Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis and Minister Carlos Alvarado Quesada during the interview with Reinaldo Escobar of 14ymedio (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar (Special envoy), San Jose, Costa Rica, 30 November 2015 — Costa Rica has been overturned this November by the massive arrival of thousands of Cubans. From Ecuador, they tried to walk to the United States, but Nicaragua denied them passage and, desperate, they are stranded on Costa Rica’s northern border. On Sunday, the president of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solis, talked about this immigration crisis in an exclusive interview with 14ymedio.
Reinaldo Escobar. How has Costa Rican civil society responded to this crisis?
President Luis Guillermo Solis. It has had a central role. People have shown up to help in a voluntary and spontaneous way, they have brought clothes and food. Churches have been side by side with us and the migrants, managing the shelters. If it hadn’t been for all this help, it would have been very hard to manage something like this, especially in the first days.
Escobar. Also in the poorest areas of the country? Continue reading
Carlos Alvarado Quesada, Minister of Human Development and Social Inclusion of Costa Rica (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar (Special envoy), San Jose, Costa Rica, 30 November 2015 — Among the thousands of Cubans arriving in Costa Rica in recent weeks, one of the biggest concerns for humanitarian organizations and the people are the children. “There are 35 boys and 22 girls who need check-ups to confirm their state of health,” said Carlos Alvarado Quesada, Minister of Human Development and Social Inclusion in a conversation with 14ymedio on Sunday.
“I saw a woman with a baby girl of six months, in the La Garita shelter,” he recalls. “While she was nursing the baby she was telling another person how they were persecuted in Colombia. Her story made a strong impression.”
Alvarado Quesada, a communicator by profession and also president of the Joint Institute for Social Aid (IMAS), said minors are “clearly identified” and referred also to another vulnerable group, the dozen pregnant women in the shelters. Continue reading
Cuban migrants at a shelter in La Cruz, a few yards from the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua (Photo Reinaldo Escobar / 14ymedio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar (Special envoy), La Cruz, Costa Rica, 29 November 2015 — About 10 miles from the border with Nicaragua is the canton of La Cruz in the province of Guanacaste, in Costa Rica. Peñas Blancas is there, the most important outpost in the north and the place where serious incidents between Cuban migrants and Nicaraguan police have taken place.
At present, a thousand Cubans are distributed among several shelters, some in a church, others in a school and others who do not want to get too far away from the border post spend the night around the customs post. This weekend the whole area is buzzing with people coming and going, among them the migrants and volunteers from humanitarian organizations.
At the customs post there are blankets everywhere, vessels for storing water and clothes hanging on clotheslines, giving the place the look of a tenement in Old Havana. Jorge shares with 60 fellow travelers the floor of a place where they have settled with makeshift mattresses, and continues to wait for Nicaragua to allow them to continue on their way. Continue reading
A few yards from the border with Nicaragua, Costa Ricans reaffirm their solidarity with Cubans: Welcome Cuban Brothers. This is your house. In Costa Rice we respect: Work, The Right to Succeed, Freedom and Life. (14ymedio Photo / Reinaldo Escobar)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar (Special envoy), Liberia (Costa Rica), 28 November 2015 — A uniformed policeman guards the entrance to the shelter in the church of Nazareth, in the Costa Rican region of Liberia. It is there to protect 70 Cubans who are waiting for the Nicaraguan authorities to allow them to continue their journey to the United States. Journalists are not allowed access, not least because most migrants prefer not to give interviews.
However, the Cuban accent opens all doors. Once inside, a young man from Pinar del Rio explains that his family does not know he is in that situation and he does not want to worry his mother. “She believed I was going around the stores in Quito to buy clothes and then sell them back home in San Juan y Martinez.” Something similar occurs with Maria, an enthusiastic and charismatic woman from Camagüey, who spurred by the emergency has become the voice of the group. Continue reading
A Cuban woman stranded in Costa Rica attempts to communicate by phone with relatives on the island. (Reinaldo Escobar)
14ymedio, Havana, 27 November 2015 — A group of Cuban migrants stranded in the Costa Rican city of La Cruz on the border with Nicaragua, have sent a letter to the country’s government in San Jose, and to other countries involved in finding a solution to the crisis, asking them to analyze the option of a “humanitarian corridor” by air, as revealed Friday in the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa.
