about the country’s situation and the possible outbreak of another ‘Maleconazo‘ – a 1994 protest that holds the record for the largest street* protest in the 60 years since the Castro brothers took over the Cuban government. continue reading

The trial was scheduled for last week, but for reasons that were not clarified by the Court of Ethics it was postponed. After the hearing, which will pass “a moral judgment on the performance of the journalist,” according to a source who spoke with this newspaper, the commission will have 10 days to issue a ruling.

According to UPEC’s on-line site,, Luis Sexto, president of UPEC’s National Ethics Commission, traveled to the eastern province on 7 September to conduct an “in person” interview with Ramírez Pantoja. On that occasion, Sexto stated that despite the Provincial Ethical Commission’s having prepared a “substantial record” on the fired journalist, “the National Commission receives, analyzes, supervises, authorizes and modifies the measure taken at the provincial level.”

The president of the national commission said he was “encouraged by the spirit of justice inspired by UPEC and its Code of Ethics.” He also said he was traveling to Holguin “in a constructive spirit” and not as a “destroyer.”

Speaking to 14ymedio, Ramírez Pantoja said he did not want to make a political show of his case. However, his dismissal opened a Pandora’s Box and hardened the positions between those who defend swashbuckling journalism mentored by the Communist Party and information professionals seeking more freedoms.

Since the ruling, Aixa Hevia, UPEC’s vice president, accused Ramirez Pantoja of trying to position himself to move to the Miami media, and hinted at the possibility of expelling from the country Uruguayan journalist Fernando Ravsberg, a known sympathizer of the Cuban Revolution, who runs the alternative blog Letters from Cuba and who came to the defense of the fired professional.

The official press also lashed out in recent weeks against those media “who want to present themselves as alternatives,” in reference to the multitude of alternative sites to the official press that have arisen, especially on the initiative of young journalists who cannot find a place in the old areas controlled by the government, or who seek to augment their meager incomes. Iroel Sanchez, one of the journalists who staunchly defends communist orthodoxy, challenged professionals who in a “Cuban medium” paid homage to Che and shortly afterwards disrespected him “where they pay better.”

According to Ramirez Pantoja, the injustice committed against him led him to consider the need for a journalism that is more serious and committed to the needs of the people.

The journalist expressed his appreciation through social networks to people who have supported him in the process. His presence on social networks, however, has waned since he lost the privilege of connectivity that is granted to some official Cuban journalists.

During the two months of the impasse, waiting, the reporter has had to make a living through self-employment. He works “loading the Weekly Packet onto flash drives,” as confirmed by source close to him, and “he has also been working with a the company Codanza, on the production of the third North Atlantic Vladimer Malakhov Grand Prix Dance Contest.”

Ramirez Pantoja’s hearing takes place within a few hours of that of a complaint against another former official journalist, Maykel Gonzalez Vivero, who was expelled from Radio Sagua in Villa Clara “for collaborating with private media.”

If he loses in front of the National Ethics Commission, Ramirez Pantoja can appeal to the UPEC Congress or request an appeal to the Supreme Court.

*Translator’s note: Arguably the largest protest of all kinds by Cubans against their government is that of the hundreds of thousands of Cubans who have left the country.

Ultimatum To American Airlines For Alleged Discrimination Against Cuban Americans / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Ramon Saul Sanchez, president of the Democracy Movement. (14ymedio)
Ramon Saul Sanchez, president of the Democracy Movement. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, 20 September 2016 — Ramon Saul Sanchez, president of the Democracy Movement, said on Tuesday at a press conference in Miami that if American Airlines does not change, within 24 hours, its “policy of apartheid” against its Cuban-American employees, the organization would take action against it ranging from protests in the street to possible lawsuits.

“The Democracy Movement rejects apartheid on the part of AA by virtue of nationality against Cuban-American workers whom the regime will not allow to enter Cuba, and and other nationalities with American citizenship,” said Sanchez. continue reading

A Cuban exile himself, the president stressed that his organization has nothing against flights to the island. “This is not a campaign against the flights to Cuba, which we support and we believe are useful for family reunification,” he said, but he argued that the Cuban law preventing Cuban-Americans from entering the island on their United States passports is the real problem.

“We believe AA as a prestigious company, which should not discriminate against people simply because the government of Cuba does,” noted Sanchez.

With flights to Cienfuegos and Holguin on 7 September, the company began direct service to the island. These were the first of 12 daily flights to Cuba. The problem arose when, on a flight to Varadero, the crew needed to stay overnight in Cuba and the Cuban authorities refused Cuban-American flight members permission to do so because they did not have Cuban passports, according to the Miami Herald.

The company’s response was to withdraw the Cuban-American employees from the flight, although they were paid for the day. Ramon Saul Sanchez made clear that although AA decided to bear the cost of the paperwork required for Cuban-Americans to enter Cuba, so as not to upset the Cuban government, the campaign would continue.

Cuban law does not recognize the dual nationality of Cubans living abroad, and requires those who want to travel to the island to first obtain an expensive passport (about $450) that must be renewed every two years at a cost of $200. In addition, the Cuban Government reserves the right whether to admit its nationals to the island, which is enforced through an entry permit called a habilitación, which also must be paid for.

For the Democracy Movement, maintaining this law is a way to maintain its excessive charges to penalize the Cuban exile. “We are asking American Airlines to open a constructive and friendly dialog among everyone working to overcome this discriminatory practice,” said the movement’s president.

A Democracy Movement activist prepares posters for the protest against American Airlines. (14ymedio)
A Democracy Movement activist prepares posters for the protest against American Airlines. (14ymedio)

As a part of the actions the organization has already begun it sent a letter to Doug Parker, CEO of the company, in which it expresses its dissatisfaction with the measure. Sanchez said his movement has already planned a protest for Saturday in front of the AA Arena in Miami and will continue the pressure until the policy is changed.

“We know that the main discriminator is the Cuban government. To associate itself with the policies of apartheid by virtue of nationality that the Government of Cuba practices against its own citizens puts a shameful stain on the image of the company,” said Sanchez.

Last April, Democracy Movement organized a demonstration outside the headquarters of the shipping company Carnival for a similar reason. The cruise company did not allow Cuban-Americans to book passage to Cuba because of a ban by the Cuban government on their entering the country by sea.

“At the time Carnival Cruises said they would not continue service to Cuba if Cubans were not allowed to enter. We urge American Airlines to cancel their trips to the island if the Cuban government does not change its policy,” Sanchez added.