LGBTI Pride march in the Paseo del Prado in Havana in 2011 (Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo)
14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 25 November 2015 — After forty years together, Roberto’s partner died this year from a respiratory condition, but he will not collect a penny of the widow’s pension because in Cuba same-sex unions are not legally recognized or protected. Situations like this are in the sights of several independent organizations that demand rights for the LGBTI community, and that have just launched a campaign for marriage equality.
“We also love,” is the slogan under which different civil society groups will demand a legal framework that allows unions between people of the same sex, and equality of rights between homosexuals and heterosexuals. The initiative was presented to the press this Tuesday and will go public on the first of December. Continue reading
A group of Cubans protest in Paso Canoas, on the border of Costa Rica and Panama. (Alvaro Sanchez / courtesy / El Nuevo Herald)
14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 14 November 2015 — They were seated in the back row when the passengers entered the plane. Cubana Airlines Flight 131 took off Thursday from Mexico City with four deportees on board. The Cuban bureaucracy calls them “returned by air” and they represent only a portion of those who are repatriated en route to the United States.
In recent months the number of Cubans leaving for the north has grown, as also has the number of those who are intercepted and returned to the island. Most are not dissuaded after a forced return and try again. Their worst nightmare is not immigration officials, but an end to the Cuban Adjustment Act. Continue reading
Consumers report the loss of product quality with soy yogurt due to failures in refrigeration and sanitary control. (Youtube)
14ymedio, Orlando Palma, 11 November 2015 – The shortage of soy yogurt in the regulated market has worsened in recent weeks, and this product intended for children between 7 and 13* years of age is also characterized by its low quality.
The shortage of soy yogurt has worsened in recent weeks in the regulated market where the product intended for children aged seven to thirteen years it is also characterized by its low quality.
Designated mostly for the “basic family food ration” and school meals, soy yogurt began to appear on the island in 2003, but manufacturers have never been able to fulfill their commitments for 275,500 tons annually. Continue reading
Juan Antonio García Borrero during a conference. (Youtube)
14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Camaguey, 2 November 2015 — The peaceful city of Camagüey experienced a shock among its intellectuals this weekend. The well-known film critic Juan Antonio Garcia Borrero denounced the “intellectual conservatism” that led to the suspension of a cyber-gathering programmed for this Thursday in Café Ciudad. In his blog, Cine cubano, la pupila insomne (Cuban cinema, the insomniac pupil), the specialist reflects on the “tribal thinking and institutional self-censorship that follows from it.”
“I seem to be living a nightmare,” García Borrero said in a post, in response to being informed by the leadership of the Office of the City Historian that the gathering could not be held, “despite having been promoted in all the media.” His first reaction was to “take a breath, breathe deeply… I won’t give them the pleasure, neither those here nor there, of making me into a disaffected person,” he wrote in a brief post. Continue reading
Meat for sale in the market in Camagüey. (Sun Basulto Garcia)
14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 29 October 2015 — “For me, no one can get me to quit this bad habit, I’ve tried vegetables and beans,” intones the troubadour Ray Fernandez in one of his songs. The main character in this song is named Butcher, and he spent ten years in prison for the theft and illegal slaughter of cattle.
Despite the legal prohibitions on the island that govern the raising, slaughter and sale of cattle, and the recent declarations by the World Health Organization about the carcinogenic properties of red and processed meats, Cubans do not seem willing to give up the dream of a steak, a hamburger or a nice hash on their plates.
This week, the official press reported the findings of a report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Backed by more than 800 studies conducted by 22 experts in 10 countries, the entity classified the consumption of red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The classification of processed meat was stricter; it was stated to be “carcinogenic to humans” and placed in Risk Group 1, along with tobacco, asbestos, arsenic and alcohol. Continue reading
Cuba could become the most aged country in the Americas (14ymedio, Luz Escobar)
14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 23 October 2015 — The National Funeral Home, nine at night. In one of the rooms only one person is found. A woman is rocking in the chair furthest from the coffin. She’s filing her nails. “Who was the deceased?” asks someone from the doorway. “I don’t know; I’m here waiting for my daughter who went to the bathroom,” she answers. When she gets up and leaves, the casket is left alone. No one has come for the final goodbye.