Nearly 4,000 Cubans are in the north of Costa Rica where, as of November 14, Nicaragua has blocked their passage to continue on their way to the United States. The signatories of the document, some 200 people staying at the de La Cruz Night School assure that most of them have enough money to meet the cost of the flight. Continue reading
Pastor Gerardo Obando. (Reinaldo Escobar)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar (Special envoy), Liberia (Costa Rica), 27 November 2015 — The morning was warm and the Nazareht neighborhood had been listening for days to the distinctive Cuban accent. This point in the geography of Liberia, capital of Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province, is now one of the places where dozens of our Cuban compatriots are waiting to continue their journey to the United States.
At least 70 of them are housed in the premises of the Bethel Assembly of God Church. This newspaper spoke with Gerardo Obando, Costa Rican and pastor of the congregation, who detailed the current situation of the migrants in his care.
Escobar. Have you had any previous experience with migrants?
Pastor Obando. This is the first time that we have had this kind of emergency. When we were contacted by the authorities of the National Emergency Commission (CNE) we didn’t hesitate to say yes, to be able to help our Cuban brothers. My wife and I came from a tour of Nicaragua two Sundays ago and we couldn’t cross because the border was closed. We had to stay one more day on that side and it really bothered us, we were very sorry for the Cubans. Continue reading
Hardware store where the Tosca Cinema once stood. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 9 November 2015 – In his recent speech in Merida, Mexico, the general-president Raul Castro remembered his first visit to Mexico, recalling that he had sought asylum in the embassy of that country in Havana because he was accused up putting a bomb in the Tosca cinema in the capital and, he clarified, “I still don’t know where that theater is. I believe it exists.”
It wasn’t exactly a bomb, but a firecracker that exploded on the night of 9 June in the little movie theater in the Santos Suarex neighborhood. The accusation against Raul Castro was part of a wider complaint, filed in Case No. 297 of 1955 for Crimes Against the Power of the State. There were 19 defendants, among them José Antonio Echevarría, and even some exiles like former President Carlos Prio. Continue reading
A group of Cuban immigrants block the Interamerican Highway at the border between Costa Rica and Panama in protest at being held. (Alvaro Sanchez / courtesy / El Nuevo Herald)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 17 November 2015 — Like the ostrich who buries his head in the sand so as not to see what terrifies or disgusts him, the Cuban government and official media have refused to recognize the plight of thousands of compatriots stranded at the borders of Central America. Single men and women, families with children, workers, peasants, students, Cubans all, are attacked by immigration authorities, exploited by human traffickers, and punished by a nature they don’t know, in their desire to emigrate to the North.
Not a single statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, no comments in the Communist Party’s provincial meetings, not one clarification from a delegate in the Accountability Assemblies of People’s Power. Not even on radio, television or the nationally circulating digital media has there been any mention of the issue. Continue reading
Zacchaeus Baez during a meeting of Cuban Civil Society Open Forum, weeks before his arrest. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 10 November 2015 — This Monday afternoon the three activists who were arrested when they approached Pope Francis in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, last September 20, were released. Zaqueo Baez Guerrero and Ismael Bonet, members of the Patriot Union of Cuba (UNPACU), and the Lady in White Maria Josefa Acon Sardina, face trial for the alleged crimes of public disorder, disrespect and resistance.
In conversation with 14ymedio , Zacchaeus Baez said that after nearly 50 days in prison he felt “weak and tired, but ready to continue fighting for democracy in Cuba.” When asked about how he will await his trial, he stressed that they were warned by the police that they could only “go from home to work and work to home.” Continue reading
The dancing robots at the South Korean pavilion at the Havana International Fair (4ymedio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 7 November 2015 – So which Korea is it that has a pavilion here? A woman asked this of a uniformed guide at the International Fair of Havana. The man, friendly and solicitous, turns to the huge welcome sign at the entrance, looks at it as if he’s seeing it for the first time and answers, “Which Korea will it be madam? What you said I believe is written with a “K.”
