Activist José Daniel Ferrer invites a journalist from The New York Times to talk / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

Ernesto-LondoAo-foto-archivo_CYMIMA20141123_0004_16 (1)

Ernesto Londoño (Archive photo)

14ymedio, ORLANDO PALMA, Havana, 23 November 2014 — Ernesto Londoño, the journalist to whom the six New York Times editorials on Cuba-United States relations are attributed, is in Havana. His trip was announced through the social network Twitter and has already provoked some reactions among Cuban activists.

The opposition leader José Daniel Ferrer has made public a message, which shows his concern over the fact that the reporter “only wrote about a part of the Cuban reality.”

In the note, Ferrer warns Londoño about the dangers of “moving from objective, honest balanced journalism to interest-based and biased journalism.” In the statement he invited the young man of 33 to meet. “Although I am in Santiago de Cuba, where they constantly persecute me, I am going to Havana, I would like to be able to tell you how the persecute me in the capital,” the dissident emphasized.

The text continues with several suggestions to the journalist, whom Ferrar recommends to “see it all, if they let you, talk to everyone, if they allow it, with the government, the churches, the dissidence, ordinary Cubans, visit the many slums, go to the interior, visit the eastern provinces, talk with the families of the prisoners of conscience.”

Londoño has been a member of the Editorial Board of the New York Times since last September and previously worked at the Washington Post

Some Seven Thousand Cows ‘Disappear” in Villa Clara Province / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

Cows in Cuba (CC)

Cows in Cuba (CC)

14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Villa Clara, 15 November 2014 – Around 7,000 head of beef cattle were presumed disappeared in the space of a year during a count carried out in ten cattle ranches in the province of Villa Clara, according to a report by the newspaper Juventud Rebelde.

The inspection, carried out by the province’s Department of Livestock Registration and revealed by the official newspaper, was carried out in a group of agricultural production cooperatives where 51 animals were found missing, whereas the State sector counted around 6,900 “not found,” which means the loss of practically the total inventory of these ranches.

Among the explanations the ranchers offered their inspectors are: deaths that could not be reported for lack of a veterinarian to issue the relevant certificate; statistical errors; and – not ruling out! – the possibility that the disappeared cows were victims of theft and illegal slaughter.

To add a touch of science fiction to the matter, as if it had to do with some kind of abduction carried out by extra-terrestrials, the possibility was mentioned that some of the vanished cattle might reappear, maybe because it will be less dangerous to get them from their hiding places without much explanation than to face up and confess where the innocent animals were kept.

Most of the missing heads of cattle were from the townships of Manicaragua, Encrucijada and Sagua La Grande.

Translator’s note: Cows in Cuba belong to the State and it is against the law to kill and eat them. This post from Miguel Iturria Medina – Is Killing a Cow Worse Than Murder – discusses the relative penalties for murder of a human being versus slaughter of a cow. This post from Yoani Sanchez — Male Heifers and Cow Suicide — discusses a creative ways to get around the law.

Translated by MLK

Education on the Market / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

Start of the school year at the University of Havana, one of the education centers that would offer export of education services

Start of the school year at the University of Havana, one of the education centers that would offer export of education services

14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana/November 8, 2014 — Although missing from the opportunities portfolio, “the exportation of academic services” may be a considerable field for obtaining foreign currency given the presence of more than two thousand Cuban helpers in some 14 countries, according to what Doctor Aida Terrero Lafita, director of International Relations for the Ministry of Education, set forth in a press conference.

Although the amount that this would represent for the country was not made public, the official emphasized that among those programs most in demand abroad are a literacy teaching program known as Yes, I Can, and another called Teach Your Child, intended for early childhood, and those that focus on special education.

Dr. Terrero specified that on the African continent there is a growing trend of seeking Cuban collaboration in technical and professional education, especially as related to jobs in the fields of electricity, construction and agronomy. Continue reading

“Sometimes we have to work barefoot …” says a farmer / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

Farmers Market Fruit Stand (14ymedio)

Farmers Market Fruit Stand (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 6 November 2014 – A meeting that was meant to sum up achievements turned into a flood of complaints and demands. The Review Assembly of the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) in Cienfuegos was the scene where some of the impediments faced by the peasantry of the region were heard.

The Assembly was held at the Martyrs of the Barbados Agricultural Production Cooperative in Rancho Luna, and the officials had to placate the attitudes of the angry farmers in the area. “They came to convince us to make a greater sacrifice, but the truth is I’m already tired of this,” explained a vegetable farmer in the region who participated in the meeting and requested anonymity.