The image of a society where families take responsibility for grandparents until the end of their days has shattered in recent decades in Cuba. The aging population, economic problems and high rates of migration among the young are some of the reasons that many elderly people find themselves without family support or company. Continue reading
A Cuban accessing the “Weekly Packet” from his laptop at home (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 25 September 2015 – Under the name To Educate Yourself, the Ministry of Education announced Thursday a collection of documentaries, films and music that it will begin distributing monthly in its learning facilities during the current academic year. In open competition with the illegal weekly packet of audio-visual material, this official rival seeks to establish itself as “an attractive offering of Cuban education” through content of “good taste.”
The compendium is aimed at those among whom the weekly packet is a hit. The majority of Cuban children and teens frequently watch cartoons, video clips, series and films that are distributed on the black market. In order to compete with those materials, the Ministry announces that its offering has “a search engine so that the user is not lost searching among more than a terabyte of data.” Continue reading
Cuban doctors who defected from missions in Venezuela demonstrated in Bogota, Colombia on 22 August. (Dened Vega 14ymedio)
14ymedio, Orlando Palma, 12 September 2015 — Tania (not her real name) is one of the 3,525 workers of the Ministry of Public Health from Camagüey who work in around 50 countries around the world. Her medical mission abroad just ended and now she is trying to readapt to her own country. However, two years away from her native province has changed this therapy and rehabilitation specialist forever.
“Despite all the difficulties I had to face there, I now have the impression that I have traveled back in time,” she explains. Her stay in Venezuela was not without setbacks. Living in a poor neighborhood in Caracas, Tania had to deal with violence, food shortages and the increasing animosity among many Venezuelans against Cubans who are on official missions.
“It never crossed my mind to escape, because I have my two children here and they would punish me so that I couldn’t see them for years” Continue reading
University of Havana. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Orlando Palma/EFE, Havana, 7 September 2015 – In the coming years, the command of English will be an “indispensable” requirement to receive a university degree in Cuba, according to an announcement made this Monday by the Minister of Higher Education on the island, Rodolfo Alarcon.
The education minister made it public along with the other changes that will begin to take effect in the 2016-17 school year, and will also include the creation of two-year programs of study. From now on English will disappear as an obligatory subject in the university class schedules, but the new rule will be implemented to the extent that the conditions are created in every province in the country.
Even though a university student has complied with all the requirements of their specialty, according to the minister, they will not receive their diploma “if they have not taken the exams to qualify as an independent speaker of this language.” Continue reading
Delivered school supplies to children in primary education. (Luz Escobar)
14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 1 September 2015 – Early Tuesday morning the bell rang for the first morning of the school year in more than 10,300 schools throughout the country. All eyes are now focused on the availability of teachers at the front of the classroom, the material conditions of the schools, and the epidemiological questions in those provinces affected by dengue fever and cholera. However, the most titanic task that faces the Ministry of Education is to meet the commitment to develop values in children and young people.
Ena Elsa Velázquez Cobiella, head of the branch, has made frequent calls in recent weeks for vocational training of students, working with families, and the transmission of ethical and moral values within the school. The greatest difficulty on the path to this achievement is the limited training of many teachers and the lack of incentive provided by teachers’ salaries, say parents and teachers. Continue reading
A policeman checks a street vendor’s papers and merchandise (Reinaldo Escobar / 14ymedio)
14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 29 August 2015 – Outside the market at 17th and K in Havana informal vendors gather despite the police raids. Niurka is one of them and her “offering” is reduced to selling plastic bags which she offers at one Cuban peso (about 4¢ US) each. “The last time they charged me, they gave me a one thousand peso fine,” says the women about her most recent encounter. However, she says she wouldn’t think of paying it and will continue to offer her wares.
