14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 7 January 2016 — A year after the elimination of the National Housing Institute, the irregularities that led to dissolving that powerful government agency continue. Excessive paperwork and delays are an annoyance to the population that has barely seen any benefits from transferring its functions to other state agencies.
On 5 January 2015 Decree Law 322 took effect, ending the decades-long reign of the National Housing Institute. Since then, the Ministry of Construction assumed the power to govern the housing policy of the country, while other functions were given to the Institute of Physical Planning (IPF), the courts and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.
14ymedio, Orlando Palma, 28 December 2015 – Guarapo, sugarcane juice, may be harder to get in 2016, thanks to the climate, obsolete technology and missed payments to producers, all of which are affecting the current sugar harvest, according to information presented to the National Assembly on Sunday by the directors of the AzCuba Group.
14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 17 December 2015 – Several articles have already appeared alluding to the first anniversary of the normalization of relations between Cuba and the USA and evaluating the results.
For some nothing has happened: nothing has changed. But diplomatic relations were restored and there have been some institutional agreements on drug control, human trafficking and postal services.
For his part, President Obama issued several resolutions which, according to various political analysts, converted the embargo into Swiss cheese, and he started to talk about the issue of compensation, while several high-level political, diplomatic and economic delegations from the United States have come to Cuba to study and propose solutions and agreements, although little or nothing has been achieved. Continue reading “One Year After December 17, Who Took The Lead? / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos”
14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 18 December 2015 — On Friday morning, the political police surrounded the headquarters of the Ladies in White in the Havana’s Lawton district, blocking entrance to several activists who arrived for the traditional literary tea held every Friday, as confirmed to 14ymedio by Juan Angel Moya, former prisoner of the Black Spring and husband of the movement’s leader, Berta Soler.
14ymedio, Orlando Palma, 17 December 2015 — Dawn broke, this Thursday, to hundreds of pilgrims and promise keepers in the sanctuary of Rincón, south of Havana. The front pages of the world’s newspapers celebrated the first anniversary of the announcement of the thaw in relations between Cuba and the United States, while the people of the island lit candles to a figure with sores and crutches. The 17th of December has been imposed as a date of diplomacy, but in this land it is still the day of Saint Lazarus, the saint of the sick and marginalized.
Ramón Zulueta is one of the pilgrims who waited for midnight in the crowded chapel where some pray to the Catholic image, while others call it Babalu Aye. A few months ago Ramón watched his only son depart for Ecuador, a son who is now a part of the thousands of Cubans stranded on the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. “I come to ask the saint to help him,” he explains to 14ymedio, holding in his hands a small wooden airplane he has brought as an offering. Continue reading “The Thaw and St. Lazarus Fight Over a Date: 17D* / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma”
14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 27 November 2015 – Children’s clothes and sneakers were a part of the goods being called out by an illegal vendor this Thursday on Galiano Street in Havana. Although it is just four days until the migratory restrictions on Cubans announced by Ecuador take effect, alarm has already spread among merchants and “mules.”
The news of the new visa requirement for Cubans, starting on December 1, has fallen like a bucket of cold water, and not just among those who were planning to leave with Quito being the first step to their final destination: the United States. The bad news also affects a wide network in importing, distribution and sale of illegal goods that range from cleaning supplies to sophisticated appliances. Continue reading “Alarm Bells on the Route of the Illegal Market / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 “Carcinogenic or not, Cubans Want Red Meat / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma”
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 “Any Day Is A Bad Day To Die Alone / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma”
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 weeklypacket of audio-visual material, this official rival seeks to establish itself as “an attractive offering of Cuban education” through content of “good taste.”
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.
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.