The exodus of workers to other sectors was identified as one of the causes that have led to farm production not meeting the annual plans. The cooperative currently has 108 members, but the workforce is “unstable,” according to the local newspaper 5th of September in it digital edition this Thursday.

“The guys don’t stay with us because we don’t have housing. And they get married, have kids… create families. Then it’s logical that they seek work that can gratify their interests,” Mileydis Terencio Ramírez said at the ANAP meeting.

The official media, however, only reports a part of the anger expressed by the farmers who attended the meeting, according to what several in attendance told 14ymedio. “The working conditions here are bad, so people leave because they can’t progress,” said Lazarus, who works cultivating beans and yucca in the Rancho Luna area.

According to the official press, “nearly 75% of Cuba’s food program depends on how much the farmers can produce.” However the southern cooperative itself hasn’t been able to “satisfy the people’s real needs.” The Martyrs of Barbados has been proposed to conclude this year with 7 million pounds of product, well below the more than 22 million pounds of 1988.

Difficulties with inputs also negatively influence the fieldwork. Farmers complain of ‘high price, low quality’, and also the lack of administrative management to ensure a stable supply of products like footwear to work in agriculture.

“Now they send us 20 pairs of boots. What does that mean for 108 workers? Sometimes we have to work barefoot,” Wilfredo Arias Arias said at the meeting.

The official report in the 5th of September newspaper didn’t escape pessimism concluding that “while the debate resolved nothing, at least it hinted at the problems facing an industry, the peasantry, the job of feeing the people.”

The Swimmer Diana Nyad Returned to Cuba a Year After Her Feat / 14ymedio, Orlando Palmo

The swimmer Diana Nyad (from her Facebook page)

The swimmer Diana Nyad (from her Facebook page)

14ymedio, Havana, Orlando Palma, 29 August 2014 — Just twelve months ago, all eyes were on Diana Nyad while she swam between Cuba and Florida. This willful 64-year-old woman was the first person to cross the 100 miles from Havana to Key West without a shark cage, wetsuits or fins. A feat she tried four times, but that only on the fifth opportunity was she able to savor the taste of success. A year after her feat she has returned to the Island. She wanted to visit the place she left from, the Hemingway Marina, and meet athletes, sports authorities, and other people who collaborated in this endeavor.

“You always have to pursue your dreams,” Nyad reiterated, on touching land after 52 hours in the water. The well-known athlete had started the same crossing in 1978, but deteriorating weather conditions caused her to abandon it. Jellyfish stings and asthma came between her and her goal on the three other previous attempts. Last year she finally managed it, beating the record for the greatest distance swum by a woman without a shark cage, previously held by Penny Palfrey. The same route between the two countries had been crossed by the Australian Susie Maroney in 1997, but on that occasion with protection.

The route taken by Diana Nyad is a common route of rafters trying to reach the U.S. coast. The harsh conditions, the dangers of storm waves, and the abundant presence of sharks costs many lives each year.

Warehouses for Old People / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

An old man looks at his reflection. (14ymedio)

An old man looks at his reflection. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, August 11, 2014 – “Very soon the best businesses in Cuba will be trash and old people,” blurts out the owner of an old age home, without blushing. Places like hers aren’t recognized at all by the law, but they have emerged to meet the demand of an increasingly aging people.

It is estimated that in a decade that more than 26% of the Cuban population will be over 60. The needs of these millions of seniors will be felt in Public Health, social security, and the network of old age homes available in the country. Throughout the Island there are only 126 homes with room for fewer than 10,000 elderly, a ridiculous figure given that the demands are increasing. With regards to specialized doctors, the country has fewer than 150 geriatric specialists.

Housing problems are forcing more families to entrust the care of their grandparents to state or religious institutions. That, coupled with the economic problems and low pensions, make caring for the elderly ever more complicated for their relatives.

There is no welcome sign and if someone calls to ask for details she responds cautiously.

“My father of almost 90 got sick,” says Cary, a entrepreneur who offers services as a caregiver to the elderly. “I didn’t want to send him to a nursing home, so I had to devote myself to taking care of him full time. Then it occurred to me I could do the same for other old people.” The woman has a thriving business, where she offers clients, “breakfast, lunch, dinner and even snacks.” Continue reading