“People come here when they are planning to travel or to do some paperwork and they don’t want to have an unpaid fine,” says an employee of the Fine Payment Office of the Plaza of the Revolution municipality. In line for the payment counter, a young man named Diego carried in his hand a paper that shows the amounts for each offense. “I was sitting on a wall and a cop fined me for damage to a public ornament,” he says angrily. Continue reading
Among the goods that fall into the illegal market are parts for agricultural machinery
14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 5 August 2015 – For an entire year the Ministry of the Agriculture has conducted an experiment on the Isla de la Juventud (Island of Youth) with the “free” sale of inputs, specialized services, and agricultural equipment. During this time, the authorities of the sector have measured and evaluated the pros and cons of a commercial policy based on supply and demand.
The principal beneficiaries of the program have been the more than 700 farmers in the territory who received land under the government’s usufruct leasing policy. Access to tools such as machetes and sharpening files has allowed them to keep down the bad weeds and the invasive marabou in the arable lands of the special municipality. However, a deficient and unstable distribution of certain products encourages the illegal sale of these products, to which the authorities have responded with new regulatory mechanisms.
There is an increase in the levels of production and encouraging results in products such as pork, beef, eggs, milk and grains Continue reading
Despite the “La Plaza”’s structural decline, its bustle and commotion where constants until it was closed in February 2014.
14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 30 July 2015 — Every city has its nerve centers, and one of Havana’s is where Monte, Cristina, Arroyo, and Matadero Streets intersect, and where the “Mercado Único” (“The Only Market”), also known as “Cuatro Caminos” (“Four Roads”), is located. This nearly one hundred year-old colossus has been closed since February 2014, in the hope that a renovation project could help it regain some of its former splendor. Nevertheless, the slow pace threatens to weaken the economy of the surrounding community even more than it already is.
If the question was where to find sapodilla, eggfruit, or delicious soursop, the answer was – until a little more then a year and a half ago – “go to ‘La Plaza,’” or “The Square.” Every inhabitant of Havana knew that “going to ‘La Plaza’” meant going to the former “Mercado General de Abasto y Consumo” (“The General Dry Goods and Provisions Market”), opened to the pubic in 1920 by its original owner, businessman and politician Alfredo Hornedo Suárez. Continue reading
Broken tombstones in the Mayabe cemetery, Holguin. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Orlando Palma and Fernando Donate, Holguin, 11 July 2015 – Broken tombstones, open graves, dilapidated tombs, and, here and there, scavengers that devour shallowly buried remains. This is no scene from a horror movie but images from a video that exposes the serious situation in the Mayabe Cemetery in Holguin.
Released by the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) in 2014, the film was produced by journalists Nairovis Zaldivar, Yainiel Diamela Escofet and Rosaida Check, and has been distributed through the illegal “weekly packet” that circulates widely in the province without any official media picking up the story.
Almost a year later, the problem has not been solved; it was caused because the Vladimir Ilich Lenin University General Hospital, the Lucia Iniguez Landin Surgical Teaching Clinic and the Provincial Military Hospital bury their wastes in the place, since their crematoriums are not functioning. Criticism of the mismanagement of biological wastes has been heard at various levels but local authorities have not taken action in the matter.
In the investigative work the errors committed by the medical institutions depositing the remains from surgeries, abortions, amputations and tests, without proper precautions, are laid bare. For months, those who have visited the grave of a relative in the cemetery have been overwhelmed by carrion birds and other animals that helped themselves to the hospital wastes barely covered by a little dirt. Continue reading
Watching a report broadcast by the main news about the work against drugs at customs.
14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 25 June 2015 — The General Customs of the Republic (AGR) has detected 29 drug cases since early this year, as published on Thursday in the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth). In the past six months, according to official media, they have seized about 51 kilos combined of cocaine, marijuana, hashish and synthetic cannabinoids.
The most common practice for introducing substances into the country is hiding them inside flashlights, cars and spare parts, swivel chairs, TV screens, soap, screws, boxes of food, religious objects, shoes and other articles. Continue reading