The woman enters, followed by many others visiting the site, to look at the brand new Hyundi cars, or to admire the agricultural machinery, the Samsung technological products, the drinks, and to simply enjoy the display of small robots that dance and jump to the beat of the music. Continue reading
Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto (the tall one in the center), with members of Somos+ (We are more). (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 6 November 2015 — On Thursday a roof in Havana’s Cerro district was a suitable space for a group of young people to have a meeting with the graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto (The Sixth). Perhaps because neither the artist nor the members of the Somos+ Movement (We Are More) are given to extreme formalities, it is inappropriate to call what took place a tribute. But in fact, it was. Continue reading
The journalist Roberto de Jesus Quiñones.
14ymedio, Havana, 3 November 2015 – He just won the top prize in the Havana Newsprint journalism contest, but Roberto de Jesus Quinones feels that reporting is only one part of his civic responsibility. A lawyer by profession, this man from Guantanamo had to enter the world of reporting, press releases and the difficult search for sources in a country where independent reporters are frowned upon and outlawed by the ruling party.
Reinaldo Escobar. How does it feel to get this award?
Roberto de Jesús Quiñones. I am very happy, especially because the award has come at a time when I felt really badly about everything that has happened to me since October 5. So am doubly pleased, because I also know that participating in the contest were very worthy colleagues whom I respect greatly, such as the columnist Miriam Celaya, the attorney Rene Gomez Manzano and the reporter Manuel de Jesús Guerra Pérez. All of them are journalists of the independent media with years of experience in the profession. Continue reading
General Abelardo Colome Ibarra, alias ‘Furry,’ minister of the interior from 1989 until his resignation on Monday, 26 October 2015 (EFE / Alejandro Ernesto)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 27 October 2015 — Every Cuban has a minister in charge of his or her affairs, but the Ministry of the Interior is responsible for everyone. This is the reason why, when someone says “The Ministry” everyone understands that they are speaking about MININT, the Ministry of the Interior, that macro entity that controls, among other things, immigration, firefighters, border guard troops, identity card offices, the police, and that colossal apparatus generically known as “the organs of State Security.”
Abelardo Colome Ibarra was, since 1989 and until yesterday, the all-powerful minister of the interior. His long record of service began 30 November 1956, when he joined the revolutionaries who took the city of Santiago de Cuba to support the landing of the Granma expedition. He ended the war against Batista with the rank of commander, not yet having reached age 20, and has since been the confidant of the Ciuban Government (especially of Raul Castro, having been head of his bodyguard) which has entrusted him with missions such as head of the State Security, directing the police, or commanding the war in Angola.
Furry, as his close associates call him, until this Monday was one of the seven living and still active men appearing on the list – almost never disaggregated – of the so-called “Historic Generation” of the Cuban Revolution. His role as a founder of the first Central Committee of the Communist Party and of the National Assembly of People’s Power, plus his being named as a “Hero of the Republic of Cuba,” support the merits that have allowed him to do something unusual: resign his position and receive a tribute. Continue reading
A woman checks the list of candidates for the municipal elections. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 23 October 2015 — Poet, teacher and literary critic Guillermo Rodriguez Rivera has published an interesting article about the Cuban electoral system in the blog Segunda Cita, managed by the singer Silvio Rodriguez.
Rodriguez Rivera insists that the need for reform of the Cuban electoral system is not unrelated to the rapprochement between the governments of Cuba and the United States, and he is right. The Electoral Act has been bad since its enactment in 1982 and should have been changed long ago. Not, as Rodriguez Rivera says, because transforming it is a necessity “that emanates from the process of updating our Socialist model.” Continue reading
Man in front of a newsstand reading a printed version of ’14ymedio’, distributed in “alternate” ways.
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 21 October 2015 — In the last half century the Cuban media could be categorized as private monopoly in the hands of the only permitted Party. However, in the inevitable process of transition to democracy, it is essential to modify this situation. The first step should undoubtedly be to diversify the forms of ownership of these informative spaces to ensure quality and plurality.
The presumed arrival of several international media seeking to install themselves in the country could help to raise the quality of journalism and develop new approaches. However, it will have to be done appropriately so as not to strangle the incipient national independent press, which confronts serious material disabilities in the face of the current monopoly situation and the great consortiums arriving in the country. Continue reading